Marriage is a serious commitment intended to last a lifetime. If you are dating with marriage in mind, it is important to look for qualities that would make someone a good life partner.
Choosing a good partner can have a major impact on your well-being. You want to look for certain characteristics that will benefit your relationship in the long term.
Beyond personal maturity, a robust toolbox of emotional and communication skills is the best indicator that a person will be able to uphold their vows and commitments and continue to invest in a relationship through life’s ebb and flow.
Thinking your partner might be The One? Read on for how to evaluate if they’re truly marriage material.
What Does “Marriage Material” Mean Exactly?
For licensed therapist Jennifer Chaiken, and Psychologist Dr. Laura Louis, the single most important factor in determining if a romantic partner can go the distance is the effort they’re willing to put in to ensure the success of the relationship. “A person is ‘marriage material’ when they’re willing to work on the relationship just as much as you are,” she says. “The goal is you’re both committed to that.”
This is important because it relieves the pressure—on both sides—to be perfect all the time. We’re all going to go through rough patches and setbacks, and we’re also inevitably going to disappoint and frustrate our partners at one point or another. But if both members of the couple are dedicated to nurturing their bond through both the good times and the bad, then they’re ready for a long-term commitment.
How to Tell If Your Partner Is The “One”
An independent person will not rely on you to take care of them or keep them happy and occupied. An independent person wants you rather than needs you. They won’t be clingy or demanding of your time.
Someone who requires constant attention and reassurance could make marriage more difficult. An independent person is strong, confident, and not afraid to be alone. An independent person is:
- Able to plan for the future
- Able to say no
- Able to value themselves
- Aware of what makes them happy
- Capable of being alone
- Financially stable
Independence ensures that each partner is capable of taking care of themselves. However, they are also able to give and ask for support when it is needed. People who are able to take care of themselves are also in a better position to give care, attention, and support when you need it.
They practice self-care
“A healthy individual makes for a healthy relationship,” says Chaiken. “We’ve been taught that your partner is supposed to fulfill every part of you, but it’s actually so much better for your relationship to be interdependent than co-dependent. If you take care of yourself first, then you can be there for your partner.”
They communicate clearly
“Sometimes there’s an expectation of, You should know what I want and give it to me, even if I don’t know exactly what I want. You should know if you love me,” says. Dr. Louis. “That sets you up for disappointment, and it sets your partner up for failure.” Instead, a partner ready for marriage will be upfront, honest, and direct about their needs and desires. Their willingness to do so, even when it’s uncomfortable, demonstrates that they are committed to helping you give them what they need, without any unnecessary holdup.
A partner who supports your personal and career goals understands that not everything in your marriage will be about them, or even about you as a couple.
You both will have individual goals, and they will be by your side cheering on your efforts. They won’t feel threatened by the time and energy you put into achieving your goals because they will have their own. A supportive partner:
- Comforts you when you are upset
- Encourages you to pursue your dreams
- Lets you know that they are thinking about you
- Lets you know that they are proud of you
- Listens to and gives support to what you are feeling
- Wants to know how they can help you
- Wants to know what you are excited about
They fight fairly
Arguing is an inevitable—and healthy—part of any relationship. “I’m always more concerned when couples say they never fight because that means they’re not talking,” says Chaiken.
Per Dr. Louis, there are three primary styles of handling conflict: Passive fighters give in and go with the flow, even if they don’t truly agree with what’s happening. Aggressive fighters push for their way no matter what and sometimes resort to yelling and belittling. Assertive fighters, however, communicate clearly and state what they need in a positive and gentle yet firm way. (For example: “I feel supported when we’re able to go out on a date once a week. Is it possible for us to make that a priority?”)
For Dr. Louis, this is the most productive way to handle conflict—and Chaiken wholeheartedly agrees. “Fighting fairly means you’re not name-calling, and you’re not being disrespectful,” she says. “You have to be able to disagree while respecting one another and listening to one another. That way, you are validating the other person’s point of view and still communicating your needs.”
They’re willing to compromise
This doesn’t mean you have to go 50/50 in every scenario: Compromise can also manifest in taking turns, or in trades and exchanges. The most important thing to consider when evaluating if your partner is marriage material on this front is that they don’t think things should always go their way, in all circumstances. A willingness to compromise signals they respect you and will make space for you in the relationship down the line.
“The ability to step out of your shoes and see things from your partner’s vantage point—if I could put that in a bottle and give it to everyone, I would,” says Dr. Louis. It makes sense: the willingness to consider how a situation makes your partner feel will always lead to a more compassionate handling of conflict. Beyond fights, empathy also helps a person be a more supportive partner overall, as they can genuinely share in the highs and lows of their partner’s life.
They’re willing to apologize—and to forgive
“Couples that are willing to say ‘I’m sorry,’ ‘I handled that wrong,’ ‘That came out the wrong way, please forgive me’ tend to be much more resilient and able to get through difficult times,” says Dr. Louis. On the flip side, not withholding forgiveness also allows the relationship to prosper. “Things are going to happen—neither of you is perfect human beings,” says Chaiken. “You have to let things go in order to move forward and come back together.”
They know things will change—and they’re okay with that
It’s inevitable that you’ll both evolve over the course of your lives—the key is to not drift far enough apart that changes feel sudden or they catch you off guard. This requires regular check-ins as well as a safe, judgment-free space for discussing hopes, dreams, and aspirations. Dr. Louis has the couples she counsels spend 20 minutes checking in with each other at the end of every day. “They put their phones away, they turn technology off, and ask: How was your day? What are you excited about? What are you looking forward to?” she explains. “Those couples are able to evolve with each other because they are in tune with each other’s changes.”
While having these qualities is not a guarantee that a person will be a great spouse, these characteristics are a great place to start. When it comes to looking for someone who is marriage material, think about the things that are most important to you, including your values and goals, and pay attention to whether your potential partners possess those qualities. Choosing the right person—and being a good partner yourself—is critical for a lasting relationship and long-term satisfaction.