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How To Avoid

Falling in Love
with a
Jerk / Jerkette
Based on the book
“How to Avoid Falling in Love with a Jerk”
By John Van Epp, Ph.D.
The Definition of a Jerk
 “The most fundamental identifying feature of
true jerks is their persistent resistance to
ever changing their core jerk qualities. No
matter how many times they have been
confronted by you or others, they still
persist in their hurtful pattern. If it is
possible to reform a jerk, it will almost
always require a major life crisis or life-
transforming event. But the longer the
jerk’s track record, the lower the likelihood
for improvement.”
How to Identify a
Jerk / Jerkette
 They break boundaries.
◦ The Player= Have an insatiable appetite for attention
and feel trapped by commitment.
◦ The Space Invader= Expect never-ending entitlement to
your attention; you must conform to their agenda.
“What’s mine is mine and what’s yours is mine.”
 They have an inability to see anything from anyone
else’s perspective.
◦ The Pattern= you never feel understood or validated in
the relationship. In time, you realize you are
invisible to your partner.
 They have a dangerous lack of emotional controls and
◦ Failure to express feelings appropriately
 Extreme left- Flat-liners with no emotional pulse
Extreme right- Overreacting, explosive personality types
What Puts You at Risk for Getting
Involved with a Jerk / Jerkette
 Being good-hearted.
◦ “Good hearted people have the greatest risk for
staying in a relationship with a jerk because
they so quickly forgive, overlook problems,
minimize shortcomings, and give second chances.”
 Accelerating the pace of a relationship.
◦ “It is crucial to realize that your ability to
form strong loving bonds can betray you if you
do not intentionally pace a new relationship.”
“ Follow your Heart
Without Losing your Mind ”
 The “Love is Blind” Phenomenon happens when
one of two areas is missing:

◦ Head knowledge= Knowing what to look for in a

prospective partner.
 When head knowledge is missing: “If only I knew
then what I know now.”

◦ Heart knowledge= Developing a healthy emotional

attachment to your partner.
When heart knowledge is missing: “I know this is a
problem but if he/she loves me, that’s all that
Developing Head Knowledge
 Premarital Predictors of Marital Happiness

◦ Compatibility potential- the balance between the similarities

and differences of personality, values, and interests between
you and this person—in other words, how you “fit together”

◦ Relationship skills- how you and this person handle
communication, openness, and conflict management and

◦ Patterns from other relationships- relationship patterns from
both romantic and nonromantic relationships

◦ Family patterns and background- the quality of the parental
marriage and the family’s expression of affection and emotion,
beliefs about roles and rules, and interaction patterns

◦ Character and conscience traits- the emotional health and
maturity of conscience

The RAM Model

 RAM comprises of five dynamics- Know , Trust ,

Rely , Commit , and Touch, all that
contribute to the bond you develop in a
 Remember the safe-zone rule: Never go further
in one bonding dynamic than you have gone
in the previous.
Healthy People Make Healthy
 Healthy emotional needs can become unhealthy
if they are taken to extremes.
◦ We all need to be loved…
The extreme= Dependency
◦ We all need to give…
The extreme= Enabling and Codependency
◦ We all need to trust…
The extreme= Naïve
◦ We all need to test trust…
The extreme= Paranoia
 These unhealthy emotional needs can set
people up to date a jerk or become a jerk.
Resolving Unhealthy Needs

 “Resolving emotional necessities is the first

step to avoiding a marriage to a jerk. It
is also an indispensible step to avoid
becomingthe jerk in your marriage. The time
and energy you put into self-improvement
will…provide you with the stability needed
to use both your head and heart in choosing
a life partner.”
Get To Know Who You ’ re Dating
Using the Know - Quo : I = T + T
 Intimacy = Talk + Togetherness + Time
 “Most people conclude within a relatively
short time that they really know the other
person, and consequently they shut their
investigative eyes.”
 “There is a world of difference between
feeling you know someone and truly knowing
that person. Romantic relationships often
begin in a whirlwind of excitement and
passion. There are no shortcuts!”

Breaking Down The Know - Quo
Intimacy = Talk + Togetherness +
 Talk
◦ Don’t over-share too soon
Becoming too vulnerable before you have the safety of a
committed relationship may lead to avoiding
vulnerability in future relationship if you get hurt.
◦ Don’t tell too little too late
For example, don’t be so focused on doing activities
together that you forget to get to know each other.
 Togetherness
◦ Situational domain
The way a person acts in various situations.
◦ Relational domain
The way a person treats you during a relationship.
◦ Be aware of any inconsistencies between the situational
and relational domains!!!
 Time
◦ Take plenty of time to explore and investigate a person
and the relationship that you share.
The Dating Disclaimer
 “ The good doesn ’ t always last , and the bad
usually gets worse .”
◦ “The way you are treated and feel in the dating
relationship usually sets the ceiling for your
marriage to that person. Your dating experience with
a particular partner is as good as it gets in a
marriage with that partner.”
◦ Everything may change after the wedding!
◦ The problems in the courtship become magnified in the
 Marriage doesn’t “fix” the problems in your dating
◦ *** You are not overly idealistic or
unrealistic to want to fall in love and
stay in love throughout years of
marriage . It does take concerted effort ,
but it is definitely possible .***
You Cannot Rush Intimacy

 People who get married after knowing each other less than two
years have nearly twice the divorce rate than the couples who
date longer.
◦ “This is not to say that anyone who marries with less than two years of
courtship will have a poor relationship or end up divorced! Your
vulnerability is heightened when you do not honor the need for diverse
experiences and mutual self-disclosure over time.”
 People who get married before 22 also have a higher divorce rate
than those who marry older.
◦ “The reason for this is more than just maturity. There is a need to
establish autonomy before creating a family. When you exit one family
and enter immediately into another, you are likely to transfer
unresolved issues from one to the other.”
 The Three Month Rule
◦ “Not until around three months into a relationship do deep-seated patterns
start to become evident. Also, the newness of a relationship is a
natural inebriating effect accompanying attraction that typically
begins to wear off around the third month.”

Avoid the “ Chemistry ” Trap
 What is Chemistry?
◦ A powerful attraction
◦ A sense of fitting or clicking with another
◦ An instant connection
◦ A good vibe
 Warnings about Chemistry:
◦ Chemistry is not always a good judge of character.
◦ Chemistry sees what it wants to see.
◦ Chemistry is not constant even in the best of
 If you put Chemistry first and the Relationship
◦ You miss out on the big picture of the
◦ You can’t see any horizons, so you don’t feel it is
necessary to establish boundary lines or stopping
◦ You feel like there is no such thing as “going too

Figure Out Your Courtship Pattern
 Early exiters
◦ Relationships peppered with emotionally draining
breakups followed by passionate make ups.
 Firework romances
◦ Madly in love with whirlwind romancesbut does not create
lasting marriages.
◦ Relationship quickly fizzles when confronted with
unrealized differences and unrealistic expectations.
 Status quo settlers
◦ Lacks luster during the courtship but set doubts aside,
believing marriage would breathe new life into the
◦ Stay unhappily married.
 Stable loving investors
◦ No overly dramatic courtship, but invest time in
 trying to build a warm and cooperative
 relationship.
◦ Remained happily married .

How Similar / Different Are You?
 Personality= you should have more similarities than
differences when it comes to personality
◦ Emotional temperament—Are they introverted or extroverted?
Warm or cold? Rigid or flexible? Optimistic or pessimistic?
Moody or steady? Loud or quiet? Dramatic or bland?
Emotional or emotionless? Expressive or suppressive?
 “Make sure you have seen the patternof your partner’s emotional
temperament. This requires time and patience. The challenge
you face is to keep limits on the extent of your emotional
investment so that you protect your heart. It is imperative
that you know what you are getting into before you become
overly involved.”
◦ Thinking style—his or her ability to think, solve problems,
reason things through, and mentally put things together. Ask
yourself, “Do I want to spend the rest of my life with a
person who thinks like my partner thinks?” Are they a
concrete or abstract thinker? What are you? How do you fit
together? How do you discuss and solve problems? Do you
think that you and your partner are fairly close in your
mental abilities?
◦ Sense of humor—that is, the way your partner makes you laugh.
Being able to laugh together is one of the things that
healthy marriages report that allowed their marriages to last
for decades (happily).

Compare Your Values
 Family= family values and roles
◦ What are your beliefs about marriage? Is it just a secular contract
or a sacred institution? Have you or your partner been married
◦ What are your beliefs on parenting? Topics such as birth-control
methods, family planning, the number of children you would like to
have, experiences and enjoyment of being in a parenting role, family-
of-origin experiences, etc.
◦ What do you believe about the role of a husband and wife?
 Hint: Write a job description for a husband and wife to see what your
expectations are.
 Religious
◦ Don’t rationalize or overlook your differences; deal with them directly.
Make sure you examine both the content of you faith and beliefs and
the importance of your faith (magnitude and meaningfulness of your
faith may be different, even if you are the same religion).
 Financial
◦ 37% of all couples complain that money management is their number one
problem in marriage. Ask yourself “If I entrusted my finances to my
partner, how similarly or differently would they be handled? How
would my needs and interests be considered? Would I have to worry?

Consider Complementarity
 Finding out if your differences help or hurt the
◦ You need to acknowledge the differencesbetween you and
your partner during the dating relationship. The
extent of the differences will be a big determining
factor in whether or not the difference can be handled.
Some differences are too extreme and will be a
continual cause of discontent. Remember, if it bothers
you during the dating relationship, it is likely to
become magnified in marriage.
 What you once found attractive while dating might become
annoying in marriage. While dating: “Wow, he’s so
outgoing!” During marriage: “He never shuts up!”
◦ Complementarity exists when time ends up refining the
blend of differences in mutually beneficial ways.
◦ Develop a deep and mutual appreciation of differences .
◦ Partners with true complementarity become less different
and more alike over time.

Develop Good Communication Skills
 Self-disclosure
◦ The extent to which a person reveals his/her various thoughts, feelings, and experiences.
It is important to talk about the needs you have in the relationship to develop a
strong, intimate bond.
 Congruency
◦ The consistency between what someone shows outwardly with what he or she thinks and
feels on the inside. Few experiences of life create as much self-doubt as trying to
decipher an incongruent partner.
 Nonverbal Messages
◦ Many times the nonverbal message speaks more loudly than the verbal. This is one reason
why you should pay attention to your intuition, hunches, inner feelings, and vibes
around a partner. You probably pick up on the message of the nonverbal but just are
not aware of it.
 Listening
◦ It’s more than just passive silence. Good listeners convince the person that they are
listening to truly hear and understand the talker.
◦ Check your listening posture: SOLER
 S quare off-make sure your shoulders are square with the person talking
 O pen-keep your arms and legs uncrossed so that you have an open, nondefensive
 L ean- lean forward toward the person talking
 E ye contact- keep eye contact with the person talking
 R elax- stay relaxed as you listen
 Reciprocity
◦ There should be similar amounts of listening, talking, disclosing, and initiating between
you and the person you are dating.

Learn Conflict Resolution
 Five qualities for smoothing out rocky times:
◦ 1. Mutual assertiveness=it is vital that both of
you can speak your minds
◦ 2. Mutual respect of each other’s views=
admitting that your partner has a good point
that you should listen to
◦ 3. Humility= it not only admits when one is
wrong, but also admits to not being fully right
◦ 4. A willingness to forgive
◦ 5. A resiliency to bounce back after the
conflict is resolved

Be Aware of Relationship Patterns

 “The patterns from other relationships can

predict what a partner will be like in a
 The Theory of Relationship Continuity
◦ “There are common elements within all of your
relationships because you are the same person in
every relationship. It is true that some
relationships bring the best out of you and some the
worst-but when you add them all up, you have a
spectrum of the good-to-bad relationship behaviors
in you…”

Relationship Scripts
 “When you take all of your partner’s differing relationship scripts
and put them together, you can then see the spectrum or range of
how this partner acts in relationshipsto others and most likely
to you. Some people may have very narrow ranges with little
variation between how they act with one person or another; others
have broad ranges that, at first, may look like they are one
person in one setting and someone different in another. These
ranges are impossible to know in the beginning of a relationship.
They only become apparent as you see a dating partner interact
with others, hear stories of past relationships, and take on
different roles in your relationship with that partner. Judging
a dating partner by just one script may be very
misleadingbecause it does not recognize the other ways this
person acts—or the range of differences in his or her
relationship scripts. Don’t be fooled! Some of the scripts your
partner practices with others may eventually be directed toward
 The “Others”
◦ Peripheral others= store clerk, waitress, landlord, random ward
◦ Meaningful others= family, friends, roommates
◦ Romantic others= former significant others, former crushes, YOU!
“ You can ’ t marry Jethro
without getting ’ the
Clampetts .”
 Family of Origin (FoO)
◦ “Childhood experiences are some of the strongest
predictors of what your mate will be like as a
spouse and parent.”
 Basics to observe/ask about regarding your
partner’s FoO:
◦ Closeness
 Affection
Expression of feelings
◦ Structure of a family

Let Your Conscience Be Your Guide
 Without a good conscience, your partner’s
positive relationship skills can be used to
manipulate you.
 For a clue into your partner’s conscience, watch
how your partner handles guilt and admits to
being wrong.
 Watch out for impulsivity, it can be a sign of a
weak enforcing system.
 On the other side of the spectrum, beware of
overactive consciences which can lead to
rigidity, hypersensitivity, and overreacting.
 Lots of minor acts of unconscientiousness can
create a major pattern!
Is You Partner Trustworthy?
 Stay in the safe-zone: Avoid the temptation of
trusting your partner more than you know
your partner.
Remember : The RAM Model

 RAM comprises of five dynamics- Know , Trust ,

Rely , Commit , and Touch, all that
contribute to the bond you develop in a
 Remember the safe-zone rule: Never go further
in one bonding dynamic than you have gone
in the previous.
Is You Partner Trustworthy?
 Stay in the safe-zone: Avoid the temptation of
trusting your partner more than you know your
 Before thinking marriage, consider M.A.R.R.I.A.G.E.!
◦ Mature=delays gratification, others before self
◦ Adaptable= flexibility with changes
◦ Responsible=follows through with promises
◦ Relational=need for companionship
◦ Insightful=can see self from other perspectives
◦ Assertive=expresses self in open, appropriate ways
◦ Giving=enjoys making others happy
◦ Emotionally stable=no extreme mood shifts, receptivity
to the emotions of others
The Take Home Messages
 Be smart with your heart.

 Keep your investigative eyes open throughout the
entire relationship, not just at first.

 Take things slow enough to get to know your
partner well.

 Let your head and your heart work together to
find love.

 Seek for similarity and complementarity.

 Be aware of relationship patterns.