A man and woman embrace

Are they a keeper? 20 questions to ask yourself

So, you’ve been on a few dates with someone, or have started a relationship, and it’s going well – there’s good chemistry, you seem to get along, and you’re feeling hopeful that they’re a keeper. But how can you tell if someone has real potential as a partner?

‘I don’t trust my judgement anymore, HopefulGirl,’ one reader told me. ‘I’ve made mistakes, misread people and ended up in horrible relationships.’ Most of us have been there. I’ve certainly dated individuals who I really clicked with and believed had good character – only to later discover that we were wildly unsuited, or they weren’t who I thought they were.

Of course, the only way to really know if someone is a serious prospect is to give it time. You have to live through a few seasons together to tell if you’re compatible. And we all show our best sides in the early stages of a romance – it’s only over time that true character emerges. However, experts say there are things to look for when considering whether someone is marriage material, in terms of both character and compatibility. Of course, you also need to be practising these qualities yourself if you want a successful relationship…

1. Do they keep their word? When they say they’ll do something, can you rely on them to follow through? If they’re flaky now, don’t expect them to become reliable later.

2. Are they kind? Consideration and kindness are the qualities that sustain a marriage, especially when life is difficult. Without them, relationships become cold and unhappy.

3. Can you be yourself around them? We all strive to show our best side at the start of a romance, but ultimately, if you can’t relax and be your true self with your spouse, you’ll never be comfortable in the marriage.

4. Do they prioritise time with you? Relationships require quality time and investment, which may mean reprioritising how you spend your time. If they’re always fitting you into the ‘gaps’ of their life, it’s a bad sign of things to come.

5. Do you share core values? Having different strengths and weaknesses can give a partnership balance. However, it’s important to share core beliefs, moral convictions, even politics, or you may lose trust and respect for each other.

6. Do they put themselves out for others? Real life involves responsibility and doing tasks we don’t necessarily want to. If they commit to things like helping out at church, volunteering, looking after elderly relatives or supporting friends, even when it’s a sacrifice, it’s a good sign that they’ll take on the heavy lifting required in marriage and family life.

7. Do they always tell the truth? A healthy partnership requires honesty, even when it’s difficult or uncomfortable. Don’t ignore ‘little’ lies just because they don’t have much impact now – if they’ll lie about small things, they’ll lie about big things.

8. Do they encourage you to be your best self? Love means wanting your partner to reach their full potential. They should encourage you to keep up hobbies and interests you love, and to pursue your career, ministry or other life ambitions.

9. Are they controlling? It may seem flattering if someone wants to be in contact with you 24/7, but if they never give you space, don’t support you in maintaining strong relationships with family and friends, or discourage your independence, it’s a red flag for controlling or even dangerous behaviour. If you see signs of manipulation or unmanaged anger, run for the hills.

10. Do they apologise? No one is perfect – we all fail and make bad decisions. Being able to apologise sincerely and make amends is essential in marriage.

11. Do they forgive? Holding onto resentment is toxic in a relationship. Once sincere apologies have been made and accepted, they need to be able to forgive and forget.

12. Are they willing to compromise? A relationship between two people involves give and take. Do they make concessions without becoming resentful?

13. Are your life goals in sync? Even if you love each other, wanting different things in life means one or both of you may end up disappointed and resentful. You need to agree on big life decisions, such as whether to have children (and how many), how to raise them, where to live, career goals, ministry plans and money management.

14. Do they respect you as an equal? In a healthy relationship, partners are equals. And while we may not always agree with our other half, mutual respect is a cornerstone of a successful marriage.

15. Can they deal with conflict and disagreement? Working through the tough stuff without stonewalling, becoming self-righteous or defensive, or turning away from your spouse are essential for a marriage to thrive.

16. Are they interested in your life? Paying attention to how your partner feels, what they think, and the things they value is a core component in a happy relationship.

17. Are they following God? If you want God to be central in your marriage, your other half needs to be singing from the same hymn sheet. Not literally – spouses from different church traditions can make strong couples – but observing how they live out their faith will give you a glimpse of your future with them.

18. Are they hard working? If you’re a grafter, while they prefer to laze around entertaining themselves, it doesn’t bode well for the future. You both need to be putting in the effort and pulling together.

19. Are they self-aware? Being able to recognise and admit to mistakes and weaknesses, and being keen to improve as a person, makes for a healthy partner.

20. Do your friends and family approve? While you ultimately have to make your own decisions in life, the people who know and love you can often see things about your relationship that you can’t.

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