Tuesday, June 05, 2007

The Art of Successful Spouse-Seeking

Among the greatest privileges given me from time to time is to be invited by one of my children to offer advice or guidance. (For any of you tempted to envy, I should hasten to add that this opportunity doesn't generally arise until the children have moved beyond adolescence.)

Well, I got the Mt. Everest of such requests the other day. I've been waiting my whole life for this one. My daughter asked me for my list of things to look for in a husband. She's aware that I've had more than the usual success, since I was very happily married to her father until his death several years ago and now have the excellent fortune to be approaching a first wedding anniversary with my very dear Henry. I guess she figures I must be doing something right.

As most self-respecting blogsters will report, about halfway through my e-mail to her, I thought to myself "This is so on the blog." So here you are, dear readers. It's what I looked for and found. Some of it will be particular to me and my style, but perhaps it will generate ideas for you and yours.

What I Looked For in a Potential Husband

I have "Admission Ticket" items. If I don't get satisfactory answers to my questions on these issues, there are no more dates.
  • Solid Christian. It has a high level of importance in his life.

  • Excellent character; reliable, honest, can make the tough decisions, yet thoughtful and gentle

  • Employed at a level (or with a trajectory) that could provide for the family if the wife stayed home to rear a family.

  • No debilitating psychological issues or such a trashed upbringing that it seems likely to hamper being able to be a full partner in an excellent marriage.
Then there's the second level -- what I need to find in order to have confidence that the kind of relationship I want can develop. The first 2 are the "Big Two", in my view.
  • Does he have the capacity to love and be loved at a deep level? Will he value that opportunity? Does it seem that, if we married, he would place a high level of importance on building and sustaining the relationship?

  • Does he have the capability of communicating about how we communicate? When we talk about things with a lot of "emotional content", is he able both to pay attention to how he feels as well as pursue understanding how I feel? What's his attitude when something is more important to me than it is to him?

    And, for the Graduate Level of meta-communication, after what might have been a tense conversation, is he inclined to talk about how the conversation went and consider how we might change how we discuss something similar in the future so it will work better?

  • More about communication: I'd be cautious about a tendency to be defensive. Is it important to him to be right? Or, something that might indicate the opposite problem, does he generally yield in order to keep the peace? Does he consider genuinely important things (and only those things) worth making issues of?

  • Am I comfortable being my authentic self around him?

  • Do I respect him as a man the way he is now? Or are there important aspects of his character or personality that will cause me problems in the future if they don't change?

  • Does he welcome the idea of having a family together? Do I? Will he be a good father? Will his children love and respect him?

  • Will we able to become fully involved in a common community of faith? It's key to both be mature Christians, but it's also important to have a common culture in which our family Christian life can flourish.

  • Does he think I'm wonderful? Is he proud that I'm with him and that he's won my affections? Does he embarrass me? If so, can the issues be addressed, or will they be long-standing?
  • Do we laugh together? Does laughter and humor generally draw us together, or is it a veiled jab instead? Can we defuse tension with laughter? Does it help us avoid the issue, or does it instead lubricate our progress toward a solution?
  • What do others think of us as a couple? Do our closest and respected friends have significant concerns? Is our care for one another visible to them? Do they think we're a good fit? Does anyone tell us that we're good for each other? Do they see evidence that we're becoming better individuals as we grow in our relationship together?
That's all I can think of for now. What else should be on this list? I'm dying to pass it along to my eligible bachelorette.


Therese Z said...

The last sentence of the last item is terribly important.

I'd add: is he content? Is he satisfied with what he has? Is his car only good enough for now until he gets the really good one? Or the job, or the apartment, or the TV?

This speaks to confidence in his own decisions and a lack of systematic avarice.

Therese Z said...

Giving a lot of thought to this:

Is he good at his job? I don't mean "is he the best second vice president of inventory calculation in the entire world" but is he successful, well-regarded?

TS said...

Will he relinquish control of the remote occasionally?

TS said...

By brother, by the way, humorously refers to the pause button on his DVR as "the marriage saver".

The guys checklist is much shorter:
Can she cook? (Just kidding!)

Therese Z said...

When I have trouble meeting men, sometimes I want to yell "I can cook! I can mend! I'm house-proud! I even like to IRON!"

Kate said...

Here's mine: Does he respect what you do? Does he have respect for the work women do in the home? Does he value the feminine perspective, or does he (even subtly, or humourously) dismiss what he sees as feminine irrationality (eg, "hey, someone's got PMS!" when a woman acts assertive or angry)?

I've been extraordinarily blessed in marrying a man who was well-mothered and consequently holds my place in the home and mothering in high esteem. But I have friends who were not so lucky, and have discovered that the guy who was so much fun on dates has little to no respect for the 'women's work' of making a home.



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