What should you be looking for in a potential spouse? Is it the financial stability? The chemistry? The sexual attraction? The level of intelligence? The physical characteristics? The career or job? A shared religion? Yes, those things will affect your future happiness, but they are relatively superficial. It’s not wrong to have specific desires or even requirements for who you want to marry.

But here are some deeper things that I believe are even more important in determining the potential for married bliss. Most people are on their best behavior while dating, but will that continue after the “I Do’s” are said? No marriage is only blissful, but without these characteristics you’re sure to run into serious problems. With them, however, you’ll be able to weather the storms life inevitably brings.

  1. The ability to put themselves in someone else’s shoes. Your potential spouse is undoubtedly having heady feelings just as you are right now. But how much are they able to see things from someone else’s perspective – including yours? Are they able to appreciate how their behavior affects others? Do they care about how others feel? Are they able to enter into other people’s joy, sorrow, suffering, stress, or desires?
  2. The ability to communicate with some emotional intelligence. Talking is usually easy for dating couples. But how good is your potential spouse at listening? Are they able to own their own feelings, and express them honestly without blaming you or others for “making” them feel a certain way? Are they able to hear you when you have something challenging to express, and be supportive rather than dismissive of your feelings?
  3. The ability to overcome problems with resilience. Life will present challenges. How does your potential spouse respond when problems develop? Do they become angry or defensive, or sulk? Do they magnify the drama involved? Do they easily give up? Look for how they handle problems not just in your relationship, but in life in general. How do they handle difficult people, job challenges, money problems, travel mishaps, etc.?
  4. The ability to acknowledge their own faults honestly. Your potential spouse may seem perfect right now, but they’re not. (Neither are you!) How do they deal with their own faults? Do they blame others for everything that goes wrong? Do they refuse to acknowledge any personal responsibility? Are they able to see the impact of their behavior on others, and try to make things right when they have hurt someone?
  5. The willingness to grow and change spiritually. God can take anyone from wherever they are, and change them. If your potential spouse is already on that journey of spiritual growth, your marriage will have a much stronger foundation. Is your potential spouse showing evidence that they are allowing God to work on their character? Are they engaged in spiritual practices that will provide further potential for spiritual maturity?

Red flags before marriage in any of these areas should be taken seriously. Your potential spouse probably won’t score 100% in all of these areas, but you should look at any issues carefully. You cannot expect them to do better once the wedding is over. If anything, they are more likely to revert to their worst selves once they don’t have to work to win your heart any longer.

Any person can change, especially with God’s grace. But you shouldn’t marry someone expecting them to change.

And remember, you are the other 50% of this equation. How well are you doing in these areas?

Your Turn: Do you have other specific requirements for a potential spouse? Leave a comment below.

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