Occasionally, I get emails from hopeful young women asking about what to look for in a husband. Most are on the verge of accepting marriage proposals when they ask. They know the Big Question is coming, and they are nervous about whether or not they have chosen the perfect life partner.
I very seldom answer those emails because, quite frankly, one should never get involved in someone else’s love life. But last night as my kids squealed when Chris walked in the door from work, as if they hadn’t seen him just eight hours before, I realized that there are some genuine qualities to a good husband and father. Some universal traits that just make like better.
Choose a partner that respects you. Chris isn’t always interested in my blog, and he sometimes gets tired of stories about silly middle school boys. But he respects that these things are part of my world. And so he participates in them because they are important to me. He also respects my opinions and beliefs, even when they are different from his. Chris and I have different views on faith, we vote differently, we have different ideas about parenting and money and just about everything in between. In fact, I might go so far as to say that we have more differences than we have commonalities. But we respect each other’s differences because we know that they those beliefs and ideas make up the person that we love. Having a partner who respects you is incredibly important later in your marriage when you deal with things like trust and setting family priorities.
Choose a partner that is flexible. Chances are if they give in and go eat Mexican food with you every once in a while even though they can’t stand it, then they will also be willing to bend later in your marriage when you want to spend Christmas with your family one year instead of his. Flexibility is key to my marriage. It helps Chris and I ebb and flow together. If we’re both willing to bend – or, at the very least, to compromise – then we are able to find happy, common ground more often. Flexibility is why vacations are easy with Chris and our family schedule works out about 90% of the time. A willingness to accommodate makes married life worlds easier.
Choose a partner that thinks you hung the moon. You deserve no less. For better or worse, Chris always thinks I am the most beautiful girl in the room. He laughs loudest at my jokes. He thinks my ideas are the smartest he’s ever heard. He doesn’t just value me. He values me above ANYONE ELSE. And in return, I value him above anyone else, too. Making each other the most important person in our lives is foundational in our marriage and family. It keeps us grounded. Everything comes second to our marriage – kids, family, jobs, money, everything. When we feel lost and unsure about things (which happens A LOT in marriage, let me just tell you…), we can always go back to our core, which is our belief that we are the most important gift God gave each other, and that it is our responsibility to take care of that gift. It’s also important for your future kids to see their dad completely in love with their mom, and vice versa. It is vital to your relationship and your family that you and your partner are irrationally, unconditionally, irritatingly, embarrassingly crazy about each other.
Choose a partner that works hard. Chances are, if they are working hard in high school or college or graduate school or at whatever they are doing right now, then they have good ethics. They have that inner drive that moves them to work above and beyond. And when it’s 2:00 in the morning and your toddler is pooping and throwing up all over the place and your preschooler is crying for a drink of water and the dogs are barking because they have been woken up in the middle of the night (God forbid…), you’re going to want someone who is willing to give above and beyond. Marriage and family ain’t for the weak. Sure, you can make it with someone who gives a halfhearted effort in life, but things will be exponentially easier for your family if you choose a partner who is a go-getter. If you met Chris, you probably wouldn’t notice this about him because he is very laid back and casual. But if you really pay attention to him (or if you’re married to him), you’ll notice that he gives 110% no matter what he is doing. That means he works like crazy when he’s at the office, but it also means that he is just as committed and devoted to our family life. Got a parenting issue? Chris is going to work at it until it is resolved. My car is making a funny noise? Chris is going to work at it until he is certain it is safe for me to drive. As a working mom, I am an equal provider for our family, but there is nothing like the sense of security I have that my husband is going to work hard to take care of our family.
Choose a partner who expresses his love. This one is tricky because not too many men, in my experience, are great at expressing how they feel. But I’m not talking about someone who walks around writing you poems or love songs. People express their love in so many different ways, and those ways change over the course of a marriage. Think of a good friend. Sometimes you show her your love her by just hanging out with her, sometimes it’s by telling her how proud you are of her, sometimes it’s just by sitting quietly with her in times of sorrow. Love is so very versatile. Just make sure whomever you choose as a partner is able to express it in a way that lets you know how loved you are. Everyday I know Chris loves me. Some days that’s because he tells me, but other days it’s because he brings home my favorite kind of ice cream for me. On other days it’s because I hear him telling a friend about something I’m working on that he’s particularly proud of. And some other days, I know he loves me because he winks at me when he sees me across a room. Love is so big that it surpasses words sometimes. Make sure that your partner loves you that big.
I know there are other essential qualities and things to consider before marrying someone. But as you are considering, remember that when you know, you know. And when you don’t know, you know. Good partners are easy to spot. They stand out in a crowd. They shine among the crowd. Not because there is anything necessarily magical about them as a person, but because there is something magical about them as YOUR person.
Don’t settle for anything less than magic. Magic is what happy families are made of.