These 15 Things Reveal Someone’s TRUE Character


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“I’m just getting to know them,” you tell your friends or family as you describe someone’s hobbies, or routines, or career path.

You start to spend time around their friends and family, you do a couple of sleepovers, you start getting attached to their dog.

For some people in modern society, that’s enough to start embarking on a real and dedicated commitment — an emotional one, at the very least.

As you continue down this road, the connection becomes stronger and the relationship more solid.

I think at this stage, many people subconsciously select this person as “the one.” They figure they’ve come this far so it must be where their life is heading.

Here’s something I encourage all of my clients to do: Take inventory.

Take consistent logical and pragmatic inventory of your new love interest as your relationship progresses. Be HONEST about what you see, what you like, and what you don’t like.

Just because you love everything about a person after 3 months doesn’t mean you’ll love it all after 6 months, or a year, when true patterns and tendencies emerge. But, if you keep seeing them as the 3 month version of themselves and refuse to look clearly at who they are today, you could find yourself set up for heartbreak or pain down the road.

Let’s get to the point — shall we?

There are overlooked and unspoken things that couples go through together that truly reveal their character to each other, and I personally believe we must go through these “rites of passage” before making a lifelong commitment to them.

1: How they manage their finances.

I’m not talking about how much money they make — there are a lot of high income individuals who can’t seem to hold onto their funds in the long term.

Conversely, there are plenty of people who make modest livings who own their home, have a savings, and have created stability for themselves.

The truth about marriage, or any lifelong commitment, is that it’s going to require merging of funds in one way or another.

Note: I understand some people who are on a 2nd or 3rd (or 4th…) marriage and are highly established, so they choose to keep finances separate. However, here’s why this point still applies even if you don’t merge your money:

Financial management is a mindset. It’s reflective of priorities and philosophies. It shows you what’s important to a person. Is it long term stability and goals, or is it short term gratification?

Whether or not you choose to merge your accounts together in the future, the way you choose to live your lives and spend your hard earned income can either create collaboration between you, or tension as you’re on two completely different pages.

This is particularly important if you’re younger or on your first “go-round” for marriage. If you plan to buy a house, or raise a family, or simply to create a stable and secure household together, both of your financial pasts are going to come into light and impact that journey.

2: How they handle stress.

We all face our own stressors in life, and the severity of someone else’s problems (or lack thereof) doesn’t minimize the validity of our own.

In other words, just because someone has it “worse” than you, doesn’t mean your challenges aren’t also real.

The question becomes, when your partner’s stressors appear, how do they respond?

Do they project confidence, calmness, and certainty in themselves to overcome the challenge? Or do they become frantic, overwhelmed, and erratic?

Stress is a very real part of life, and something the two of you will have to face together as your lives intertwine. It shows up even in happy occasions such as planning a wedding or traveling. It also, though, shows up through financial struggles, parenting struggles, tension between the two of you, their family, et cetera.

Don’t get me wrong — I’m not saying that their method of handling stress should or shouldn’t be a dealbreaker, simply that it gives you a look into their inner thoughts when it arises, a look that can help you determine how your method of handling stress may be of service or balance.

If they become frantic, can you be the steady and calm anchor for them?

If they are too calm, can you be the one who helps them recognize the severity of the situation?

Are you both highly anxious which magnifies the situation?

Are you both almost too calm, inevitably limiting your response altogether?

I believe that some of the best relationships are about balance. Two partners who can keep each other’s perspective in check and use their energies to create a logical and productive solution to a problem. That’s what makes for a great team.

3: How they argue.

I know, I know…you don’t even want to think about arguing with someone you’re falling in love with. The concept almost seems foreign…and why would you want to see this, anyway?

Nobody wants to argue, but the truth is that it’s inevitable when merging two people’s lives together. You come from different backgrounds, upbringings, family dynamics — naturally not everything is going to line up seamlessly.

That, though, should provide an opportunity for you to both come together and find a common ground.

Remember, it’s you and them vs. the problem, not you and them vs. each other.

However, some people are incapable of separating the issue from the person, and resort to personal insults or attacks during a discussion that should be focused on forward motion.

Some, though, are able to see through the fog and work together with you in a healthy and a productive way to find a solution (Obviously, this is the one you want).

If you find that every little thing you disagree on turns into a massive blowout argument, that is not something that’s going to change down the road, but only worsen as you spend more and more time together.

Remember — if this is in someone’s nature and they are always looking for conflict or drama, their fight isn’t with you…it’s with themselves.

4: Health and fitness habits.

“James, are you saying that only healthy and fit people are worthy of love?”

Of course not — what I am saying is that your health and fitness habits being in alignment are an important part of a solid relationship.

I’m not here to shame people that don’t prioritize their own health and fitness — I am saying, though, that if you are too far apart on how you care for yourselves then it can cause a variety of challenges in the relationship.

One, often overlooked, is a magnification of one’s insecurity.

To put it bluntly: One partner being in too good of shape can actually make the other feel badly about themselves.

Aside from that, though, it’s going to create an imbalance in your daily habits, routines, and even your expectations of each other.

Your eating habits are likely to be vastly different.

And — it’s not just about physical health, but also mental, emotional, and spiritual.

If one person values absorbing new information, exploration of ideas (we’ll get more into this later), and developing skills…while the other is comfortable and content in their current standing of life, the ways you want to live your life are simply going to be incompatible and cause conflict down the road.

Listen, there’s no “right” or “wrong” way to approach your health and fitness. I’m neither a doctor nor a trainer, and can be just as lazy (maybe even more) than the next person.

I do believe, though, that if we value a long and vibrant life, we must place our health at the top of our priority list. I also know that the prospect of marrying someone who had an opposite philosophy would present a myriad of challenges over time.

5: Their social comfort levels.

Again — this is about compatibility, not a “right” or “wrong” way to be.

There are introverts, there are extroverts, and there are ambiverts who are a mix of the two.

The important thing here is to discover someone’s comfort level in social situations and honestly determine how it aligns with yours.

Do you have no interest whatsoever in being around large groups of people, but they are a local political figure who is consistently out shaking hands and kissing babies?

That might present a challenge.

Do you thrive off of the energy of big groups and love doing large presentations, but they are most comfortable and secure in solitude? You may feel disconnected from them as they never partake in the things you enjoy.

This, I believe, is a difficult reality to face when falling in love with someone. But, an important one nonetheless.

It’s going to affect how your work events go, how your friend group receives them, how they interact with your family — and vice versa. If you’re not comfortable bringing this person into social situations (for whatever reason) it can strain your relationship and cause unnecessary stress as these occasions arise.

Again — not right or wrong, just compatible or incompatible.

6: How they care for others.

Empathy, compassion, warmth.

Unless your partner has children, a pet, aging parents, or is in an industry where they’re required to care for others (if this is the case, odds are they’re passionate about it…), it’s difficult to determine just how they respond when required to care for another living entity.

When given the prospect of a lifelong commitment to someone, though, caring for others is going to arise over the years. In some cases “others” might be you.

I’ve said before that I believe this is an overlooked discussion when building a relationship with someone, but perhaps one of the most important.

Today, you are young, and vibrant, and healthy. The hope for all of us is that these conditions last as long as humanly possible — yes, even the “young” part. Young at heart, no matter the age.

Some, though, find themselves faced with challenges that require care from their partner. Be it mental or physical, it’s important to be with someone who can comfort us, care for us, and make us feel safe and secure in our times of need.

Your expectation for what this looks like more than likely comes from your upbringing. Perhaps you witnessed your parents, or grandparents, or guardians care for each other in certain ways that shaped your view of what you’re comfortable with. If your partner’s tendencies are too far outside of this reality it could cause a level of discomfort or disconnect, when your needs are exactly the opposite.

It’s a difficult question to ask, but an important one nonetheless:

“If, someday, I need this person to step up and care for me, what would that look like?”

And then be honest with yourself about the answer, and whether or not you’re willing to walk down that road.

7: Sexual needs and compatibility.

This operates under a similar philosophy as your social compatibility, with compatibility being the key word.

We all have different sexual wants, needs, desires, fantasies, expectations…

And, the prospect of a lifelong commitment to one person magnifies the importance of making sure these needs can be met for both of you.

It doesn’t matter what “flavor” you prefer, only that you and your partner are on the same page. That you can communicate in a healthy and honest way. That you both strive to meet each other’s needs and ensure mutual fulfillment and satisfaction.

This, though, is not just for the sake of sexual pleasure, but emotional intimacy that is reinforced by it.

True and real chemistry is far more emotional than it is physical. A physical connection and “spark,” while an important part of any healthy relationship, can only take you so far.

In truth, it is directly impacted by the health of your emotional connection, something you don’t need me to tell you, I’m sure.

There are a lot of jokes out there poking fun at how sex evaporates after marriage, but my personal belief is that just the opposite should be true. Romance, intimacy, and physical connection need to remain strong and healthy for two partners to feel fully bonded to each other.

Now, of course, fluctuations happen as life happens. You may have children, or go through a period of struggle and stress, or one of you may face an illness.

This, however, is where point #6 overlaps and becomes even more important. One must be able to put their own personal needs aside for the wellbeing of their partner if true love exists — and if it does, they’ll do so without complaint.

8: How they respond to YOUR stress.

No, this is not the same as point #2 where we talked about their personal stress.

A big consideration when choosing a partner is how they respond to you in your times of stress or anxiety, no matter what they themselves are feeling.

I believe you can spot this relatively early on if you’re really paying attention.

I’ve heard it from clients before, a new partner will distance themselves when a challenge arises, or when they are really needed to show up from a place of caring or compassion.

This is a giant red flag that the person is not fully ready or able to be there for you in a time of need. They might not be in the right place in life, or never had compassion modeled for them growing up, or perhaps they are simply not as committed to the relationship as you once thought…

Regardless of the reason, how someone shows up for you is going to show you a lot more than their words can say.

9: Their relationships with friends and family.

No, I’m not suggesting that someone’s family is always a reflection of them. None of us choose the family that we’re born into, and many are able to break free of toxic and negative patterns they might be exposed to.

On the other hand, some grow up in loving and caring households that molds their view of what relationships should look like. What “love” means. What “family” means.

Some of these relationships are no fault of one’s own, but they will still affect the course of your life together nonetheless.

One of the ways this manifests is in friendships. Does this person have healthy and strong friendships with others? Or are they generally removed, isolated, and alone?

Now — as I’ve said many times before, this isn’t a matter of “right” or “wrong,” it’s more a matter of clarity in learning how someone expects relationships to develop and evolve.

Are they used to maintaining friendships through mutual effort and spending quality time with people?

If the answer is no, it’s unlikely they’ll bring that philosophy to your relationship.

If the answer is yes, chances are they’ll apply the same mindset to their intimate life as well.

Are you planning on having children with this person? If so, their relationship with their parents or caregivers growing up may shine a light on their own parenting philosophy.

No, this doesn’t mean they’re destined to repeat the same patterns. In fact, in many cases, people who grew up in a less than ideal environment will pledge to show their own children the love that they themselves did not receive.

The point here, as with everything else in this article, is simply an exercise in discovery. Learning what the future may be like with this person, and making your best decision about whether or not it’s the future that you want.

10: Their past relationship patterns.

I know that it can be awkward to discuss exes with a new partner, but it’s important to understand what this person holds as expectations in a relationship. Those expectations, for many of us, are formed by what our actual reality has been in the past.

It also can tell you a thing or two about their character…

For example, are all of their exes “crazy” or “toxic?”

Perhaps they are — in which case, why does this person continue to fall into these patterns and choose partners that are bad for them?

Or, they’re not…because eventually one must look at the common denominator in all of their relationships, which is themselves. So, is it really a rational conclusion that every single person they’ve dated has had “issues,” or are they, perhaps, bringing negative tendencies into their own relationships?

Conversely, maybe their past relationships have been healthy and otherwise happy until circumstances pulled them apart. Or, they were on the receiving end of the breakup. Or, they’ve just been staying single until they find the person that deserves them (ahem…you).

Sure, people can (and should) grow and change — but where they’re coming from can tell you a lot about what to expect this time around.

11: How they accept responsibility for mistakes (or not).

Have you ever been with someone who refused to apologize for their actions?

Even, refused to take responsibility?

Nobody is perfect — and holding onto that mindset is a recipe for toxic and negative tendencies.

They’ll blame you for things that aren’t your fault, they’ll refuse to look at their own flaws or shortcomings, they’ll never apologize for things they’ve done wrong.

Can you realistically picture building a life alongside someone like this?

It’s important that a person has the self awareness to hold themselves accountable and own up to mistakes they’ve made.

Remember — there’s no such thing as a perfect partner. We all make mistakes. What to look for, though, is how someone responds to those mistakes.

12: Goals and visions for the future.

What’s even more important is where someone has come from, is where they’re going.

Where they’re going with you, and also where they were going before you came into their life.

What does their vision for their own future entail? Goals, dreams, ambitions, purpose? What type of place do they want to live in? How many children do they want (if any?) Pets? Own or rent? City or country?

Are they actually working to accomplish their goals?

Then, how do these visions align with yours?

Compromise, of course, is key. Just because we don’t share identical goals doesn’t mean we’re incompatible. There’s a middle ground, things we’re likely to be flexible on if it means spending our life with the person we love, changes we’re willing to make…

However, I don’t believe one should ever sacrifice their true identity or purpose to be in a relationship. One should never sacrifice their moral or ethical code, nor betray their own values or beliefs.

We must remain focused on what it is that we really want for our future if we hope to determine who is actually a fit to walk into it with us.

And, similarly, we must be willing to communicate this to our partner so they can determine the same.

No matter how much you love each other, if one of you is pulled too far into an atmosphere where you’re uncomfortable, resentment and a space between you will surely build over time.

13: What constitutes cheating?

You may find this point silly or remedial, but hear me out:

People have different ideas of what infidelity means, particularly in the age of social media where we are constantly being bombarded with content online.

Is liking another man or woman’s photo cheating? Does the context of the photo matter? What they’re wearing?

If they’ve had friends of the opposite sex before they met you, are they expected to stop spending time with them? Are you willing to spend time all together?

Is communicating with an ex appropriate? What if children are involved where it’s inevitable?

Is watching pornography cheating?

This is one of those conversations you might not think is important until it arises, and then you’ll be stuck figuring out the parameters in real time, after you (or they) have already overstepped them.

14: What are their love languages?

The love languages are simple, they’re focused around the ways that most of us most deeply connect with actions that represent love.

If you’re unfamiliar:

  • Spending quality time together.
  • Gift giving/receiving.
  • Words of affirmation (compliments, etc).
  • Acts of service.
  • Physical touch.

For most of us, we’ll have one or two that we most deeply resonate with, and it’s important to know what those are both for ourselves and our partner.

And then, it’s important to put in the work to communicate our love to them in the ways that they most desire. Of course, reciprocation in this area is key.

If we ignore this issue, we could be spending months, or even years expressing our love to someone in ways that they aren’t fully receiving, which can cause confusion, particularly if they’re not willing to speak up about it.

15: How will you distribute responsibilities?

Running a household is a full time job in itself, let alone piled on top of another full time job, or running a business, or juggling multiple side hustles.

This is particularly important if you plan to have children, but even if not, understanding who is best at what is going to help you develop a cohesive approach to real life responsibilities.

Throw gender out the window for this one, despite what you might’ve been raised seeing.

Who enjoys cooking more? Or, is better at it?

Who’s better equipped to fix broken items?

Who will pick up the kids, who will drop them off? Will one person do both?

How will expenses be split? Or, will one partner take them on while the other raises children?

There is really no blueprint when it comes to how life “should” be lived. You’re not obligated to do anything, really…you can spend your life together without getting married. You don’t have to have children. You can rent your home forever instead of buying it. You can do whatever works best for you and your partner.

The key, though, is finding someone who’s vision of “what’s best” aligns with yours, and then merging your strengths and skills together in order to create the ideal life that you’ve both envisioned for yourselves.

As the old saying goes:

Teamwork makes the dream work.

Subscribe to my newsletter “The Next Level” for honest and uncensored advice normally reserved for private clients.

James Michael Sama is an internationally recognized speaker, author, and personal development coach.

Finding success in creating hundreds of viral articles and videos on building limitless confidence and healthier relationships, James has accumulated over 39 million visitors to his website and a collective social media following of over 400,000.

James speaks at live events and in the media across the U.S. and has become a go-to expert with outlets such as CNN, Bravo, The New York Post, The Huffington Post, The Daily Beast, CNBC, The Boston Globe, CBS, and more.


  1. Constance Walsh on August 16, 2023 at 12:07 pm


    this technophobe did not know how else to reach you to say Thank You for your message on the new Medium practices.

    Although it does not affect me personally as a writing member it has upended my good feelings and joy in writing with Medium. My new-found ambition to write professionally wants to veer its scope and point it elsewhere.

    I am so sorry about this at many levels.

    No response needed.
    Ongoing gratitude for your generosity and integrity.

    Constance Walsh
    Joshua Tree

    • James Michael Sama on August 16, 2023 at 2:39 pm

      Hi Constance, great to have you here! The current atmosphere at Medium is a bit uncertain and a lot of people are jumping ship due to the new changes. I’ll be wading in the waters a bit longer to see what happens but I need to focus the majority on my efforts in places where they’ll actually be worthwhile.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment as always. 🙂

      – James

  2. Ninah on August 16, 2023 at 2:00 pm

    You’re one of the few coaches who advocates taking it slowly to get to know dates or potential partners. I have tried doing that for decades. The older I get the worse it becomes. I watch Korean movies and they take their time. It’s expected. But in the States so far, it’s actions first, consequences later. Any hints on how to find people who want to take their time to find the right person?
    I really appreciate your articles and insights.

    • James Michael Sama on August 16, 2023 at 2:43 pm

      Hi Ninah,

      Grateful for the kind words! I do understand the frustration as I’ve heard it far too many times over the years. The solution, unsurprisingly, is dependent on a myriad of factors that can really only be explored through your individual circumstances.

      I will say this, though:

      The question becomes – “Where do people who share my values spend their time?”

      Are they at charity events? Fundraisers? Art galleries? Museums? Live music venues? Bookstores?

      I can’t speak to your specific location nor the demographics and general social opportunities, but I find that the best place to start is typically, well, within.

      Getting clear and honest on the things that YOU enjoy and want to do with your time, and as a result, finding yourself immersed in groups of like-minded people who just may lead to a spark that you didn’t see coming.

      Of course, I can only give limited feedback in this context but I hope there’s some value here.

      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment.

      – James

  3. Constance Walsh on August 16, 2023 at 6:36 pm

    Must respond to Ninah’s poignant comment and James’ practical wisdom, both of which I agree with completely.

    Women have abandoned the true meaning of their bodies and the emotions connected to their sexuality. Who was to teach them? My boomer generation were the first to abscond, n the name of “free love,” and the pendulum swung to the other extreme as it tends to do throughout history.

    I’ve known men who were more respectful of their sexuality and their hearts than I was in my youth. The feminine decides the direction of the relationship, i.e. the woman. If she’s immature, has not addressed her early traumas, is insecure emotionally and/or financially, she has not a strong core of self-preservation inside herself. Agency is given over not only to the man, but to social trending around “dating” which too often implies sex much too soon.

    I am very grateful for your comments on this.
    It’s at the very core of most unhappy emotional situations with young people today, in my humble opinion.

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