Recently, I was speaking in New Zealand and had the opportunity to do a city-wide all women’s Q & A specifically addressing the issues of fantasy, pornography, abstinence and singleness.
It was amazing, and I would be thrilled to do more of these.
The category that seemed to be hit heavily was singleness and how you deal with being single into your 30s, while abstinent, somehow navigating a wasteland between a world that says, “Forget marriage, and just have sex” and a church that says, “Wait? What!? Why aren’t you married yet?” I have written about this before.
One of my favorite questions was this:
What characteristics should I look for in a future husband?
We have to be careful here, because “characteristics” can be a code word. It can refer to character qualities, but more often than not, it also includes some sort of physical wishes/wants/desires as well.
There’s the classic Christian stuff:
The man who loves Jesus, is a good leader, active in church, doesn’t watch porn, be called to ministry, etc etc
The cultural stuff:
He needs to love his mom, open my car door, pay my bill, etc
And then there’s the other stuff, the secret list that lots of girls have but the only ones who know about it are their best friends. This is the “real” list-
He needs to work out every other day, have blue eyes, play acoustic guitar, be two inches taller (because I want to wear heels with the wedding dress I have already picked out), sing bass, love Star Wars, have dogs, write poetry, be approximately 2.5 years older than I, definitely cannot be younger, make approximately 60K a year, be OK with me being a stay at home mom, come from a large family, want exactly 5 children, extra points for being bilingual, and double bonus if he has a picture of him cuddling a baby posted on social media.
(And if you think for a moment I am making such a list up, I assure you I am not. I am a single woman with single friends.)
Trust me: there is a list.
Yes, even I have one of those lists.
This list is commonly referred to as “the desires of the heart.” But, if we’re not careful, it can read a bit like a job application.
The problem with that list is that it can turn life into a giant, real time game of Where’s Waldo.
Have you ever played that? You scour a picture of the crowd looking for a little dude in a red and white striped hat and shirt. One person, out of a million, and Mr. Amazing could walk right by you, but because Mr. Amazing doesn’t sing bass, you ignore him because he’s not the one you’re looking for. Or you give him voice lessons for Christmas and when it turns out he sings tenor, you take it as a “sign” and dump him.
Yes, this happens.
There’s the obvious characteristics that every Christian young woman should want- a fellow Christian, who loves the Lord, etc- but then there are the desires of the heart, and young women can be led to believe that God is a bit like a genie. If we love Him enough, and delight ourselves in Him, one day our future husband will show up and he will be absolutely everything on the list.
Thank you, Christian romance novels…
I’m no expert, but that’s not how this works. Plenty of good men are left behind in the wake of women who are diligently searching out the Prince who is everything on their list. That’s not to say that physical attraction is not important. It’s just not most important.
How do I know?
Because anything physical is temporary. My husband can be ripped to next Tuesday, but in 50 years, he’s going to go the way of old, wrinkled, and lumpy… because that’s what our bodies do.
Maybe he’s allergic to dogs. He may want to have five kids, but what happens when we find out I’m infertile? He may be athletic and play guitar, but three months after our wedding, he gets in a wreck and is paralyzed from the waist down. What then?
The answer to those questions defines the kind of characteristics you should be looking for in a husband. It’s not “does he want five kids?” It is “is he the kind of man who would stay with me even if we can’t have kids?” It’s not “does he work out everyday?” It’s “is this a man who understands the value of his body and wants to steward it the best he can?”
There is nothing wrong with preferences, but it’s important understand that is exactly what they are. They are your preferences. That’s not to say that they shouldn’t be important, but you need to determine how important they are. Are blue eyes really a deal breaker?
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There are things that should be uncompromising (matters of character) and you shouldn’t bend. The other things might be hopes, and wishes, and I think there is room for those. If you have a list, maybe rate each “characteristic” by degree of importance (1 being no big deal and 5 being nonnegotiable).
If you really really want to have kids and he absolutely cannot stand children to the point that even adoption or babysitting nieces and nephews is out of the question, then you might need to reconsider the relationship. But if he’s great except for the fact that you cannot wear heels without towering over him, or if he’s amazing except for the fact that he can’t sing, then maybe there are some smaller things that you need to be willing to let go of?
If this is a hostage negotiation, the only one being held hostage by your demands is you.
Let the characteristics you demand actually speak to his character and his heart, because that’s what lasts. That’s what holds a relationship together- not his baby blues, bass voice, or lumberjack beard.
Know that some of your desires are just that- desires- and they will fade, wrinkle, and they themselves will change over time. I would encourage you to hold them loosely.
Focus less on the “characteristics” and more on finding a true man of character. Remember, we humans can get caught up in the outside appearances, but God looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7). Don’t hold onto your preferences so strongly that you miss a man with an amazing heart, simply because he wasn’t 6 feet tall.
Photo Credit:Allef Vinicius