For a long time, my romantic ideals were a bit, how do you say, UNREALISTIC.
Between Jane Austen, Christian romance novels and romcoms, I didn’t have the steadiest diet of REALITY regarding what love and marriage looked like.
And honestly, I’m still figuring it out more than 2 years into marriage (shocking, I know).
But there are a few truly deep, meaningful characteristics that I’ve realized matter most when you’re thinking about marrying someone.
(And for the record, you should be cultivating these in yourself as well!)
1. Marry someone who can listen to negative feedback.
It pays big dividends to marry someone who can handle kind, well-intentioned feedback. In fact, it often means the difference between being able to talk about hard subjects and resolve conflict or living in a tense, frustrating atmosphere.
True, we can all get defensive when someone points out character flaws or sin in our lives. But if there’s only defensiveness and *never* receptiveness, that’s a red flag it will likely always be difficult to deal with issues in your relationship.
INSERT CAVEAT HERE: Be VERY wise about how you bring things up, when you bring things up and what things you bring up. Accusing someone or name-calling will get you nowhere fast. Learn to take a breath or two when you’re overwhelmed by emotions, and then revisit the conversation when you have — or both of you have — calmed down. Otherwise you’ll just end up yelling at each other and probably saying something you don’t mean. And worse than that, the real issue will never get addressed! END CAVEAT.
2. Marry someone who wants to grow.
This fits well with No. 1 because if they’re willing to hear negative feedback, most likely they are willing to work on their character flaws or turn from their sin.
AND YOU NEED THIS IN MARRIAGE.
Because not-so-shockingly, binding yourself to someone until DEATH can indeed be challenging at times. If you choose to marry someone who never takes responsibility for his actions and assumes everyone else is always in the wrong, well, marriage is going to be WAY MORE CHALLENGING.
Plus, you can’t change your spouse. You can’t control what they do. Even if you share a desire for them to work on a certain area of their life, it still has to be their choice to do the hard work and make the change.
That’s why you should choose to marry someone who is well-intentioned and WANTS to grow — in all areas of their life!
But remember, any issues you have while dating will MAGNIFY TIMES A MILLION when you’re married. THEY WILL NOT GET BETTER. So think through the challenges you’re facing now and truly consider: If this characteristic doesn’t change or improve, can I commit to this person forever?
3. Marry someone who is kind.
This is not niceness, where we only say “polite” things. Kindness is deeper and tougher than that.
It speaks the truth, but does so with grace.
Kindness shows up every day in a thousand ways, from offering food to a homeless person on the street to holding the door for an older couple to thanking you for making dinner.
And frankly, kindness SAVES your marriage when you’re working through conflict, talking about hurt feelings or learning how to navigate family relationships.
Kindness is what keeps the channels of communication open in tense moments. Mostly because it stops you from calling each other names or acting spitefully.
A great way to evaluate true kindness? Look at how someone responds when they’re treated poorly, or how they treat people who can’t do anything for them.
Because (unfortunately) there will probably be times in your marriage where you’ll fall into both of those categories.
4. Marry someone your friends and family like.
Because they aren’t blind with infatuation like you are. That’s pretty much the whole reason why. [insert smile here]
I get that there are occasions when people misjudge the person you’re dating. Or possibly you have dysfunctional family relationships where you can’t fully trust the judgment of a loved one.
However, those are the EXCEPTION not the RULE.
When you’re flying high on the wave of infatuation, your trusted friends and family will be able to spot red flags easier and point out possible issues that may come up in the future.
They know you better than you may know yourself, so listen to what they have to say *without* immediately dismissing it, discounting their opinions or justifying the actions of your significant other.
Besides that, don’t you want your spouse to get along with your family and friends? If they hate each other before you’re married, that’s probably not going to change once a ring is on your finger.
5. Pick someone who wants to be responsible with money.
Money fights are one of the leading causes of divorce in America.
Being disciplined with your money through an agreed-upon budget can make your marriage WAY WAY smoother — and it’s one of the best ways to develop a sense of oneness and partnership.
Honestly, merging your money with someone else is UNCOMFORTABLE. At least in my experience, I encountered a lot of selfishness and entitlement in my heart over this!
But creating an agreed-upon budget helped u to prioritize what mattered most and get on the same page. And since we’ve been married, we have not had one fight about marriage. Some tense moments because our ways of planning our budget are slightly different [insert smile] but no fights!
On top of that, marrying someone who wanted to be responsible with money led to us being able to pay off more than $60,000 of debt in less than 2 years.
Say it with me: Discipline with money matters. AND BUDGETS ARE YOUR FRIEND.
4. Pick someone who is your friend.
Passion comes and goes, but friendship is the foundation of a solid marriage.
Enjoying doing things together – even small, regular-life things, like washing the dishes – makes the humdrum of life easier and more fun. Plus, friends make you laugh a lot. And laughter is very, very helpful in marriage to keep you both from taking yourselves too seriously.
When I met my husband, I remember being struck by how much our relationship felt like a friendship more than what I had imagined a dating relationship would feel like.
That was partly because our passion — and attraction — to each other was more emotional than physical at the start. We certainly weren’t repulsed by each other initially, but we also weren’t HEAD OVER HEELS IN LOVE right away.
However, the friendship we built has been one of the greatest joys of our marriage. I truly believe it is what sustains our relationship. Honestly, I still have a hard time reconciling myself to the idea that I have a husband. Instead, most days I just feel like he is the closest friend I have in the whole world — with some physical benefits in there, too. [insert smile]
5. Pick someone who really and truly loves God.
I saved the most important one for last. And I can’t stress enough how important it is!
Because there will be times when you NEED a higher authority in your lives to call you to behave and respond in a way that is healthy and beneficial.
The Holy Spirit gives you the power to do this. And I think He also impresses the call upon you to do this when you really, really would rather cling to the resentment or act passive-aggressively, etc., etc., etc.
And don’t fall for the “I go to church” type of loving God. Look for a spouse who can tell you how God is working in their life, what they’re reading about in the Bible or learning from a Bible study, etc.
It’s easy to fake church speak and religious action. It’s harder to fake answers to the above questions!
Don’t Settle — But Have Realistic Expectations
You don’t need to settle, friend.
And by settling, I don’t mean marrying someone who is shorter than you or who sings off-key, etc., etc. I mean settling when it comes to the BIG CHARACTER things.
Those are the things that last a lifetime. Not looks. Not passion. And most of the time, not even the feeling that the person you’re with is “THE ONE.”
But the character things grow and reap a harvest that is worth waiting for — or worth staying single forever, rather than settling for less.
What did I miss? I’d love to hear your thoughts about what to look for when choosing s spouse!