Most weeks the tip is going to be about wedding details. And most that are reading this have already made the decision on the whole spouse issue. But the spouse IS a fairly important part of a great wedding, so I thought it was worth it to spend one week on it. So here goes – 3 quick tips on picking a spouse… (btw, I hate the phrase ‘picking a spouse’, it’s not like finding a good apple at the supermarket. I’m just not clever enough to word a better title right now.)
Make sure they don’t suck at their other relationships
We don’t always think about being in a relationship as a skill that you can be good or bad at, but we should. Some people are just plain good at relationships – with their friends, their parents, their siblings, etc. They are loyal. They are genuine. There may be conflict but they resolve it. Stuff like that.
And some people really suck at it.
If the person you are with seems to fail at a lot of relationships, pay attention. Dig into that a bit. Sometimes when we are dating we actually like it when we are the only person that our partner seems to jive with – it makes us feel special and wards off our own jealousy. But over the course of a lifetime, you want someone that can thrive in other relationships.
Look for at least marginal value alignment
Couples often align over shared interests, which is fine. But interests can migrate over time, sometimes in opposite directions, and many times don’t provide a strong foundation for a relationship. Values, on the other hand, tend to be more rooted in who we are and not to shift as much. And if you bond over shared interests without ever noticing that you have very different values, that can make things hard in marriage.
For example, what value does money have for each of you? If you deeply value generosity (to the point that you don’t have much saved up usually) and your partner values security (to the point that they welcome those moments when someone offers to pay for their dinner), conflict awaits.
This can usually be navigated. If you think of a scale from 1-100 with 1 being intensely frugal and 100 being wildly giving – most folks, though they are different, still fall somewhere between 11-89 on that scale and they can find a way to navigate their differences. But if those differences are extreme – say your partner is a 5 and you are a 95, take notice.
So how much do each of you value… security? stability? family? children? hospitality?
Listen to trusted friends & family
When I provide premarital counseling for couples I use an inventory called Prepare/Enrich that provides me with all kinds of fun information about the couple. What their strengths are as a couple, areas that can be improved, relationship to their families of origin, etc.
But one of the most interesting tidbits of info I get comes under the title of, ‘Idealistic Distortion’. This number tells me just how deluded each person in the relationship is. A low number means they see things clearly and they aren’t going to be surprised by much. A high number means they are looking at everything through rose-colored glasses and marriage is likely going to rock their world (in the not so awesome way).
The reality is, many of us lie to ourselves about our partner. We enhance their positive traits, we diminish their negative. We make excuses for their bad behavior without even knowing we are doing it. But you know who doesn’t do that (usually) – your friends & family that love you. In fact, they may do the opposite and focus on the bad stuff, which equally needs to be considered. But on the whole they see things more clearly than you because they are invested in a different way than you.
So, if you are in a relationship and everyone that loves you deeply is warning you away from it, don’t be duped by your own blindness. Listen to the wise counsel of those that love you. This doesn’t mean ALL counsel from those that love you. You may have some nutso mom that doesn’t like your partner because he didn’t get his MBA from the right school and she just can’t give you her blessing. Ignore her. But if there are a chorus of voices all saying the same thing, listen up.
That’s it. That’s the 40,000 foot view. Next week we dive into the nitty gritty – Picking a venue!