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Christian Living

Family

What to Look for in a Spouse

Dr. Linda Mintle - Therapist & Author

Among the many things to consider, start with these basics.

In America, we marry someone we love and have compatibility. Romantic love, as we know it, has three dimensions--commitment, intimacy, and passion (Sternberg, 1986). Commitment involves the willingness of the self to give to the other and be faithful to the relationship. Christians should look for more than commitment because holy marriage is based on covenant. Covenant is an unbreakable promise made to another for life. Find a potential partner who believes in covenant.

Intimacy refers to the ability to connect emotionally and in friendship with another. Does your partner show evidence of this capacity? Intimacy should progressively grow in a relationship. That intimacy should be spiritual, emotional, psychological, and behavioral. If you see signs of intimacy problems, get help or break off the relationship.

Passion relates to attraction and sexual response. You should feel attracted to the person you marry. Attraction grows as you come to appreciate the other for more than just their appearance. Sexual passion is desired as well. But because you are to exercise self-control in sexual exploration, you might wonder about passion. If you have attraction going, and other parts of the relationship are strong, there should be no trouble with sexual passion when the right moment comes.

Before a couple marries, an equal amount of these three dimensions should be present. Pay attention to these areas. If they are missing or problematic, rethink the relationship or start couple counseling.

Similar backgrounds (in terms of class, education, occupation, age, race, politics, religion, etc.) attract. This doesn’t mean that every dimension of your life must be the same as your partner’s- -that’s called boring! It does mean that the more similar you are on the big issues of life, the less conflict and stress you will face.

For example, you might marry someone of another ethnic group. You may have a great relationship, but you will face the prejudices of others. This puts stress on the relationship. Couples vary in their abilities to handle stress and differences. Be aware that the less similar you are, the more potential there is for conflict. Conflict isn’t a relationship killer. How you handle conflict and cope with conflict is key.

Occasionally, opposites do find each other, but studies show that opposite attraction is usually related to personality factors not values. Overall, we tend to look for someone similar to us in values and who has qualities we desire -- attractive, similar interests, humorous, empathetic, adaptable, flexible, can communicate, can delay gratification, has a good self-image, etc.

While you may think finding the above is a dream list and that no such person exists, it’s important to look for these things prior to marriage. If you do, you’ll begin marriage on a much happier note.

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