They might be the five most-spoken words in the English language, and probably in any language, in the appropriate translation.
“I married the wrong person.”
Sometimes – if you’re lucky! – you figure this out quickly into a marriage, before there are kids, shared finances, and a ton of marital history. It may sound callous, but it is surely easier for both parties emotionally to end a marriage early on than if those fateful fatal five words strike you deep into your building a family. In that case, though you may say the fatal five words, you’ll keep the marriage going anyway. But will you be living at your most content? No possible way. There are a lot of things that make a great marriage. Good luck, with health and the other things in life we can’t control, helps a lot. But I believe the most important variable is to pick the right person. And what I mean by the right person is the right person for you.
If you ask people in successful marriages how they knew they had chosen the right person, a lot of times you’ll hear back, “Well, I knew.” Yeah, sure. I’m here to say that “You just know” is incredibly unhelpful in most cases. Actually, it serves as shorthand for something that the speaker may understand intuitively, but which the rest of us need to make explicit. There are absolutely some tried-and-true criteria for picking a life partner. I’m not saying that marriages can’t work if your partner-to-be doesn’t fit this list. Marriage isn’t math. There are lots of intangibles. But I am saying that these factors are key more often than not.
#1: You Can Be Yourself With Your Partner
Life is too short to be lived inauthentically. Plus, our authentic selves want to come out. A great partner is a partner where you can feel at ease, safe, and not having to put on an act. If you’re a woman, you’re loved with or without makeup. If you’re a man, you’re loved even when you’ve had a career setback. You’re yourself, and that’s more than good enough.
#2 You Like How Your Partner Fits in His or Her World
Marriage is about the two of you. Life isn’t. People don’t just have to relate to their partners, they also have to relate to friends and family, church and state. If you can’t stand how your partner operates with his or her family, it’s a sign that the partner may one day not operate so well with you. Is there respect? Caring? Acts of love and sacrifice? If so, it’s a great sign.
#3: You Grow in the Couple
How you are at the beginning of your relationship is not how you’re going to be five, ten, or fifteen years later. Woody Allen once said that a relationship was like a shark. That is, it has to move forward in order to survive. What you don’t want is a dead shark. You want to become better, stronger, smarter, more capable, and continue to grow as your relationship improves. Boredom kills couples. Growth makes them flourish.
#4 : They Know How to Stick To It
This is an easy factor to overlook. People who tend to be flighty about their lives tend to be flighty about their relationships. Look for a person who knows how to commit to something. Anything! That ability to commit will port over to your relationship.
#5: The Things That Drive You Crazy Don’t Make You Too Crazy
Realistically, there are going to be things about your partner that drive you nuts. You may never like one of their friends. They have a stupid habit that makes your teeth hurt. However, if you can accept those things, your relationship is on stronger footing. And accepting them doesn’t mean embracing them. It means you can laugh at them with kindness, and move on.
#6: They’re Not Conflict Avoidant
Beware of someone who says they never argue. It’s not possible. Two people are going to have disagreements from time to time. Figuring out a way to work through those disagreements is part of how a couple gets stronger and more committed to each other.
#7: Your Relationship Embraces Your World
There are two kinds of couples. Those who turn inward, and shut out the world around them, and those that turn outward, and whose love makes the world a better place. The couples whose love is a force for good are couples that stand the best chance for success.
Can you be sure about who you marry? No. And for sure, luck does play a role. But if you take these seven factors in account before you marry, it’s a lot less likely that you’ll say you married the wrong person, and a lot more likely that you’ll marry the right one.