When I was a kid, I used to ask my mom to peek into the closet and look under my bed before turning out the lights for the night.
I haven't feared the shadows since then, but it seems like the more I swim laps in the dating pool, the more I have to beware of a new kind of monster. They're just as terrifying as the kind that gave me the creeps as a kid, but these are a little harder to spot at first glance.
I'm talking, of course, about marriage monsters.
These are people who are hellbent on speeding up the process and transforming their next date into a life partner.
Like a lot of people, I'm pro-walking down the aisle. I just don't think wedding bells should be the primary agenda before the bread is even served on the first date.
Now, before anyone fires off an angry tweet in my direction, I'm not talking only about women here. Men are just as guilty.
I get it. Your friends are getting hitched, and you're starting to feel the itch. People around you are beginning to have kids, and you're afraid that instead of being able to share pictures of your own rugrats, you'll be the single friend who always draws baby-sitting duty.
While marriage monsters can be camouflaged as normal people just looking to hang out and see where things go, there are a few giveaways—and they're usually pretty obvious.
Fellas, if within the first month or so of dating a woman informs you that she's "looking for her husband," you should be looking for the exit. This can only end badly for you. This premature emotional investment means that your every move will be analyzed, broken down and reviewed for a long-term commitment before you even get to know each other's middle names. You may also be bombarded with questions such as, "Do you think we'd make a cute baby?" While she's obviously thinking "to have and to hold," you should be getting ready to grab your stuff and go.
Not that guys are any better. Their mothers are asking for grand kids, and that's a lot of pressure. So ladies, if he's a little too overzealous to have you meet Mom, it may be to get an early go-ahead from her. If he's immediately making comments about you cooking at least three times a week, ranting about how his player days are over or telling you how well you'd fit into his family, those all are legitimate reasons for you to tiptoe out of there.
Even in today's sped-up society, nothing beats actually getting to know a person. (And by that I mean more than just the factoids on their social networking profiles.) Attempting to press fast-forward and make an instant "I do" surely will leave you with a perfect stranger that may or may not be compatible for the long haul.
No matter how many weddings you go to, godchildren you collect or speeches you endure about settling down, remember: You're ready when you're ready.
But until that time comes, sleep with the light on.
ANTHONY ROBERTS IS A REDEYE SPECIAL CONTRIBUTOR.