Sheryl Sandberg recently said, "the most important career choice you'll make is who you marry." Choosing the right spouse is bigger than that. It's the most important life choice that you'll make.
The other day I consoled a friend whose marriage is falling apart. Fights about money. Separate vacations. Restricted bank accounts. Drinking on the sly. Bad stuff.
At the same time, there's been lots of talk about the pros and the cons of getting married in your early 20's. For me, marrying in my early 20's would have been disastrous. [Several sentences about my dating history prior to the age of 30 were just deleted.] There might be a greater dating pool in college and it might make career sense to start a family in your 20's and get it out of the way, but a person isn't quite cooked until they hit 30. Or at least, I wasn't.
So, how should you pick a good mate?
The basic priorities have to be the same. Is the priority going to be career advancement, family, material goodies, religion, extreme sports? You can't have it all in life, and you need to pick someone who wants basically the same stuff that you do. If need a stable life where the bills are paid regularly and there is always a quart of milk in the fridge, don't marry a guy whose priority is drinking in dive bars in the East Village.
But after you get the deal breakers out of the way, there is a lot of room for choices. It helps to have certain things in common and to have the definition of fun. For example, Steve and I both like food, so we eat well together. We watch Game of Thrones and dream about vacations that we'll take when the kids are older. Because we met in grad school, we were already very similar types of people. But those things aren't deal breakers. People can grow to like their partners' interests or at least, put up with their weird obsessions with electronic music or orchids.
You also have to do the right things to maintain the marriage. Surround yourself with people who have a good marriage. If your friends are a mess, you'll be a mess. Be kind to each other. Laugh at the other's jokes. Take the time to have fun. Trust each other. Talk during dinner.
Well, now I feel very old and boring. But boring works. Boring is much better than fights about money. Separate vacations. Restricted bank accounts. Drinking on the sly. Bad stuff. My advice is to be boring, but have lots of laughs, too.