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Dating Advice #27 - Is Kindness the Key?

May 8, 2009 | by Rosie Einhorn, L.C.S.W. and Sherry Zimmerman, J.D., M.Sc.

When formulating a checklist of what to look for in a partner, is the one quality of "kindness" enough?

Dear Rosie & Sherry,

I understand the importance of thinking about life goals for oneself, but I'm not sure where Judaism states that it is necessary in a marriage. I have read a number of articles on line as well as the book "The Death of Cupid" ( enjoyed them all very much, but I am curious as to what happened to the three criteria in a marriage being: kindhearted, kindhearted, kindhearted. Isn't that more important than all the goal-talking in the world? Won't that enable each person to accomplish what they can if they have another half who is doing his or her all to encourage them, and vice versa?

Shira of West Orange, NJ

Dear Shira,

You're right that there are certain qualities that each partner in a marriage should possess. Being kindhearted is only one of these qualities. Other characteristics go into making a person a "mensch" -- i.e. a functional, moral, caring, responsible human being. Some ingredients of a mensch are self-esteem, consideration for others, compassion, ability to give-and-take, flexibility, a sense of humor, being a functional person, generosity of spirit, and ability to grow as a person. Kindness is of course a big part of this, too.

However, it's not enough for two people to have fine personality traits. Their marriage will not work well if their goals are not compatible (notice that we didn't say "similar"). For example, she wants to travel constantly and change cities as often as one changes motor oil, while he prefers the stability of a single-family house in a small town. Or he's content to live hand-to-mouth with few possessions, and she wants an upper-middle-class lifestyle. Or she wants to be a corporate whiz-kid whose job will require constant travel and 70-hour work-weeks, and he wants a family life where both parents play an active role in their children's lives.

Can you see how these couples will have difficulty enjoying the type of ideal marriage you envision -- even if kindness abounds?

Compatible goals will make it easier for you and your future husband to give each other the mutual support and encouragement you need to draw closer together and keep your marriage healthy.

Rosie & Sherry

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