Michael Goodman, a BYU religion professor, told his Education Week group on Thursday afternoon that he was confident that he could eliminate 90 to 95 percent of all fear around selecting a potential mate.
Goodman said to the group congregated on Thursday of BYU’s Education week that traits of desirable mates should be split into two categories: personality traits and character traits. Personality traits can be both good and bad. Goodman called personality traits amoral. He said that one could be witty and intelligent and also critical and sarcastic. Goodman then defined character traits as deeper, formative and decidedly moral.
The character traits that are decidedly good are based on eternal principles of the gospel. Goodman then cited a list of character trait “essentials” that Elder Richard G. Scott presented in the April 1999 Annual General Conference: deep love and dedication to God and the commandments, magnanimity, selflessness and dedication to raising children in a Christ-centered home.
“When you look for these things (character traits), you will drop the likelihood of marrying a ‘Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde’ significantly,” Goodman said.
Personality traits are important, Goodman said, but gave a means of assessing personality traits to determine a trait’s importance.
A trait is either necessary or sufficient. A trait is necessary when it is required in some way, but provides insufficient reason to seriously consider courtship or marriage. A trait is sufficient if it presents something that is a truly good enough reason to prompt going forward with a more serious relationship. Further, sufficient traits are most likely deep characteristic traits and are always good.
Goodman gave the example of the personality traits of being steady and sensible as having a bad side. Being steady and sensible could also lead a person to be dull and boring. Because they are what he called amoral, they are necessary but not sufficient. A sufficient trait would include something that is decidedly moral, such as kindness to others.
“Elder Holland said to never give your heart to or waste your time on someone who isn’t kind,” Goodman said. Goodman then told the group that two studies released earlier this year found that “niceness” were the top reason for successful long-term relationships, one study claiming it was number one and the other claiming it was number two.
Timing and time are the keys to determining one’s characteristic traits, according to Goodman. While he doesn’t think the “four season” rule is absolutely true (that one should be with their significant other for all four seasons before deciding to marry them), he said he believes that one needs to see another in several different circumstances and emotional states to before they make the decision to marry.
“Dating life is largely fantasy,” Goodman said. “We need to see them (potential partners) in several temperaments.”
He also said that giving the right amount of time allows one to see behind another’s actions, into formative motivations. This is particularly relevant to LDS singles. According to Goodman, eventually one is able to see the true motivations of another in attending church or performing other religious action.
This doesn’t take a clear-cut amount of time. It can take a long time, or it can take a relatively brief amount time. What is important, Goodman said, is that one take sufficient time to see a person in several different circumstances.