Three Traits that Make a Wonderful Mate

A friend sent me an article recently entitled, “How We End Up Marrying the Wrong People.” I don’t know if we can ever marry the “wrong” person, but I do think marrying a certain kind of person over another, can make for a more difficult or smooth experience in marriage. So how can we best prepare for a smoother ride in marriage? The author suggests that preparing for a marriage requires asking questions that would help guage what kind of spouse someone would be. For example, marriage used to be a more functional thing than anything, and the following criteria might have been considered when marrying:

  • Who are their parents?
  • How much land do they have?
  • How culturally similar are they?

In more recent years, marrying someone seems to be more about being “in love” than anything else, which means the following signs would determine the level of rightness of a spouse:

  • one can’t stop thinking of a lover
  • one is sexually obsessed
  • one thinks they are amazing
  • one longs to talk to them all the time

The author of the article suggests we need a new set of criteria for the current age in which we are living. She proposes such questions to ask when dating such as:

  • How are they mad (aka quirky, dysfunctional, abnormal, etc.)?
  • How can one raise children with them?
  • How can one develop together?
  • How can one remain friends?

While these may be legitimate questions to ponder before saying “I do,” I’d also like to add three specific things to look out for when considering whether someone else has the potential to become a great mate. Key word: potential. No person when they get married is automatically going to make a wonderful partner. It takes work. It takes willingness. But I believe we can look out for (and seek to develop in ourselves) the raw material that makes for a fantastic, God-honoring relationship partner. They are:

  1. Ability to say “I’m sorry.” It may sound simple and irrelevant in the dating phase, but it is so HUGE in marriage. If neither of you have learned how to sincerely apologize – and mean it – then marriage will be a rocky and resentment-filled road.
  2. Ability to admit mistakes. It takes a great deal of humility to admit when we are wrong. It is not easy. But when we are able to swallow our pride and say, “I screwed up,” it is the mark of someone who is not only humble but mature.
  3. Willingness to be teachable. Being teachable is being willing to change. It is realizing that your way isn’t always the right way and perhaps there is a better way. It is someone who believes in personal growth and transformation throughout life. We never reach a point where we “have arrived” and no longer need to change. This belief in personal growth and development is what makes marriage fun and adventurous and ever-moving forward.

When we are in a season of exploring relationships through dating, it is easy to focus on things that our society values: good looks, athleticism, wealth, leadership skills, etc. But really, the things that matter in marriage are farthest from the superficial things we think matter so much. The times I find my husband most attractive are not when he is pumping iron, but times he is looking me in the eyes and telling me he is sorry. Or times he owns up to his mistakes. Or times when he is making an effort to change something about himself for the sake of our relationship. I can only hope he would say something similar about me in terms of when he is most fond of me as a spouse.

If you are in a season of waiting on God, ask Him during this time to help you develop the traits listed above. If you are in a season of dating and pondering marriage, look out for traits that embody humility, vulnerability and willingness to change and grow. Also seek to develop them yourself. If you are in a season of marriage, make an honest evaluation of yourself as a spouse: Are you able to say sorry? Are you able to admit when you are wrong? Are you teachable and working on your own personal and spiritual development for the sake of your spouse?

I am always struck by 1 Samuel 16:7 when I come across it:

“The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”

Make this verse be your guide in waiting, dating and marriage and you can’t go wrong. Marriage is what you make of it and that largely depends on the two people involved. Vulnerability. Humility. Teachability. These character traits are rare treasures that – when possessed by both partners – will make your relationship wonderfully rich and worth fighting for.

What would you add?

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