Q: I'm struggling with knowing if a guy is a "good guy" or not. My family says I'm too picky when it comes to dating. Can you tell me the qualities I should be looking for in a man?
Juli: There are two sides to this question. Marriage is a lifelong commitment, and you should consider very carefully the man you want to share your life with.
On the other hand, many young men and women never commit to marriage because they are looking for the perfect "soul mate." If you believe you've found the perfect guy, look again, because he doesn't exist.
The question you asked about what "qualities" to look for is right on. There are some qualities that are essential to building a strong marriage. Here's my list:
* A teachable spirit. You want to marry a man who is willing to grow. How does he respond to feedback? Is he defensive or does he want to learn? Is he honest about his struggles?
* A shared faith. There are many things in marriage that can be solved by compromise. Faith is not one of them. Your faith and beliefs define how you view morality, children, forgiveness and the purpose of life.
* Integrity. Marriage is built on trust. You only want to marry a man who is trustworthy and who understands the value of honesty and keeping his word.
* Kindness. Marriage is the most vulnerable relationship in the world. In the crucible of sharing life together, you want a man who cares about protecting and guarding your feelings. As a young man, he may not always be perfectly sensitive, but does he display a kind heart to you and to others?
As you look for "husband material," remember to also work toward becoming a potential wife. Cultivate your own teachable spirit, grow in your faith, and become a woman of integrity and kindness.
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Q: In the early days of our marriage, my husband was kind and thoughtful, but recently he's become verbally and physically abusive and has actually hit me on several occasions. Can anything be done to save our relationship?
Jim: My heart goes out to you at this terrible news. No man has the right to hit his wife. No wife deserves to receive this kind of treatment at the hands of a man who promised to love and cherish her.
Physical abuse is a criminal offense. I implore you to seek the help of a pastor, social worker or women's shelter. If the violence continues, it may be necessary to call 911 or to remove yourself from the situation.
Once you've put some distance between yourself and the threat of further harm, you can begin to move in the direction of possibly saving your marriage.
Your first priority is to listen to your instincts for self-preservation. Let your husband know that you want the marriage to work, but that you're no longer willing to endure mistreatment and abuse. He needs to understand that you cannot move forward in this relationship until the two of you have sought professional help together.
If he's unwilling to do that, see a counselor on your own. In some situations, individual counseling may be advisable for a period of time before beginning the process of joint counseling.
Please contact Focus on the Family (focusonthefamily.com) to speak with a member of our counseling team, and to get a referral to a certified counselor in your area who can help you on a long-term basis. May God grant you grace and strength as you face this difficult situation.
Jim Daly is president of Focus on the Family, host of the "Focus on the Family" radio program, and a husband and father of two. Dr. Juli Slattery is a licensed psychologist, co-host of "Focus on the Family," author of several books, and a wife and mother of three.