Often, in the pursuit of love, we get so caught up trying to find the right person, that we end up losing ourselves.
But just as important as it is to find someone who has the qualities we want, it’s important to take some time to look inward, making sure that we are meeting the very standards we are looking for in a partner.
After all, if you’re going to have a “list” of qualities you want in a partner, then you should also have a corresponding list of qualities you want to exhibit. It seems obvious, but too often, we hold higher expectations for a potential spouse than for ourselves.
So what does it take to become “marriage material”? Here are a few characteristics to consider. Obviously, these are qualities we should continue to strive for long after we’re married—and it’s not like we’ll master them 100 percent of the time—but the process starts now, as we ask God to shape us into who He wants us to be.
Root Yourself in Faith
There is nothing more vital to the lifeline of a healthy person than being rooted in relationship with Jesus. Through this relationship, we learn what it means to really love, and we are enabled to pour that same kind of love into our romantic relationships, as well.
Don’t ever neglect your faith through the process of dating, because it’s the most important aspect to achieving a rich and meaningful love life.
Take Time to Look Inward
The only way to know what you want is to know who you are.
Self-awareness is such a crucial aspect to being ready for a healthy and long-lasting relationship, because you are 50 percent of your future relationship. Knowing your strengths, your weakness, your struggles, your talents and your flaws has everything to do with the health of your future relationship—because healthy people attract healthy relationships.
Become “marriage material” by taking the time to look inward. Deal with your baggage, and strive to become the best version of yourself.
Deal With Your Insecurities
It is said that a person’s level of security and confidence is actually more attractive to the opposite sex than their physical appearance. A person of confidence knows their value is not rooted in their relationship status, but rather, their identity in Christ. People of confidence are enabled to love out of their desire to give, rather than simply out of their desire to get.
Work on Growing in Integrity
Honesty, loyalty, respect, purity—living a life of integrity means we resolve to develop the qualities of godliness in our lives.
Integrity is something that begins long before we’ve entered a relationship, and it has everything to do with how we act and interact with the people God has placed in our lives here and now.
Take Responsibility for Your Life
From how you deal with your finances to how well you keep your word—and everything in-between—being ready for marriage means you take responsibility for your life.
To put it simply, part of getting ready for marriage means growing up. And “growing up” has nothing to do with your age. It’s one thing to keep a childlike sense of wonder and adventure, but we live in a culture that allows us to remain children for far too long, never asking us to plan ahead or set goals, blaming everyone else instead of owning up to our life choices and responsibilities.
Recognize your role in your life and in your relationships by learning to grow up and take action. When you are responsible with your life, you will also be responsible with your spouse’s heart.
Learn to Commit
We live in a generation that’s frequently afraid of commitment. From choosing a career to making plans for a Friday night, our culture tends to live paralyzed by fear rather than take steps of faith and move into action.
Take a look at your life and ask yourself this: what has been your track record when it comes to the area of commitment? What fears, insecurities and anxieties have been holding you back from living your life and making commitments? To become ready for marriage, it’s important to be a person that’s driven by faith, not by fear.
Develop Significant Friendships
A person who is marriage material recognizes that there is so much value in relationships—above and beyond romantic ones. Healthy people have learned the art of making deep friendships, learning from wise mentors and discipling those who are in need of direction.
One way to know how someone will engage in a romantic relationship is by taking a look at how they interact with the people in their lives.
Are your significant relationships marked by drama and conflict or by communication and respect? Work on nourishing the relationships that God has given you here and now in order to prepare yourself for life-long love.
Build Healthy Habits
Believe it or not, all the things you struggle with as a single, you will likely continue to struggle with in your marriage. So there’s no better time to better yourself than before marriage.
God’s word reminds us that one of the fruits of the Spirit is self-control. What are the areas of your life that are in need of some self-control? Your spending habits? Your emotional world? Your sexual struggles? Your leisure activities? How are you spending the precious minutes of your life, and are you building habits that will benefit your future marriage or hang-ups that will poison it?
Learn to Communicate in Healthy Ways
The truth is, marriage is a life-long conversation. But so many of us go into it without any knowledge of how to converse or manage conflict. We hold our feelings in, give the cold shoulder or spew venomous words when we’re angry and upset. We don’t know how to recognize our feelings, much less share them with someone else.
But learning how to communicate in a healthy way is essential for all areas of life, especially marriage. What is your communication bent? Are you a passive, aggressive or assertive communicator? Are you superficial in your conversation, or do you have the skills to go deep?
Here’s the thing about having a healthy marriage: It starts long before the marriage begins.
As you’re thinking through the high standards you have for a potential spouse, take inventory of your life and ask yourself if you’re learning and growing in the qualities you have on your “list.” Ask God to grow and mature you in faith and other areas, regardless of your relationship status.
Editor’s Note: This article was adapted from a post at TrueLoveDates.com with the author’s permission.
Debra is a Licensed Professional Counselor, relationship expert, speaker and author of several books, including True Love Dates. Debra is also the creator of the popular relationship advice blog TrueLoveDates.com, reaching millions of people with the message that healthy people make healthy relationships. Connect with her on Facebook or Twitter.