Married dopers: what are the REALLY important things to look for

What are the really important things to look for in someone you want to spend your life with? I don’t know if I’m barking up the wrong tree. Is there a fine line between sensibly choosy and too picky and if so, does anyone know where it is?

Geez, what isn’t important? I don’t know that you can be too picky when it comes to marriage.

If I had to pick one thing, though, I would look at how the person responds to adversity. Does s/he blame others? Get angry? Give up? Withdraw? Or is s/he able to be upset, but then go on and do something about it, talk about it, etc? I don’t know who said this, but it is true (paraphrasing, and if any dopers know the correct quotation and source, I would love to know it): In a crisis we are ourselves, only more so.

Good times don’t show character, and that is what is most important.

Wow Brynda that was succinct and true.

Do you LIKE them?
Can you see having breakfast with this person every day for the rest of your life?
Is this person a GROWNUP?

Make sure. They AREN’T going to change anytime soon, no matter whether you think you can change them, or not.

I have a wonderful marriage and there is no quick answer to your question. My husband is my best friend, confidante, and lover. Is he perfect? No. Am I? Hell no.

You can’t be “too picky”, but I don’t believe in a laundry list of qualities required before someone is worthy of being your partner. You have to be open to experience all types of people before you may find the one that fits you.

When it’s right, it’s right. We’re different than we were 15 years ago but we’ve grown together, not apart.

Note: you asked what are the important things to look for in the other person. But each of these traits really needs to be recipocated–i.e., you need to make sure that they are also present in yourself before you commit.

Someone that can live without you. in my experience, nothing destroys a relationship as painfully as dependence. Knowing you’d be ok–and they’d be ok–if one of you was swept off the face of the earth tomorrow is important. A strong relationship is formed from two people choosing to be with each other, not two people who have no choice because they can’t live alone.

Someone you respect. I think this is often overlooked, but certainly ranks up there with love and affection. You need to be proud of each other–just a little amazed that someone quite that cool even exisits.

Someone who is easy to be with. This doesn’t mean that there can’t be drama, and I’m not saying that relationships aren’t work–at times they are. However, the “work” of a relationship should be easy work, work you do with a whole heart because you enjoy it for its own sake.

Marriage is not about hearts a-pounding. It’s about committment, compromise and cooperation. If you’ve got hearts a-pounding too, that’s a nice side dish, but it ain’t gonna keep your marriage together on its own.

I consider my marriage to be a phenomenal success (brag brag brag). The WryGuy and I have almost nothing superficial in common. We don’t like the same music, we have different politics, different religions and different interests. What we do have in common is a “moral code” for lack of a better term. When confronted with an important issue, we are almost exactly in synch, and on those rare occasions we are not, we have the ability to reason with one another without getting emotionally overwrought. We are committed to the long-term success of our marriage, and we decided together in the very beginning that this was forever. Thus, all decisions we make together are with the goal of “forever” firmly in the fore. We admire one another, we respect one another, and we GENUINELY LIKE one another.

Manda JO is absolutely right that YOU need to have these qualities as well. I love that my husband routinely puts my needs before his - but I also put his needs before mine. Occasionally this results in a somewhat comical rendition of, “After you, my dear Alphonse,” “Oh, no, after YOU, my dear Gaston!” but because, again, we are committed to this marriage and to one another, it works.

Someone whose faults you can live with.

We all have them. Faults are universal. You are too picky if you are looking for someone without them.

Just find someone whose faults you can live with.

It seems as if people these days jump into marriages without discussing the really practical things that may or may not make them compatible.

Do we want children and when? Do we have similar ideas about raising children?
How are finances going to be dealt with?
How do we feel about sex and how often it happens?
How do we deal with differences of opinion and the ability to compromise?

Discussing these things certainly takes a lot of the romance and mystery out of a relationship. But I think marriage is just as much a business/social contract as it is a vow of love. You need to make sure you want the same kind of lifestyle.

Ooohhh! I love to give advice! (There is much good advice already in this thread.)

Be sure a) that you know what is important to you and b) that your prospective SO also knows and shares those. NoCoolSpouseName and I both love kids and the fine arts. I play music; NCSN is an artist. We have 6 kids (4 at home currently) and are considering a 7th.

Like that! Superficial things–do you like Italian or Indian food, for example–might be great for dating, but it won’t be important in the long run.

The BIG 3 things that married couples fight about are 1) money, 2) sex and 3) kids. Make sure you have those worked out (as Baby Fish Mouth says).

BTW, we got married 6 weeks after we met and have been married for 10 years, and many more to come.

For me, two things are of utmost importance. One is consideration. I don’t mean thoughtfulness exactly; thoughtfulness implies him doing something nice for me without me asking. That’s cool, but not crucial; consideration is him listening to me in a non-judgmental way and considring my feelings when taking an action. For instance: hubby used to leave milk glasses in the bedroom, and it made me nuts, because milk residue is a bitch to wash out once it sets. So I asked him to stop doing it. A non-ideal partner might have told me why I was wrong to be upset by this, or why I was wrong to ask this of him. Hubby just said “Ok, I’ll try not to do that anymore”. It is, as pointed out before, a two-way street. I try to be considerate of him, also.

The second thing is intelligence. I married a guy that I could see myself having actual conversations with for many years to come. I think that some people who have been married for a long time fall into the trap of not conversing. They discuss the day-to-day business aspects of marriage, but don’t discuss other things. In order to have a good discussion with someone, IMHO, it has to be someone with reasonable parity in regards to intelligence. Actually, I think he’s more intelligent than I am, but he’s pretty patient about explaining things, and I’m a quick study, so it works.

Without having to stop and think about it: Friendship. My spouse is my best friend, and best friend I’ve ever had. With that, as would be the case with any best girl friend, comes tremendous respect, sense of humor, intelligence, wise advice, good listening skills, and a willingness to approach and solve conflict.

I love just hanging out with him, I love experiencing new things with him, I love playing around with him…the friendship, by far and large, has been the most beneficial to our marriage.

Sure there’s a line between sensibly choosy and ridiculously finicky, but the odds of any two given people agreeing on where to draw the line are pretty slim. When I was in high school, my dating standards were as follows: he had to not be physically repulsive, he had to not be a complete moron, he had to not actively annoy me, and he had to not already spend so much time in our house that it would be like dating my brother. My buddy Allison told me I would never find a boyfriend if I was going to be so damned picky. (Not having a boyfriend was the absolute worst catastrophe she could envision at the time.)

I think it’s very important, as someone else has pointed out, to find someone who can live without you, and whom you can live without. After all, even if things always go swimmingly, one of you will eventually be left to carry on without the other. When I go that big vet clinic in the sky, I want Dr.J to be able to pick up some semblence of a normal life, and vice versa. (Of course, he wouldn’t go to a vet clinic…well, maybe if he’d been bad. One full of little yap-dogs if he’d been really bad, but I digress.)

I think it’s important to share the fundamentals, but not the superficials. Liking the same music and sharing hobbies doesn’t do a bit of good if you disagree over whether family is more important than work or hobbies. If you share the basic priorities and values, having different tastes and hobbies is just part of having a life in addition to the relationship.

Everyone has a list of requirements and deal-breakers. It’s just being practical and realistic to know what you need to be happy, and what you absolutely cannot live with. I need someone who’s able to laugh at himself once in a while, who’s smart, and who, if he can’t love them, can at least be nice to my critters. I absolutely cannot deal with smoking, cheating, abuse, and reptiles as pets.
Everything else is up for negotiation.

What’s a problem is when people compile lists of ideals, and turn them into requirements. That’s just ridiculously picky. Nobody is ideal in every way, or even in most ways. Someone might not be as tall as you’d dreamed, or as graceful, or as likely to put the toilet seat back down, or his hair might be the wrong color, or he might have too little on his head or too much on his back. Her breasts might be too little, or her thighs too chunky, or her mother too pushy, or she might ask too often if something makes her look fat, or she might hate watching movies where explosions and car chases are major plot components. Big deal. None of that stuff is what’s really important.

Everybody has bad points. Everybody. Make sure you can be objective enough to sit down and make a list of somebody’s bad points and decide if they’re stuff you can live with. If you can’t think of somebody’s faults, you don’t know them well enough to marry them.

There are many good points made in this thread about choosing a life partner, so I won’t try adding something. However, the idea that it is “forever” is something that even people that are perfectly matched need to commit to before marriage. Once shortly after marriage, during an argument my wife said something about divorce. Neither of us remembers what the argument was about but we both remember what my reaction was. It has never come up again in our 40 years of being married.

[ul]:smiley: [sup]She wasn’t serious about it anyway.[/sup][/ul]

Other than the excellent advice offered here, I’d like to put in a vote for a modicum of stability. Someone who is reasonably dependable, not completely unpredictable in behavior, willing and able to earn some sort of a living or otherwise contribute to the family. A spouse ought to be willing to look after his or her own health as well (by which I mean paying attention to–and doing something about–signs of illness, and also willing to go to a doctor in case of mental problems and so on, though that can get tricky).

And as always, money, children, and sex.

Ooo–just thought of one, albeit a minor one. Is your intended reasonably flexible about where he or she wants to live? (Or, do you match?) Some people really hate cities, or small towns, or living away from family members. What is endurable for a few years may be out of the question for a permanent location.

This is of course just MHO, but I think too many people get married with the idea somewhere in the backs of their heads that “well, if it doesn’t work out, we can always get divorced.”

Obviously, kniz and his missus handled the occasion mentioned above well enough that they’re still married (and btw, FORTY YEARS!! Hurrah for you!!) but divorce is just way too easy an answer sometimes. If you start a marriage with “divorce is not an option*” firmly planted in your brain, I think you can come to a compromise more easily when you need to. And it does take that committment from both parties: the WryGuy was previously married, but while HE was committed to forever, his wife was not.

PLEASE NOTE: If you are in an abusive relationship, the “no-divorce rule” DOES NOT APPLY.

“Keep your eyes wide open before marriage, half shut afterwards.”

– Ben Franklin


Since every person is attracted by different qualities, I think there are few absolute must-have traits for a spouse. I couldn’t marry someone who couldn’t laugh at themselves, but that might not be an issue for someone else. However, I think two traits apply to all potential spouses. They must be:

Honest: Do you want to spend the rest of your life with a liar? Do they deal squarely with other people? Somone who is willing to rip off a stranger is not likely to be the most trustworthy mate. And any potential spouse must be…

Kind: Don’t marry someone who doesn’t have a good heart. Again, watch how they treat others. Are they considerate and thoughtful to their parents, friends, co-workers, service people? You can learn a lot about someone from how they treat a waiter.

(Yes, honesty and kindness sometimes conflict, but they are by no means mutually exclusive.)

I can tell you what my husband is thinking 99% of the time, the one thing that keeps me interested is that other 1%. He can surprise me and that thrills me. He keeps me interested and in love with him just by doing or saying little things.

The most important thing to remember is that marriages work because people put work into them. It’s not easy but it’s worth it. My parents married 7 days after meeting and they’ve been married 35 years. My Mom says she married Daddy because she liked his smile and his calm temperment. Seems small but everyone has something that gets to them.

I’m not married and not likely to be married anytime soon but I had to pop in and say that this thread is wonderful! Congratulations to all of you!!