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Q & A Today: Considering a Spouse

Updated: Jan 20, 2022

By Eileen S. Lenson, MSW, ACSW, BCC

Posted on July 19, 2020

Welcome to Q&A Today, a column designed to answer your questions regarding challenges and concerns in everyday life, from family to coping with current events. A popular topic today revolves around the coronavirus. All questions are fair game. Just send me an email with your questions or concerns, and watch for the answer in upcoming editions of the Tasmanian Times. Q&A Today is published on the first and third Sundays of the month. If your question is printed, only your first name will appear in this column.

Q: I’m a parent of two teenage daughters. I overheard them talking about what they are going to look for in their future husbands. My alarm bells went off when I heard comments like ‘rich’ and ‘hunk’ and ‘surfer’. I pointed out that this is no way to choose a husband. But to be quite honest, I find it hard to describe the qualities that make a good spouse. Any suggestions, Eileen? – Ivy

A: Hi Ivy,

You may be surprised by my response, but I wouldn’t worry much at all about what your daughters are saying regarding their checklist for a future husband. You and I know that the size of a husband’s bank account won’t keep him from chronically disappointing them. And that a boyfriend’s dreamy expression or bulging biceps will wear thin on nights when what they really need is a husband to help comfort a sick child, or look under the hood of an overheating car, or be available when they need to confide in someone they trust.

Your girls are responding to something bigger than any of us: human evolution. According to research performed in 2015 in 33 different countries, women tended to add the very same qualities that your daughters selected – looks, status, money – to their ‘gotta have’ list when looking for a husband.

Many may find these findings cringe worthy, considering how much opportunity now exists for women to have choices in their lives and independent control over their destiny. But throughout evolution, women have needed a spouse to help with being cared for during pregnancy and while children are young. It seems to be taking nature a bit longer to catch up with the dramatically different world today, in which your daughters live.

Financial security and good looks are nice to have. But so much more important is solidness in character. It is character that will be forefront when it comes to trustworthiness, which is a most critical part of the foundation of a solid relationship.

People tend to show us their character, but we often don’t accept or know how to understand what we are seeing. Or we choose to turn our head from the glaring facts.

We all know that love can be blind. We need to see things as they are, not as we wish them to be. These oversights, unfortunately, contribute to a number of divorces.

Long ago I had a client, Kate, who was falling in love with both men she was dating, whom I’ll call Rob and Bob. She started to imagine herself as being married and thought that she could be happy with either man.

And then a most interesting event occurred. Her elderly neighbour’s husband had recently died, leaving his widow overwhelmed with the numerous decisions required to organise her life without him. Compassionately, Kate told the neighbour that she would commit Sunday to helping her get organised.

Rob called early Sunday morning and suggested they go for a bike ride that day. The weather was perfect and he offered to bring a picnic for the two of them. She explained her commitment to help her neighbour. Rob suggested Kate cancel her plans and reschedule the neighbour for the following weekend. Kate declined Rob’s suggestion.

A short time later Kate’s phone rang. This time it was Bob. He also was inviting her out for the day. Kate repeated her situation. Bob suggested that he come over and assist her and the neighbour. She consented. Over the course of the day she noticed that Bob was compassionate and helpful with the elderly woman.

Two equally nice men. Two prospective husbands. But a window into how she could expect to be treated in either marriage, and how each would prioritise her needs in challenging times, was evident. From that day going forward Kate dated only Bob. They married the following year.

For your daughters to ‘find their Bob‘, I suggest you encourage them to be curious about the guys they date, and judge them more than by just their outer superficial layer. In other words, they should treat their dates like an onion.

Onions have many layers. The fun and entertaining person at the party, or the guy who makes their heart miss a beat are examples of the onion’s outer layer. Your daughters would do well to peer beneath this outer layer, much as we would an onion. It will help them see the other person’s true values and core sense of being. This is what will play a large role in determining your daughters’ happiness in marriage.

This can be accomplished by encouraging your daughters to be curious when they see something both positive and negative in their boyfriends. This is not about looking for perfection in the other person. None of us is perfect. Rather, it’s about determining shared values that are integral to long and healthy relationships.

You are a very wise and loving mother to have these conversations with your daughters at this stage of their lives. By doing so you are empowering them to be able to make a good choice in one of the most important decisions of their lives.

Wishing you well,


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