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Encouraging Heroes. You can be one too.

You may have heard that you shouldn’t hold out for Mr. Right, and that’s true. Holding out for the perfect spouse may end up meaning that you will end up alone. That being said, you should hold out for someone who meets a simple set of criteria.

Some character traits are fairly universal. Who doesn’t want to be married to someone who is honest and sincere? Other qualities and traits are more specific when weeding out good people from those people who would make good matches for you.

Determining what qualities are most important to you will help you to evaluate a potential spouse.

Conviction of Beliefs

Almost everyone has some belief system. For many people, this system is based on religion, but others hold certain political or philosophical ideas close to their hearts. People who are steadfast when it comes to a certain set of ideas usually need to find someone who shares those views. James Carville and Mary Matalin are famous as political commentators because they are married but hold opposing views, and that idea is foreign to most highly political people. Know your own belief system and think about how important it is that the other person shares it with you.

Sense of Humor

A dry sense of humor can be hilarious if you’re an introvert, but extroverts often find it a sign that someone is boring. Sarcasm and wit may make one person chuckle while the next guy gets offended. What’s your humor style? Before you think about settling down with someone, make sure you can laugh with that person for the next 50 years. Being married to someone whose jokes make you cringe can tire you out. Laughter really can bring levity to serious situations, and you want to find someone with a compatible sense of humor.

Work Life Balance

So, you love being on call at your job and think 60-hour work weeks are acceptable. Your new boyfriend thinks that 5:00 is the cut-off time and has a job that’s compatible with that viewpoint. How long do you think it will take before your boyfriend’s upset that you cancelled dinner plans again to work late?

On the other hand, perhaps your boyfriend shares your view. How would you determine who will stop working in time to pick your baby up from the nanny?

Maybe your future husband is the one with a crazy work schedule. Are you prepared to go on family vacations without him because he can’t tear himself away from work?

Knowing how each of you plans to balance your professional and personal lives can make a difference in knowing whether someone can be the right person for you. You may even want to seek couples counseling for some help.

This issue is particularly serious when one person makes significantly more money than the other. You need to know whether you will have more respect for the job with the higher paycheck. When both couples have solid white-collar jobs, you should try to get a feel for how the other person would anticipate responding to someone getting a great job offer in another city.


When you’re 22, thinking about retirement seems absurd – unless maybe you’re a techie millionaire. Yet retirement philosophies are similar to work-life balance issues. Some people plan to work 30 years and retire, and their financial habits and key decisions reflect that goal. Others know that they are likely to work well past 55 or 60, and they make their life decisions accordingly.

Find someone who shares your view or with whom you can compromise. If one of you dreams of sunsets on the beach while the other imagines continuing to work into the twilight years, those goals eventually will collide.

It’s impossible to solve every potential marital problem while you’re still looking for a spouse. Marriage requires work. For many couples, marriage means periods of heavy-lifting in terms of emotional work. The key to finding a marriage that you believe has a chance of working is choosing someone who fits into a description that is important to you.

Don’t worry about what is important to your mother or your friends or your professional image; you need to find someone who will complement your strengths and weaknesses and with whom you can imagine yourself growing old.  

About the Author

Melissa Cameron is a successful freelance writer who has covered topics from internet marketing to how to find a San Francisco psychotherapist. The self-confessed Starbuck’s junkie is a wife and mother. She is a huge fan of Disneyland and loves to visit with her husband Rick and their 2 children.

Earnest Parenting: help for parents who want to build great marriages.