When you shift your mission from finding someone you want to date towards finding someone you want to marry, you look for a different kind of person. When you are finding someone to date, you are looking for someone who you enjoy spending time with, will look cute next to you in pictures, can elevate your social status. But, when your mission becomes finding someone you want to marry, other traits become more important.
(Disclaimer: these are not revolutionary ideas; you’ve totally heard these same traits before)
Pick someone who….
Is reflective: I think part of the anxiety of “finding someone you will spend the rest of your life with” is just that–how will I know that I want to spend the next 60 years with that person? My fear is that I will someday, in those 60 years, get bored and outgrow them–that I will wake up one day and realize they have nothing left to offer me, we have learned everything there is to possibly learn from each other, and that a plateau has been reached.
The older I get, the more I realize that life never stays that same and we are ever changing. Sometimes, we are really busy, and sometimes, we are not. Sometimes, we are interested in cool sports cars, and sometimes, we are interested in building birdhouses. Sometimes, we love ourselves, and sometimes, we don’t. So if you pick someone who is reflective, you can ensure that they will always be changing, always coming up with new ideas, always seeking new connections and understandings (and hopefully ways to make your relationship stronger), and your life will never be the same within those 60 years.
Supports you: Supporting you looks like showing a vested interest in you and whatever you are trying to accomplish–asking questions, offering to help, showing up to games/presentations/ceremonies, being understanding of stressful times, appearing as genuinely excited. As my mom says, “if it’s not hurting anyone or anything, then why should you care?” Picking someone who supports your drinking habits, or encourages you to eat bad food, or to litter on the streets probably does not fit under that ‘marrying’ category. But, picking someone who supports you in educational advancement, to overcome a fear, to speak up about a conflict is someone who cares about your growth as an individual (and we all know what happens when individual desires are suppressed).
You trust: I remember I one time had a boyfriend, and any weekend night we were apart, I always felt the need to check up on him, to make sure that he wasn’t doing something he wasn’t supposed to be, or didn’t wind up in jail. Fast forward a few years later, and another boyfriend, I went to a concert with a friend, he went to a game with one of his, my phone died, and I felt no concern or need to check up on him because, unlike the previous boyfriend (who probably was doing things he wasn’t supposed to), I trusted this new one–which was a very relieving and freeing feeling.
I can’t really explain how I trusted the latter boyfriend, other than my intuition told me I needn’t worry. There is no possible way we can follow each other around 24/7, for the 60 years of our life that we are married; your significant other will inevitably be in situations where they are around people who could potentially ‘tempt’ them: at work, grocery shopping, social gatherings that you cannot attend, when you leave the table for a split second to use the bathroom and your recently single friend is spilling out all over the table. So while you cannot control the other people who could potentially ‘tempt’ your significant other, you should trust him/her enough to know that he/she would never act on those actions. 60 years is a long time, and could certainly be longer if you have suspicions of disloyalty.
Works as a team: One of my favorite parts of watching new relationships bud is to witness how they transition from two very separate people to a unit. The more time you spend together, the more you learn about each other, and each other’s pet peeves, likes, dislikes, and you learn to work together to make this life a little easier–I know that you are a perfectionist, so I’ll hold the tarp down as you dig in the stakes; you know that I hate taking out the trash, so you do that, and I will vacuum the floors; I know that you get irritated when people spit their gum out the window, so I’ll be sure to warn everyone (off the record, of course) before we go on a road trip so that conflict may be avoided. Right, the purpose in being in a relationship in the first place is to offset the struggles of the world–things are always lighter when the burden is shared amongst each other, so picking someone who works as a team will only make your life more enjoyable.
Compromises: Compromising takes humility to admit that I am wrong, we have a problem, maybe I’m not as grand as I thought I was, and there is something I need to do to change. That’s hard, and not necessarily a requirement for someone I want to date (if I know it’s not really going anywhere, and we are just together to ‘have fun’, then there’s really no need to be moral-ifying my character and changing my ways for something that isn’t going to last anyways). I one time had a boyfriend who, whenever a problem would come up, it was always ‘my fault’ (‘my fault’ that he forgot to call me, ‘my fault’ that we never ‘did anything fun’, ‘my fault’ that the dog pooped on the carpet), and in retrospect, I now see this is because he was just a guy I was dating, and there was no need for him to do some self reflecting and change his ways, because it was going to be a short term relationship anyways. But, when I switch my mindset to someone I want to marry, I want to pick someone who is willing to look at those potential conflicts and find a way that we can solve them together.
And while all of this sounds fine and dandy and would make the perfect Prince Charming, we must be willing ourselves to (a) be receptive of those traits and (b) exhibit them ourselves (its like dating the Gym Rat: I can’t expect to attract the Gym Rat when I, myself, am sitting at home every night eating Twizzlers and watching GoT). Sometimes, that is what dating is for–because we just aren’t quite ready yet to be seeking someone for marriage. It could be that we are still working on our childhood wounds, and we aren’t ready to be receptive of genuine support from someone else. It could be that we, ourselves, are not ready to give up all the attention we get when we are out, and therefore, we cannot expect to trust someone else if we are not ready to be trustworthy ourselves. Or, it could just be that we honestly do not know what working as a team or compromise means, and so we must stumble and fall with a few people before we understand how those traits work.
I truly believe that we all have different journeys and that when we finally are meant to arrive, we will, and we will know that we have arrived, but we will not know until then.
Happy dating, and happy picking!