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‘Charm or Character’…. What matters more in choosing a mate?

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Choosing a life partner is perhaps the biggest decision anyone of us will arguably have to make, outside of choosing to accept Jesus Christ as Saviour. Most people have some sort of rough outline of what they are looking for in a partner. Some even have a detailed “list” of traits, abilities, and characteristics. These usually include various physical attributes, intelligence levels, and personality quirks. Most of these are deemed important to the individual doing the qualifying.{{more}} But are they really important to the success of a relationship over time?

I have had the opportunity on many occasions to speak to persons who were in the contemplative stages of a relationship; and one of the things that stood out glaringly was the term “desire”. The idea that having a desire to be with someone meant therefore that you loved the person enough to be with them in a relationship. One of the things I have always tried to impress upon persons is that “desire” does not equate to “love.” The thing that drives you to be in a relationship would determine the level of precision, depth and consideration taken to choose your partner.

Let me illustrate how deceptive the world’s definition of “love” can be. Picture a young couple who has been dating for a few weeks. It isn’t long before this young man tells his girlfriend how much he loves her and how difficult it is to keep his hands off her. Pressing her to engage in a physical relationship, he explains that he “loves her so much” he can no longer restrain himself. The truth is, any young woman who hears that line should realize that the young man doesn’t love her too much… he loves her too little.

Charm versus Character:

In an article by Anna Moore (2011), “Relationships: Beware of the charming man”; she reported on a story where charm turned quickly into terror. She wrote: “Confident, charismatic, successful – he seems like the perfect catch; but once he’s ‘snared’ you, the charm is switched off and your life changes for ever…”

The story was further told of how Malcolm Webster was found guilty of murdering his wife Claire Morris in Aberdeen in 1994 and attempting to murder his second wife, Felicity Drumm in 1999. Malcolm Webster was a charming man, as described by the investigating officers. Like any Hollywood movie, he approached women with all the proverbial guns and roses. Within eight months of marriage, he sedated his wife…placed her comatose body in the passenger seat of their car, drove to a remote location and set the car ablaze, causing her death.

Yes, this may seem as an overly extreme case of misjudgment and the consequence thereof. But how many of us have been found guilty, being totally carried away by all the flashes and sweet words, allowing us to become blind to the inconsistencies in behaviour, blinded to the deeper defining traits of his or her personality?

I would think that these are the days, when we have to revert to the words of Percy Sledge, “Take time to know her (him).” Examine what it is that you truly want in the person you are in a relationship with. What are the defining characteristics?

For each person, these may vary, but there are some fundamental character traits I would like to suggest for your consideration.

o Make sure your partner is a person of character: men and women of character are trustworthy in all they do and have an appetite for what is right. They will keep their word, no matter what the cost.

o Make sure your partner is kind to others: if you don’t see your partner treat others with kindness and grace, in time he or she will be treating you the same way.

o Make sure to note the way your partner dresses: this may seem trivial to many especially in our present society. I’m not saying women should wear oversized unattractive clothes to cover herself. I’m just saying the modest things she wears reveal a lot about her heart. And for men, his presentation says a lot about how he values himself.

o Make sure your partner treats his or her parents with honour and respect: I have never yet met a young person who is truly successful or blessed who doesn’t love his or her parents.

o Make sure your partner is respected by others: choose a good reputation over great riches, for being held in high esteem “is better than having silver or gold.” (Proverbs 22:1, NLT).

o Make sure your partner is not flirtatious: a person’s actions and looks speak volumes.

o Make sure you understand the true priorities of your partner’s life.

o Make sure you know whom your partner’s close friends are: “Do not be misled. ‘Bad company corrupts good character.’” (1 Corinthians 15:33, NIV).

o Make sure your partner is conscientious and has self-control.

“Character is power”… Booker T Washington

Dr Miller is Health Psychologist at the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital.

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