Linda Lewis Griffith

The 5 C's of good partners

We teach our children algebra, literature and chemistry. Yet we offer no instruction in a topic that has far greater implications on the ultimate success of youngsters’ lives: picking the right marital partner.

Many of us devote more thought to the purchase of a new pair of shoes than we do to our future spouses.

Dating is often viewed through romantic, idealized lenses. We seek someone who “makes me laugh,” “likes long walks on the beach,” or “turns me on.”

In reality, marriage is like a business.

It’s the union of two people with varying skills and roles who combine forces for the purpose of creating a family unit. That family will be involved in such diverse activities as buying a house, raising children, engaging in recreation, and funding a retirement plan. To that end, it’s imperative to find a partner who can perform his or her duties and contribute to the functioning of the family system.

Attraction is one component of a successful union. But it is only one factor in the selection process. Equally vital are the personal components that comprise a good mate.

The 5 C’s are the minimal requirement that a person should possess if he or she is to be considered marriage material.

Not all of the qualifications will be obvious on the first date. Careful observation will reveal them pretty quickly. If you notice one is glaringly absent, end the relationship ASAP. It’s unnecessarily heart-wrenching to grow attached to someone who isn’t a good choice.

The 5 C's of good partners


Character is the underlying system of merit and goodness that defines your prospective mate.

People manifest sound character by being honest, dependable, trustworthy, kind. Dates don’t demonstrate good character if they cheat, steal, break the law, become violent, threaten harm, or intimidate those around them.

A simple test for determining character is asking, “Is this a good person? Do people enjoy being with him or her?” If you get no for an answer, then look for someone new.


Career is an excellent indication of overall functioning.

People involved in an appropriate career and progressing at a suitable rate show that they’re stable and focused and that they can follow through with a plan.

Those who consistently fail to find work or who continually work in low-level jobs are demonstrating lack of internal direction.

They’re also unable to take care of themselves — a key component to being a functioning adult.

If potential candidates are still in school, they should be taking their studies seriously and have a realistic plan for their lives outside the classroom.

Clean and sober

Substance abuse wreaks havoc on a marriage. It’s best to avoid the problem at all costs. Steer clear of dates who drink or smoke pot excessively. Never go out with someone who is impaired by drugs or alcohol. Not sure how much is too much? Listen to your conscience. If you’re concerned about your girlfriend’s drinking or you’re constantly nagging your party-lovin’ boyfriend, then you’re involved with someone whose habits concern you. Don’t rationalize their actions. Don’t get into arguments about which one of you is right.

Find another partner with similar values. You’ll save yourself a lot of pain.


Commitment is unwavering devotion to another’s well-being.

It’s placing your loved one’s welfare ahead of your own. It’s being clear that your relationship takes top priority in your life.

Committed partners demonstrate their devotion in their words (“I want to spend my life with you”) and deeds (i.e. checking with a girlfriend’s plans before scheduling a conflicting event).

People don’t show commitment when they express views such as, “I’m just not ready to settle down,” when they flirt with other people, or when they don’t seem interested in the relationship.

Each of those is an in-your-face indication that it’s time to send this one packing.


Our families tell a lot about who we are.

They indicate genetic predispositions toward certain health conditions such as obesity or mental illness. They also let us know if there’s a history of divorce, violence or trouble with the law.

It’s wise to pay special attention to your beau’s same-gender parent. Notice how your boyfriend’s dad treats his wife. Pay attention to the relationship your girlfriend’s mother has with her kids.

Of course, the correlation isn’t perfect. But it’s the best chance you have of peering into the future and learning who your prospective mate will be.

Even if your boyfriend despises his father and vows to chart a radically different course, his genetics and environment may prevail.

The 5 C’s are meant to be guidelines. They’re certainly not cast in stone.

I’ve known enduring relationships between partners who didn’t have every C.

You may want to expand on the criteria, and require that your spouse practices your faith or enjoys a favorite pastime.

Still, these are one more tool for separating relational wheat from chaff. In this area, we can use all the help we can get.