A common approach to dating for marriage is to make a list of what you’re looking for and then find someone who meets your requirements. This is a good approach for buying a car but not so good for deciding to make a life commitment to another human being.
Deciding to get married is not about finding the right person: it’s about finding the right relationship. You need to be able to evaluate the overall quality of the relationship not just the quality of the other person. The question is not is he right for me, but are we right for each other. You are not choosing a mate, you are choosing a relationship.
1. There is healthy physical attraction.
People often mistake being in love with being in lust. Lust is superficial and temporal, and therefore not important. What’s important is having a healthy physical attraction. You should not find anything that is a turn off or which you find repulsive, even something small. This is important because people sometimes say, “He looks great on paper, but I just don’t feel much for him.” When you’re married, you won’t be taking a piece of paper with you to the bed.
2. You fully accept each other as you are now.
It is essential to be sure that you can live with each other as you are now, assuming he or she will never change. Don’t make the big mistake of hoping that after marriage the other person will change. “After we’re married I’m hoping he’ll become more romantic. After we’re married, I’m hoping she’ll become more classy and sophisticated. After we’re married I’m hoping he’ll be more generous with his money.” Chances are the person will not change and you’ll be resentful and angry.
3. You like each other.
You identify strongly with the good and comfortably accept the bad in each other. Infatuation, on the other hand, only sees the good and does not see the whole person. When you like someone, you respect and admire them. It is especially bonding to find an aspect of each other’s personality that you resonate with. For example, you might identify with his depth, her integrity, his creativity, his kindness, her commitment to the community, etc.
4. You are building a friendship.
You want to marry someone who treats you like your good friends do. Be friends and lovers, but be friends first. Friends care about each other’s happiness. Friends enjoy giving to each other and meeting each other’s needs. Friends are guardians of each other’s self-esteem. They build each other up and never tear each other down. Friends are loyal and never betray the other.
5. You are good problems solvers.
Successful couples consistently resolve their conflicts and problems and reach win-win solutions. They rarely escalate and get into ugly and destructive fights that result in both people feeling beaten up and disconnected. If they disagree they are back on track within 24 hours. When they do disagree, they fight fairly and respectfully and give each other a good hearing.
6. You are emotionally mature.
Emotionally mature people are aware of their feelings and can name them in order to express them clearly. They take full responsibility for what they feel and never blame the other person “for making me feel a certain way.” They are curious about their feelings and therefore learn and grow from them. They have a high level of affect tolerance and don’t numb or dismiss their feelings. They know their triggers and take responsibility for them. Emotionally mature people are vulnerable and emotionally honest. They feel safe with each other and never feel they have to walk on egg shells around the other person. They stay far away from creating drama. They are assertive and therefore never get into passive-aggressive behaviors. They have good boundaries and do not create destructive triangles.
7. You trust each other.
Trust means I can rely on you. I am sure you have my back. Trust is the emotional glue that binds two people and allows love to grow and expand. Without trust, love dies. There are some people who because of childhood pain lack what is called basic trust. These people always feel insecure in intimate relationships and find it hard to trust people. This a problem that in most cases requires professional attention.
8. You are compatible.
Although it’s true that opposites attract, sameness is what makes couples compatible. As a wise woman once said, “The fact that one is male and one is female is already enough difference.” Some important examples of sameness are sharing a common culture, educational level, family background, socio-economic background, political views, religion and spirituality, closeness in age, intellectual compatibility, and having similar personality styles. Viva la difference, but too much difference can cause unwanted conflict. You should share some recreational preferences, and be able to laugh and have fun together.
9. You are growth oriented.
When two people are constantly upgrading themselves, they are at the same time upgrading the relationship by offering a better version of themselves to each other. Character refinement is the essence of self-improvement. Human beings are either going up or down. There is no standing still. If a living thing is not growing, it’s dying; a relationship that is not growing is dying. Growing people feel happy and alive which adds a positive energy to the relationship. Our culture is one that values material and emotional comfort which is the antithesis of growth. Growth is by definition uncomfortable. Those who seek comfort may be active, busy, and look like they’re having fun but are dying inwardly which breeds negativity.
10. You share a common life vision.
Having a common life vision means your values, priorities, and goals are aligned. In marriage two people can grow together or grow a part. Seeing the world through similar lenses greatly insures you’ll grow together. Soul mates are goal mates. Sharing common values and priorities also reduces conflict and fighting simply because there’s less to fight about. It insures that when it comes to the big issues of life, such as money, parenting, family, life balance, religion, or politics that you will be on the same page.
If you have been unsure about getting married and you can sign off on most of these issues, then you should feel confident moving forward. Mazel tov!