# 1. Does he communicate in an open and effective manner?
Is your man able to talk things out with you? Are you able to disagree and still come to a resolution?
One of the most important foundations of any long-lasting relationship is the ability for the couple to communicate in an open and effective manner.
After many years of being with my partner, we both thought we had a fantastic relationship in part because we never argued. However, this was not able to work in the long-term. We realized that we were not really talking and sharing. We were avoiding the most fundamental, meaningful discussions in order to avoid fighting.
Arguments and disagreements are necessary to forming a strong, healthy relationship. Generally speaking, when couples say they never fight, this is not a positive sign of a healthy relationship. Not fighting means not talking and this does not work.
Couples must learn to disagree with respect for one another as separate individuals with different opinions and life experiences. Disagreements are a healthy part of relationships as long as each partner is respectful of the other and the couple can come together to find a resolution.
Kimberly Atwood, www.KimAtwood.com
# 2. Does he live his life with integrity?
A person of integrity has a way of being in the world with a deep level of commitment to all the essential qualities necessary to a loving and successful relationship: love, empathy, honesty, humor and fun, loyalty, generosity, flexibility, patience, humility. Hopefully, we seek to be that person ourselves. And hopefully, we would never settle for anything less in a partner.
Couples researcher, Dr. John Gottman talks about the Four Horseman of the Apocalpyse. He determined that these four qualities—Criticism, Contempt, Defensiveness, Stonewalling—when active in a relationship, tend to predict divorce or break up. When you meet someone of true integrity, it is not possible for any of these four qualities to live in your relationship. This is not to say he will never be defensive. Or that you will never criticize. But as a couple of integrity, you are more likely to recover in a loving and respectful way, each quick to take responsibility for their own part in any hurtful interaction.
Love and marriage are not meant to be forever blissful or idyllic. Marriage exists in the larger context of life. And life gets bumpy. It is crucial to make sure you will be standing beside someone you can count on. Not someone who will “fix it.” That’s too big a burden for anyone to bear. You want someone who will take your hand and say, “we’re in this together.” Someone with integrity.
Bobbi Jankovich, www.bobbijankovich.com
# 3. Does he listen and is he emotionally responsive?
An important quality I would look for is that he listens and is emotionally responsive to her needs. He should make it an emotionally safe place for her to express her thoughts/feelings/needs and be responsive in a way that makes her feel important and special to him, even at times he might disagree with her.
He should be treating her with dignity and respect. Listening means caring about what she wants to share and not putting her down or shutting her out. He should respect her feelings even if they are different from how he sees things.
Dana Vince, www.marriagecounselingknoxville.com
# 4. Be clear-eyed and awake
There is no “single most important quality” that fits all women. In truth, you know what you’re looking for. While individual taste varies, we want a partner who is mature and intelligent, loyal and trustworthy, loving and attentive, kind and nurturing, competent and responsible. But dating can become a fast moving train where we don’t evaluate a prospective made with the same objectivity and clarity that we’d use to select a household appliance. So the number one important quality is your own capacity to be clear-eyed and awake–and to make sure you don’t ignore a big red flag that is waving in your face.
Give yourself plenty of time to evaluate all information (both intuitive and objective–past and present) and make sure to observe him among both your friends and family and his. Know your own “dealbreakers” and don’t count on the power of your love or nagging to change him.
Dr. Harriet Lerner, www.harrietlerner.com
# 5. Study the posture that a man holds and demonstrates towards women
The single most importantly quality that I believe a woman must look for in a man before marrying is not necessarily a quality – it is a posture that a man holds and demonstrates towards women. This includes his beliefs about the role/s of women in a personal and intimate relationship as well as his views on women in the professional world.
Does this man treat women with unconditional positive regard – in other words, does he respect them (both in his words and his actions) and do his relationships with women support his attitudes and behaviors? Does this man view women with a position of equality – in short, does he demonstrate that he embraces the rights of women and their dynamic more integrated roles into our society?
And lastly, does this man compliment you as a woman – in simple terms, when he is with you does he enhance and augment the essence of your womanhood? Take time and study this extremely important posture. It is one that can often be ‘masked’ when dating or during the initial phases of a relationship. If your man genuinely holds women in high regard and with respect, you have indeed found someone worth marrying.
Holli Kenley, www.hollikenley.com
# 6. Look for a man who gives you accurate signals about what is important for him in his life and in the relationship, and how he feels emotionally
For example, if he says that his high school reunion is in three weeks, and that he is trying to work out so that he will look his best for it, then you can extend that information to mean that he might be feeling insecure about his appearance.
Rather than mention his possible insecurity, which could be awkward for both of you, how about letting him know that you noticed that he was working out, because he looks great. You could even offer to help him pick out an outfit for the reunion. Then look for more information. Is he pleased that you noticed he was working out? Is he touched that you offered to help him with his outfit? These would be good reactions, of course, but even more important is that he shared his reaction with you.
Maybe he goes even further, thanking you for the compliment and the offer of help, and suggesting a time to look at what he has in his closet and decide together what he should wear. This is the beginning of heart intimacy, a positive cycle of giving information, responding supportively, and gradually trusting each other with more and more intimate information about each other’s deeply held personal values and intimate emotions.
In male/female relationships, the female needs to demonstrate early on that she can interpret his information, and that she will handle it tenderly and supportively. It is his job to share with her what he values, and how he feels. If you find a man who can give you this information to work with, so that you can get the heart intimacy cycle going, then you have what you need to build a great marriage.
Judith Fujimura, www.judycares.com
# 7. Make sure he fights fair with you
When couples come to me for pre-marital therapy, they may have a specific problem or they say they get along well but just want to make sure they are not missing something before they tie the knot.
We cover the basics of what I call “the deadly seven.” This includes how to handle differences around family rituals, in-laws, sex, money, children, and neatness/cleanliness/household chores.
But the most important one – without which none of these others can be successful — is the seventh: learning to have a good argument. If you can’t argue well, you will not be able to resolve problems that arise around his leaving his clothes on the floor or her spending too much money, or any other “trivial” spat.
Many couples say how proud they are they never argue. To me, that’s a big “oops.” The only way a couple can never argue is to never feel free enough to risk rocking the boat. Of course people have differences and many of them are not serious enough to cause an argument. But, not addressing the little things can lead to a lot of little things piling up.
Here’s a trick question: What is the opposite of hate? If you say love, you are wrong. The opposite of hate (or anger) is apathy. That’s because both hate/anger and love are strong emotions. Apathy is the absence of strong emotions. If you love someone enough, you will feel hate/anger at them because you care enough.
When you are afraid of your anger, you are cheating yourself and your partner of the passion of your love. But you do need to learn to have “good” arguments. In one of my books on gender differences, I include the 14 steps for having a good argument. In part, it means no dirty-fighting, no name calling, no raised voices, no tears (yes, women, no tears). Stick to the topic without pulling in old issues, and come to a resolution you both can agree to.
When you learn to fight the good fight, you will feel closer and more in love than ever. In fact, a good fight often leads to good love-making.
Dr. Karen Gail Lewis, www.drkarengaillewis.com
# 8. Integrity is a key attribute
Many women look for confidence, competence, and charm in the men they date, but many overlook the core quality of pure integrity as they choose their life-long mate.
“Self-Esteem” and “Integrity” are vastly different traits. A man may appear sure of himself, sure of what he does, sure of what he wants out of life, and sure of how he treats a woman, but integrity is a crystal clear indicator of whether or not your man is the best catch. Men who possess a solid sense of moral character—both personally and professionally, exude both a “completeness” about who they are (consistent thoughts, ideas, and actions), and a “wholeness” of personality (balanced, grounded and undamaged). They also know and honor not only what they want and need from the world, but also are willing to know and honor what you want and need as well.
Men of integrity are also more willing to create and maintain the integrity of the relationship, itself, always keeping in mind what will be best for their partner and offspring as much as for himself as part of the partnership or family unit.
Dr. Katherine Kelly, www.drkatherinetkelly.com
# 9. Does he share the same values?
The most important quality a woman should look for in a man before marrying him is shared values. For example, if a woman is looking for a man who is stable and will be able to be the primary breadwinner, she should think twice about a man who lives paycheck to paycheck. A man who enjoys going out late with his guy friends frequently may not be the best choice for a woman who values quiet nights at home. A couple should have similar views on life goals, thoughts on having a family, and similar religious beliefs. (Although identical religious views aren’t necessary, an openness on the part of one or both mates becomes very important when children come into the picture.)
The old saying “opposites attract” may be true, but opposites are not always the best choice in someone you intend to spend the rest of your life with. While it is always nice for potential partners to be able to teach one another new hobbies, the core beliefs of a couple need to be similar. Marriage has ups and downs and during those difficult times, basic values in life is one of the things that keeps a couple grounded.
Kelli Korn, www.kellikorn.webs.com
# 10. Does he have a capability of genuine empathy and is he interested in working through pain and problems?
Before choosing a lifetime mate you want to make sure that your partner is able to show and feel authentic feelings.
Marriage is a series of events from fun-loving times to everyday boredom mixing joy, happiness, sadness, and fears. A partner who is capable of genuine empathy offers comfort and nurturing during stressful times. He is also able to reach out for care and emotional support.
How we experience and share pain in marriage determines how successfully we deal with conflicts. Sharing vulnerability with each other we gain a sense of trust and develop a deep sense of connection. Genuine empathy and authenticity are building blocks to a loving and lasting marriage.
Klara Brown, www.klarabrown.com
# 11. The man you choose to marry should show genuine respect for you and others
By doing this, he is demonstrating that he considers your needs to be as important as his own. He will treat you well even when he’s angry, grumpy, or tired. Showing respect means that he is fair-minded and can appreciate that you and others are entitled to your points of view.
It is not enough for him to just show respect for you and your family and friends. You want to see him demonstrating tolerance and basic goodwill to others outside of his social world. If your guy treats you well but doesn’t show enough respect for others, it is a sign that his treatment of you can easily shift at some point. Once he is married and begins to take you more for granted or when conflict develops, you may be the recipient of the same disrespect he directs at others.
You will want to take a close look at his interactions with co-workers, bosses, and subordinates at work, and with service people at stores and restaurants. You want to notice his ability to give others the benefit of the doubt instead of assigning negative intent to them, to make effort to avoid and resolve disputes, and to show that he doesn’t consider himself superior and all-knowing.
Your marriage partner needs to be someone whom you respect. It is very easy to respect and admire someone who conducts himself honorably, both with you and others.
Margie Ryerson, www.margieryerson.com
# 12. Willingness to view your relationship with him as an adventure
Ladies, I believe the single most important thing for you to look for in a man before tying the knot is his willingness to view your relationship with him as an adventure! In the spirit of embarking on a lifelong journey, a man must be open to the idea that your relationship is a living laboratory for growth and healing. Too many people think that marriage is the culmination of the journey, rather than the beginning. I advise you to make sure that your man knows that conflict and challenge are opportunities to be celebrated–not proof that you’re the wrong woman for him!
I shudder when a woman calls me seeking therapy to resolve problems in her marriage and then proceeds to tell me that her husband doesn’t want to come with her. Many men believe that loving you and marrying you is all it takes. Any complaints you might have, or desire for deeper connection or intimacy, is your problem! Look for a man who has the emotional and relational maturity to know that you are in it together, every step of the way.
Ideally, both of you need to embrace the notion that the road you’re on is best navigated together. The art of connection takes two people, working side by side. A good first step in your relationship is to go to Premarital Counseling together. There, you will be able to gauge your partner’s commitment to learning, deepening and growing. Talk with him about your expectations for an ever-evolving connection that will deepen over your years together.
Mary Kay Cocharo, www.mkcocharo.com
# 13. Look for an emotional grown up man
As the author of The Emotionally Unavailable Man: A Blueprint for Healing, you might think my answer to this question would be, “Find someone emotionally available!” But it’s not that simple. Emotional unavailability is actually a symptom. It is a symptom of a much bigger problem: the inability to be an emotional grown up. Now THAT is a problem in a marriage! So the one quality that I would ask a woman to look for in a man — and a man to look for in a woman — before marrying anyone is this: do you think your partner is an emotional grown up? You might be wondering, how can I tell?
Well, look to see if they are able to RESPOND to issues or if they REACT to issues. Are they able to talk rationally and negotiate solutions in a reasonable manner? Do they have empathy? Are they able to feel your pain when they hurt you — or do they spend their time defending themselves? Another clue is: have they given any deep level consideration to what happened to them in their family of origin? You want to find a partner who knows himself and has clear self-definition, especially in the emotional area.
In marriage we put up with a lot. We are two different people coming together with much to negotiate along the way. It is so much easier if you are with someone who knows how he feels about things as well as how he thinks about them. You want to be with someone who can bring his heart along to a discussion, as well as his head. That can only happen from the emotional adult space: where he doesn’t defend, but he is able to listen with his heart. Bottom line: look for an emotional grown up!
Patti Henry, www.patti-henry.com
# 14. When he has experienced losses or frustrations in past relationships, has it made him more open to love again, or more bitter and pessimistic?
Unfortunately, most people, faced with disappointments and losses, become less willing to invest in new relationships with the same innocence and commitment that they originally had. They start with “nothing ventured, nothing gained,” and morph into “nothing ventured, nothing lost.” They hold each new lover accountable for what they have suffered in the past, and form stereotype opinions about what to expect in their next relationship.
Those biases make them ignore new data and only see what they expect to see. This goes for women as well as men. Beware the guy who dislikes or feels ripped off by his prior relationships. You will have to compensate for those by never causing the same problem, and you’ll eventually mess up.
A person, and they are rare, who looks to his own accountability, counter-productive patterns, and opportunities for learning and transforming through loss, doesn’t carry that baggage nor run at the first sign of potential repeated deal-breakers.
If you encounter a man who is writing the future according to the past and protecting rather than exploring, you better get the script ahead of time so you can memorize it. Please also look inward. Potential partners tend to respond to these hidden negative expectations.
Dr. Randi Gunther, www.randigunther.com
# 15. Look for flexibility
This may not seem that important, but I’m going to put “flexibility” right up there. Marriage or any committed relationship requires the successful blending of two distinct individuals. These two individuals come from families that don’t just disappear after the marriage ceremony. If there are children, either from a former marriage, or as a welcome addition to the new marriage, life gets increasingly complicated.
Being able to balance individual, relationship, and family needs, as well as careers and friendships requires not only a strong sense of self, but also the flexibility to understand, relate to and incorporate the ideas and needs of others. Flexibility is required to handle the inevitable differences that arise between people who grew up in different families, have some different norms and habits, and who may, at various times during the course of the marriage, be required to deal with difficult life circumstances.
Life is difficult for rigid people, married or not. Flexible people can bend to accommodate the variety of unforeseen circumstances that will inevitably arise over the course of a lifetime. Life is messy, and flexible people can handle a mess. Rather than constantly trying to get life to accommodate, the flexible person tries to accommodate life by understanding the limits of individual control. A flexible partner will be less controlling, more tolerant and better able to roll with the punches. It’s a priceless attribute for a happy marriage.
Sally Leboy, www.sallyleboymft.com
# 16. The single most important thing I would advise a woman to look for in a man is compassion
You want someone who is going to be able to put himself in your shoes and understand your pain, your disappointment and your joy. Compassion allows people to care for others, and allows them to have empathy even when they are not experiencing the same feelings as those around them.
A man with compassion will have an undertanding of how his actions impact you, and he will most likely show more accountability for his role in the relationship. A man with compassion will not only be more thoughtful about you, but he wil be more caring about the other things in your life, like your mom, your dog, and your professional pursuits.
Shelby Riley, www.shelbyrileymft.com
# 17. Willingness to self-reflect
The single most important quality that I would suggest a woman look for in a man before marrying him is a willingness to self-reflect. By this I mean that it’s a good idea to marry someone who will strive to see his role in the difficulties the two of you will inevitably face.
One of the key complaints I hear from couples about their spouse: “you’re not willing to take responsibility for you part.” More often, partners place blame on the other, saying things like, “See what you did?” Or, “Look what you ‘made’ me feel!” Or they think taking responsibility simply means admitting that you’re wrong, that the problem is solely your fault– a thing many of us are reluctant to do.
Partners must, instead, develop the ability to ask and answer the more important questions, “Why did I react as I did? What does my response say about me?”
Self-reflection doesn’t come easily to most of us. It takes practice, and a willingness to go beyond self-protection. And sometimes we can see our part in things more readily than other times.
In the end, a good marriage is one where both partners step up and carry 100% of their part.
Winifred Reilly, www.winifredreilly.com
# 18. Ask yourself: Am I growing, or making myself smaller to be in this relationship?”
If you could buy a partner at the drug store, like medicine, what should the active ingredient be? Really, what one should look for is not an ingredient of your partner, but the quality of you in relationship. Here’s what I mean: if you don’t have a headache, ibuprofin won’t help you. In fact, it could even make you sick.
We seek out medicine that is a remedy to our condition, and we seek partners similarly, with varying degrees of success. What is necessary is to notice changes in yourself. One of the most important questions for yourself is: “Am I growing, or making myself smaller to be in this relationship?”
Here are a few cues to a diminishing match:
-You say “I’m sorry” frequently, even when you are not.
-You avoid discussions for fear of upsetting your partner, or out of a belief that you will not be heard.
-You adjust your natural behavior out of a fear of being judged or reprimanded.
-You believe that you would be loved more by your partner if you changed.
Alternately, here is what to aim for:
-You feel supported by your partner in your own growth.
-You have an engaged, faceted rapport.
-You trust that your partner will love you, regardless of changes in yourselves and your environment.
So, if your partner were a product, you could look for these words on the package: “Nourishing growth agent! Supportive of all unique gifts!” The focus then shifts to identifying the best qualities in yourself- and honoring them.
Elizabeth Baum, www.elizabethbaumintegral.com
# 19. Look for a guy with good self-esteem
Although many qualities are important, if I were to choose one, it would be good self esteem. Having good self esteem is not being arrogant or boastful. These characteristics are usually covering up feelings of insecurity. A man with good self esteem knows and understands himself. He is secure about who he is, and is not threatened by who you are or who you will become. In short, he brings out the best in you and will encourage you in the future. He is less likely to be controlling, possessive and needing “always to be right”. Having good self esteem means he will more likely take personal responsibility for himself and his actions, and also admit when he is wrong. He will tend not to internalize events and other people’s actions inappropriately and will have good personal boundaries.
All of these characteristics are good for you and for a marriage. You will have the ability to be yourself and grow in the ways you want. You will have a marriage that is a partnership, where both people are equally invested in themselves, each other, and their mutual goals and dreams. While life is always a combination of good times and difficulties, a man with good self esteem enhances the good times and makes the difficulties easier to bear!
Barbara Binder, www.alliancecounselingcenter.com
# 20. Look for someone who is willing to honestly and respectfully communicate and work on solutions when there are differences of opinions, habits, beliefs or living routines
Relationships over the long term can be difficult. One reason is the intense feelings of a new relationship slowly give way to a more realistic and comfortable routine. During this phase of a relationship, both partners begin to let their guard down and reveal more of their true personalities and habits. This is a natural and healthy progression. It would be hard to keep up all the pretenses people often put on during the wooing stage of a new relationship.
Therefore, a key trait to look for in a mate is someone who is willing to honestly and respectfully communicate and work on solutions when there are differences of opinions, habits, beliefs or living routines. Happy and healthy long term relationships require constant readjustments so both people are content in the relationship. Therefore, a partner who is willing to work on finding positive solutions and talking out problems is a major plus.
Vicki Langemo, www.betterlifetoday.net
# 21. Look for a man who can openly reflect on his negative feelings, rather than just avoid them or act them out
It is important that a man have enough self-awareness that, when he gets upset at something you said or did, he communicates with you — rather than avoiding you — and does so in a respectful rather than a demeaning, scolding, berating, or another hurtful way.
Many men avoid their feelings by doing (or taking) something to shut them off, such as an aspirin, a drug, alcohol, sex, gambling, video gaming, working , or recreational hobbies. When a man can stay present with his thoughts and feelings, he is more inclined to engage with you in conflict resolution.
You should be able to respectfully tell a man about something he did that you don’t like and ask him to tell you his thoughts, and what the two of you can do to change that. If he hears this as destructive– rather than constructive–criticism, that’s a poor sign.
Choose a man who in childhood felt emotionally cared for by his mother. If he had to take care of her emotions instead, or avoid her to stay sane, you can expect him to distrust your intentions and at best alternate between being caring toward you and feeling victimized by and angry toward you.
In the end, you tend to fall in love with and attract a partner who is similar to you with regard to his level of emotional awareness and kindness–toward himself and toward you. If you want to attract and keep a great man, it’s important that you develop the skills and qualities you want your mate to have. Seek therapeutic and self-help tools to get you there, and know that the best man for you will soon appear.
Dr. Nadine Winocur, www.drnadinewinocur.com
# 22. Is he your equal?
Many times women are advised to make themselves attractive to the man, or type of man, they wish to marry. Sound advice, up to a certain point. On another level, however, it’s disempowering advice because it’s coming from a one-down position.
A solid relationship is based on equality. Not only should you be striving daily to live up to your own highest potential, thereby attracting a higher quality partner, but you should be asking yourself, “Is this man, in every way, my equal?”
That doesn’t mean you both need to bring the same things to the table, but he needs to be willing and able to bring the same quality to the table that you bring. This is easier if you look for someone with whom you share strong similarities in most areas of life.
Look for a healthy overlap in belief systems, for instance, in wants and needs, underlying values, education, income, and life goals. A successful relationship can be challenging to acquire and maintain, and having abundant similarities in these areas makes it easier to be happy and successful in your relationships.
Romance and marriage are not the place to sell yourself short. To make do. To settle. So for each potential partner, always ask yourself, “Is this man, in every way, my equal?” and listen for your own intuitive answer.
Dr. Loral Lee Portenier, www.sacreddreamscoaching.com
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