About 10 years ago I wrote a book entitled, “The Ultimate Guide to Finding a Great Mate.” It was filled with practical advice on making a good choice in a partner. I do not believe in the whole notion of a “Soul Mate” – that there is one person in the entire world who is perfect for you. I’d like to think you are such a wonderful person that there are thousands of people in this world who would love to marry you! A great marrage is not the result of a cosmic event, but rather the coming together of two people who are physically, mentally, and spiritually healthy and willing to work at their relationship through good times and bad. One of the chapters was “Making a Good Choice.” One of my relationship mantras is, “If y0u find the right one, don’t go looking for another one.” Below are key qualities to examine as you make the biggest decision of your life. Enjoy!


What are the qualities that make someone a great potential partner? When we were going through the “zit-filled” teenage years, we were clueless about how we would meet our future spouse. Many girls believed they would one day marry a well-respected physician or even a professional athlete who would allow them to live an exciting lifestyle.

The guys had dreams of one day marrying the beauty queen who came from a well-to-do family. Of course, the father-in-law would make sure his new son-in-law would one day take over the multimillion-dollar company he started almost 30 years ago. During the wonder years, when it came to thinking about marriage, most of us were very idealistic.

Upon graduating high school, many of us believed that within the first two years of college life we would meet our future spouse, graduate together and then get married and live happily ever after. However, it is during the college-age years that many of us found that our love life might not go as planned. That person we thought we would marry ended up breaking our heart. To make matters worse, they were soon dating someone else, and to our amazement were engaged after only six months! It is at this point when many of us began to re-evaluate our requirement list for a potential spouse. “This is a little more difficult than I thought it was going to be.”

Then we began our careers. Our free time was limited by the demands of being a young professional who was climbing the corporate ladder. How nice it would have been to have someone to come home to after another crummy day at the office. Unfortunately, there was just no time to date and the field of prospective candidates seemed to be getting smaller. The worst part of it all, though, was it seemed like everyone close to you was getting engaged or already married.

Many of us go through our 20’s thinking that all of the important “stuff” regarding our love life will magically work itself out. However, many singles today are discovering that the life plan for marriage is not working out the way they originally thought it would. Many singles are transitioning into their 30’s feeling the pressure to find that special someone. The requirement list that was three pages long when we were in high school has now been reduced to one simple requirement, “Are they breathing”? If so, it is time to get married!

All of us have standards in our life regarding the person we would date or marry. If you are a parent, you also have standards for your children. Maybe they are vague, but they are standards nonetheless. There are certain qualities and values you want to give to your children so they will make a good choice in a marriage partner. However, if you are single and looking for a mate, or if you are a parent who desires to give sound advice to your children, you need to have definite standards to hold on to regarding one of life’s most challenging decisions. It needs to be more than a bumper sticker that reads, “If you’re rich, I’m single!”

So, what are the qualities you observe in someone that makes them marriage material? What are some key principles to remember as you think about this whole idea of meeting a great mate?

 #1: Develop a Wish List:

When I ask singles, “Do you know what you are looking for in a mate?” I usually receive a blank stare in return. If you want to make a good choice, you have to know what you are looking for in a spouse! Here is my suggestion. Take a piece of paper and brainstorm all of the qualities that would be important to you to have in an ideal mate. These qualities can be anything you desire, including physical appearance. After you have written down at least ten qualities, arrange them in the order of importance starting at #1, for most important, all the way up to #10, which is least important. I would suggest you do this before you continue reading this section and the other sections on compatibility. After you have developed your wish list, compare it to the essential qualities in a future mate that I will be sharing in this course and then decide if you need to make changes to your wish list based upon what you have read.

Okay, are you ready? Let’s take a look at some other key principles that will help you get started on the road to meeting a great mate!

#2: Don’t Get Married Too Young:

Here are a few statistics regarding the chances of marital success depending on the age when you get married:

  • Girls who marry between 14 and 17 years of age are more than twice as likely to divorce as those who marry at 18 or 19 years of age. Those who marry at 18 or 19 are 1.5 times as likely to divorce as those who marry in their 20’s.
  • The divorce rate for 21 and 22 year olds is twice as high as it is for 24 and 25 year olds.
  • Research reveals that divorce rates are lowest for both men and women who marry for the first time at age 28 or later. The chances for a stable marriage increase as both partners reach the age of 30 and then the rates level off.

These statistics reveal you have a much better chance of making a marriage work if you wait until your late 20’s or 30’s. This is largely because once most people have reached this stage of life they have managed to get through school and have a better idea of their career path. Additionally, when we reach our late 20’s and 30’s, we know ourselves better and have a better understanding about the type of person who would make the most suitable marriage partner.

It is romantic to think you will fall in love with your high school sweetheart and live happily ever after. But the truth is most relationships that start during this stage of life don’t have the maturity to endure the numerous changes that take place during our high school and college years.

Statistics tells us if you want to have the best chance of making a marriage work, make the decision to get married only after you know yourself thoroughly and have the details of your life somewhat in order.

 #3: Be in the Right Place…at the Right Time…Doing the Right Thing…With the Right People…and You Will Meet the Right Person!

This is the opposite of being in the wrong place, at the wrong time, doing the wrong thing, with the wrong people and meeting the wrong person. How many women have you ever heard tell a story that sounds something like this: “Well, I was at a party where there was a lot of alcohol and drugs and a lot of other things that shouldn’t have been going on. But I met this really nice guy and, after talking to him for a while, he took me to his car and we “made-out” until three in the morning. Besides I have such strong feelings for him, he must be the one!” Amazingly, after a relationship like this turns disastrous within a few months, some people wonder why they have such bad luck in life.

When it comes to dating the right people, for the most part, you make your own luck. When searching for a mate, it is important that you “fish in the right pond” if you are looking for a good “catch.” You have the power to determine the type of person you will meet and where you will meet them.

Allow me to use very contrasting examples to help you better understand: when choosing a marriage partner with whom you will create a family and a future, would you rather meet them in a bar, or at your local church or synagogue? Would you rather meet your future spouse at a dance club or at a charity event where caring individuals give their time to important causes. If you want to meet the right person, you must seriously evaluate where you are spending the bulk of your time trying to meet someone. If you have decided to attend law school, if you are willing to make the effort to attend your law school’s social functions, you will have a better chance of finding a spouse than if you hang out at the local bar. I use these obvious examples to emphasize my point: the type of person you meet will come as a direct result of the decisions you make as to where you will spend your time and the type of people you hang around.

If you are at the point where you are getting serious about finding the right person, perhaps it is appropriate you make some important changes in your weekly routine.

 If you were raised in the church but have been absent for a while, perhaps it is time you get involved in a growing church in your area. As we shall see later, spiritual compatibility or lack of it is one of the major areas that can cause success or failure in marriage.

  • There are many wonderful charitable organizations that are desperately in need of volunteers. Perhaps it is time you develop a heart for the needy. Once you get to know the people involved in charity work, you may find that you will develop a relationship with someone who may be a good candidate for marriage.
  • If you are attending school, take advantage of the many social clubs being offered by its various departments.

The bottom line: get involved with the right people…who are in the right place…doing the right things…and you will have a much better chance of finding the right person!

 #4: Look at Your Potential Mate’s Practical Strengths:

I am always interested when a parent comes to me and says, “I hope my son or daughter can find someone who can really take care of him or her, because he/she is just so irresponsible!” If you think you need to marry a “mommy” or “daddy” figure so they can take care of you, you will make a lousy spouse. When it comes to finding a mate, you are not looking for a mother or father, you are looking for a suitable marriage partner who will complement you and provide companionship!

Let me give you three practical strengths that begin with the letter “I” that every man or woman should have if they are to be considered a good candidate for marriage:

  • Industriousness: Does your potential partner have a disciplined work ethic or is he/she lazy?
  • Intelligence: This is not necessarily educational status, but an ability to be wise in the ways of the world.
  • Integrity: Does your partner have a sound reputation in the community for being someone who consistently keeps his/her word and does the right thing?

 #5: Choose Someone With an Unselfish Personality:

I cannot emphasize this principle enough! Almost every major problem that goes on in a marriage relationship can be traced back to selfishness! An interesting book entitled, “Psychology’s Sanction for Selfishness” made a study of well-known psychologies and theories and found that modern-day psychology was encouraging people to focus only on their own needs. However, the end result was that it was not making people any happier. The writers warned that society today was becoming too self-absorbed. They went on to explain that there are alternative theories of psychology that are currently bringing fulfillment to people’s lives. The major reason for people’s happiness, the writers explain, is that they have developed an “others-centered” lifestyle. By helping meet the needs of others, people are beginning to see happiness and fulfillment in their own lives.

To illustrate my point, take the example of the famous television program, “All in the Family.” Within that marriage between Edith and Archie, we see a contrast of two opposite personalities. Archie is a selfish man whose entire life seems to revolve around the fact that he needs other people to wait on him hand and foot to make him happy. In Archie’s narrow view of the world he is the center of the universe. However, because he is so selfish, he never seems to be happy. He is the picture of a grumpy, frustrated, aging man.

His wife, Edith, on the other hand, is the picture of contentment. She has made it her entire life’s goal to please and meet the needs of her husband. Additionally, she makes it a habit of always seeing the good in others and looking on the bright side of life.

Now, in no way am I suggesting that any marriage should look like the Bunker’s. I am merely using the example of the Edith and Archie to prove my point. One person in the marriage does nothing but dwell on his own needs and yet is always miserable, while the other person has made it her life goal to give her life away, and she is content.

I am not trying to be a backyard psychologist, but I am suggesting there is true contentment that comes from being unselfish! It is tough to live a lifestyle that puts the needs of others first. We tend to think in terms of “What am I going to get in return?” However, the truth of the matter is, if you marry a person who has an unselfish lifestyle, there will be true joy in the relationship.

Watch the person you are dating or are planning to marry. Are they extremely self centered–always doing things for themselves? If they are, you need to be very careful about committing your life to that person. On the other hand, what an awesome relationship it is when two people who are committed to meeting one another’s needs come together. This marriage will stand the test of time.

#6: Make Sure There is Mutual Attraction:

When you find someone you are interested in, make sure they have the same level of interest in you. If your love for one another can grow at the same pace without being forced, rushed or manipulated, you have the recipe for a great relationship.

Too often I have seen one of the people in the relationship in too much of a hurry. It is almost like there is a sense of desperation that is causing them to go overboard in expressing their affection towards the other person. People who act like this will end up being the worst type of person to be involved with. The best relationships are the ones that show patience and allow love to grow over time. There is no rush. There is no hurry. There is no sense that there is one person in the relationship who has stronger feelings than the other does.

If you are dating and fall head over heels for someone, but do not sense he/she shares the same mutual attraction towards you, I would suggest that you take a cold shower and back up a bit. Do not try to force yourself upon someone! It will only make them feel trapped and cause them to distance themselves from you.

If there is mutual attraction between two people, there is a consistent give and take between them. One person will not feel as if they are always initiating and doing the “little things” for the other. It will become obvious over time that each person in the relationship is equally considerate towards the other person’s needs.

 #7: Make Room for Wise Confirmation:

Before you take a serious step of commitment in your relationship, you need to have wise people in your life who can confirm that the person you are dating is a good choice. Who are the “significant others” in your life? The good, solid, steady people with good values who can say, “I think he/she is great!” or, “I’m not too sure about him/her.”

Are you willing to listen and respond if a trusted person in your life is concerned enough to throw up a “red flag” regarding your relationship? Please know it takes a lot of courage for a parent or anyone close to you to share that they think you are headed for disaster. Do you seriously think your parents or closest friends are trying to hurt you if they caution you about the person you are dating? The answer is, “No”! They would do it only because they love you and are trying to protect you from harm.

Anyone in your life who cares about you should be given the opportunity to give his or her opinion about your relationship. This does not mean, however, that you must listen to everyone’s opinion! But if you start to hear the same negative things coming from those closest to you about the person you are dating, you should be wise enough to listen to their advice. If you don’t, you may end up regretting it later.

About Dean

Dean Merrill brings 22 years of experience as a wedding officiant in Southern California. His creative and professional approach to performing weddings comes from a unique blending of talents he utilizes in every ceremony in which he officiates. He is currently the preferred wedding officiant for Southern California’s #1 rated wedding coordinator, Bella Vita Events.