My experience of finding the man I was called to marry was different than the steps you’re taking, so let me just share and you can take what’s helpful and leave what’s not.
I have been led to believe, through my own experience, that we are not called to marriage in the abstract. That is, while each of us might think while we’re single that God is calling us to marriage eventually, we don’t fully discern a vocation to marriage until we are discerning marriage to a particular person. To me, it seems a bit backwards to pray, ask God if He’s calling me to marriage, think that the answer is yes, and then make a list of qualities I’m looking for in a spouse and “go searching”.
I’m not advocating having a bunch of relationships, but being in a relationship with someone is an important part of discerning marriage. For me I was in a relationship with one person and it led to marriage, not because we’re totally compatible and were 100% ready when we met (we weren’t), but because we committed ourselves to one another, grew together, and discerned a call from God that we were to spend our lives together.
A vocation is just not something one discerns without a particular person in mind, either to marriage or to the religious life. A man or woman is not even admitted as a postulant or novice or seminarian without first applying to a specific order or diocese and going through a discernment process with that order. Men and women discerning a call to the religious life will often tell you that they feel called to a particular order, spirituality, or community. The same goes for the vocation to marriage, it is a call to a particular person. Marriage involves a very personal love of another human being.
We may feel pulled to one particular vocation over the other, but all of us are called to openness to both marriage and the religious life, and we can only know for sure in which direction we should go when we experience a relationship with one or the other and discern that God is calling us to deepen that relationship. While we were dating, my husband began to feel called to investigate the priesthood more. He did, going on a discernment retreat with a specific order. When he returned from the retreat, he told me he had realized even more that he was called to me and to serve God in his life with me. He did not feel a similar call to the order with which he had discerned.
This post is probably not an answer you were looking to hear, but honestly it is very difficult for me to think of qualities one should have before “looking for” a spouse. Some people are totally unprepared for marriage when they meet the person who will be their future spouse, but by the grace of God they grow into the person they need to be in order to marry.
Every relationship is different, and God will bring a person into your life when you have some of the qualities that will enable you to build a fruitful relationship with that person, if that is His will. Even being in a relationship with them will change you in ways you could never imagine. This is good and to be expected, as one of the goals of marriage is to purify our spouses and transform them for heaven. It’s not a static relationship of two people who are fully ready in every way.
There are some things that I could suggest as a “bare minimum” in order to be ready to be in a romantic relationship with someone at all. An active prayer life, self-knowledge (meaning knowing what you stand for, what you believe, how you approach life, what your future goals are), flexibility (being able to accommodate another person’s quirks, living habits, and different ways of communicating, and being open to changing your own beliefs and ways of living as appropriate), emotional stability…These are all important qualities for anyone seeking a deeper relationship with others or thinking about making a lifelong commitment of any kind.
In the end, relationships are about commitment. Love is an act of the will, after all. If you are ready to commit to another person and are willing to love unconditionally, you’re ready to begin the tumultuous journey towards marriage.