He identifies 29 areas and says in the best marriages, the partners are highly compatible in nearly all of them – 24 or 25 anyway. Of course, having ‘one of the best marriages’ is not for everybody. That is to say, great marriages are rare. (But we do all want to be among that select group that have them!) And of course commitment is the most important factor. But finding the love of your life, your soul-mate (or in Spanish, media naranja, 'orange half'!) is largely a matter of choosing well, he says. So, he recommends really knowing who you are and what you are like and only giving yourself to someone who is a lot like you in those key areas.
He also urges readers to make sure they know each other very, very well, and probably to spend a long time getting to that point.
Most of the things he identifies, like intelligence, or ambition, education, sense of humor – are neutral. Do you laugh at the same things? It’s just a matter of being similar, being compatible, whatever you are. If you hook up with someone who thinks and values very different things than you do, especially in areas in which people don’t tend to change much, it'll be hard.
And of course most of us have some areas that are really important to us and others that are not. For example, it’s a bigger deal to me that my partner have the same spiritual worldview as I do than it is that he has the same level of interest in sports or arts, or sees politics the same way. The author gives a list of 16 things which he calls core personal dimensions – areas in which people may change, but not much – as well as six skills or qualities one can develop.
There are seven dimensions, though, which the author identifies as screening dimensions. If you and/or someone you’re interested in don’t have these things under control, you really shouldn’t be thinking about getting married. So, the fact that you both, say, come from massively dysfunctional family environments and haven’t dealt much with how it’s affected you, you shouldn’t say, oh good, we have that in common. Nope; you should get out!
I’m not sure I agree with the author on every point; one does see his prejudices. But I want to take his challenge and research seriously. And darn it, I saw some things that might describe =me= in several of his ‘screening dimensions.’ The list includes:
- Good character (honesty, integrity, morality)
- Quality self-conception (emotionally healthy enough to love others well)
- [Freedom from] addictive behavior (as well as self-control and discipline in a larger sense)
- [Patterns of healthy] anger management (willingness to enter into conflict and ability to deal with conflict well)
- [Freedom from] obstreperousness (mood swings, harshness, being impossible to please)
Am I a bit obstreperous? Yeah, I think I am, and this could be a problem! Particularly in a relationship with someone (perhaps weak or vulnerable in some of the other dimensions?) who really wants a patient, forgiving woman whom he’s confident won’t be harsh or critical with him. I can be sweet and gentle, but I also seem to have sharp teeth and claws, too! Can anything be done about that? Or should I just accept a certain level of obstreperousness within myself and look for someone who =wants= a tiger?!
I guess I’m still trying to figure out what it means to be committed to personal growth without going down a path that is actually contrary to being who God made me to be. Or to put it another way, I want to strive to be the best person I can be, without striving to be the kind of person I can’t or shouldn’t be! And what that might look like still seems pretty mysterious. I wish I were a simpler person – that I knew with greater confidence who I am, what I need, and what I have to offer, but perhaps these things are slowly becoming more clear.
The question of how to prepare myself for marriage is one of great interest to me at present, because right now I'm feeling that I’ve just about had it with singleness. I know, that’s probably not a good-enough reason to marry someone. But if there are things disqualifying me from being a good marriage partner I want to see them clearly – and if possible, to work on those things – so that as much as it’s up to me I can be in a position to say yes if or when the opportunity presents itself.