I have a lot of single readers on the blog (and I’m so glad you’re here!), and recently a woman wrote in wondering if she was being too picky.
Her letter is long, but it’s an important one. She writes:
I’m nearly 26 and have never dated anyone. Sure I’ve had a lot of great male friends, and men who have been interested in me, but nothing ever amounted to much (I really want the man to take the initiative otherwise I know, because of my personality I’ll just end up leading the whole thing, and I just really don’t want that to happen). I would love to get married one day, but I by no means feel desperate or like I need to be in a relationship to be “complete”.
I am content with where God has me and following His lead into the ministry work that I am invested in, even if that means I’m single for longer than I would like. Recently I decided to write up a list of my standards and hopes for what I’m looking for in a spouse (so that my ideas were not just up in my head somewhere). Going through this list, these are the same things I hold myself to as well (at least the female version of it). It is divided into two sections… the things that I really want in a husband, and the things that would be a great bonus. Are my standards and hopes too high? Is it ridiculous to make up a list like this?
• A man who loves Jesus more than anything else
• A man who inspires me in my walk with God and other people
• A man who I can see myself growing old and dying with
• A man who is honorable in both word and deed
• A man who is a strong leader and able to lead his family well
• A man who is humble and teachable – able to submit to the leaders over him
• A man who takes the whole Bible seriously and seeks to walk like Jesus
• A man with a similar theological & political perspective to me
• A man who is selfless and desires to die to his “old self”
• A man who would just be a really great Dad
• A man who would love, honor, respect and cherish me ‘till death does us part
• A man with gifts & abilities that compliment mine – we bring out the best in each other
• A man who loves and gets along well with his family and my family
• A man with initiative & motivation who is a hard worker with a servant’s heart
• A man I can always learn and grow with
• A man who is faithful who I can trust
• A man who I can laugh and cry with
The Bonus Point Section
o A man who is “manly” and I’m attracted to
o A man who enjoys doing mission work
o A man who enjoys being outside: exploring, camping, hiking, road tripping, traveling etc
o A man who has a love for Israel
o A man who enjoys fixing, building and making things
o A man who enjoys living a country lifestyle
o A man who can keep things generally clean and in order
o A man who wants at least four kids/however many God gives us
o A man who has a great sense of humor
Great question! And my big thing is this: You want to marry a man who has good character and who has given Jesus lordship of his life.
That is really the most important thing, and the vast majority of things on her list are character issues. I think she’s done a really good job with this list! I don’t think we should ever compromise on character. When someone is of good character, they’re more likely to work hard at a job. They’ll take responsibility for kids. They’ll put family first and want to be involved in all aspects of the family life. When there’s a conflict, they’ll go to God first and in humility, try to solve it. Without character, you run a lot of risks of marrying someone who becomes stubborn about persistent sins, like using pornography, refusing to work, or ignoring the family.
However, I do see three threads in her criteria for a good husband that do concern me: two are minor, and one is rather major.
On the whole, her list is seriously good. But I do want to give a bit of feedback, so I’ll be nit-picking a little bit here.
Minor Issue: Don’t penalize potential husbands for their family of origin
In her first grouping of criteria for a husband I’d definitely exclude: “someone who gets along with his family and mine.” Whether or not someone gets along with their family of origin doesn’t necessarily correlate to good character. I didn’t get along with half of my family because my father left my mother due to an affair. This did not make me a bad marriage choice.
To blame a child for dysfunctional parents is not fair. Now, if that person has not dealt with their baggage, that’s a red flag. But if a person recognizes the dysfunction, handles it in the best way they can, but does not have an intimate relationship with their family because of the need for boundaries, that should not be a red flag for marriage. In fact, if he comes from a dysfunctional family, not being close with his family may actually show a level of emotional maturity that is desirable in a husband. Let’s not label children of divorce or dysfunctional families with a scarlet A on their chest!
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Minor Issue: Don’t elevate personal preferences of what you want in a husband without recognizing how you will change each other
Then there are other preferences that she states in the bonus section: he wants someone who enjoys country living, who likes being outside, who fits her definition of “manly”, who wants to have at least four children. These are all preferences; they’re not character issues. And sometimes you don’t recognize how much you may change each other once you marry.
I once had on my list “someone who is very musical”, because I’m musical. Keith’s not musical really (although he was in band in high school!). My two daughters, however, really are. My great-grandfather married a woman who was six inches taller than he was–he was 5’6″, and she was 5’11”. But they loved each other!
When I got married, I assumed that I would work and put the kids in day care part-time. As soon as I had Rebecca my plans all changed. I couldn’t imagine not being home with her. What we want in our lives changes when we get together with the person we love, because we change each other. And what we want from a family often changes, too. It’s very important to agree on having children, and it’s important to agree on whether having a stay-at-home parent is important to you (although, as I said, in my case my opinion changed). But other than that, you don’t know how marriage will change you!
Major Issue: Don’t forget what it means to be an ezer kenegdo for your husband
Okay, this one is going to take a little bit of a theology romp, but bear with me for a moment. In Genesis 2, God sees that Adam is alone, and God is not pleased. So He created Eve. I’m going to let Marg Mowczko explain the significance of this ezer kenegdo creation:
Genesis 2 tells us that Adam, who was all alone, needed help, and that a woman, Eve, was created to provide this help. The Hebrew word for “help” used here is ezer, and it is mostly used in the Hebrew Bible for God’s help. (More on ezer and how it’s used in the Hebrew Bible, here.)
Importantly, ezer is qualified by the word kenegdo. Kenegdo tells us that Eve was a person who was similar to Adam, who corresponded to him, who was his equal counterpart. (More on kenegdo here.) Eve was not an afterthought or an extra in God’s scheme. She was not a mere auxiliary or assistant for Adam. The narrative of Genesis 2:18ff, which states that it was “not good” for Adam to be alone, is designed to highlight and emphasise the vital necessity of Eve, while the naming-of-the-animals exercise highlights her unique compatibility and equality with Adam (Gen. 2:20)…
There is no sense of subordination in the Hebrew Bible’s description of Eve as an ezer kenegdo. And there is no sense of subordination in Adam’s words about Eve in Genesis 2:23. Rather, he uses words that express affinity and similarity: “This one now is bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called woman, because she was taken out of man.”
The point? God created wives as helpers uniquely suited to aiding their husbands in a way that their husbands are lacking. And helper is not a subordinate word; parents HELP their children; God HELPS us. Help means that we make up for something that our husband needs. Now, why is this important in this woman’s case as she searches for a husband? I read in some of her criteria that she expects that her husband will always be ahead of her, always stronger than her. She wants:
• A man who is a strong leader and able to lead his family well
Many of us have a picture of the family where the man is the strong one, and the man is the one who is always leading. I can tell you from personal experience that in a good marriage, this flips. Sometimes Keith is the strong one; sometimes I am the strong one. The point is that we are two, together: When one is weak, the other is able to pull the other up. We need that.
You do not need a husband who is closer to God than you are or who knows more of the Scriptures than you do.
If you are looking for someone who is always able to lead you in the faith, you may be looking for something that is well nigh impossible to find, and not even biblically necessary.
My daughters were both involved in competitive Bible quizzing as teens. It sounds incredibly nerdy (and it was!), but it was also really fun. They would literally memorize a book or two of the New Testament every year (word for word), and then quiz on it in teams. My girls were so good that they represented the Eastern Canadian District at internationals. Rebecca started quizzing when she was older, so she didn’t memorize as much as Katie did, but by the time they finished high school they both had memorized huge chunks of the New Testament. In fact, Katie knew, by heart:
- 1 & 2 Corinthians;
- 1 & 2 Peter;
- John and
If my girls had said as their criteria for husbands that they had to marry someone who knew the Scriptures better, who would they have married?
Ironically: Joanna, who also works for me, quizzed for Western Pennsylvania at Internationals. There she met Josiah, who quizzed for Canada Midwest. They ended up marrying, and they each were on winning teams at Internationals. So they’re probably the one ones who could possibly say they married someone who knew as much Scripture!
Rebecca married a man who had only been a Christian for two years. His walk was very different than hers. Yet he had a real relationship with Jesus, and a fresh perspective on faith that helped her own to grow. Katie married a man who had done some wandering as a Christian, but had come back to Jesus, in a different way than most of her peers. But David, too, gave Katie a different perspective on Jesus. The point is not whether they are further ahead on the spiritual walk than you, but simply whether or not their walk is genuine.
You do not need a husband who is more motivated than you are or more of a go-getter than you are.
She says that she is a natural leader, but she is looking for someone who can lead her. Now, God may have given you a real go-getting personality for a reason. Perhaps you are highly motivated, and highly ambitious. That’s totally okay! But if you’re a Type A personality, trying to find someone who is even more of a Type-A personality so that you can marry someone “stronger” than you, you may fail. Not just that, but it may be a disastrous relationship. I’m going to let Rebecca chime in here, because this is a large part of her story:
I am Type-A to the bone. I want to be the best in everything, I’m intensely competitive, and I’m always thinking of the next thing that needs to get done before I’m finished with what I’m working on now.
I’m organized, my inbox never has more than 25 emails in it or I start having panic attacks, and I always pictured myself marrying someone who was career-oriented, as competitive as I am, and who was even more focused on achievement than me. Every guy I had ever liked I had been attracted to because of their achievements–brilliant musician, intense academic focus, haughty career goals. That’s what I found attractive and that’s what I knew I wanted in a husband.
Then I met Connor.
Connor is as Type-B as I am Type-A. He is relaxed, laid-back, and don’t get me wrong–he’s a really hard worker, is incredibly intelligent, and loves mastering new tasks, but those things aren’t what drive him. What drives Connor is, simply put, enjoying life. He works hard because it makes him proud of himself. He studies because he enjoys learning, not so he can beat everyone else.
And he is exactly what I needed.
I’ve said to him multiple times that if I had married someone who was as achievement-oriented and competitive as I am, I don’t think I would be as happy. Connor has taught me something that I had never been able to grasp in 20 years before I met him: my value is not in my accomplishments but in who I am as a person. He’s taught me how to sit still and just enjoy life and let go of the anxiety that someone else may be doing something better than I am. Sometimes we spend so long looking for someone who can match us that we forget to look for the person who can compliment us. I’m forever grateful that I married my compliment, not my carbon copy.
What would I add to her list of criteria for finding a good Christian husband?
She said that she wanted:
• A man who is humble and teachable – able to submit to the leaders over him (my emphasis)
I would add:
- A man who is humble and able to be taught by me when the need arises
- A man who is able to ask me for help, just as I am able to ask him for help
- A man who recognizes my gifts and strengths, and is thankful for them, and relies on them just as I rely on his
Especially if you are a strong-willed woman, who is very close to God, highly ambitious, and a natural leader, don’t limit your chances of getting married because you’re looking for someone who is even MORE LIKE YOU. Instead, find someone who truly does complement you, and who is ready and able to do life together with you, balancing you.
What do you think? Anything else she should add in her criteria for finding a husband? Anything else she should take out? Let’s talk in the comments!
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