Since Nan & I teach the pre-married/pre-engagement class at church, we spend a good deal of our time with couples in that stage of a relationship. It is undeniable that most have found each other because of an attraction that they felt. Yes, some have been matched through an online service, which goes much further than attraction alone. We believe that a decision for marriage should be based on a balance of attraction and suitability.
In other words, the head and the heart must be in sync.
What makes a potential mate suitable? When I first saw Nan that thought never entered my mind. (OK, I was young and maturity helps a bit with the concept). Blind attraction from a chemical wash of the brain makes everything seem possible within a relationship. We believe we can make a relationship with a person who lives in another country with 2 kids from a former marriage work. Right.
Here are some factors that must be considered.
- Are we of the same spiritual mind? The Christian term is “equally yoked”.
- If we are of different ethnicities, will our families accept our potential mate?
- Are we in agreement about children?
- Do we come from similar socio-economic backgrounds?
- Does my partner have great character – free from addictions? Are they honest, trustworthy, hard working, kind, dependable, teachable, humble, gentle, not given to fits of anger or rage, etc.? This is foremost in our opinion.
- Do we communicate well? Is my partner a listener as well as a talker?
- Can we resolve conflict, or do we give up and go away mad or discouraged?
- Do we have a financial plan based on reality? Are we both committed to working to make it happen?
- Is my partner a happy person or do they seem to be critical, complaining, cynical or pessimistic? It is hard to live with a depressed person.
One of the reasons I think premarital sex is a bad idea, apart from the biblical reasons, is that once we have crossed that boundary our minds are clouded by the closeness we feel. It becomes very difficult to have a balanced perspective. If we also live together we add one more entanglement as well – that of being economically entwined. It is very difficult to extricate ourselves from an unsuitable relationship when we are emotionally, physically and economically connected.
What would you add to my list? What has caused you pain or confusion? Have you had repeated bad break-ups or have you found yourself in a difficult marriage because you ignored the above factors? Are you stuck right now? Or have you chosen well and you are rejoicing with the satisfaction of your relational success? With strength and courage and maybe some help from others there is always hope.
One of my clients provoked me to consider the admonition in Scripture for Christians to not be unequally yoked. Most believers would agree that it is clear that it applies in marriage – that a believer should not marry an unbeliever. But what about dating someone who is in a very different spiritual place?
To begin with, what is a yoke? It is something that ties two things together, historically a piece of wood joining two working animals. It lets them pull together and share the load. The animals need to be well matched so that one does not work harder than the other. It also helps them to be going in the same direction.
What happens when we try to pull in different directions?
We will probably get stuck or be in conflict. We will struggle to move forward. Oftentimes what are in conflict are our morals and values. How will we spend our time? What will we watch on television or see at the movies? What do we consider fun? How will we spend our money? What are the physical boundaries on our relationship? What do we believe about cohabitation?
These same questions can largely be applied to friendships as well. I believe that too much rigidity in this area produces harshness, which is not consistent with our goal of loving people. But friendships can turn into dating relationships, so we must be careful to know where to draw the line. We can have very moral friends that agree with our values, but it breaks down when we get to spiritual matters. We would not want to be married to someone who does not share our faith, our passion for God or our commitment to the church.
So where does that leave us?
We must be very careful not to form romantic bonds with someone who is not aligned with our spiritual journey. That does not mean that they must experience God in the same way that we do – some relate best to God through worship music while others are deeply moved by the study of scripture. Still others are very contemplative in their style – but the focus and the goal is the same. We must be in agreement on the essentials of our faith.
I really feel for those who have difficultly finding dates, who are lonely, and welcome any connection with someone of the opposite sex. And I also feel sad for those who have formed unequal relationships that put them in a lot of conflict with their personal values, especially those who are married.
I would love to hear any comments you might have on this subject. Please use the comment box below.
We often give out a list of “Must Haves” and “Can’t Stands” to singles that are in the search for a mate. They are lists of qualities that they are looking for in a husband or wife. It helps them define the characteristics they are hoping to find in a spouse so they can eliminate inappropriate matches early in the dating process.
Great. But after reading an article on Millennials (born between 1980 and 2000) in the workplace, I realized that we may have been feeding the entitlement tendency of this generation.
Yes, it is helpful to define what a good match for us would look like – but it is equally as important to define what would make us a good mate.
As an employer, when I look at a potential employee I am asking myself the question “What will this person bring to the table if I hire him/her?” I know what I have to offer: a salary, medical benefits, vacation and sick pay, defined working hours, a chance for advancement, etc. But what does the person in front of me bring besides a warm body? I think a single might ask themselves the same question.
“What do I bring to a relationship that makes me a good catch?”
Here is a starting point.
- Emotionally mature. I am able to deal with life’s ups and downs without a lot of drama.
- Hard working. I am committed to the domestic and financial health of a marriage.
- Addiction free. I am not controlled by alcohol, drugs, shopping, pornography, Facebook, texting, video gaming, gambling or any other type of addiction.
- A healthy and appealing body. Yes, attractiveness counts. It’s what gets the chemistry started.
- A generous attitude. I am patient and kind and giving towards others. I exude Christ’s love.
- Flexible. I don’t always have to have my own way. I can compromise.
- Realistic. I am able to manage my expectations and appetite for more and bigger.
- Trustworthy and trusting. I am not jealous or possessive. I keep my promises.
- I am not contentious or argumentative.
One way of determining good personal characteristics is to draw up your own lists of what you do and don’t desire, and then make sure you are all of those things, too. If you read through the book of Proverbs, you will get a great sense of what good character looks like on the practical side of life. 1 Corinthians chapter 13 gives you a guideline for being loving. James chapter 1is also a good chapter to read.