Six Qualities to Consider When Choosing a Mate

I used to think that the women of my generation were guilty of being non-selective when it came to choosing a mate.  That any warm body that paid us a little attention could end up walking us down the aisle.  After watching my daughter and her girlfriends, newly graduated from college, I see that things haven’t really changed much.

Beyond basic self-esteem issues–and we all share them–the problem for many women, I think, stems from the notion of fairness. If someone is good and kind and has an actual job, it seems ungracious, snooty even, to shrug them off as a prospect. One dinner date leads to a weekend away, and that weekend away leads to moving in. The next thing you know, you’re entrenched, and you’ve got yourself a ring.

But there are lots of fantabulous people out there in the world, AND they are clearly not right for you as a partner.  I mean, how long would Prince William last with Kim Kardashian?

I’ve learned from horrific mistakes that, beyond the obvious deal breakers–like a prison record, and smoking– there are certain personality traits that need some consideration before moving beyond that coffee date and jumping into bed. Because differences in temperament and habit destroy relationships.

1.Energy Level: Someone who runs ultra-marathons, gets 3 hours of sleep a night, and wants to spend weekends at the Vineyard will not understand or appreciate a partner who TiVo’s House and wants to sip cocoa on the couch every night.

2. Messy vs. Neat:  Six months after the blush wears off, little personal habits– say, dropping one’s clothes on the bedroom floor, or, the opposite, insisting on brushing the lint off of one’s jacket before hanging it up– can feel like sand on a peanut butter sandwich to someone else.

3. Detail vs Big Picture:  No matter how cute someone is, if he or she throws all the toppings on a pizza without consideration for symmetry, and this makes you nervous, end of show.

4. Ambition:  If you want to do, be, and have more, you can’t partner with someone who truly believes life couldn’t possibly get much better than status quo.  Accept it. Some people don’t want more. If you want to make partner before 30, beware the contented soul.

5. Common values:  If you’re into the Bible, don’t go marrying a bad boy. If you are proud of your nuclear engineering PhD, the guy who bags your groceries will eventually bore you. What do you value most?   Ask the important questions.

6. Shared Culture:  All people are created equal in the eyes of God, but we are not necessarily the same.  If you are from a nuclear family who saw extended cousins two weeks every other summer, marrying someone from a culture that worships hospitality and the extended clan, that has no understanding of the term “privacy”, well, that will kill you. There’s a reason my Big Fat Greek Wedding was a comedy.

These are the deal-breakers I’ve spotted over the decades, what other qualities do you consider absolutely essential?

Six hours later, she still couldn’t decide. There is a reason the two of us no longer hang out.

Ann Sheybani, 48, is a high altitude mountaineer, ultra-distance runner, and blue water sailor. She is a speaker, coach and author of the popular blog, Things Mama Never Taught Me.  Visit her © 2011 Ann Sheybani

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