I’m in my 30’s and want to get married. I have dated a lot of guys who were very different; however, in the end, these relationships ended so maybe I’m not seeing a common denominator. What should I be looking for in a future husband and what will make ME marriage material?
I tackled the first part of this question in last week’s blog post, Part I.
This week I would like to address the second part of this question: what will make you marriage material?
As I stated last week, we all want to be respected, loved, and cherished for who we are and what we bring to the table as a partner, so let’s look at a few things that make you . . .
WHO YOU ARE AND WHAT YOU HAVE TO OFFER
Being comfortable with all of you and ONLY you is perhaps the most important ingredient of establishing a successful and satisfying partnership with someone else.
This tends to sound like a cliché when you’re single, but one of the first things you learn after tying the knot is that it can be just as lonely in marriage as it is when you’re single. So either way, you want to “love the one you’re with”, even if that person is you and only you!
Another way of saying this is that everything (and I do mean everything) you struggle with as a single person you will struggle with in marriage. Working on those aspects of your personality or character you know you should improve is much easier to do before you marry so that’s something I would strongly encourage you to tackle now.
Keep in mind that we can’t always see what we ourselves need to improve. It’s a good idea to ask family and friends (or someone else you trust) to be a mirror and give you some direct and honest feedback about what you might need to tweak before joining forces with another flawed human being.
In fact, doing just this kind of work with a therapist is what I believe allowed me to identify my husband Mike as great marriage material to begin with. He wasn’t my type (or so I thought), but working on parts of myself that needed to be healed in order to feel worthy of the kind of partner he is allowed me to recognize him as my equal and make the kind of commitment that marriage requires.
Let’s consider a few more areas where it’s worthwhile to do some soul-searching about where you’ve been and what you’re about . . .
This category extends beyond your family of origin to all your significant relationships, including those with previous individuals you’ve dated. Take time to consider them, one by one.
>> What worked and didn’t work in each relationship?
>> What did you really resonate with or love about each partner?
>> What really annoyed you or caused you distress?
You mentioned that you felt each guy you dated was different, but I’ll bet, upon closer introspection, that you’ll find some similarities, good and bad.
If you parted as friends and you are still in contact with any of these individuals, it’s also a great idea to ask THEM what they enjoyed and did not enjoy about you or your relationship. I sent e-mails to a few of my former beaus before I married and got a variety of responses (including silence). It wasn’t easy, but the input was worth it.
Thinking about these questions in detail, writing down your answers, and identifying patterns or themes can be very revealing in terms of helping you get clear about where you’ve been, who you want to be (or need to become), and what you need from a life partner in order to have a great marriage.
And what about your other relationships with friends, family, and coworkers? Are your close relationships characterized by drama and conflict or by mutual support and respect? Is there a tendency to have rifts because of long-standing communication problems?
Communication is a HUGE part of marriage and learning to communicate in a healthy way goes a LONG way towards making you marriage material. This includes learning to:
>> Say what you mean and mean what you say.
>> Communicate disagreement or discomfort before allowing it to build up.
>> Voice strong feelings without attacking or criticizing your partner.
>> Give your partner regular “strokes” in the form of praise and compliments.
>> Resolve issues without the need to become defensive or stonewall your partner.
>> Take your share of responsibility for issues and problems in your marriage.
>> Demonstrate love in your partner’s “love language” (not just your own).
>> Apologize and ask for forgiveness . . . on a regular basis!
Factoring in your personality style and preferences is extremely helpful as you think about your previous relationships and any communication patterns that bubble to the surface.
To aid this effort, I would also strongly suggest that you invest in some type of personality assessment. After all, you are the common denominator in your relationships and research has shown that our innate personalities are fixed and do not change significantly over time.
One of the best personality assessments in the world (and the one that is the most well-researched and widely used) is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, or MBTI, which can predict if you’re more likely to:
>> Enjoy many social events and relationships or fewer social events and one or two close friendships.
>> Process information based on what you know and see or on what you experience as intuition.
>> Make important decisions based on facts and logic or on feelings and emotions.
>> Manage your commitments in a structured, planful way or enjoy being more spontaneous and going with the flow.
Knowing your resulting MBTI “type” and that of any potential mate will not only allow you to better understand and relate to each other as you navigate the ups and downs of marriage, but avoid a ton of sinkholes and booby traps along the way. Having this insight is priceless!
(You’re in luck! We are certified to offer the MBTI! Just reach out to us:
we can usually administer and interpret the assessment for you within a few days.)
Keep in mind that, before you can expect a partner to respect you, you need to demonstrate respect for yourself by making good choices related to your health and well-being. Do you take care of your body? Is it important to you to look as good as you can for yourself and for your partner?
No, looks aren’t everything, but they aren’t unimportant, either. They will probably weigh heavily in your initial attraction to someone and his attraction to you, and while this facet of marriage tends to become less dominant as more important things take center stage, it will never completely go away.
FINANCES and FOLLOW-THROUGH
Money is still among the top one or two reasons why couples divorce, so it’s worth looking at this category very closely. How are you at managing your money and career?
>> Are you in a large amount of debt due to over-spending or unwise or impulsive expenditures?
>> Are you a saver or a spender?
>> Do you have a track record of setting – and then reaching – your financial goals and commitments?
>> Do you keep your promises and your word, even if it costs you something to do so?
>> Are you one to cancel or reschedule at the last minute or do you show up every time?
Individuals who are comfortable with commitment and responsibility and who have managed their resources well are much more prepared for marriage than those who can’t claim these skills.
Think in terms of someone looking at your relational resume. Does it shine?
RECREATION, HOBBIES, and GENERAL ENERGY LEVEL
In a healthy relationship, you should both be able to do the things you love, whether separately or together. But it’s all about balance.
Are you someone who:
>> Has a firm commitment to specific outside interests you’re unwilling to give up for any reason?
>> Doesn’t anticipate spending a lot of together time with your significant other or spouse?
>> Likes being or traveling alone more than you do with others?
>> Prefers watching TV or reading quietly (vs. restaurant hopping) at the end of a long day?
>> Has either an abundance of energy or a very low energy level?
There are no right or wrong answers here, but again, balance is key, so make sure your answers mesh with those of anyone you consider marrying.
DREAMS and ASPIRATIONS
Your ambitions or closely-held wishes are things you should share openly with anyone you consider a potential partner for life. These things can include wishes related to children, where you live, or your career.
To get a better grasp on this, consider what your vision board would look like if you made it an entire wall of your home. If you had a blank white wall to cover in the images that represent who you are and what you want, what would that look like?
>> Would there be a cottage house and walled garden or a swanky condo in a skyscraper and fast cars?
>> Would there be children and pets or a mountain bike and scuba equipment?
>> Would there be articles or images of religion or faith?
>> Would there be photos of far-away places or pictures of your home town?
Daydreaming and visualizing your future is an important aspect of preparing for marriage because knowing what you really want out of life will help you negotiate and navigate these issues with a marriage partner.
If you don’t know what you want in the future, how will you know what dreams you can share and pursue with someone else? You could each be very mature and accomplished individuals but want very different things, and the more these paths diverge, the more difficult it will be to combine your lives in a way that satisfies both your needs and desires.
You shouldn’t expect to match this person and his/her own dreams and aspirations 100%, and not everything will be in your control as life unfolds, but getting in touch with what is MOST important to you will light the path forward.
(By the way, making a vision board can be a valuable – and fun – exercise.
Check out this article on how to make one of your own.)
Of course, these aren’t the only things to consider, but they should get your started, and of course, we’re always here to help.
In closing, I’d like to end where I started with a reminder that the most important thing you can do to become ready for marriage – and someone else’s idea of “marriage material” – is to know and love YOURSELF.
See yourself for who you really are and be willing to work on those aspects of yourself that need attention. Acknowledge your true personality and deepest desires. One day, it will be so gratifying to get to share this YOU with someone who loves you for who you are – imperfections and all – and in turn, love him for who he is too.