Finding Mr. Perf … er, Mr. Right for Me
Whether or not we're seriously thinking about marriage yet (oftentimes biology tests get in the way of wedding planning) it's good for us to be aware of the important things to look for in a future spouse.
I was listening to a Christian counseling program on the radio the other day — yes, I enjoy hearing about other people's weird problems. A woman called in asking for advice about finding a spouse — she said she couldn't figure out what she was doing wrong. "Well, what are your standards and expectations for a husband?" the host asked.
It turned out she had a list of around 100 criteria for a guy she would seriously consider for marriage — 100! Imagine her chances of actually meeting a guy who even comes close to her ideal! Considering that some of her requirements were contradictions, I'd say her chances are pretty close to nil.
Now, while I realize a list that detailed is overkill, it got me wondering what traits I should be looking for. I've always had a vague list in my head, but I've never really thought through the details.
There are numerous traits the Bible instructs us to look for in a future spouse — someone that we'll likely be spending the rest of our lives with.
You Already Know Trait #1 …
He has to be a Christian — and not only in label, but someone who is seeking to walk as Jesus walked. In 2 Corinthians 6:14-15 Paul instructs us, "Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For … [w]hat does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?" There are no ifs, ands or buts about it.
When we confessed Jesus as Lord of our lives, we became "a new creation" (2 Corinthians 5:17). We switched from a self-centered life to a God-centered life. As one RBC Ministries booklet puts it, our acceptance of Christ "should have a profound impact on our priorities, our goals, our lifestyles, and our relationships"1 so that they are no longer compatible with those of a non-believer, no matter how much we may "click" in other ways.
I can't count the number of times I've had a guy walk into one of my classes, slouch down in his chair, and with a little laugh half complain, half brag that he's "so tired" because he got drunk the night before. What a winner!
I start looking at a guy's character as soon as I'm even mildly interested in him — it's what makes me either like him more or wonder how I ever could've found him attractive. Character qualities are a great indicator of one's desire to become more like Christ. It's crucial to take a close look at a guy's heart. Justifying not-so-great traits — or simply a lack of good traits — in someone you really like is easy. "But he's so great most of the time," we rationalize. "You just don't know him like I do."
However, if there's one place that we don't want to overlook someone's bad side, it's in the dating relationship. We have to put aside our reasons to settle:
- But we've been together so long!
- I'm afraid he's the only guy who'll ever want me.
- I won't ever find someone better.
- If I don't marry him, I'll end up 50 years-old, single, and quite possibly start adopting cats until I become a crazed cat lady.
(OK, so that last one is a little extreme, but worry can conjure up some pretty unlikely situations.)
Although marriage may be a ways off for most of us, there are some things to keep in mind when considering a dating relationship. In his article, "Seven Keys to Lifelong Love," Dr. James Dobson reminds us that, "the dating relationship is designed to conceal information, not reveal it. Both partners put on their best faces for the one they seek to attract. They guard secrets that might be a turn-off. Therefore, many newlyweds get a big surprise during the first year of married life." He recommends that you have a close relationship (friendship or dating) for at least a year before considering marriage in order to "get beyond the facade and into the inner character of the person."
So what should we look for? Scripture mentions numerous character traits God values (such as the fruits of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22-23). Proverbs emphasizes that a godly man is a man of wisdom — that is, he has good judgment, is understanding, is constantly seeking God and working to live according to God's character.2
Although it's sometimes a tough issue for us women to deal with, the Bible says that God has called men to be the "head" of the marriage partnership.
It will be his responsibility to take care of your family's needs and to lead your family spiritually. It's important to consider whether or not he has the qualities and maturity necessary to do all these things — to be a leader — and yet not become egotistical or take advantage of his power. Is he a guy that you can honestly look forward to following?
Communication is how we stay connected; it's what makes for closeness, understanding, and "younity." When people say that they've "grown apart," it's because somewhere along the line they quit communicating with each other. Make sure you can both safely share thoughts and emotions, and that you're able to address problems and frustrations with calmness and rationality, rather than avoid problems or get into a fight.
However, we females need to understand that communicating well — especially in the area of emotions — is something most guys struggle with. Some guys are willing to work on this, and some don't see it as a problem. It's hard to accept, but often a guy can't and won't ever be what you want him to. It's best to assume that the way and amount that he communicates now is how it's going to stay, so make sure that you can handle it if he's the silent type.
His Family: How we treat family says a lot. Watch how he treats his mom — it's probably how he'll eventually treat you. The exception is if he's too tied to Mom. I've seen enough Dr. Phil episodes to know that marrying a guy who's afraid to stand up to his mom — or simply won't for one reason or another — is asking for conflict. The Bible says that when a man marries he's to separate from his family and unite with his wife (Genesis 2:24).
Your Family: It's important to consider what your family thinks of him and why. If their disapproval isn't based on biblical reasons, then it's less vital for you to take into consideration. However, if your parents disapprove for other reasons, be willing to hear them out — without interrupting or getting defensive. Even as adults we are called to honor our parents — to respect them and their opinions.
For most of us, our parents really do want what's best for us. Christians or not, truly consider what they have to say about the guy and your relationship. As we all know from watching others' mistakes, people outside a relationship often see things those in it don't. Try to be patient and understand their point of view. As hard as it is to admit, parents are often right in the end.
What It All Comes Down To
Besides our decision to follow Christ, who we marry is one of — if not the — most important decisions we'll ever make. Take dating relationships slowly. (Too often, we undervalue good guy-girl friendships.) Ask God to reveal to you whether or not you're supposed to be with a certain guy. Pray that He make obvious any "red flags." God loves us and wants our best. Study scripture — God has given us the Bible so we'll know Him and what He values.
While it's normal to worry about never marrying, God explicitly tells us that marriage is good, and that it's His plan for the majority of us. As hard as it is, it's our job to trust God to provide for the future — including providing a spouse, if that's His plan.
What are some of the traits you think are important to look for in your dating relationships?
Our assignment as we begin to think about marriage and seek out a partner is to continue growing in Christ, focus on building friendships with guys, and patiently trust God to work out His plan in our lives. While we seek a mate, we should continue to seek God even harder. Christ is always our number one priority.