I talk to high school and young adult girls all the time about dating, boys, and marriage because it’s one of my favorite topics. I love a good love story, but I love a real relationship even more. I believe that God has given us the opportunity, especially now in this day and age to date and get to know someone before we enter into marriage. We get to choose who we spend the rest of our lives with here, which is very exciting, but can also feel intimidating. With millions of people on this earth how in the world are we supposed to find the one whom our soul loves. Where do we look? What do we look for?.
When I became single for the first time after many long term relationships, I sat down with Jesus and conveyed to Him “My LIST. " (Most girls have the list of all the qualities they are searching for in their perfect spouse.) So I shared with Jesus what I thought would be the perfect man for me, but submitted to Him that He knew far better than me who I actually should end up with. And boy did He know far better.
Based on my own experience with the man Jesus ultimately brought in to my life and witnessing other relationships, some that succeeded and others that failed, I came up with what I think are just a few characteristics that women could add to their own list for a potential mate.
A Man Who ACTUALLY LOVES Jesus
I only dated Christian guys, but when I finally met a man who loved Jesus MORE than he loved me, I experienced a better love than I even thought possible. I know that sounds backwards, but so often in relationships I placed so much pressure on the guy to be my everything or vice versa I felt the pressure to be everything to the guy. When two people so desperately love Jesus and are both following Him, the relationship is stronger because of the common goal of each trying to become more like Jesus. The love for one another spills out from their relationship with Perfect Love.
A Man Who You Respect & Trust
This one is SO important. In Dr. Emerson Eggerich’s book Love and Respect, he talks about the correlation between a woman’s desire for love and a man’s need for respect. If the man you are dating isn’t someone you respect, admire, trust, it’s going to cause a lot of heartache for both of you. In Ephesians 5 when Paul talks about marriage he says “submit to one another out of reverence for God” and “wives, submit to your husband.” If you can’t see yourself ever being willing to forgo your way for his, then maybe he isn’t the one. You get to choose who you enter into this covenant with, so my recommendation is choose a man who ACTUALLY LOVES Jesus, because he’ll know and obey his own part of Ephesians 5 (see final trait), which makes the whole submitting thing a whole lot easier.
A Man Who Complements (not just Compliments) You
I love words of affirmation. I love compliments. I love love letters, and beautifully written words; however, if the man is all talk with no follow through you got a problem. Instead of wanting a man who only flatters you, find one who inspires you. I believe that a man who actually complements your strengths and weaknesses is incredibly helpful in creating the best team as you take on life, marriage, and family. My husband and I are quite different, but our differences strangely complement each other in a beautiful way. I am more emotional; he is more logical. He is task-oriented; I am more relationship-based. We balance each other, and he inspires me to grow in both my strengths and my weaknesses.
A Man Who Fights Well
In relationships conflict is inevitable. Two humans with different families, upbringings, and values coming together in dating and possibly marriage are going to disagree, frustrate the other, and fight. It’s so important to find someone that you can enter into these hard conversations in a way that is healthy. Finding someone who you are able to communicate well with is essential. Brian helped me so much with this when we started dating. I always feared conflict, because my dating experience up to that point had meant disagreements led to dramatic, hurtful yelling matches on sand volleyball courts at summer camp with everyone staring (oh just me?). I realized that this didn’t have to be the way to handle conflict. We could have different opinions on something, even be hurt by something the other one did, but have a conversation that brought healing and reconciliation without the need to raise voices or lash out in anger.
A Man Who Loves Unfairly
“Husbands should love their wives as Christ loved the Church being willing to lay his life down for her” (Eph 5:31). Men are called to this, and I believe men should lead and love by Christ’s example. I don’t believe in “fair” when it comes to love or marriage. For both men and women. What Christ did on the cross wasn’t fair, He didn’t deserve it, but He chose it anyway for love of us. I believe that’s the type of man worth waiting for. I don’t expect any one to do this perfectly, but I think there is a posture of the heart. There are men in this world who love Christ, and who wish to follow His example, and love their wives as Paul says in Ephesians. My husband is not perfect. He makes mistakes. He doesn’t do this all the time, but I know He strives to love me as Christ loves the Church. He lays down his preferences, needs, wants for my own even when I least deserve it. From small things like which restaurant to eat at for dinner or when to put up the Christmas tree (as early as possible is the right answer) to the big things like being the first one to admit fault when we are in a stalemate after an argument. This unfair love goes both ways too. In marriage, I’m called to love and respect my husband even when I don’t feel like it. Even when I’m hurt or frustrated, I am supposed to still talk to him in a respectful tone, enter into reconciling conversation, forgive him even when I don’t think he deserves it. Because I didn’t deserve it when Christ went on the cross for my sins. So my job is to love my husband even when he’s undeserving. This is hard, but it’s the ticket to a marriage working.
When two people lay down their pride, their selfishness, their brokenness, they then carry humility, service and forgiveness and can give it more freely and readily. Instead of two scorekeepers running around yelling about how he or she is right and the other is wrong, you have two players working together for a common goal: using their marriage to point others to the profound mystery of Christ and His church.
So sweet sister friend of mine, these are the 5 top characteristics I recommend seeking out in the man you choose to date or possibly marry. I’m sure there are more and maybe different ones important to you personally, but for those searching for a starting point I wanted to share the five that impact me most on the daily with my hubby. I do believe there are guys out there who demonstrate this type of character and that they are worth waiting for. I also believe that if you expect a guy to do all 5 of these (plus whatever other characteristics you have on your own list) perfectly day in and day out, you will be disappointed. If you want perfect Love, then seek Jesus first. Marriage is meant to point to the perfect and complete and unfair love of Christ and His Church. No marriage or relationship is perfect, but if both partners are striving to love Christ above all else they share the common goal.