How Do You Pick a Really Good Husband?

I came upon my wedding picture recently, taken June 7th, 1980.  My husband Randy and I were 23 years old.  Thirty-five years ago we knew nothing much except we loved each other.  But looking at this young bride, I gave her kudos for one thing.  She knew how to select a mate.  To that end, I have 8 thoughts for any women out there not sure if their guy is husband material…   

#1 — Pick a funny man – This is important.  The first time I met Randy we were 19 and sitting in our college cafeteria.  He made me laugh…a lot.  That was my first impression of him.  Almost 40 years later, he still makes me laugh… a lot.  He’s always the funniest guy in the room.  You’ll need this sense of humor.  It will sweeten the good times and soften the bad.       
#2 — Pick a sweet man– The first time Randy arrived for a date he gave me a little bouquet of yellow chrysanthemums.  Decades later I still can’t see or smell these blooms without thinking of that day.  Even now, Randy still brings me flowers.  He knows how much I love having a fresh bouquet in my Connecticut kitchen.  I love that he does that.

#3 — Pick a man who loves music – Our marriage has always had a great soundtrack.  In college we’d drive around listening to Steely Dan’s “Aja” and the Who’s “Quadrophenia.”  Over the years Randy has filled my life with music he not only plays on his bass, but has turned me onto – Hendrix, Zappa, punk in the 80’s, Grunge in the 90’s, Outkast in the 2000’s, and of course, always (sound of heavenly choir) the Beatles.     

#4 — Pick a smart man – One of the things I love about our marriage is the snappy dialogue.  Sometimes we’re Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant in “Bringing Up Baby” all fun, witty banter.  Other times we’re Ralph and Alice Kramden from “The Honeymooners,” fast zingers and deadpan sarcasm.  Sometimes the dialogue is from “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolff,” with George and Martha’s high, toxic melodrama.  Whatever our mood and circumstance, we always have interesting conversations and that keeps life intriguing.

#5 — Pick a good man– While I can be prickly and snarky, Randy always takes the high road.  He sees the best in people.  He never holds a grudge. He’s sympathetic.  He treats everyone with dignity and respect.  From the Chairman of the Board to the taxi driver, Randy wants to know everyone’s story and could strike up a conversation with a mailbox.  I wish I had his openness. I’m working on it.

#6 — Pick a strong man —For the past 35 years Randy’s risen countless mornings and gone to his corporate job with aching joints and a body that doesn’t always feel great.  Some years he’s taken 100 business flights in every kind of weather.  I’m always awed by his toughness and the skill needed to provide for a family year after year. What a great example to our two sons.  What a great example to me.

#7 — Pick a passionate man – I’m not just talking the boudoir, although that’s also nice.  But Randy has many other interests like music, wine, and alas…collecting.  Anyone who’s read this blog knows my frustration enthusiasm when it comes to the newspaper, baseball card, political memorabilia, and coin collections.  Oh well.  Randy loves life.  What can I say?  Things could be worse.  He could enjoy amassing snakes or antique surgical equipment.   

#8 — Pick a good father – This is most important. A man can be many things, but if he’s not a good Dad, that’s a problem.  I knew Randy would be a good father by the way he treated our first cat Floyd. (Full disclosure: I adopted Floyd to jumpstart Randy into wanting kids.  It worked like a charm). I saw how much he loved this goofy feline and knew he’d be an affectionate, loving, patient father.  I was right.   

And that’s the list.  That’s what you look for in a husband.  I got lucky and I know it.  I found my best friend early in life and we got married and somehow kept it together.  Life isn’t perfect, but it’s always beautiful. 

Did I miss anything? What makes your marriage work?

This post was also published in The Motherish, an Australian website.


  1. I love this! When I was a young single woman I read a book about finding Mr. Right. I made a list of all the qualities I'd want in a mate and "sense of humor" was right there at the top. My #2 was that there had to be a bells and whistles sort of attraction. I definitely scored with my top 2! And I've always found that if someone has a good sense of humor, most of the other items on the list are met as well. A good humored person is usually intelligent and thoughtful and just someone you want to be around. Congratulations to you and Randy!

  2. I'm with you on all counts. My husband and I were married at 23, which even we will admit is too young for most folks. His ability to always take the high road, his laugh, and the little kindnesses are a huge part of why our marriage works. That and my ability to pick up his shoes.

  3. Anonymous

    This is cute. I just celebrated my 2nd anniversary last Friday and my husband is all of these things. Sometimes it is scary with failing marriages around you and we are such an improbable couple. We would fail all of those "compatibility" tests. But after 2 years and a baby, I wouldn't change a thing.

  4. Anonymous

    I liked this column but how do you know ahead of time, if a prospective partner has those qualities? You don't…not definitively anyway…So you were really wise and also, lucky…I am happy for you both in your marriage and in the fact you found each other.

  5. Anonymous

    The self-congratulation here passed EMETIC light years back. Just FYI, Ms Stone: the twenty-three year old bride knew about as much as most twenty-three year olds know, which is nothing–and the fact that she *happens* still to be with a man she fell in love with at that age has nothing to do with 'knowing how to pick a mate' and everything to do with blind luck. It's nice that you're still married–but do stop flattering yourself.

  6. Gosh, this was meant to flatter my husband more than anything. You're right. Its mostly blind luck. I got lucky finding someone so young. I'm the first to admit that.

  7. Anonymous

    It is blind luck, along with two strong commitments to the relationship. Life happens, circumstances change and some relationships don't survive. My marriage ended around the 30-year mark due to my spouse's increasingly obvious mental illness, along with a steadfast unwillingness to acknowledge and address it. Still single. Be happy; make good choices

  8. I'm sorry about your spouse's mental illness. I know what a tough road that can be with a loved one. You're right. Life goes on whether single or married. Happiness can be found in any circumstance.

  9. Laurie, I came to your blog from a comment you left on the Wedding Toast article at the NYTimes. I'm so glad I did. My husband and I are marriage and family counselors and we do not often see marriages that last past the 15 year mark. Your story is truly uplifting. You made wise choices and married the man who showed himself to be a close companion with good character, and the rest is history.

  10. Thank you so much, Colleen. I think most of it was luck. At the ripe old age of 23, I believed he was the right guy. The rest as you say is history, plus more luck, plus lots of work! Thanks for reading.

  11. Mike

    I wish more women would take your advice! I'm 38 years old and single and I am everything on this list (fortunately, humble wasn't one of the qualities listed) and I have had such a hard time finding a mate. My last serious relationship was with a divorced woman wit h a toddler and I was the best step-dad to her child. Yet still she left me for a man 14 years younger than me (and 11 years younger than her). And other than her I've had no luck finding anyone else.

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