Build-a-Spouse

I’m sure you’ve heard of “Build a Bear.” If you have children (or, if you’re the romantic type), you have probably even visited “Build a Bear” shop and…well, built a teddy bear for the one you love.  Imagine what it would be like to “build a spouse.” You’d have your budget already set as you walk into a store filled with various traits you can purchase. You’d allocate your finances for the traits you desire in a spouse—a large part of the budget toward those traits you desire most, the deal-breakers, and a small part of the budget toward those traits that are nice but simply not necessary. And, poof…out pops a spouse, built to specification.  Sounds crazy, but….

Researchers at Swansea University actually did this (well, metaphorically speaking, without actually “building” a physical spouse). They gave over 2,700 college students from across the globe (Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Norway, the UK, and Australia) a budget and a list of eight qualities they might like in a spouse. Armed with finances and a list of attributes available, these college students “built a spouse.” The eight attributes included: physical attractiveness, good financial prospects, kindness, humor, chastity, religious involvement, the desire for children, and creativity. (I would have added a few other traits, but I wasn’t creative enough to think of the “build a spouse” study.) Each participant had three opportunities to “build a spouse” based on these attributes: one time on a low budget, one time on a medium budget, and (you guessed it) one time on a high budget. Comparing the choices made on various budgets allowed the researchers to determine traits that participants deemed necessary verses traits deemed a luxury.

Overall, across cultures and genders, kindness received the lion’s share of the budget (22-26%). Physical attraction and good financial prospects were the next two most desired traits. Physical attraction, however, was rated as a “necessity” for men more often than women (22% of the budget for men vs. 16% for women). Good financial prospects were deemed an important trait for women more so than men (18% of the budget for women vs. 12% of the budget for men). Still, neither rated as high as kindness. (For an overview read Kindness is a top priority in a long-term partner.)

Kindness was the number one priority to have in a long-term partner in this study. Chances are, you and your spouse put a high priority on kindness in a spouse, too. So, if you want to have a happy, healthy marriage, practice kindness in your marriage and family. To help you get started, here are 31 Acts of Kindness to Strengthen Your Marriage. (Read the Mighty Power of Kindness for Families to consider how kindness will impact not just your marriage but your family and our world.)

I would have added a few other traits to the list of possibilities for purchase—traits like honesty, trustworthiness, and loyalty. I wonder what would get the lion’s share of the budget then? What traits would you add to your “build-a-spouse” project? What are the most important traits to you in a spouse? Why not spend a little time discussing these qualities with your spouse this week—perhaps over a cup of coffee or a dinner date?  

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