Before a woman meets the man she eventually marries, she likely had a list of criteria that her “dream guy” had to meet. These lists typically include bullet points like:
- He must be attractive, and he must be taller than me.
- He must have a nice smile, and he needs to know how to make me laugh.
- He needs to be smart, open-minded, thoughtful and curious.
- He has to be adventurous and fun, but he won’t expect me to go camping and eat bugs.
- He must have good taste in books, movies and music
- He will have to get along with my family and friends.
Looking back through this list, it’s noticeable that it contains intellectual, emotional and physical qualities, but not much detail regarding deeper aspects, like personal outlooks and values.
To best prepare yourself for a romance that lasts, the key is to stop focusing on outward traits, and to get to know both him and yourself better. Following are three things most people get wrong when thinking about the kind of person they’d like to marry, and how to avoid those mistakes.
- We’re not clear on our personal values.
If your list lacks specifics on deeper issues, it may be because you don’t have clarity on your own values. you may know you want to get married, and have a vague idea regarding how many kids you want. But don’t overlook aspects like shared religious faith when it comes to your nonnegotiable values in romantic relationships.
How to avoid this: Work on identifying what your own values are, and what you dreams and goals for the future are. You don’t need to agree on all of these things as a couple. But you do need to decide which ones you’re willing to compromise on, and which ones would be deal-breakers.
Each of us has different unconscious and unspoken expectations for our own life and for our relationships. Some examples include: What are your expectations regarding money? What’s more important to you, having family time each evening, or having more money? Who’s responsible for specific household chores? How do we decide how to spend our free time? Answers to questions like these will impact the career paths you and your spouse choose. Examining how you feel about things like these will serve to help you make better choices both in and related to your relationships.
- We don’t focus enough on shared meaning.
Compatibility, or the lack of it, is overrated. Couples of different creeds, sizes and shapes can make a relationship work. The healthiest and happiest couples are the ones with the ability to create what’s known as “shared meaning.” Shared meaning is common dreams, values and goals. It’s a harmonious overall narrative, not minor specifics.
One example of focusing on compatibility is thinking that you couldn’t be in a successful relationship with somebody who has political views different from yours. But a difference like that doesn’t have to push a couple apart. It’s more important for a couple to have similar core values, such as a desire to help the homeless and other vulnerable people in your community.
How to avoid this: Seek a relationship partner who’s willing and open to create the type of lifestyle, family culture, and legacy that you’d be satisfied with. Strong marriages are built on shared meaning. Conflicts in this type of relationship will be less intense, because they couple has a shared “end goal” they’re working towards.
- We don’t value communication skills highly enough.
Good communication skills, along with a willingness to make sacrifices and to compromise, need to be on your romantic radar. It doesn’t matter how many things you have in common with your new love, or how similar your bookshelves or playlists are. You’ll inevitably have disagreements and arguments as time goes on. It’s more important for your future spouse to have a temperament that’s open to conflict resolution, than that you two are “so perfect” together that you don’t ever argue or disagree. Because you will argue and disagree.
How to avoid this: Couples who are able to manage conflict effectively are able to help each other’s dreams come true.. Conflict resolution and good communication are learnable skill. So the most important trait you should be looking for is the willingness to put in the needed work . This doesn’t sound like the most exciting or romantic thing to have on your list of “dream guy” traits. But it’s the one you’ll most appreciate as life goes on.