Make a List, Actually Two
How do you know if someone is marriage material? How do you know if you should go on a date with them? It depends on what you value – check your list.
I received a lot of good advice as a single person. I also received a lot of bad advice, but I am saving that for another post. One of the best pieces of advice came from multiple sources. I believe the first time I saw it was in a book I highly recommend called Boundaries in Dating by Henry Cloud and John Townsend(1). My wife also received very similar advice in a book she read called Love Smart by Dr. Phil McGraw(1), another book I highly recommend.
The best advice I received as a single person – make a list. In fact, make two lists. Make a list of things you must have in a spouse and make a list of things you absolutely will not tolerate in a spouse. Then, do not deviate from your list.
Check It Twice
The most important thing about your list is that it has to be very thoughtfully created. In crafting it, you should do some soul-searching and decide what is truly important in life. If your list is shallow and consists of mostly physical and financial qualifications it will be less than useless. Instead of leading you to Mr. or Ms. Right it will lead you right back to the same sort of mistakes that broke your heart before.
In making your list, be honest with yourself. In the process, you may come to understand that your priorities need some adjusting. You may realize you keep dating the wrong people because you are idolizing the wrong things. Maybe it’s time to start valuing what is truly valuable. What are the qualities that make a relationship work? Perhaps honesty, trustworthiness, and godliness should trump she’s cute or he drives a Mercedes. Maybe kind and good-natured is better than he’s six-foot tall or she looks great in yoga pants.
Naughty or Nice
Another important thing about your lists is that they are not too – not too short or long, not too stringent or relaxed, not too rigid or flexible, not too general or detailed, and not too unrealistic. From what I have read, and from making my own list, it seems that ten items, give or take a few, is optimal for each list. Some people have too few and leave out some very important things. Other people go to the alternate extreme and end up with a list so long and specific that it could not possibly describe any real live human being.
List One: I Must Have
Okay, let’s start with list number one – things I must have. I suggest doing a little research first into what traits lead to strong relationships. And that doesn’t necessarily just mean internet research, you could also speak to happy couples and see what qualities they value in each other that help keep their marriage happy.
Of course, the tendency of many people is to overly value physical attributes and financial assets and put too many of those things way too high on their list. Frankly, there are a lot of very good-looking and rich people fighting over child custody and spousal support every day. That is not what keeps a marriage happy.
That being said, as in most things, there is a balance here. I think it would be very difficult to be married to someone for whom you have no sexual desire or to whom you are not physically attracted. I’m not saying your list should not include any physical qualities. What I’m saying is your list should treat the most important things as the most important things. Character traits and attitudes are more important than physical attributes.
Character traits and attitudes are more important than physical attributes.
Would your ideal spouse want lots of children? Love cats? Bicycling? Art? Be gentle? Patient? Affectionate? Independent? Industrious? Romantic? Energetic? Laid back? Practice the same religion? Be spiritual? Physically fit? Highly intelligent? Educated?
All those things and many similar things are infinitely more important than hair color, eye color, annual salary, or what type of automobile a person owns. Please do not take this lightly. As you make your list, be honest, be realistic, and put a lot of thought into what is really important.
List Two: I Can’t Stand
Now let’s tackle list two. This list could almost end up a mirror of the first list, but try to give it a little more thought than that. These are the deal breakers. What is it about people that drives you crazy? What behaviors, and more importantly attitudes, could you or should you never tolerate?
Could you ever marry someone who drinks too much? Has any sort of addiction? Loses their temper easily? Mistreats people? Cheats? Drives recklessly? Is lazy? Skilled at manipulation? Vain? Easily offended? A racist? Carries a grudge? Never accepts responsibility? Never apologizes? Doesn’t practice good hygiene? Has no sense of humor? A low sex drive? A very strong a sex drive? Thinks porn is okay? Doesn’t want children? Wants twelve children?
Stick to It
Think it through carefully. Do some research. Get input from people you trust. Then, once you have crafted an honest and reasonable list – stick to it. If someone catches your eye and they are a fine physical specimen, have loads of money, or are the person everyone else wants to go out with, it doesn’t matter – stick to your list. Even if people say you’re still single because you are too picky, if your list is reasonable and well thought out – stick to it.
What are some things you must have in a spouse? What are some of your deal breakers? Let’s talk about it in the comments.
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