“You just know,” is probably the most unhelpful answer of all time. But if you took a poll of married people on how they knew they wanted to marry their spouse, that is a common answer you might get. Maybe if you were a very intuitive decision maker, you would just know. But for the rest of us, although I don’t have all the answers, here are some factors that might be helpful when considering whether the person you’re dating is someone you’d want to marry. It is not an exhaustive list, and each person must decide for herself what she values most, but this list might help you think some things through.
1. You’re comfortable being yourself.
One of the things that strikes me most about good couples is how comfortable they are around each other. They feel at ease and safe when they are together. They are not afraid of being judged by the other and they feel confident that their best interests are looked out for. Comfortable together with or without makeup, crying, laughing. They don't feel the need to be anyone else in front of each other and they tend to get along. Trust is easy.
2. You like how they relate to their friends and family.
You like how they relate to their mom or their dad or their siblings. The closest relationships they have are critical to see even if it is their friends. Do they respect their mother, father and grandparents? Do they visit graves of their departed? Do they give gifts or cards to their people? Chances are that if they do they will honor you the same.
3. Being together helps both of you grow.
Are you a better person for knowing each other? Do they encourage you to develop your strengths and to improve on your weaknesses?
4. They value growth.
Every person is bound to have areas of immaturity or weakness. What matters more is that they are willing to keep growing. Does this person read? Seek out personal development opportunities? Look to connect with people more mature than themselves? Are they open to trying new experiences?
5. They demonstrate the ability to build relationships over long periods of time.
Marriage takes continual work over the long haul so you want to marry someone who has shown that they have the capacity to continue investing in your relationship. What is their track record with friends and family? Do they have a history of short-term friendships or do they still keep in touch with people he met many years ago?
6. You’re aware of the things that bother you about him or her and are moving toward greater acceptance of those things.
There will always be stuff you don’t like about the other person, and you might be tempted to think, “When we’re married, they will change.” The reality is, they may or may not change. And you definitely will not be able to make them change. So take a look at what those qualities are that bother you and ask yourself whether you are able to live with them or not. You may never like those parts of your significant other, but if you’re moving toward greater acceptance of them, your relationship has a chance for the long term. In marriage, you want to continually influence each other for good but not demand change from the other person.
7. You both address conflict that arises.
You may not have it all figured out, but are both of you at least willing to work on healthy conflict resolution? Conflict is an important part of marriage so you want to marry someone who will engage with you to work things out when differences arise.
8. Your relationship is about more than just the two of you.
Love in its essence radiates outward. If your love is healthy, you will not only concern yourself with the other person, but with those around you. If your relationship is about more than just the two of you, chances are your relationship is in a good place. Having a cause or purpose greater than yourselves is also good for marriage because it can give you something common to move toward and keeps you from becoming inward focused.
Ultimately, the decision to marry someone is always an act of faith. You will never completely know how the other person will change, or what life may throw at you. Before you decide to marry someone though, you need to consider whether he or she is a positive influence on you and whether you are a positive influence on him/her. I read this advice recently that seems appropriate to end off with: “There’s no perfect choice. Be informed, choose one and commit.”
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