Married life tends to be a lot like the first line of the Charles Dickens novel "A Tale of Two Cities." It starts out: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times." Marriage tends to be like that, sometimes alternating so quickly between the best and the worst that you get metaphorical whiplash from the reversal.

That's why it's so important to have a spouse by your side you can count on. Here are some qualities of a spouse who will stick by you through thick and thin. This could be a good time to ask yourself, "How do I measure up?"

He walks on the street side

In the days of dirt streets and horse-drawn carriages, it was tradition for men to walk on the street side of the sidewalk when walking with a lady in order to protect her from "unpleasantness," according to Modern Gentleman Magazine. Look for a spouse who will do the same emotionally and physically. A spouse should be willing to protect you from unpleasant things, whenever he or she can.

He inspires faith, not doubt

When you plan on spending your life with someone, you'll want more than just kisses and pleasant conversation. In marriage, spouses should be able to turn to each other at their darkest moments and find faith, not doubt.

"When life falls apart, you want someone you can run to, not someone you want to run from,"said Kevin Thompson, lead pastor of Community Bible Church, a multi-site church in Fort Smith, Arkansas, in a blog article. "Life is hard enough; there is no need to make it harder."

He finds out what turns you on

It's not often you'll find someone who puts your own pleasure before his own. There's something extra special about someone who remembers your likes, dislikes, interests and quirks. A great potential spouse knows you love daisies, not roses, that you like wraparound hugs and that you love a kiss on the forehead before you say farewell. Seeing these signs before marriage are good indicators of how he will continue to treat you after the wedding.

He makes mistakes

It would be boring to be married to a perfect person. After all, it's our mistakes that give us opportunities to learn and grow. Marrying someone who makes mistakes - and admits they do - is a good idea because they're more likely to be tolerant and loving when you make your mistakes. And by going through the consequences of those mistakes together, you'll grow closer in love and tenderness.

He is independent

While you should both turn to one another in hard times and enjoy doing many fun things together, a good spouse also knows how to be independent and encourages you to do the same. You should each have your own interests and pursue your own goals, because sometimes just one of you will go through a tough time, whether because of illness, loss of employment, childbirth, etc. In those times, the other spouse will have to pick up the slack. That independence becomes very important because it means that one spouse can operate alone, care for his or her spouse, and keep the family going until the other spouse can contribute again.

He doesn't give 50 percent

If you thought the responsibility of making a marriage work was supposed to be split 50/50, you were wrong. You don't want a spouse who only gives 50 percent of himself; a spouse should dedicate 100 percent of him or herself to the marriage relationship. This means not keeping track of who changes the most diapers or fills the car up with gas most often. It means trying your hardest in every aspect of the marriage, no matter how hard you feel the other person is trying.

He shows respect for your parents

Most people love their own mothers and fathers, but that's because children are programmed that way. The test comes when potential spouses are asked to respect a mom and dad that isn't their own and with whom they might not always agree.

Watch especially how a man treats his mother-in-law (present or future). Whether he loves your mom or not, a potential spouse should always respect her, treating her with the kindness he would show to his own mother. Signs to look for include opening doors, accepting and reciprocating hugs, extending sincere compliments, and holding back from arguing when he disagrees. If he can show love to someone he doesn't have to love, how much more caring will he be for you?

He hopes for the best but plans for the worst

You wouldn't want to spend the rest of your life with someone who acts as though disaster and catastrophe are inevitable. There's enough gloom in life without inventing more to deal with. You'll want to look for a future spouse who is hopeful, optimistic about the future, and able to see what's good in bad circumstances.

However, there's always a balance to be struck between common sense and foolhardiness. A good spouse knows trials come to the happiest of families, so it's good to be prepared financially, physically and emotionally. When the tough times come your way, he or she should be able to weather them stoically because of that preparation.

Relief Foods will also stand by you through hard times. Visit Relief Foods today to find out how to prepare in case the worst should happen.

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