5 Musts to Look for in a Spouse

5 MUSTS to Look for in a Spouse

“Before you marry a person, you should first make them use a computer with slow Internet to see who they really are.” — Will Ferrell

After the Slow-Internet Marriage Test is complete (throw a baby in the room and a dog with a bladder control problem to get the full picture), what else should you be looking for in a spouse?

There is no greater decision in your life than who you marry.

And for me personally, my marriage is the absolute best, most integral, most encouraging aspect of my life. And I’m not just writing this because my wife edits every article I write! (Naomi, you look amazing in those sweatpants by the way and I love what the two-year-old has done with your hair).

My marriage is the clock that makes everything else tick.  Granted I married someone much better than me (tip #1).

Who you marry can propel the rest of your life or make it explode. What traits do you need to be looking for in the other person (and yourself!) to help make marriage not only last, but thrive.

5 MUSTS to Look for in a SpousePhoto Credit by Nathan Congleton. CC

1.  Honesty

If you can’t trust, you can’t love. (click to tweet that)

You can’t dive into a relationship if you’re waiting for the truth to tackle you from behind.

Don’t look for a spouse that doesn’t make any mistakes. Look for someone that yes makes mistakes, and then owns up to them. If you’re dating someone that feels dangerously too good to be true, then they probably are.

Don’t marry someone who is in hiding. Because when they finally make the grand reveal, you might not like what you see.

And you might need help from family and friends who you trust the most to help you see what you can’t. As I wrote in 101 Secrets For Your Twenties, “Love is blind. Enlist some seeing eye dogs.” 

In marriage, four hands are on the wheel. If you can’t trust the person next to you to keep the car on the road when you close your eyes, how can you ride next to them?

Trust is the bone marrow to a relationship. Without it, everything else is hollow. 

2.  Sense of Faithful Exploration

Going into marriage, both your futures are this dimly lit mountain pass. You can’t sit still at the bottom of the mountain and expect your dreams, purpose, and place in this world to just arrive. You need to explore, together.

So much of your twenties and thirties is keeping your bags packed, ready to venture into the next great unknown. I really think you and your spouse have to be willing to embrace ambiguity together. Willing to be at peace while life feels in disarray.

Life will never be completely known, so will you have someone there next to you when you step into all that is unknown. Or will you be by yourself? Is your partner in this for the comfort and security, or will they be willing to take some risks?

3.  Common Core Values

As I wrote in 9 Questions You Need to Ask When Dating: “Too many marriages start (and end) with vague and un-identified core values.”

I’d describe core values as beliefs that are fundamental to how you are wired, guiding your actions, thoughts, plans, and purpose on this earth.

You may not know what they are, but you have certain values that guide the way you think, act, and react.

Opposites attract, but not when it comes to your core values.

If one person values security and the other adventure, those values might crash together head first.

If one values family and the other career at all cost, those values might pull you far apart.

If one values faith, and the other does not, how deep can your well go down into the ground together?

If your core values can’t dance together, then you’ll keep tripping, falling and wondering why you can’t move together in rhythm.

4.  Self-Awareness

Too many of us go into relationships expecting the other person to be our clarity. (click to tweet that)

As I wrote in the secret to finding and marrying the right person, “stop looking for the right person, and start working on becoming the right person.”

Self-awareness is an underrated skill. Not knowing how you’re coming off to other people or what you’re about can be a serious problem in a relationship.

If you don’t know who you are, how can you expect the person you love to have a clue?

If the person you’re with doesn’t really know who they are, how can you know who you’re really marrying?

Don’t look for a spouse that has an obsession of self, but someone who has an understanding of self. Look for someone that is able to honestly look themselves in the mirror with a mix of humility and confidence.

I don’t think for many of us self-awareness comes naturally. I think self-awareness comes from asking yourself hard questions.

Those who are self-aware are able to move forward with more intentionality and purpose.

5.  Adaptability, Resiliency, and Commitment

Being in a successful marriage is about adapting to changes as they come, having the resiliency to move forward under difficult circumstances, and a commitment to see it through, hand in hand.

Stats are saying one out of every two marriages fail. Flip a coin.

Well nuts to that. We need more people in marriages who are willing to roll up their sleeves and fight for each other. For our families. For our futures. Lets be wise and resilient.

How does the person you’re dating respond to hardships? Do they give up right away or do they grit their teeth and keep fighting for their future.

There will be lots of pressure that comes against your marriage. Will you let it break you apart or will it forge you together.

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section on this article: what trait in another person do you think is the most important for marriage?


  1. Michael Johnson

    Hey Paul, You might not be able to trust your wife as much as you might have thought. I think she missed one: “Trust is the bone marrow to a relationship. Without it, everything else is HALLOW.”

    Ha! Seriously, I loved it. Sharing this post with the Future Marriage University (FMU) community
    at https://www.facebook.com/FMUniversity.

    Would love your thoughts on this post on pursuing friendship over romance when dating, so that one can actually discern the things above you’re telling them they need to discern: http://f-m-u.com/Blog/what-you-dont-know-about-romance-can-hurt-you-romance-part-1/.

      • Michael Johnson

        Man, I only wish people would do that for me. I’m tear able with gram ore.

  2. Fairbuying

    I think the important thing to look for in a spouse is searching a right people. And the trust maybe the first thing.

  3. Josh Fuller

    Paul, great thoughts!! You’re spot on brother. I certainly think that commitment is key. We are a young in our marriages, despite the challenges we have been through so far. Ask Lou and Ging, or Doig and Dinah…I think they will say that after 30+ years commitment is crucial! Life gets really dicey at times. We have to commit to staying together always, no matter what, as they have. What’s more, since marriage is one of God’s most beautiful creations, we absolutely must have Him as a common core value, as the Spirit will provide the guidance and perspective we need in toughest of times.

  4. Nastya Kharchenko

    Very wise ideas!


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