The other day, I was talking with my English composition class about the importance of identifying their criteria of evaluation in working on their upcoming “write a review” assignment. I pointed out that in our everyday lives, we’re constantly doing evaluations based on some sort of criteria. “For instance, if you’re going to choose a life partner,” I asked them, “what qualities would you look for?”
My students had lots of good ideas: someone who would have a good sense of humor, make a good parent, and oh yeah, hopefully have a decent job.
I thought about my own husband and realized I could check all those boxes. I married someone who makes me laugh every day, is a devoted father, and has held decent jobs.
While all those qualities have contributed to a very happy marriage (especially the humor part!), I have to say what has been most important is that my husband has always put me and our relationship first in his life. I’ve been his priority, just as he’s been mine. And astonishingly, he seems to find my foibles endearing rather than aggravating (well, most of the time).
All in all, I know I really lucked out. I have a dear friend who hasn’t been so fortunate. Devoted to his long term partner of more than a decade, he’s often lamented to me, “I love her so much, but I’m about seventh on her priority list.” The needs of her extended family come way before his and even appear to come before the children they share. Determined to persevere and hold his family together, my friend hangs on, year after year. Yet I know he’s frustrated and unhappy.
It’s not my place to offer my college students advice on picking a partner. But if any of them ever ask me, my advice will be simple: “Pick the one who puts you first, and whom you unhesitatingly put first.” There’s simply no substitute for being unconditionally loving, supportive best friends—the kind who prioritize one another.