When it comes to relationships, we have more of a tendency to “think” with our longing hearts and hot hormones than with our minds. However, leaving the mind out of the mix causes problems. Have you seen the divorce statistics?
If you’d like to avoid becoming part of those statistics, make a list. In fact, make five lists.
With the mind engaged as part of the romance process, lists can become very valuable. You can even pop your list into a spreadsheet format and track your observations! I know, it doesn’t sound very romantic. I’ve found, though, in my life, that a simple list shortens the process of figuring out if someone is a fit. Lists help me know which qualities I value highly in a potential partner. If I can’t check off those important items, I can quickly look elsewhere.
When I find someone who could become a good possibility as a future marriage partner, my lists remind me to engage in careful observation with the person—and that also helps slow down the pace of the romance a bit. It usually takes me a few months to see what’s important about another person, especially their character, and learn how we interact together. I’ve realized that just because people whisper in my ear that “he’s a good man,” it doesn’t necessarily mean he’s able to commit to marriage.
The initial and most vital list I make relates to character. As you start your lists, it’s a good idea to be very familiar with your own character strengths first, and know about character or virtues generally. Then, you’re equipped to be in full activity and observation mode with your potential partner.
List Number 1: Write down the inner moral and spiritual qualities that seem most important to you in someone you want to marry. Consider such positive attributes as:
Once you have your list, begin observing words and actions to see if the qualities are truly strengths. Ensure that you see him/her in action with other people, not just with you. Observe carefully, and be patient. Romance sometimes causes a potential partner to act especially well with you for a short period, which can be deceiving.
Keep this in mind—you’re looking at someone’s inner character, to see whether you could potentially achieve a “mutual attachment of mind and heart:”
Baha’i marriage is the commitment of the two parties one to the other, and their mutual attachment of mind and heart. Each must, however, exercise the utmost care to become thoroughly acquainted with the character of the other, that the binding covenant between them may be a tie that will endure forever. Their purpose must be this: to become loving companions and comrades and at one with each other for time and eternity… – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 118.
List Number 2: Write down what is most important to you to have in your interactions as a couple. Consider such items as:
Finding similar things funny
The ability to work smoothly together (cooking, yard work, finances)
Compatible money management habits
Enjoying some leisure activities in common
Similar values and spiritual practices
List Number 3: Let’s deal with the difficult things. What qualities are you absolutely unwilling to bear in a potential spouse? On your list, note the behaviors that might make you pause and think about what the person would be like to live with long-term:
Dirty living habits
Heavy drinking and illegal drug use
A violent temper
Don’t overlook these large, difficult issues—consider them deal-breakers, and move on.
List Number 4: Consciously think about what you want to do together before making a lifelong commitment. The goal is to know each other thoroughly. You might consider such items as:
Share details about finances
Spend quality time with family members
Pray and worship together
…husband and wife should be united both physically and spiritually, that they may ever improve the spiritual life of each other, and may enjoy everlasting unity… – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 118.
List Number 5: Now it gets fun! List what you really love about your partner:
Likes to spend time with his/her family
Is playful when out on dates
Uses manners when interacting with you and others
Is loving to his/her children or the children of others
Helps you lighten up and laugh
Relationship success involves your mind along with your emotions, body, and spirit. When you use all of them, you’re much more likely to make a high quality choice in a spouse.
Marriage strengthening through an online course “Creating a Fortress for Well-Being and Salvation” is available through the Wilmette Institute for couples in the early years of marriage. Read more information on the course’s webpage. The discount code is BT20. It will give people a 20% discount when they pay.