What To Look For in a Husband or Wife

Compatible (adjective)


  1. Capable of existing or living together in harmony
  2. Able to exist together with something else

The Defining Decade by Dr. Meg Jay

“…being alike in ways the matter and genuinely liking who the other person is.” (p. 115)

Opposites Attract is a Myth, Look for Compatibility 

Opposites don’t attract, it’s basically a myth. When it is true it only lasts for a short period of time. The more similar people are, the better they understand each other. People who are compatible are the better match because they are alike. According to The Defining Decade, “Studies have repeatedly found that couples who are similar in areas such as socioeconomic status, education, age, ethnicity, religion, attractiveness, attitudes, values, and intelligence are more likely to be satisfied with their relationships and are less likely to seek divorce.”

When seeking out a relationship look for compatibility. Look for someone that is capable of existing in harmony with you while dealing with the pressures and stresses of “something else”, i.e. mortgages, children, being sick, being jobless, all the troubles that can come up in marriage. Because what will really matter down the road is not similarities in just age, attractiveness, education and intelligence. These are just the deal breakers, match makers create long lasting relationships and marriages.

Deal Breaks vs Match Makers

Deal breakers are easy to spot characteristics we’ve come up with on our own, usually similar to our own characteristics. These are the characteristics we think are nonnegotiable. Deal breakers help us weed out who we want to date and avoid those who we have “fundamental differences” with. Deal breakers can bring us together, but match makers will keep us together.

Match makers are below the surface. They are the qualities you learn about someone after you get to know them a little better. One match maker is personality. “Personality is not about what we have done or even about what we like. It is about how we are in the world, and this infuses everything we do. Personality is the part of ourselves that we take everywhere…”

This is why online dating sites, like eHarmony, can be so successful. Instead of asking you what you like, they base your profile off your personality by asking your how you are.

Nevertheless, it can still be tricky finding a compatible personality for a couple of reasons…

  1. Personalities are hard to label. You can’t categorize them or describe them as easily as age or education. 
  2. Everyone is different. You won’t be able to find someone 100% like you or maybe even what you dream of.

One way to help define what type of personality you have (and thus, also compatible with) is through what psychologist call, The Big Five. The Big Five is “one of the simplest and most widely researched models of personality… The Big Five refers to five factors that describe how people interact with the world: Openness, Conscientiousness, Extroversion, Agreeableness, Neuroticism.” We will talk more about this in another post.

Accept Differences and Focus on Foundational Compatibilities

Although we do need to find someone similar to us we do need to accept their differences as well. No matter how similar two people are they still have differences. Every couple needs to allow their partner to be different. “How a person responds to these differences can be more important than the differences themselves.”

Any over analyzing or prejudgments brought into the relationship can be detrimental. Maybe your boyfriend doesn’t bring you flowers. Or maybe your girlfriend likes to talk about life a little more than you do. These differences are not foundational. These difference will not make or break a relationship unless you put too much negative emphasis on them. “Anxiety and judgments about these differences then lead to criticism and contempt, two leading relationship killers.”

Dr. Jay shares a story from one of her clients, Courtney. Courtney knew her boyfriend had an engagement ring, but she had a lot of little judgments about her boyfriend that made her nervous about marrying him. She was worried he didn’t fit all the qualities of her “perfect man”. Dr. Jay listened to all of Courtney’s complaints and concerns, but none seemed legitimate,  in fact Courtney’s boyfriend seemed to be husband worthy. Dr. Jay tried to help Courtney see her view was skewed with over thinking and anxiety. It wasn’t until Courtney had an accident and needed surgery that she realize she was the one in the wrong.

Courtney got into a fight with her boyfriend when her friend brought her flowers, but he never brought her any. Her boyfriend was extremely upset by this. He had been with her through the surgery and after taking care of all of Courtney’s needs. Where Courtney’s friend had not visited or helped out once. Courtney saw the error in her point of view. Her boyfriend had humbly done everything for her with no complaints. Courtney realized she needed to work on herself before she was able to marry this incredible man.

“But sometimes differences are just differences. They can even be strengths.”

I started off this post telling you to find someone who you are compatible with; to find someone with whom you are alike. But we can’t forget about finding someone you genuinely like. That’s why finding someone with matching making qualities and accepting their differences are important. You need to understand who the other person is in able to accept and love him/her for who they truly are.

We’ve also mentioned the difficulties that come with marriage down the road. Overcoming these difficulties is where your differences can be strengths. You might be weak in one area, but that could be one of your spouse’s specialties. Lets say your three kids are growing up, each in a different school. They all play sports and one is entering his/her senior year in high school. You may not be good at the financial planning for college, but maybe you are good at coordinating all the schedules. You can divide and conquer by playing to each of your strengths.

Here’s some advice from Dr. Jay on how to make a decision about who to marry…

“The same way you make any decision. You weigh the evidence and you listen to yourself. The trick is for you is going to be to listen to what matters, not to every single thing that makes you dissatisfied or anxious… There will always be differences of some kind, but statistically speaking, that’s not what will kill a relationship. It’s what you do with the differences. Do you know what the differences are going in? Have you thought about how they will affect your life? Are you prepared to bridge or even accept them?”

Take your time to ask yourself these questions. Taking the time now to do some thinking should prevent you from unnecessary heartbreak later. I hope you find this advice helpful. It can be overwhelming at first but if you take some time to clear your mind I think you will really benefit from it.

*All inspirations and quotes from this post, and post series, are from The Defining Decade and should be accredited to Dr. Meg Jay.*


Dating Down

Many twentysomethings do not take dating seriously. Dating is thought to be a time to have fun now and worry about marriage later. All the first dates and not serious relationships are practice for when you want to get serious. 

If dating in our twenties is just practice, why are we practicing bad habits that could stick?

You can be a very successful twentysomething, but still have a bad love life. You can have a career, control over your finances and a fancy apartment, but at the same time uphold a condensing life of self judgement and settling. A life that consists of a respected nine to five day job, but a booty call at night. Or an uneven relationship with a live-in partner who has no job and doesn’t pull his or her weight. Relationships can be hard work, but there is a certain level of respect and equality that should be met for both parties.

At any age anyone can fall into dating down. It can stem from what Dr. Meg Jay calls your “untold story” or settling. An untold story is like a story line in your head created from past conversations and experiences about yourself. It may depict how you view your love life and how you play a role in the dating field. Here is what Dr. Meg Jay has to say about untold stories…

“The power of these untold personal stories is that… they can loop silently in our minds without anyone, sometimes even ourselves, knowing about them. The stories are found hiding… in the gaps between what we plan to do and what we actually do, or between what happens and what we tell people about what happens.” ~The Defining Decade, Dr. Meg Jay (p. 108)

These untold stories need to be told and edited. Stories that aren’t shared are of shame and can eat away at you left unspoken. Let your untold stories out and create a new story. Let the past out and replace those stories with the new edited you. New stories of all your accomplishments and best qualities. Share stories that you are proud of, then you will see yourself becoming more proud of yourself. Editing your story will allow you to have the strength to recognize when you are settling and how to never settle again.

Once you treat yourself with respect, others will too. 

Think about what you want and need in a partner. Take the dates you do choose seriously. Find out what traits you like and dislike. Find out what qualities you want or need in a relationship. To create good dating habits we need to switch from being wanted to wanting. Take charge of your love life! Choose your partner, don’t like your partner choose you.

You’re next boyfriend or girlfriend could be your last.

*This post, quotes and this post series come from inspirations and lessons found in The Defining Decade and should be accredited to Dr. Meg Jay.*


Related Posts:

From Work to Love

We’ve talked a lot about the work lessons from The Defining Decade, but is that all? Is work all we need to concentrate on in our twenties?

“[Society] is structured to distract people from the decisions that have a huge impact on happiness in order to focus attention on decisions that have a marginal impact on happiness. The most important decision any of us make is who we marry. Yet there are no courses on how to choose a spouse.” ~David Brooks, political and cultural commentator

I’d like to know why there are no classes. That seems like a pretty good idea to me.

I love how Dr. Meg Jay opens her section on love with this quote. It really opens your mind to the subject.

Why isn’t marriage a subject talked about? And when it is, why is it frowned upon? We talk about wants in our career and plan for our careers, why aren’t we doing the same for marriage? Is it one of the most important, if not the most important decision of our life.

“With one decision you choose your partner in all adult things. Money, work, lifestyle, family, health, leisure, retirement, and even death become a three-legged race.”

Wow, that’s eye opening and intimidating. Once you say, “I do” you are tied to this person. There’s no wonder why people have so many doubts as they head towards the aisle.

The worst part is if you chose wrongly, you can’t get rid of that person.You can’t give your two weeks and walk away hands free. Sure you can get a divorce, but in some way you are still bound to that person, most likely financially. Then if you have children together, think about the hassle you will have to go through to schedule “drop offs” after the hassle of filing a divorce in the first place. Then of course there’s the most important part, how it will affect your poor children.

Now enough with the melodrama let’s get down to the facts and see what we can do to choose correctly.

“Today’s twentysomething spend more time single than any generation in history… Currently, the average age for first marriage is twenty-six for women and twenty-eight for men, with more than half adults marrying over the age of twenty-five.”

Well that doesn’t sound too bad. Twentysomethings are taking their time picking their spouse. There’s bound to be fewer mistakes made, thus less failed marriages.


“…the divorce rate holds steady at 40 percent.”

The divorce rate has not changed because we’re taking our time. We can’t avoid divorce by delaying marriage.

Dr. Jay shares how her first psychotherapy client was a twenty-six year old  female who was dating down, named Alex. Dr. Jay was also in her twenties at the time ans saw no problem with this. When her supervisor encouraged Dr. Jay to work on this problem with Alex the classic “It’s not like she’s marrying the guy” response came out of her mouth. Her supervisor responded with…

“Not yet. But she might marry the next one. Regardless, the best time to work on Alex’s marriage is before she has one.”

I urge you to start thinking about your marriage before you have one. I will be covering Dr. Jay’s lessons on how to pick your family, living together, dating down and what “being in like” should really mean. I hope you follow these posts and take a serious look at your present and future.

Do you want to grow together with your spouse during your twenties or worry about marriage after the “age thirty deadline”?