When it comes to looking for a partner, we are not all looking for the same things. Some gravitate towards outward beauty while others are more concerned with what is inside. Some prefer creative types and some fall for the pragmatic. One person’s tall drink of water is another person’s cold shower.
And that’s okay.
Yet even though we are all drawn to different people and attracted by different traits, there are five characteristics that are so critical that we not only should seek them out in others, we should also learn to cultivate them in ourselves and nurture them in our relationships.
These five characteristics form the basis for a successful marriage or remarriage:
Curiosity replaces judgment with wonder, assumptions with observations. When you’re curious about your partner, you ask before you reach conclusions and you listen to the responses with an open mind. When you’re curious about your world, you take in more and react less. Curiosity keeps you open and flexible, interested and interesting. It replaces the fear of uncertainty with the marvel of “what if?”
The relationship you have today will not be the same one you have next year. There will be different pressures, some lifted and some replaced. Your perspective will be altered, your mood perhaps as well. And in order for a relationship to navigate these changes, it must be adaptable and flexible. A marriage formed by interconnected moving parts that change and bend to the surrounding terrain instead of insisting upon a fixed rigidity. It’s easy to see responding to change as weak, when really it’s the adaptable who survive.
In a happy partnership, each person owns their own stuff. They’re not looking for a savior or for somebody to heal their past wounds. They are willing to admit what is theirs to carry and they learn how to shoulder their own load. When challenges come, they respond with rationality and ingenuity instead of blame or defensiveness. And they also don’t rely on their partners for the good times, understanding that their happiness is their own responsibility.
It’s just life. Nobody makes it out alive, so you may as well enjoy the journey. Seek out a partner that knows how to laugh. That can find the humor in the darkest of places and is able to share that light with others. Humor is an antidote for tedium, a balm for sadness and an extinguisher of frustration. Apply it liberally and often.
There will be hard days. There will be days that you wonder if it’s worth it. Days when you question your own spouse and your own judgment. Grit is the trait that makes you find a different way, try a little harder, put forth just a bit more effort. Tenacity provides the push when you’re afraid and the fuel when you’re just too tired to take one more step. A successful marriage has staying power not because of its perfection, but because of the persistence of its constituent parts.
And remember, it’s important to be what you want to attract. So before you berate someone for not having these characteristics, look at yourself first.
A successful marriage begins with you.