Dear Sara: How would I know who would be a potential spouse for me? – A
Dear A: There are so many elements that go into a good relationship. At first, of course, you’re focused on the fun, exciting stuff. Are you attracted to them? Do you enjoy talking to them? Do you like doing the same things?
But when we’re talking about choosing a spouse, a deeper investigation is necessary, so here are a few worthwhile questions to ask yourself.
How does this person make me feel about myself?
It’s wonderful to fall in love and feel lucky to be with your partner. That tingly feeling of “I can’t believe this person likes me!” is so intoxicating.
But the person you’re dating should not make you feel that way.
I once dated a guy I was crazy about. And sometimes he made me feel great—smart, pretty, blah blah blah. But the longer we dated, the more another side of him came out. He’d check out other women when I was standing right there. He’d ignore me when we were with his friends. He’d give me dismissive looks when I revealed I liked books or television shows he didn’t find sufficiently high-brow.
At the time, I was so blinded by infatuation that I didn’t fully register what a jerk he was being. Instead, I focused on regaining his approval, and my self-confidence started to crumble.
It was my great good fortune that he broke up with me a couple of months in. I’d like to think I would have eventually woken up and left him, but I’m honestly not sure how long that would have taken.
Bottom line: After you spend time with this person and you’re alone in your car or your home, ask yourself how you feel. If you don’t feel good, that’s worth listening to.
How does this person treat other people?
In the early days of a relationship, people often bring out the charm—they listen attentively, compliment you, and treat you like an important person. That’s a good start, but it’s also wise to look at how your date treats other people—the cab driver, the cashier, the restaurant staffer busing your table. Does this person know how to say please and thank you? Are they pleasant or difficult? Do they treat others like fellow human beings or like instruments who exist only to serve their needs?
In short: Is this a genuinely kind and respectful person, or someone who is pretending to be one so you will like them?
Do you trust this person?
I don’t have a long explanation here—this is about instinct. When they tell you why they were late or apologize for saying something insensitive, do you believe them? When they explain why they did x, y or z, does your gut tell you they’re telling the truth?
I apologize if all of this sounds pretty basic. But I think in our culture we have come to fetishize certain qualities—physical appearance, career success, family name, money—while giving qualities like simple human kindness and respect the short shrift. But these are the qualities that matter most in a relationship, and they’re what I’d suggest you look for in a potential spouse.