This principle may sound like a no-brainer, but you would be surprised at the large percentage of singles who have the attitude that says, "I just want to get married, and once I've got my man (or woman), then we'll work things out." Lonely and worried they'll never marry, many singles are so intent on getting to "I do" that they don't invest the necessary time and effort to make a great decision. Most of the failed marriages I have encountered were in trouble the day they began.
But before you swear off marriage completely, be aware that recent research offers great news for singles: A number of studies show that premarital variables can predict which couples will do well and which will not with 80 to 94 percent accuracy. This means you can know in advance if you and your potential mate have a much-better-than-average chance of succeeding in marriage.
Think about it: You don't have to wonder, hope, and believe that you'll have a happy, lasting marriage; you can be very close to knowing it with certainty. And the secret to success begins first and foremost with your choice of whom to marry.
Let me offer what I believe are the four most important factors for choosing a great life partner:
Dr. Neil Warren is a psychologist, popular speaker and the founder of eharmony.com based in Pasadena, Calif. His best-sellingbooks include "Finding the Love of Your Life" and "How to Know if Someone IsWorth Pursuing in Two Dates or Less."
In 75 to 80 percent of all marriages that eventually end in divorce or separation, at least one of the partners suffers from an emotional health deficiency. Usually, this problem has haunted them for years, long before they got married. I'm so convinced of this that I tell people that no marriage can ever be healthier than the emotional health of the least healthy partner.
The fact is, personality or behavioral problems will not vanish when you get married. If there are qualities about your partner's personality or behavior that you question-such as jealousy, temper, irresponsibility, dishonesty, or stubbornness-ask yourself if you are willing to spend the rest of your life dealing with these problems. Obviously, if the person you are considering has a drug or drinking problem or trouble with sexual integrity, you should make absolutely sure that he or she has worked through the problem well in advance of your marriage.
2. Look for someone who is a lot like you. For couples, similarities are like money in the bank, and differences are like debts they owe. Suppose you received two bank statements in the mail today, one showing the amount of money in your savings account, the other showing the charges on your credit card. If you have a large savings account and little debt, you're in a position of strength and you can weather economic storms. If a financial crisis arises, you have the means to handle it.
If you want to make a marriage work with someone who is very different from you in background, you will need a large number of similarities in values as permanent equity in your account. That's because every difference you have requires negotiation and adaptation. One of you has to give a lot, or both of you have to give some. In either case there is a need for plenty of change and energy for negotiations. If couples are unwilling to bend and adjust, they'll experience regular flashes of resentment and frustration. But even if you make the necessary changes, you will still experience the kind of stress that comes whenever significant change is required. If there are too many differences, you may not be able to survive all the strain involved in adapting to each other.