With so many young friends in their 20’s, a frequent topic of discussion is what to look for in a potential spouse. Since Tim and I have been married for 34 years, we appear to have the answer for this mysterious question. While we are still very much in the growing and learning stage, we can contribute some valuable insight to this extremely important quest.
After years of being married and working on a healthy marriage, I have come to some conclusions. For me to think of my marriage as healthy and worthy of celebrating, I want to have a relationship where Tim feels that he is better because he is married to me. I need to know that I am an improved version of myself because I am married to Tim. This is something to ruminate on as we go through the daily experience of marriage. It should be a team thing. My big idea is that we are better together than alone. Actually, I think that was God’s idea, not mine!
Marriage IS God’s idea!! Home is God’s idea!! Intimacy is God’s idea!! God created the uniqueness of man and woman in the Garden of Eden. He created complimentary partners to live a life together supporting one another and raising children. So much can be learned by attentiveness to all that the Bible has to say about marriage.
I love the verse in Deuteronomy that suggests a one year honeymoon. Just leave it to God to direct at man to be free to stay at home and bring happiness to the wife he has married.
- “If a man has recently married, he must not be sent to war or have any other duty laid on him. For one year he is to be free to stay at home and bring happiness to the wife he has married.” Deut 24: 5
How about the verse in Genesis where God sees that loneliness is not good for man, so he made him a helper? God knew just what Adam lacked.
- “Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.'” Gen 2:18
If you are looking for a book of the Bible that contains some passages that will cause you to blush, read some of Song of Solomon. This book validates the insanely beautiful gift of marriage, oneness and intimacy in marriage. This verse expresses the completion of a search by use of the word, “found.”
- “I have found the one whom my soul loves.” Song of Solomon 3: 4
Let me start by saying that just by asking this question, an inquirer shows wisdom. Searching for a person to partner with to make a life is extremely complicated. Knowing what you are looking for is a great place to start. As Christ followers, we believe that the most important decision in life is to accept Christ as your Savior. The second most important decision in life is to select a life partner. In exploring this topic, the following ten areas offer valuable considerations.
- Make a Wish List. – Now set it aside. Come back to it tomorrow. Edit it. Now with the list in hand look in the mirror. Say each item out loud. Ask yourself if you are those things. The point is the be the person that you want to marry.
- Where to Look for a Spouse – This factor will strongly determine what you find when you are looking for a spouse. If you are frequenting a bar, you may find people looking for a hookup more that a life partner. If I was looking, I would look in a church community, in a volunteer group, a recommendation from someone who knows and loves me, in a common sport or potentially within my wider community of friends. My best suggestion is to do what you love to do best. When you are living an active social life, you might just find a great person right beside you. I imagine that really awesome people volunteer and do local and international missions. All these are great places for potential connection.
- Common Ground – While obvious, this area is frequently overlooked. It seems reasonable that the more things you have in common, the less you will have as differences. Read that again. What areas could you have in common? Are you a Christ follower? Do you attend church regularly? Is your faith just a Sunday morning thing or would you like to read the Bible with your spouse? What is important to you? Faith? Type of church you attend? Culture? You could be from the same part of the country. You could be from the same ethnic group. You could be from the city or the suburbs or the country. What other things could you have in common? School experience? College? Military Service? Social economic background? Lived in one place? Always moved around? Are you an introvert who likes to stay home or to yourself? Are you an extravert who would like to have people in weekly? You see how this line of thought can develop.
- Red Flags – Whether you are at the beginning of your search or boast a veteran status, I know you understand a red flag. At times you might be checking off your boxes as you enjoy knowing someone only to discover that there is an area that you know is not going to work. It could be a benign feature that is just in conflict with your determined needs. Or it could be serious like your date holding your arm so roughly that it causes bruises. Or the person is consistently late. Or you recognize that they live a heavy debt filled lifestyle and you are a debt free person. If you see a red flag, have enough sense to walk away kindly.
- Boundaries – Boundaries are so important in a relationship with your date or potential spouse. My dad emphasized that I was dating someone’s son or potential husband. My sons were encouraged to think of a potential spouse as someone’s daughter and someone’s future wife. When placed in this type of context, it created a barrier of protection in my relationships. I had a sense that if I liked them well enough to date, that I should be careful to keep things clean so we could possibly remain friends for a lifetime. While this might seem extreme, let me say that it worked. Tim can meet any of the fellows that I dated because there is nothing to hide. They are very sharp fellows so I am glad he has met several of them. Boundaries can be physical or emotional.
- What You See is What You Get – Simply put, don’t marry someone projecting that they will change once you have invested in them. You need to know that what you love about them now is likely going to be what you continue to like about them. What drives you a little crazy now will make you really nutty later.
- You Marry the Family – Extended family can be an asset or a curse. A great deal of this is what you make it. If you are spending time getting to know someone, be intentional to meet the family. Speak well of them to others and to your potential mate. They are family. They will talk. Be sure what you say is repeatable in a way that is favorable to you. These are the people who will be at birthday parties, Thanksgiving and Christmas. For even more thoughts on in-laws, check out a part 1 and 2 podcast on Are you IN or OUT with your In-laws?
- Lifestyle Compatibility – This is simple. What do you like to do outside of work? Do you come home from work and head out for a run? Do you like to watch hours of screen time or cuddle up with your special someone and a book? Do you enjoy having a houseful of guests and meaningful conversation? Would you choose to do yard work and house projects first on a Saturday or would you choose to play first and then work? Do you both sing together? Tim and I love to sing together. From before we married we both loved photography, music, entertaining in our home, serving at church and eating ice cream. Recently, we have added podcasting and pottery to our growing list of things in common. Create your own lifestyle ideas.
- Premarital Counseling – Invest in your marriage with six months of counseling before your marriage and six months afterwards. When aiming to build a marriage for a lifetime, this seems like a minute training period. Many couples find that they unload a “trunk load of junk” in these sessions. Selecting the pastor that marries you or a trustworthy pastor will guide you into a more realistic and thoughtful early marriage. Weddings cost an average of $30,000 or more. Be sure to select counseling as you marriage insurance before you establish too many of the wedding details. Consider pre premarital counseling before committing to an engagement. Think of marriage as an amazing lifetime journey. Gather the virtual tools you need for success.
- Identify Patterns of Loyalty, Discretion and Respect – Lastly, when you are hunting a teammate, you need to find one that has your back. Thankfully, Tim came with great habits of loyalty, discretion and respect. So many problems that I see in marriage, in extended families and in relationships of all kinds have to do with a lack of loyalty, a loose undisciplined tongue and dishonor. If you cannot expect these things from the person who shares your bed, I would not share a bed. If I was not these things, I would fail to protect my husband and our marriage. A lack in these areas is unbelievably common. A wagging, gossip filled tongue is a sure marker of destruction. (“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Eph 4:29, “Sin is not ended by multiplying words, but the prudent hold their tongues.” Proverbs 10: 19, “Set a guard over my mouth, LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips.” Ps 141:3) Avoid bad manners and disrespect prominent with a deficit of these qualities.
If you dream of marriage, take some time to do some serious research. Whenever you are around someone who is married, ask them if they would share any marriage advice? What do they love best about their spouse? What do they wish they had known about marriage before they got married? What are some of the things they have done right that they would definitely advise you to do? What do they think you should be looking for or looking out for in your search? These 10 tips ought to give you a starting point for a quality hunt. Key for a successful outcome is to spend time with God asking Him to show you the right person, what to look for and how to be the person you need to be in order accomplish your dreams.
Remember on your search that you are looking for a teammate. Apply some of these ten tips for a better outcome in this God ordained journey of a lifetime called marriage.
Join us for a conversation on this topic at Embrace Your Everyday.
Books on HOME and FAMILY
Hum of the Home: Routines and Rhythms of Homemaking
Nurturing My Nest: Intentional Homebuilding and Custom Built Education
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