What personality trait should you seek in a spouse?

From Barking up the Wrong Tree, What personality trait should you seek in a spouse?

While previous research points to a central role of neuroticism, our findings suggest that conscientiousness is the trait most broadly associated with marital satisfaction in this sample of long-wed couples.

But what the heck does conscientiousness mean? Let’s check wikipedia:

Conscientiousness is the trait of being painstaking and careful, or the quality of acting according to the dictates of one’s conscience. It includes such elements as self-discipline, carefulness, thoroughness, organization, deliberation (the tendency to think carefully before acting), and need for achievement. It is an aspect of what has traditionally been called character. Conscientious individuals are generally hard working and reliable. When taken to an extreme, they may also be workaholics, perfectionists, and compulsive in their behavior. People who are low on conscientiousness are not necessarily lazy or immoral, but they tend to be more laid back, less goal oriented, and less driven by success.

Conscientiousness = Character. So when evaluating whether to marry someone, it is useful to observe how s/he treats people, not just you. Are they honest? Loyal? How do they act when the going gets tough? Do their long-time friends and family seem to think highly of them? Those are things to look out for.

Pay attention to what they do. That’s who a person really is.



Filed under Dating, Marriage

9 responses to “What personality trait should you seek in a spouse?

  1. JW

    “Conscientiousness = Character.”

    That made me cringe. It’s one part of it, sure, but it is not the *same as* character.

    It also bothers me that this damn trait — conscientiousness — is what both employers and spouses want. Relationships need to be unlike employment if I am going to want to take part in one.

    Also, a question: To what extent is this a rational vs. emotional evaluation? Are you actively observing a male’s behavior and consciously adding up or subtracting merit points? Or is this more like *it feels like* this is a conscientious dude?

  2. Anna

    Hmm, would you marry someone who was unreliable, who lied and who didn’t care about doing the right thing? Why would you want to employ someone like that, let alone get married to them? To me, marrying someone high in conscientiousness means marrying someone emotionally mature; an adult.

    I think the evaluation is both rational and emotive. If you don’t rationally perceive that a person is unconscientious (which may happen if you are blinded by eros), I think your feelings will be screaming at you that something is wrong. Not that we always listen to our gut…

    • JW

      Interesting. But I don’t like that comparison either. Conscientiousness may be *part of* emotional maturity, but I think you’re giving this term more emphasis and meaning than I would. Conscientiousness to me means attention to detail, doing the little things you’re supposed to do and doing them reliably. Basically it means being good at fulfilling duties. It’s a nice trait, but I’d value things like honesty and thoughtfulness and sensitivity and interestingness over that.

      • Anna

        You realize that I am not saying that conscientiousness/character it is the only important attribute for a marriage to be successful, right? Just that it’s important for long-term success.

        • JW

          Yeah but even to call it one of the most important traits makes relationships sound job-y. It may be true, but it’s not something that sits well with me.

      • Anna

        I have a post coming up that you might like better, but I still think that you wouldn’t much like being married to someone low in conscientiousness (or bad character).

  3. Pingback: Conscientiousness is not enough | Datingwise

  4. It seems that the problem here is that you two are using different definitions for the word “conscientious.”

  5. Pingback: Semi-unsolicited advice | Datingwise

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