We’re told we don’t know someone until we’ve lived with them but there have been too many stories that prove that, even then, we don’t really know the person. We may know their hot buttons, their favourite color, their thinking patterns, interests, fears, spending habits, personality quirks, etc., but we don’t really know them.

Many years ago, a woman told me the story of her marriage. She had been married for more than twenty years and thought she knew her husband very well. They had a fairly close relationship and shared many of the same interests. Their beliefs and goals were similar and they enjoyed the same sense of humour. And she had lived with him for over twenty years.

One night, at 3:00 a.m., there was a loud knock at her door. She went to answer it and was greeted by several law enforcement officers who were there to arrest her husband for murders that he had committed in four different states. She was so sure they had the wrong address that she argued with them until she looked at her husband’s face. His expression said he knew the jig was up. He was later tried and convicted and his wife had to pick up the pieces of her life and raise their children by herself.

We’ve all heard countless stories of men and women who don’t tell their partners that they are married. Some say they are getting a divorce while others say they are already divorced and then, in many cases, the wife or husband of these people, finds out about the deception and contacts their “replacement.”

One man romanced a woman for close to two years before his wife found out about their liaison and went to his lover’s house to confront her. His reaction, instead of being repentant, was one of annoyance that he had been found out and their affair was ending. He didn’t care that his girlfriend was devastated and that she had wasted two years of her life thinking that she was going to marry him; all he cared about was that he had been found out.

A woman told her boyfriend that she was single and said she could only see him between assignments because her job involved a lot of traveling. This went on for eighteen months. One day, her husband contacted this man to tell him that he had hired a private detective who had proof of his wife’s infidelity and unless this man stopped seeing her, he would see him in court.

Not all relationships have stories like these to tell but there are other stories that bear similar marks of deception. We always hear people saying that it’s never a good policy to tell your partner everything; it takes away some of the mystique that makes a relationship interesting. But what if that mystique is really a cover-up for a person’s inability to have a close, intimate relationship? What if that mystique is underscoring someone’s unavailability for reasons other than keeping the mystery alive and well in their relationship?

In this era of sophisticated technology, it’s not too difficult to discover a lot of personal information about someone without having to leave your living room chair. All you need is a computer, an Internet provider, Google, and the social networking sites. I’m told you can actually attain a fairly complete dossier on just about anyone. If that’s not as thorough as you would like, you can hire a private detective to fill in the missing details, But the real issue is that people usually prefer to see their partner through rose-coloured glasses. They don’t want to distort their perception with unsavory details that might put an end to their relationship.

In years gone by, most people met prospective dates through introductions so they knew the pertinent information before they even went out on the first date. It was also a form of protection because they were meeting that person through someone who knew someone and there were very clear boundaries of acceptable social behavior. Nowadays, people meet in singles bars, over the Internet, and various other venues that don’t offer any of these safeguards.

It just makes sense that when you meet someone who interests you, do as much of a background check as you can before you go out on that first date. After you go out on a few dates, you already have a vested interest in that person and you might not want to see the obvious red flags. While this background check might seem to take the magic out of the getting to know you stage, it could give you a feeling of security to know that what you see is likely to be what you’ll get.

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