Relationship success is based on two individuals standing in coupledom free of outside influence. My listeners and readers are often challenged by meeting new people who have a “pack mentality” when it comes to relationships. If the new person does not fit in with the “pack” (parents, friends, coworkers, etc.) or abide by its rules, the outsider is often quickly dumped — meaning, potentially great relationships are not even given a chance to grow. Below are 10 ways to tell if he is his own guy:

1. He’s fine socializing on his own
A man who is able to be out on the town without anyone else is his own guy. If you find that every movie, dinner, getaway weekend, office party or sporting event is all about how many friends he can throw into the mix, be warned — he definitely needs relationship buffers so that he does not have to focus too much attention on you.

2. He exhibits healthy family separation
Definitely go for a guy who’s got a great relationship with his family, but make sure that he sees them realistically. One of the keys to being a fully formed adult is to be able to balance the love for your family of origin with your own views on how you plan on doing things better for your own family. Is he open about some of his family’s flaws? Is he able to differentiate between the ways his family does things and the way he chooses to do them? Watch his conversations and interactions with his family for clues.
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3. He’s willing to sample unfamiliar social settings
This one is big! Is he open to trying things with you that may not necessarily be “his” thing? We all step into relationships with our basic profile of what we think is fun or interesting set in our minds. Test the athlete a bit by suggesting a museum visit or wine-tasting date; offer the finance guy the chance to go to a great indie concert; invite the artist to accompany you to a major company event. If he is willing to give anything a try for you, then clearly he is a guy who goes against the grain and is up for taking chances, no matter what others may think.

4. He needs no counsel to help him make life’s decisions
Is he able to make major life decisions without a committee’s worth of help? There are going to be a million times over the course of a relationship where you are going to need to hear clearly from him what he thinks. You need to be confident that what he is giving you are his genuine thoughts and opinions, not what his best buddy thinks.

5. He’s an information/opinion junkie
Are you ever surprised at what he thinks about a hot news topic or a great new television program? Does he ever sort of sway from the expected response when you discuss current events together? If so, he is a keeper. This is a clear sign that he is willing to research and form his own views on his world — that he is definitely his own guy.

6. He shows off his softer side when you’re together
Do you guys have your own magical relationship world? Is he willing to get sappy or silly with you in an effort to show his interest or love for you? Then this is a guy not afraid to let his softer self shine and be vulnerable around you, no matter what others may think. His goal is to impress and enthrall you instead of worrying about violating any “man code.”

7. He knows that work is work… and when to stop watching the clock
We all want a partner that wants to move forward and succeed, but is he able to still be your guy while climbing the career ladder? Is he able to put work to the side to speak with you during the day or have an evening out with you after a hard day at the office? Does he value his connections with people as much as his connection to his BlackBerry? What you should be looking for is the well-rounded guy — he values doing well in his career, but also knows that there is far more to living than being in the office late every night.

8. He knows that, in relationships, compromise is key
A person who is able to see all sides of any argument and make an eventual compromise is a relationship gift! Does he give you time to state your case? Does he occasionally come over to your side of thinking? Is he able to respectfully hold his own ground when you disagree? These are indicators of a man who is unafraid to be who he is, but clearly realizes that the whole world does not have to feel the same way that he does.

9. He lives in a diverse world
We live in a very diverse society nowadays, where viewpoints, beliefs and backgrounds can be all over the map. Check out your man’s friends and his interests. Does he seem to challenge himself by stepping out into the world, or does he sort of stay in the safe zone of the same-old, same-old he’s always known? If your man has diverse friends and interests, then he’s likely bold enough to not just repeat whatever the popular opinion is about the way things are; rather, he’s busy forming his own, more informed opinion based on his personal real-world experiences.

10. He’s your guy, not just some male stereotype
Much in the same way that we, as women, are given a mental image of what the perfect partner, girlfriend or wife must be — men also carry an internal image that defines what their role in relationships should be, too. Is he willing to be the guy you need or does he seem to be following the typical “boyfriend” script? For example: You tell him that you hate flowers, but he continues to buy them for you. Or, in conversations about the future, you tell him you plan on balancing a great job with having kids and he seems to steer the conversation back to you staying at home. These are examples of a man who is more interested in following traditional gender roles than making things work with you specifically. Look for a guy who really listens to you and is willing to bend to make sure that you both get the best out of your relationship.

LaDawn Black is a relationship expert, radio personality and the author of Stripped Bare: The 12 Truths That Will Help You Land the Very Best Black Man. Learn more at