This post was inspired by Dana, who sent me an email that got me thinking about the following questions: to what extent should husband and wife be similar? Which things you absolutely must agree on in order to have a successful married life? Can different points of view actually be an advantage sometimes, and when? And how different is too different?
Of course, as someone who isn't married yet, I understand my view may be somewhat limited – and as always, I appreciate and encourage input from married ladies. Having said this, I will humbly share my thoughts.
I believe that when you are looking for a spouse, it's important to focus on a few basic qualities that will be truly essential for your future marriage. Many people start a relationship based on superficial interests, hobbies that make a good subject for conversation but aren't something you can base your married life upon. Maybe you both like classical art, but that's hardly something to help you understand whether the person you are considering as a future spouse will "rough it" with you through bad times as well as good times.
I think it's essential to choose someone who shares your faith, and preferably more or less the same level of religious observance as well. I know many might disagree with me, giving examples of how this can be worked out, but I'm convinced that as a rule, crucial religious differences will more often than not eventually challenge your relationship, and the likelihood of this happening will increase with your level of adherence to your faith. That's why – apart from the obvious and clear prohibition of intermarriage, of course – I would never consider marrying someone who isn't an Orthodox Jew. Personally, I'm willing to allow some flexibility on the part of religious observance, but when I try to imagine life with someone who wouldn't observe Shabbat, or keep kosher, I can foresee conflicts arising in about every moment of our marriage.
Then comes the matter of personal convictions. I think it's entirely possible to have a good, solid marriage if you have disagreements over some things – and indeed, it's difficult for me to imagine two adults not ever having a disagreement – but I understand there are some things that cannot be compromised. Only you can decide which differences you can live with, and which have a potential of ruining your future marriage. But I would still encourage you to be open-minded and not too picky. Sometimes different opinions can bring a special broadness and richness of mind to your marriage, if you don't allow them to end in an argument. Sometimes, though, it can become a major obstacle.
If you want a personal example, I cannot imagine having a peaceful discussion with a husband who supports abortions in the name of "free choice" (although the part about considering only observant Orthodox Jews pretty much rules this out) – but I'm more than willing to marry someone who isn't vegetarian; in fact, I'm most likely going to marry a carnivore, so I plan to learn cooking meat.
I feel we should be extra careful during the period of courtship, and while we make the decision, because once it is made and you are married, in my eyes there is no walking out (unless we are talking about very, very extreme circumstances). So be reasonable; evaluate all the pros and cons; and above all, be prayerful.