We hear all the time about the red flags and the reasons to break a relationship off – instead, here are 10 signs you’ve found marriage material.
The search for a life partner can be an all consuming venture. Trying to find someone you want to marry is one thing, then you have to also find someone who wants to marry you. Relationships press every button on every issue in our lives – upbringing, identity, sense of worth, how we feel about our own hopes and dreams. You can feel like you’ll never find anyone, you can feel like you only find bad ones, you can feel like nobody is ever good enough for you, and you can even feel that terrifying feeling that you’ve missed your soulmate.
And there’s no shortage on material on red flags out there. It almost feels like there is no person who could ever be truly good enough to pass the impossible standards of the common criteria. I’ve read multiple red flag articles and left feeling that they can almost disqualify everyone we know.
In truth, there are indeed a lot of red flags that are worth noting before you enter or continue a serious relationship – addictions, uncontrolled anger, unrepentant pornography obsession to the point of preventing another person joining your life. And we could talk all day about those.
But instead I would like to offer up today something I find myself frequently doing and sometimes being the only person who’s done this for certain relationships – and that is to highlight the signs that you’ve found marriage material.
Nada Surf wrote a song called the Inside of Love where the lead singer confesses, “I know the last page so well that I can’t read the first”. I frequently find people are in their own way and are actively missing some really serious qualities of a potentially amazing life partner.
So if you’re in a relationship and not sure if you should throw it away, or if you’ve known someone who you’ve still got question marks over, I would like to submit these for your considerations. Here are 10 signs that you’ve found marriage material.
#1: You have fun together
People talk about The Spark, which is that instant feeling of connection and knowing that this is someone worth getting intimate with. If you’ve read my writing before you probably will be aware I’m not a huge fan on what eHarmony refers to as “spark chasing” – I find this distracts a lot of people from finding someone meaningful and building a roaring fire over time.
But I do think that you need to have one ingredient from the start – fun.
Authors Mark and Grace Driscoll of the book Real Marriage spend extensive time in their book talking about how fun and friendship is the foundation of a strong marriage. They compare it to having a cake made completely out of icing vs. a cake that also has a solid bread bit underneath.
A quote from Bishop Jeremy Taylor that we also had quoted at our wedding is this that “love is friendship set on fire”. I’ve found this to be one of the truest summaries of the love experience, and if you’ve found someone whom you can have fun with and build a solid friendship with, you’ve potentially found marriage material.
#2: The respect of others
It’s one thing for you to like a person – it’s another person for everyone to like them.
We live in a world where people routinely say don’t care what people think. This flies in the face of the wisdom of Ecclesiastes which reinforces to us that a good reputation is better than jewelry.
I know this person may or may not have won you over, but have they won over their friends? Have they won over their family? Are they reputable in the workplace?
The real quality here is called integrity. John Maxwell says this is doing the right thing, even if no one is watching. In marriage, when it’s just the two of you, the reality of a person’s integrity is what you end up living with.
If a person is well respected by multiple different types of people, then it’s very likely that that is who they really are when the lights are off and nobody else is around, and that’s worth taking note of.
#3: A teachable spirit
I heard a saying once that men marry hoping their woman doesn’t change, and women marry hoping their man does. Now I don’t know if that’s a global rule, but I have seen this more accurately translated into how teachable a person is or isn’t.
There’s a common expression that you shouldn’t have to change for love. I strongly disagree. I believe love invites change. I believe love requests change. In fact I believe that true love mandates change.
Grace is indeed amazing, but grace isn’t permission to stay the same. This is two becoming one. This is not me, not you, but now us.
If a person isn’t teachable now, if they’re open to feedback, if they’re not receptive to criticism, then they won’t be later either, and you’ll be stuck with someone who refuses to move. Conversely, a teachable spirit should be celebrated and indeed desired.
#4: Financial stability
Most lists on reasons for divorce list finances somewhere in the top 5, like this one. Why is that? It’s because the way people treat money is the way they treat everything. And indeed, where a man’s treasure is, there their heart is also.
If you want to see how they’re going to treat you, the house, the kids, the friends, look at how they treat their money now. You might not like this, but money and how you treat it is completely central to how we live our lives.
I wrote more about this in Why Men Need Purpose, Direction and Income.
I’ve been re-reading the Song of Songs at the moment as I try to do at least once a year. It’s a profound piece of literature on what an ideal marriage should look like, or as a progressive woke millennial would say, #MarriageGoals.
One characteristic about both partners you see is absolute generosity. They are generous with their words, generous with their time, generous with their bodies and generous with their lives.
Fortunately you don’t need to wait to even date someone to find out if they’re generous or not. Have a look at how they treat this area of their life even now.
#6: Loving kindness and prudence
Scripture says of the eternal that “Your lovingkindness is better than life”. The Proverbs then tell us that what is desirable in a man is his “chesed” in Hebrew – the same word. Lovingkindness.
Of women it talks about many desirable traits such as grace and a preferential, humble attitude with a gentle, quiet spirit – doesn’t necessarily mean you’re physically quiet but internally still. Another desirable trait once again from the Proverbs is prudence. In other words, diligent wisdom.
Two underrated but highly recommended characteristics. It’s inspiring to see when a man is truly kind to his wife, his kids, his friends, his world. He inspires hope, brings real comfort, and also cherishes those in his life. It’s amazing to see a woman use prudence to build the lives around her, to be faithful with those entrusted to her care, to guide her companions with grace and focus.
#7: Compatible direction
I recently watched the award winning Marriage Story on Netflix. People got annoyed that the movie is actually about a divorce, but in truth it really is about a marriage that went awry, and absolutely expertly acted by Adam and Scarlett.
Out of the many factors in the breakdown of their relationship, one that has struck a nerve with many who have watched is the couple’s inability to get on the same page. He’s an aspiring film writer who wants to live out his days in New York, whereas she has the overwhelming desire to live in the suburbs instead. It seems like a little deal to each other but it is one of the biggest deals to each of them.
Amos asks how two can walk hand in hand unless they are in agreement. And while you don’t need to have (and won’t) the same dreams and identical ideas on everything, the directions you’re planning to go need to work together.
Are you able to dream for two? Are they? If so, you’ve found marriage material.
#8: Support systems
People rarely purchase houses with structural damage, unless they plan on really doing a fixer upper for a TV show or some major investment. The support systems of a building are super important.
Even moreso are the support systems we put around our lives.
Jim Rohn famously said that you are the sum of the five people you spend the most time with. If that’s true, then you should be asking, who is this person spending their time with?
Bad company corrupts good character. How much more than does good company build great character?
If they have no friends, if their life isn’t open, if they don’t have anyone besides you in their life they can call on, you might run into trouble a bit later on. But if they’ve got the strength of the body and the community around them, they will likely be immovable through all the various seasons of life and marriage.
How a person treats one thing is how they’ll treat everything.
I can’t tell you the number of people I’ve spoken to who have died of frustration because their significant other says one thing but does another, or they’re great with the kids but poor with their wife or husband. It’s not that long before you find out that they’re not actually that great with their kids, and they actually treat people the same way.
If you’re faithful with little, you will be faithful with much. And if you’re not faithful, you deserve to lose what you have. And more than that… you will lose it.
But when I see a man or a woman who turns up on time, talks to everyone with the same level of respect, has their career lined up and progressing, and faithfully turns up week in and week out, I am singing their praises to every potential single person who is looking for a good man or a good woman.
Because consistency is worth celebrating.
#10: The presence of forgiveness
Forgiveness is hard. But in a marriage, or in any relationship really, it’s absolutely required.
TD Jakes in Before You Do observes that you can’t sustain a lifelong love without forgiveness. Men frequently say the wrong dumb thing at the wrong time and don’t even know it was a dumb thing, and they do it again and again. Women can be trying to give you what you used to need not knowing you are no longer who you were.
All of us fall short. All of us disappoint and hurt others and have bad days. As Dr David Schnarch points out in a number of his books on marriage, people actually want to bring their best to their marriages but instead bring the worst of who they are instead – he calls this normal marital sadism.
You are inevitably going to let the person you love down. In fact, you will probably let them down more than you let anyone else down in our whole life. People who can forgive quickly and openly will be able to go the distance.
There are many more signs that you’ve found marriage material, but when I talk to people about whether or not I think a guy or a girl is a good one, these 10 are the ones I usually look for the most.
In truth, all of us are on a journey, and we’re either growing more loving and more perfect, or more selfish and less loving. If you want to suss out if this person is someone you should consider in your love life, consider in which direction this person is moving.
And if you’re married to someone who demonstrates these qualities, let them know. What a tragedy when the people we love have no idea how valued they truly are.
How about you? What are some signs to you that you’ve found marriage material?