How do you know what to look for in a romantic partner?
One young woman liked to tell us she had three simple criteria for a boyfriend: good massages, could fix her car and curly hair! We’re sure she was joking but at least she was thinking about it.
Dr John Van Epp is a specialist in helping singles make good choices in their partner selection. In his “How to avoid marrying a jerk (or jerkette)” program he puts forward a powerful model for discerning a good partner choice.
It goes like this: Make a list of all the qualities that makes a good marriage partner. We came up with things like honest, kind, self-disciplined, generous, hard-working, selfless, faithful, committed etc. Truly, the absence of these things can make a marriage very hard going, even untenable. Yet the truth is that not a single one of us can say that we have all these qualities and perfectly practice them. Who among us is not at times a little bit selfish, a tad unkind, a little lazy or a fraction dishonest? Being imperfect doesn’t make us unmarriagable, it makes us normal. And it highlights one of the essential purposes of marriage: to help us grow and mature spiritually.
Marriage helps us become better people, to develop virtues and qualities that make us increasingly better spouses.
Therefore, the most important quality for a prospective mate to have is a willingness to grow. Or as John Van Epp says: the one deal-breaker for a future marriage partner is a ‘persistent resistance to change’. A spouse with a bad habit is a problem. A spouse with a bad habit who refuses to change is a serious problem. While it’s important to be tolerant and accepting of each other, genuine love calls us to want to be more for each other. And in serious cases, refusing to change can undo a marriage.
But how do you know if a prospective mate has a ‘persistent resistance to change’? Well, you won’t know it from the first date. A persistent resistance to change can only be observed over months of relating; healthy relating that encourages both dating partners to grow and become better people.
Questions for Reflection:
- What qualities do you think are important in a husband/wife?
- On a scale of 0-10, how would you rate yourself on each of these qualities?