If we could only choose one thing to look for, it ought to be their capacity for curiosity.
That's right. That simple.
In the end you'll find that curiosity didn't "kill the cat." It saved the marriage - likely through the wisdom to recognize its presence as early as the first date.
Curious Dates Make Great Mates
Think about it. If you were only interested in a casual, fun flirtation - or sex - it's a bad investment to be with a person who is not curious about you, about themselves, or about people in general. It would be a boring connection - dispassionate, stilted lovers instead of meaningful intimacy promising better things to come. They wouldn't tend to enquire about your dreams, desires, and all that makes you feel alive. If the trait of curiosity is not there at the beginning, it's not likely going to get much better than this, ever. Even if it was only one date you invested in, that's one more wasted day lost from your life.
If you were looking just to befriend a person platonically, you would still likely be spending more time, energy, and other resources on them than you get back in the relationship... if they are not a curious person. They wouldn't tend to enquire what your needs, tastes and preferences are, and likely wouldn't spontaneously communicate their own. It's hard to keep up a friendship with a person whom you don't really know, and even more likely that you are going to argue, compete, and not see eye-to-eye on the very issues that cause people to enter friendships in the first place. All because you couldn't get to an emotionally intimate knowledge of each other from the get-go.
If you were considering being exclusive, having them as a boyfriend, girlfriend or spouse, or perhaps you're already in a commitment, it's a big, big problem if they are not a curious person.
There are several reasons, and they all peg to some specific working parts of the psyche, gender instincts, and character. In fact, these things will reveal to you a fair degree of what is likely to happen between you in both the near future and the long-term future.
What would it be like to be predictive about some likely future situations with a man or woman in just about any area of conflict? From the potential for betrayal, to financial challenges, management of friendships and family, health crises, and child-rearing, crossing all the most difficult divides between a man and a woman begins with the capacity to be curious.
The Self Psychologists long ago began to address the condition called pathological narcissism. This is a person with a lot of emotional maturing to do, in which they exhibit selfishness, poor boundaries, destructive attitudes and behaviors toward others, and in the realm of friendship and love, tend to fall far short of being mature, fit partners to others.
There have been quite a few pop psychology books on the subject of narcissism and its connection to "codependence," likening this condition to being like an "emotional vampire" - someone who drains the energy of romantic partners in the same way that rearing a difficult child can be exhausting to parents, leaving them emotionally spent.
Still, in matters of the heart, it is hard for logic to ever reign supreme. It is a common thing for many today to do the illogical thing - to stay with a bad relationship even though it drains your energy, to keep dating a "Bad-boy" even though he is destructive, to stay married to an entitled woman who is costly, both financially and spiritually.
We say to ourselves, "Well, they say they love me. They must love me."
We notice we still desire them even though we fight.
We find they are a devoted parent to our child even though we never even talk about our sexual needs or preferences anymore.
Then we confuse words with emotions, then emotions with romantic fitness as a partner.
Then desire, lust, love, friendship, maturity (outgrowing narcissism), and committed partnership are confused with each other.
We then just don't know what to do anymore.
It all started harmlessly - long before the "emotional involvement," the man and woman simply engaged in idle conversation. Words that led to a romance.
How about taming the illogical passions, the vague hues of emotion, and the ambivalence of a committed partnership under duress - with the cold, hard intellectual trait of curiosity.
The opposite of curiosity is the state of being judgmental or prejudiced, which while features of one's intellectual style - our communication habits, our words - are no less narcissistic than the emotional neediness or abusiveness of others.
The judgmental, the prejudiced, are intellectually narcissistic - your clue that as you intertwine lives over time, they will be emotionally narcissistic too.
Usually, we adhere to the old wise saying warning us to "judge others by their actions, not words." In the case of assessing mature curiosity versus being judgmental, the reverse may be far more useful:
Know people through curious words, not passionate actions.
Prejudice and Being Judgmental
With a person who does not have a natural sense of curiosity, you are likely to see that:
1.) They don't care to learn much about what makes you tick, what makes you passionate about your life's goals, or what you need to feel happy, self-determining, and growing.
2.) They don't have much understanding about themselves either, and fail to grow at the same rate as you. You're moving through life together in body, but not at all in spirit.
3.) Due to 1 and 2, they will not be a very good lovers - clumsy, unsatisfying, selfish, or all the above.
4.) Because of their lack of insight, they'll fail to be teammates with you toward goals you can't live without.
5.) Therefore diminishing your psychological and material resources over time, both for your career goals, and in your ongoing security in the knowledge that, yes, you are still attractive to the opposite sex in general. And so, you're tired, and "let yourself go..."
6.) ...which lowers your sense of masculinity or femininity progressively over time...
7.) ...and also causes them to lose interest and attraction for you, even as you feel less happy and less passionate about life, needing them (or a mate in general) more than ever.
8.) Causing them to either break up with you (leaving you with less joi de vive and less resources than ever), or causes you to cheat on them in kind, and probably beating up on yourself about it on top of it all.
All the while, you could have screened them for the gift of a curious mind - salve for the wounds of misunderstanding, catalyst for the absolute relationship necessity of compromise, and fuel for the engine that drives all relationships to last: collaboration.
The uncurious - the judgmental, the prejudiced - do not understand, collaborate, or compromise.
Being a Curious Date or Mate
When you find a person who has the natural and cultivated character trait called curiosity, here is what you can reliably predict for the future, whether you are talking only about casual dating, friendship, or exclusivity:
1.) They will really care about who you are, what you love, and why.
2.) They will have the curiosity to investigate how that fits into their lives, and how your life stories can weave together efficiently, lovingly, and with great success and satisfaction.
3.) They will invest in you - at least up to, but often more than the degree to which you invest in them (rather than it being a one-way deal that drains you dry.)
4.) This benefits your life, not just in feeling loved, but in your career efforts actually being amplified, even if they don't directly participate in your career or know what it is like to perform. You just know they "get it," and "get you." Better still - you know they benefit from all you do too, because it actually matters to them, personally.
5.) As a result, you feel more alive, because of the relationship.
6.) This causes you to feel more attractive, and are in fact more attracted back to them.
7.) Your sex life together gets better, not worse. You both feel more loyal, and therefore secure, feeling as if you are growing because of each other.
8.) When disagreement and challenges arise, you both know you are a good team at handling that, collaborate out of curiosity - even in the face of unhappiness or displeasure - and compromise out of curiosity. You are both curious people - puzzle solvers who can still get pleasure out of the intellectual challenge of human behavior, and in spite of having conflicting emotions or passionate arguments.
9.) Problems resolve, and you find yourselves even stronger, wiser, and more knowledgeable about each other, simply because you are both curious people, and people who make a great team.
What a difference!
It all started with screening for maturity. Growing better and better because of each other's personality style, I cover at www.kwml.com, and the stages of courtship - the desire, friendship and mature partnership phases, I cover at www.menspsychology.com for men and www.womenshappiness.com for women.
If you were to bother to ask some questions early on in dating, you might save years or a lifetime of mistakes.
One of those would be, "What do you think of...X?"
Another is, "How do you feel about...Y?"
And finally, "What would you like to do about...Z?"
If you are met with no response, a vague, thoughtless response, "I don't know," or have no further, deep, rich discussion on it, then chances are you are not with a curious person.
Which by default, as we've covered, is likely also a judgmental or prejudiced person.
Just wait and see. It will matter.
No, better not wait and see. Move on from that one.
But when you find a person with a curious intellect about the world, it doesn't matter whether their looks were everything you had in mind in your fantasies, their surface charm is alluring, or they have all the fame and fortune in the world.
They have the one trait that makes nearly everything else in the love of a lifetime possible.