Accomplishing any goal is usually a step by step process, starting with gaining clarity about just
what we want. Yet too many people do not give the first step sufficient care. If your goal is a good marriage, it can be helpful to first identify qualities you need in a marriage partner.
I ask participants in my “Marry with Confidence” workshops for women to make three lists:
- Traits wanted in a partner.
- Qualities in themselves a future partner will probably appreciate.
- Traits in themselves that could benefit from improvement,
Here are the instructions for creating these lists, and the rationale for each one:
List #1: Traits Desired in Your Potential Partner
List ten traits you want in a partner. Then look over your list and note which qualities are essential. Doing so will help you to separate wants from needs. For example, a person might state that she or he wants a person of a certain height or occupation but realize this is a want, not a need. The same person might have omitted to list good character traits like kindness, empathy, and a good sense of humor, which are more likely to foster a good, lasting marriage than relatively superficial considerations.
Hannah, a participant in one of my “Marry with Confidence” workshops, was in a relationship with a newly divorced man. She described him as “too clingy and needy.” When she read her list of essential qualities she wanted in a husband, I sensed that something important was missing. I asked her if she’d like to eliminate one of the qualities she’d listed and replace it with “emotionally stable.” She liked that idea, met a more suitable man, and married him a year later.
List # 2: Traits a Partner is Likely to Appreciate in You
List ten traits in yourself that a partner is likely to appreciate. We all have strengths and it’s important to recognize them. By knowing that you have much to offer to a relationship, you’ll project the kind of self-confidence that attracts a potential partner.
List # 3: Qualities in Yourself with Room to Improve
Humility is important too. This list can be the hardest: Write down five traits in yourself where there’s room for improvement. Doing so serves as a reminder that no one, not even you or me, is perfect. So we should accept some less than ideal aspects of how a partner functions as long as the big picture is good, especially if we expect the person to accept us and our shortcomings.
Striving for Self-improvement Is Good — Within Limits
Now there are people like Kate who complains, “Why don’t I meet anyone?” She is attractive, accomplished and into self-improvement. She reads books and introspects about how she can become a better person and correct her imperfections. But she doesn’t go out or reach out in ways to meet someone. She thinks she needs to fix herself totally inside first.
Self-improvement is important and a lifelong process for anyone who wants to grow personally. A believer in self-growth, I’m the author of a self-help book, Marriage Meetings for Lasting Love which fosters personal growth in individuals and couples.
So read the books, take the classes, and try out whatever activities you feel will help you become who you want to be. But getting out where you can meet and mingle is vital.
Everyone has issues, so please do not believe the myth that you have to be perfect before you can be in a relationship. In fact, marriage can be the ultimate growth experience as we continually learn to be less self-centered and more other-centered as we and our partner expand our ability to empathize with each other and to do what is best for our relationship.
For Some Situations, Counseling or Therapy Can Help
Minor imperfections in yourself should not hinder you from marrying. Yet if you sense that a self-defeating pattern is getting in your way, seeking counseling or therapy from a licensed clinical social worker, psychologist, or other well-trained professional who is a good fit for you can help.
A common negative pattern is to find fault with and reject potential good marriage partners and involve oneself in casual relationships. By gaining self-understanding, you’re more likely to resolve an internal conflict, gain self-acceptance and confidence, and make wise choices about dating and relating.
Your Lists Are the Key
While there is no guarantee that your partner will possess every trait on your well thought out list, it is quite possible that he or she will have all or most of them. When we are clear about what we want, an internal process happens by which we screen out people who do not possess the desired qualities and attract those who do.
So do make your lists. Review and revise them, and perhaps share them with a supportive, insightful friend until you feel they are accurate. By doing so, you’ll gain clarity about what you need, confidence about what you have to offer, and the kind of humility that is likely to make you a fine marriage partner.
Note: Names and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of those mentioned in this article.
Just Married image from Shutterstock.