Some months ago, I submitted a post to Christian Carnival on the way I've come to view relationships with the opposite sex, as a young, single, Christian dude (I almost typed "man" there, but it just sounds so grown up). This post was by no means my best work, but it served to elicit far more comments than are normally seen on a blog of this nature - and by "far more" I mean you're going to have to use both hands to count them. The post can be found here, and I suggest you read it for a good deal of background on what follows. The last comment to be made on that post was by Wendy, who said:
Dave, interesting post. You know, I'd be interested in finding out what standards you are actually looking for a in a girl.
I blog for an online web magazine, which recently featured two articles concerning what makes up a quality woman and a quality man. In my blog, I followed up with some advice of my own for men interested in quality dating.
So, as one of the many females striving to be women of quality in hopes that we'll one day deserve the love of a man with the same goals, I have to tell you that we women are dying to know if we're getting it right or not.
Consider it, why don'cha, then let me know if you do write more about this sort of thing, and I'll link to you. In fact, I think I'm going to link to you anyway.
I have no way of knowing whether or not Wendy did link to me, because, you see, she left no contact information. I haven't been able to find her online web magazine, try though I might, and I have hence been unable to let her know if I do write more. Well, Wendy, I'm writing more. Sorry for the delay, and hopefully women are still dying to know.
To start, I have to humbly take issue with Wendy's wording when she said "in hopes that we'll one day deserve the love of a man with the same goals..." - I submit that no man or woman could ever truly deserve the true love of a spouse committed to the same goals in a Christian marriage. In fact, this is the wonderful thing about true Christian love - as we seek to see Christ in and build the body of Christ up in the other person, we come to love them more and more in spite of their undeserving, sinful nature. I go out of my way to point this out most primarily because I know this: I will never deserve the love of a woman who would live up to the standards that I now set forth. I can only hope she would be full enough of Christ to love me in spite of myself.
And so, without further adieu, what David is looking for.
1. A Christian. This is the first for a reason: none of the others will matter. I have decided what the most important thing in my life is - because God saw fit to find me, dead in my sin, and show me what it is. I cannot tie my life to someone who has not received this grace. That said, I don't mean that she has to be a Christian right now. In talking with a good friend recently, he told me that before he got married, the point at which he would no longer pursue interests in a woman was when he knew she had no interest in or hope of turning to the Gospel message. He made me realize an interesting thing - for many years I had been canceling out the entire non-Christian female population from my pool of prospective datables. Now, while this clearly is not a very evangelistic attitude, I am not, at the same time, taking the dock on behalf of the practice we have dubbed as missionary dating. Suffice to say, we generally understand Paul's admonition to not be "yoked together" with an unbeliever to be speaking about a bond of marriage, not a discussion over a cup of coffee. To say a little where I could go on for quite a while - I doubt that I will deal much with this issue because of the very first thing stated above - my faith is central to my life, and as such I think I would have a harder time finding things I hold in common with someone who's life hasn't been changed in a similar fashion.
As for a suitable marriage partner, a necessity would be holiness. Not perfection, but holiness. I think perhaps I should also mention that it would be important to me that a partner have (at the very least) an understanding of and respect for my approach to the faith - namely Reformed Protestantism. Yet at the end of the day it is the fact that we both have the same Best Friend that would matter most.
2. Completion. And I realize that this sounds so incredibly Jerry McGuire, but it takes spot # 2 despite Tom's marring of this crucial element. God saw that it was "not good for the man to be alone." It was, in fact, the first thing in a perfect creation sequence that was "not good." In creating woman, God did an interesting thing - He took away from the man, He essentially made man incomplete. This was a literal motion yet bore incredible significance for the entire future of humanity. Calvin put it something like this:
Yet I am more in favour of a different conjecture, namely, that something was taken from Adam, in order that he might embrace, with greater benevolence, a part of himself. He lost, therefore, one of his ribs; but, instead of it, a far richer reward was granted him, since he obtained a faithful associate of life; for he now saw himself, who had before been imperfect, rendered complete in his wife. And in this we see a true resemblance of our union with the Son of God; for he became weak that he might have members of his body endued with strength.
I'm looking for someone who forms the other piece of the puzzle. And again we're back to the triteness of "things we have in common," but its just that - similar interests, a good "fit" - physically, socially, emotionally, intellectually. Spiritually was already covered. This all basically means someone who it is good for me to be "not alone" with - someone who is running in the same direction as me, someone who can spur me on to greater things, and hopefully I she.
Now then, if I were to happen upon a woman with the aforementioned qualities, the next logical step would be...
3. Love. And I speak of love in two senses: A) Is she full of love herself, and B) do I have the same for her? The first is kind of important - if she doesn't love me, well, we're not going anywhere fast. Same thing goes for me with her. There must be a requisition of utter joy and delight in the other person, in all the facets that I just mentioned: physical, social, emotional, intellectual, spiritual. Why is this a separate step? Why wouldn't this just be considered the natural reaction to finding the one who completes you?
Because love isn't something we fall into, any more than we fall out of it. As I've said before, love is a decision. One you make every minute of every day. Marriage is a promise to make that decision for the betrothed alone, every minute until you die. And so, love is a very important point.
4. Role fulfillment. God gave man and wife specific roles in the marriage relationship, and despite our modern culture's best attempts to pollute and dissolve them, they remain vital to the functioning of a healthy marriage. I'm not going to get into the masculinity / feminism thing here too much. I think scripture is clear that men are appointed the head of their wives and households, and therefore a wife has the duty to "submit, in the Lord, to [the husband's] government with confidence that [he] will care for both her temporal and eternal interests." (Rev. David Coffin)
People readily react to this, but I believe it is because they do not see the heavy burden of responsibility it places squarely on the shoulders of a husband - it defines the man's role in the marriage. A man is to care for his wife as Christ did the church. When I said before that I would hope she could "love me in spite of myself" - this is what I had in mind. I am called to care for her as Christ did his church. A duty I would strive towards knowing that I would fail at times along the way. That's why (yet again) love is such a necessary point.
Humility is a necessity for both parties as they fulfill their roles. A wife must be humble enough to both let a husband lead, and a to let him sacrifice himself in service to her. I can't stand it today when I see girls that insist on opening the doors for themselves. And husbands, well, obviously, must lead humbly, knowing that they are striving to follow the perfect example as they care for the wife.
5. Attraction. For a long time I have struggled with how to put this one, but a conference I attended recently helped me to put this into perspective (and helped me to form a lot of the thoughts for this post at large). One of the duties and blessings of marriage is to offer to and find in the partner sexual love and fulfillment. If two people are promising one another that they will do this for each other, I don't think its too much to say that they should find the other person's physicality to be desirable. Christians are very quick to jump on the counter-balance here, insist that "beauty is fleeting," and so on. However, an important point here is that I'm not looking to Calvin Klein or Victoria's Secret to get my definition of beauty. Granted, they're going to try to get their definition in my face any way they can, and the struggle will daily be mine to maintain my lucidity in the matter. Much of what is "beauty" in my mind will be determined on who wins that battle. Furthermore, point #2 on completion already dealt with some of this, on the sly. If she's into staying fit in all aspects of her character, I can't see how she wouldn't be attractive.
6. Trustworthy. If I'm going to be making a covenant before God to give my life to this person no matter what (save a breach of said covenant), it has to be someone I can trust my heart, and in some sense (not eternal) my soul to. That's a lot of trust. Its a loving trust, as I know that I would never deserve its requisite, but, well, there's the love part one more time.
Key here are authenticity, honesty, and reliability, to paraphrase Jeramy and Jerusha Clark.
There's a lot that falls under these points - things I didn't touch on (eg. I would think she'd prove a Godly mother if she had the above qualities, etc...). One could argue for more or for less, I suppose. I realize a lot of this went down the marriage trail, and I'm not even at the point of dating right now, but let's not pull any punches about what the purpose of dating is, eh?
Let the discussion begin. I've forgone adding my scriptural support to each point for the sake of length (congrats if you've even read this far), but I can supply as necessary.