So know yourself and know your family. For me that means knowing that, as much as I appreciated my mother's sweetness and practical ways, I need a slightly reckless lion more than I need a sensible lamb in my life. (In the dictionary, right next to a number of hard-charging mammals—including the weasel, famous for attacking animals larger than itself for no reason—you will see my husband's picture.) So, finally, I married a lion, and although I never pictured myself being the person hanging on to the "oh shit" bar on the passenger side, saying, "For God's sake, honey, slow down!" I do prefer that to being the person who says, regularly, "It's okay, honey, if you're scared, we can turn around."
What "Knowing the Other Person" Means
When you look at another person's behavior (and please, do look at what he does, not just how he explains what he does. A man with a good and different explanation for each of the five times he's stood you up is a really good...explainer. Did you want to marry a world-class explainer?), the question will arise: Is it character or circumstance? Did he do what he did because of who he is, at his core, or was he pushed to that behavior by circumstance? Guess what? Pretty much, after 18, it's character, every time. It's true that under extraordinary circumstances—baby trapped under car, grandmother stuck in burning building—you might see some hitherto unsuspected heroism emerge in someone you thought had not a drop, and even so, what you learn from that is: He had a drop of heroism in him, after all. But it is also true that even a man pushed to robbing a bakery for bread for his starving child will show who he is by how he conducts himself during the robbery.