When you were young, you used to keep a long list of qualities to look for in a man. You wanted someone who was good-looking, tall, filthy rich, generous with his gifts, flatteries and promises, demonstrative with his feelings for you, adventurous and daring, possessive and protective, and always ready to engage in a brawl to defend you and your honor. You would imagine yourself flaunting him before your relatives and friends, with his arm constantly draped across your shoulders in a proprietorial way, making you the object of people’s admiration and envy.

But, then, you grew up — and with age came maturity.

You realized that all those qualities were flitting and superficial, and were based solely on your immature, romantic — twisted even– notion of what love should be.

You came to understand the importance of taking seriously the pursuit of a great life partner. After all, the man you will marry was to be that person you will have to live with under one roof, the one person you will have to sleep with every night and will wake up to every morning, the one person you will have to stay with until you are both old, wrinkly, toothless and senile, the one person that you will have to make the most important decisions with, and the one person who will be the father of your children and your partner in raising them.

So, you came up with a new list of qualities to look for in a man.

It was still long. But you could declare with pride that, this time around, it was based on a much more mature, insightful and realistic view of what love –true love—should be.

Couple holding hands.
image from



  1. Reliable / Dependable. He should be solid and stable in all aspects, and should be willing and ready to step up each time the need arises. He does not crack easily under pressure or heavy burden, is not needy or clingy or lacking in self-esteem, and neither should he be walking around with lots of emotional baggage with him. He should be my pillar of strength.


  1. Faithful / Committed. He should prove that he is loyal and dedicated, not only to me and our family, but also to his other relationships, his job, his health, his obligations and his word. He should not show any indication that he will cheat on me with the first woman who will give him the come-hither look.


  1. Honest / Decent. He should be a man of integrity who is able to handle himself in a principled and honorable manner. He must be truthful, sincere and candid in all his dealings, most particularly in how he treats me. Yes, truth sometimes hurts, but secrets and lies oftentimes ruin most marriages.


  1. Smart. He should have a quick-witted intelligence and critical thinking skills that will not fail to arouse my interest, and to challenge and keep me on my toes mentally. It is of utmost importance that we be on the same mental wavelength. It would not hurt if he is also street-smart and financially savvy.


  1. Spiritual. He does not have to memorize Bible verses or to go to church every single day. However, he should be God-fearing and must walk in obedience to God. His unwavering faith will get us through the good, and the not so good, times. He should always start and end each day with a prayer of thanks, fully aware that every blessing we enjoy could only come from the Lord. He should also have a forgiving heart.


  1. Hardworking and Motivated. To be a great provider for our family, he should know how to set his priorities straight. He should be patient, diligent and focused. He knows that good things come to those who work hard. He should be willing to sacrifice and go the extra mile for our family.


  1. Witty and Funny. He should know how to find a reason to laugh even amid the darkest and most challenging moments. When the demands of the adult world prove to be overwhelming, he should be able to bring out the children in us. His sense of humor, playfulness and happy demeanor will keep us both afloat and eternally young at heart.


  1. Affectionate. He should be attentive to my needs, sensitive to my moods, appreciative of my efforts, and accepting of my flaws, quirks and imperfections. He would want to spend time with me, is genuinely interested in what’s going on with my life, and is comfortable in sharing with me his thoughts, his convictions, his dreams. He builds me up, and values and supports my opinions and beliefs. He is willing to make compromises. He views me as his partner, his equal and his teammate.


  1. Passionate. He should be enthusiastic about and fired up over his advocacies, intentions and endeavors. Mediocrity should never be in his vocabulary. Even when it comes to our sexual relationship, he should always be sizzling with sexual energy and is not afraid to try new things so as to spark excitement. Boredom in bed can be a deal breaker for some couples. On the other hand, passion ignites the flame that keeps the home fire burning.


  1. Compatible with me. Although it is important that we celebrate and support each other’s individuality, a certain level of compatibility between partners is essential towards a happy and enduring relationship. We should complement each other’s strengths and weaknesses, we should have significant things in common (such as basic values and principles in life), and we should be a good friend to each other as friendship is a solid ground for a future together.


Ultimately, the most consequential ingredients of a blissful, healthy and fulfilling marital relationship are LOVE, TRUST and RESPECT.


The romantic in me, who used to believe in the “…and they lived happily ever after” kind of love, has long retired to give way to the sensible, realistic and more mature me. I realized early on in my marriage that a fairytale romance is nothing more than fiction; it doesn’t exist in the real world. Because in the real world – our world –, the story does not end when Prince Charming saves the princess from the Wicked Stepmother, the Evil Queen, the Dark Fairy, the fire-spitting dragon or what have you, scoops her into his arms and, together, they ride off into the sunset.

In the pages of our own stories, we could be confronted with all kinds of challenges and tests and crises simultaneously strewn along our way. We could get burnt out and knocked down by a multitude of stress-inducing deadlines, heavy loads and pressures at work. We could get sidetracked from our goal of a successful relationship.

So, twenty years into our marriage, my husband and I are still on a constant search for ways to keep our relationship (and sanity) intact.


The following is our personal recipe to a more lasting and harmonious matrimony. Believe me, these could help you suppress that urge to strangle your partner in his sleep and could, thus, save you from a life behind bars!

  1. We take our wedding vows seriously. “I take you to be my husband/wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish until death do us part.” I, for instance, hold his hand when he is suffering from a painful gouty attack. He holds mine when we are at the shopping mall. To prevent me from dashing to the nearest women’s boutique, no doubt!
  1. We accept each other’s imperfections. By doing so, we are able to make reasonable demands and expectations from each other and from our relationship. He knows that I have an allergy to detergents, so we both expect that his Friday nights are devoted solely to a date with our washing machine.
  1. We use terms of endearment. I call him Knee (my own version for the shortened “Honey”) and he calls me Ling. So, during a fight, I’d shout, “Shut up, Knee!” to which he would reply, “Don’t interrupt me while I’m still talking, Ling!” See, we still maintain a modicum of sweetness even during a fight.
  1. We treat one another as each other’s friend, and as such, I try not to murder him even when he drives me nuts. After all, since we intend to grow old together, I still have many years to come up with a perfect plan to execute that without having to suffer the criminal consequences. I am open to suggestions, though.
  1. We believe that a kiss a day keeps the doctors away. A flying kiss does not count, guys. Neither do “Tsup” nor “Mwah” at the end of your text messages!
  1. We don’t call our parents (or our aunts, our brods and sisses or our BFFs) when there’s trouble in paradise. We are tough enough to fight our own battles and mature enough to keep them from escalating into full-blown tribal wars.
  1. We don’t have any qualms showing our mushy side to the entire Facebook world. Take a look at my status update the other day. Eeeew!


  1. We don’t have any qualms showing our fangs, either. Bottling it all up is not good for one’s health, after all. But these occasions are just between the two of us, and not for the consumption of the social media. A little word of advice? Never EVER wash your dirty linens in public.
  1. But if we have to fight, we do so constructively. Moreover, we don’t go to bed with an unresolved issue between us. It’s either we have a pillow fight first or we don’t go to bed at all. (Sleeping on the floor is no fun, but if we have to come to that, well…)
  1. We do stuff together. After locking the kids in their rooms, my husband and I would watch our favorite TV show, share a bag of chips, or gossip about and make fun of someone on social media. If we have more time, we would walk around the ‘hood, have coffee at a nearby cafe, see a movie, or go to the supermarket – for some more chips!
  1. We stay connected with our respective families. Our kids need to see how we love and respect our elders so that when their turn comes, they’ll know what to do. Self-serving, you think? Of course, it is!
  1. We don’t count – each other’s mistakes, unaccomplished chores, shopping items hidden at the back of one’s closet, and the bumps and dents that miraculously appear in the car. We also try not to dig up the past. Digging could be extremely exhausting, don’t you think?
  1. We give each other gifts, particularly during special occasions. My husband knows that I love receiving chocolates, flowers, a bottle of my favorite perfume, AND matching bag and shoes. I know that he loves it when I write him a love letter!
  1. We don’t lose our senses – of humor, of adventure, of duty, and of that one sense that proves to be not so common, after all, the common sense.


  1. We learn from and grow with each other. He tells me what happens to him at work, the lessons he acquired from the training or workshop he just attended, or the traffic condition in EDSA. I share with him the new recipe I stumbled upon on the internet, the article I’m working on, the latest episode of my fave TV show, the new antics that Max (our new puppy) is showing off, or the things I learned from stalking our kids online.
  1. We still lust after each other. Did you know that infrequency of lovemaking could inadvertently put a strain on your relationship? So, we regularly have to unleash that amorous beast and set our bed on fire!