Finding someone you want to spend the rest of your life with is no easy task. Deciding whether someone will make a good potential husband or wife is complicated. There is no definitive checklist that will determine whether you find a spouse and live happily ever after.
Every relationship is different and people’s needs are subjective. My marriage lasted for 16 years before it ended because our needs were so different. There’s no question that with the divorce rate higher than 50%, a single person who wants to be married needs to keep a few things in mind when navigating the world of dating.
People change. The person you are when you get married is probably not the person you will be years later. Life experience affects the way you look at things and even which things will be important to you in the future.
When I got married at the age of 24 I had never even held a full-time job. I was fresh out of grad school and had no idea what to expect from ‘real life’. How could I possibly know the way my views would change about spirituality, child-rearing, or my career? Or the myriad number of other parts of my life? Yet by choosing a husband I made a decision that would impact my life forever- and the lives of the children I would ultimately give birth to.
Nobody knows how their views and beliefs will be shaped by life experience. That’s why it’s important to marry a person who is flexible and willing to give you space to grow. Change is a continual process and it’s up to both people in a relationship to keep up with the evolution of their spouse’s growth, their own growth, and the growth of a marriage. Finding a partner who understand this is essential to being able to adjust together.
While it sounds romantic, no one really wants to be another person’s entire reason for living. If someone is completely dependent on you for their own happiness, the relationship is pretty much doomed to fail. A person must be able to find happiness within themselves in order to contribute to a relationship.
People’s personalities vary- some people prefer having a certain degree of alone time and others prefer being with their partner as often as possible. Make sure your expectations are the same. You need room to grow in a marriage and that includes separate friends and separate interests.
What’s important when it comes to affection is finding a partner whose needs relate well to your own. Not every man or woman wants to be touched, held, or cuddled in the same degree. There’s nothing wrong with that. It only becomes an issue if the person you are with needs more affection than you wish to give.
Obviously new relationships tend to be a little more touchy-feely than relationships between people who have been together awhile. The newness of a relationship affects the level of a lot of things. However, you can usually pick up on a person’s need for affection pretty quickly.
I was not as affectionate as my husband in our marriage and it did lead to a many arguments. (In my next relationship I found that I was a lot more affectionate. Again, people change.) If the level of affection you need is incompatible while you are dating, it is pretty much guaranteed to be an issue in a marriage.
Consider health when choosing a potential spouse. Is she someone who enjoys exercising and includes it in her daily routine? Is he someone who would rather cuddle on the couch than go for a walk? Those things make a difference in your level of happiness if they are something that is very important to at least one of you.
In my marriage, my husband was very involved in physical fitness and it wasn’t as important to me, even when we were very young. Was that the reason the marriage ended? No, it was certainly not the only reason. But it did create conflicts. It’s also interesting to note that his current partner is a spin instructor on the weekends. Now does that mean they won’t have conflicts in their marriage? Of course not. But the shared loved of fitness is one of the things that brings them closer together.
There will always be exceptions to the rules- relationships where people seem completely incompatible at face value yet don’t have issues about the disparity because both people can accept it. However, if you look at marriages that do have in trouble, and ultimately end in divorce, these are the kinds of factors that are brought up in couples therapy again and again.
Jennifer Koebele, MS Ed. enjoys researching and writing articles on a variety of subjects. Currently writing articles for a therapist in San Fransisco, www.jmarcwallis.com, while working towards a counseling degree so that she can work as a women’s therapist. She works from home with her three kids.