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I was rummaging through the cooler when my husband and I were first introduced at a party. We asked what the other did for a living; we talked about travel; we chatted about Seinfeld, who he had actually just seen perform live earlier that night. 

It was a pretty standard first conversation—except it wasn't. It was the first connection between future man and wife. 

When I asked him later what he had been thinking about that evening he said, "I think I was just excited because you were new and really beautiful." As for me, I knew that night that maybe, just maybe, I had met the man I would spend the rest of my life with.

How could I really know that I would marry this man? Well, I couldn't really know of course. But, as one date turned into the next, that unreliable feeling of destiny slowly began to mature into a joyful acceptance of reality.

With every up and down in our relationship we learned something about one another and ourselves (the good, the bad, and the ugly), and I became more and more certain that my boyfriend was really my future husband. Not by fate, however. By choice.

The truth is, the reason Joe is my husband today is not because "I just knew" that first night we met (which, I guess I did), it was because time after time he showed me that saying "I do" to him would be the easiest choice I would ever have to make. 

Most of the time it wasn't "just knowing" or a feeling of destiny that kept our relationship moving toward marriage; there were in fact very tangible things I could point to that made marrying Joe make perfect sense. Here are some telltale signs that your boyfriend is husband material. 

01. You have problems (and you handle them well).

Marriage researcher Dr. John Gottman says that it's not whether or not a couple has problems that determines the success of their relationship, but rather how they respond to those problems.

My husband and I hit some bumpy patches in our dating relationship for sure, but with each bump my confidence in our ability to face relationship challenges grew. For example, we got good at avoiding criticism and blaming by avoiding "you" statements. Furthermore, we made resolutions to help ensure misunderstandings weren't repeated and we always came away from conflict feeling closer and more understood. It wasn't the problems we faced, but the way we faced them that made me realize that we had something special.

02. You have a great friendship at the core.

Some people poo-poo the importance of friendship in a marriage, but marriage experts indicate that it is one of the most important things. It's not that you have to be best friends with your spouse in the same way you are with a girl friend, but you do need a relationship grounded in mutual respect, caring, play, shared goals, and companionship—which all happen to be traits of a true friendship. 

When Joe and I were dating one of the things I enjoyed the most about our relationship was the friendship. I knew that in him I had all of the essential qualities of a healthy and flourishing friendship. Even now, five months into marriage, I know our friendship has a lot of maturing to do, but with a little time and tending we will see it continue to grow. 

03. You want to learn from each other.

According to marriage researcher Dr. John Gottman men and women who allow the other to influence them have healthier, more positive relationships. What does that mean? It means respecting one another and valuing what the other person brings to the table. 

Valuing the other person, their opinions, and their unique perspectives as a man or woman is an important quality in a healthy relationship. When my husband Joe and I were just dating, I always felt as though my insights were valued and that I had an equal share in decision making as a couple. This made me feel deeply respected as a person, and the more he accepted my influence, the more I desired to seek his. This dynamic is the cornerstone to a fulfilling male/female friendship and makes for a strong marriage. 

04. You can visualize (literally) your future.

I have always felt that a good litmus test for a future husband was whether or not you could picture him as a good father. But I also think that, when deciding if this man is right for you, you should also be able to picture you both parenting together. Can you see each other complementing one another as parents and working as a team? 

I know for me, it was really eye opening to see Joe with his nieces and nephews and with my nieces and nephews too. Not only was he great with kids, but I also liked who we were when changing diapers. When we were together, dealing with parent stuff even for just a few hours, I could see how parenthood can add stress and unpredictability to your relationship. What will it look like when you have to make decisions about how to discipline and what kind of prayers to say at night? In these moments it's important that shared values and a sense of compatibility are there to make parenting decisions—and therefore, your marriage—that much easier. 

05. You really want it to work.

It seems silly to say that really wanting your relationship to turn into marriage is a clue, but it really is! I think people too often find themselves married because it just felt like the next step or they find themselves perseverating over whether or not this is "the one." The question you should ask yourself is whether or not you want to marry this person and why. 

I know for Joe and I, having certain boxes checked, like friendship and shared faith, encouraged our relationship. But at the end of the day, we married one another because we really, really wanted to—not just because it made sense. The truth is, even if you have every box checked, and this person has every husband quality in the world, you will be unhappy unless you really desire marriage and are ready to jump in wholeheartedly with this specific person. 

Photo Credit: Madeline Joy