Do you ever get an anxious feeling when you’re on the way to the airport, leaving for a trip? You’re going through your mental checklist of what you packed, and you know you’ve forgotten something, you just don’t know what it is? I feel that way about my parenting.
My three oldest—all girls—have grown up so fast; two are in college and one is about to be. And even though I talked with them about a lot of stuff, I just know I forgot some important things. Or, maybe I talked to one or two of them about a topic but forgot to tell the others. Instead of wallowing in the anxiety and wondering what I missed, I’m writing down the things I
want to make sure I told them. I know I can’t make them listen or use my advice, but at least I can make sure I tried my best to communicate some important tips. Here, for my daughters (and one day, my younger sons and any other kids who will listen), is my first—and most important—tip for having a happy and fulfilling life.
Choose your spouse wisely! That’s the important happiness tip I want to talk with you about today.
Who you choose to spend the bulk of your life with is probably the most important decision you’ll make as an adult. That one decision impacts everything else for the rest of your life, so it’s an important one. A really important one. More important than your college major. Huge. REALLY BIG. Got it?
If you’re thinking about spending the rest of your life with someone, you are already attracted to his personality and appearance. That’s the easy part, and it sometimes makes it hard to think straight about other, more important things.
Please ask yourself these questions before you decide to spend your life with someone else:
- Do you like his family and friends and do they like you?
Are you happy when you’re with his parents and friends? Are they people you want to spend more time with? When you marry someone, you get a lot more than just the person. You get his whole family and all his friends, too. This is a good thing, as long as you like the whole extended community that comes with your love. If you don’t like them and are constantly trying to find reasons not to be with them, this is a BIG RED FLAG.
As a side note, even if your love says he wants nothing to do with his parents and is nothing like them, know that he will most likely adopt many of his parents’ habits and patterns when he’s older. Look at your prospective husbands’ parents and decide if you want to live with someone who’s just like them in 30 years.
- Do your friends and family get along with this person and like him? And does he like us?
We are ON YOUR SIDE. We want what’s best for you. If you love someone, we want to love him, too. We really do. But if we see that a person does not appear to be the best match for you or we see traits that are worrisome, we will let you know. We’re seeing the big picture here. Our brains aren’t muddled by the attraction, so please trust us.
- Do you share the same values?
Love does not conquer all. If honesty is important to you, do not marry someone who cheats in school. If your potential partner wants to “get rich quick” and doesn’t believe in hard work, you will most likely have financial struggles. If he believes in a different religion or has different ideas about education, how will you raise your children? If family time is more important to you than a big house, marry someone who will choose a job that allows him more time with family. Find someone who shares your most important beliefs and values.
- Is he a nice person?
Seriously, how does this person treat all people? The waiter at the restaurant? Children? Watch carefully. Kind people are kind to everyone. Marry someone kind.
- Does he want you to pursue your own interests and support you in that?
Make sure the person you marry is as interested in you and your pursuits as he is in his own. In 2005, your dad shoved me out the door to run in a local 5K. He had been doing races, and I had been staying home with all of you, but he wanted me to go out and try it. So I did. That’s led to a lot of fun for me over the past decade, including training and running five marathons. I didn’t know I needed an outlet, but he did. He encouraged me to run, and it’s ended up being a huge blessing for me. Find someone who will encourage you to try new things and pursue goals.
Choose someone who’s not selfish and will think of you and make sacrifices for you, just like you’ll do for him.
- Will he make a good father?
If you want to have children, make sure that your prospective husband wants to have children, too. This is a simple fact that that won’t change later, so don’t marry someone who wants kids if you don’t, and vice-versa. Also, step back and assess this person as a parent. Would he make a good father? Being a good parent requires the ability to put another’s needs before your own. Have you seen this person demonstrate this? Being a camp counselor is a good test. 🙂
- Do you share similar ambitions and dreams?
If you both want to be artists and travel the world living in tents, then that’s great. But if you want to do that, and he wants to settle down in a nice house with a stable income, then your dreams don’t line up. Ask yourself if your dreams and ambitions are compatible. Once you’re married, the lifestyle you end up living is no longer yours alone to decide
- Has he ever been controlling, untrustworthy, or abusive?
Please don’t marry anyone who has not been loyal to you. If he cheats on you while you’re dating, he will cheat on you when you’re married. If he has shown any controlling or jealous behavior, or has abused you in any way – verbally or physically – run like the wind. Do not ignore those red flags! Minor bad things done during dating are a preview of much worse things to come. Please don’t ignore these things or defend any kind of bad behavior. Be thankful you saw the signs and move on. If a friend or family member points out something worrisome, listen to them. They love you and are looking out for your best interests and may see something more clearly than you can.
If, after going through these questions you still think he is “the one,” then know that if you love someone and he makes you happy, I will love him, too, and I will do my best to make him feel welcome and loved in our family.
How to Pick Your Life Partner & How to Pick Your Life Partner, Part 2, Huffington Post
Your Spouse Matters: Choose Wisely (Kevin A. Thompson)
Your Biggest Career Decision is Who you Marry (Penelope Trunk)
Why Your Spouse is Your Most Important Money Decision (The Simple Dollar)
Relationship Red Flags (Psychology Today)
David Brooks 2015 Commencement Address at Dartmouth:
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