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The Bible teaches Christians to not be unequally yoked with an unbeliever when entering into partnering relationships (2 Corinthians 6:14-18Open Link in New Window). The reasoning behind this command, like all other commands in Scripture, is not to lay oppressive burdens upon people designed to control or limit them. Instead, we will be blessed when we obey these wise and sensible commands.

Photo of yoke of oxen by alber / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

In any kind of partnering relationship where two or more people must cooperate and work together, they must agree to move in the same direction. Without some degree of unity, they won’t be able to go anywhere or get much of anything accomplished. That’s not to say that I’m comparing you and the love of your life to a draft animal, but you get the idea.

Marriage is the most important partnership of a lifetime. So singles should take great care in preparing for this partnership and in evaluating potential spouses. The Bible is a treasure trove of wisdom regardin the qualifications of a godly husband or wife.

When single Christians are searching for a spouse to marry, they should look for someone who matches the character qualities put forth in the Bible of a mature believer. And they should also seek to become the kind of godly person they would like to marry.

On the other side of the coin, the Bible describes many fleshly traits which a believer would be wise to eradicate from their own lives. Certainly, they should not consider marrying a person who has not matured beyond these childish ways.

The following are two lists of both godly and fleshly character traits, broken down in to conceptual categories. 

Seek and Become

Godly traits to look for in a potential mate and to strive to develop in yourself, as well.

  • loves, fears and obeys God above all
    • devoted life of prayer and worship
    • sound in faith and doctrine (student of the Bible)
  • loves and has concern for others
    • kind and compassionate
    • generous, charitable and forgiving
    • selfless sacrificial love
    • loves children (like Jesus does)
  • joyful, thankful and content
    • encourages others verbally
    • happy helper, cheerful giver
    • hospitable
  • peaceful, humble and gentle
    • gentle tongue and quiet spirit
    • peacemaker
    • dignified, worthy of respect
    • gracious and tactful
    • accepting of others
    • teachable
    • willing to admit when wrong
    • honors and respects others
  • honest, truthful, upright, pure
    • dresses modestly and speaks cleanly
  • trustworthy, faithful and reliable
    • hard-working, responsible, helpful
    • can keep secrets
    • loyal: perseveres in relationship
  • patient, self-controlled and sober
  • wisdom, leadership and practical skills
    • able to teach and disciple
    • sensible, wise
    • prudent decision maker
    • considerate: thinks and plans ahead
    • entrepreneurial, problem solver
    • frugal
    • can both lead and follow
    • communicates well
    • can discipline/rebuke with love
    • speaks truth in love
  • emotionally whole
    • healthy relationship with parents
    • ready to “leave” and “cleave” (i.e., make a clean break from parents to establish a new family unit with spouse)
    • can trust others

Avoid and Redeem

These are red flags that should disqualify someone as a wise choice in a spouse. And, too many of these character flaws in your own life may be an indication that you still have some spiritual growth yet to do before you are ready for marriage.

  • unbeliever or spiritually immature
    • wrapped up in worldly interests
    • materialistic
    • addicted to alcohol, food, money, porn, shopping or entertainment
    • envious, vain & high maintenance
  • selfish and self-centered
    • rude, arrogant, disrespectful
    • miserly
    • manipulative
  • negative complainer
    • harsh (ruthless verbal attacks)
    • critical and judgmental
  • rebellious, violent, quarrelsome or contentious
    • domineering and controlling
    • tactless and loud
    • bitter and holds grudges
    • demands perfection
    • unteachable
  • dishonest and lacks self-control
    • exaggerates a lot and embellishes the truth
    • cheats
    • out-of-control temper
    • engages in filthy, crude or foolish talk
    • dresses provocatively
    • slanderous or gossip
  • untrustworthy, unreliable & irresponsible
    • lazy, idle, unproductive, chronically jobless
    • doesn’t pay bills on time
    • can’t keep secrets
    • gives up on people easily
  • foolish, feeble and passive
    • can’t make decisions
    • lacks direction and motivation
    • excessively dependent on parents
    • can’t communicate in complete sentences; mostly grunts and phrases
    • unable to confront conflict
  • emotionally broken
    • as evidenced by a recent a break-up or divorce
    • cannot trust others, always suspicious
    • rude toward, bitter or out of touch with parents (who are sane and still living)
    • insecure or overly sensitive

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But Isn’t Romance is Supposed to be Fun?

Yes! But as most of us know from personal experience, getting your heart broken is NOT fun. It’s better to make wise choices and enjoy romance in a safe relationship rather than to run headlong, giddy into a romance with your eyes closed and suffer for it later. It’s prudent to make level-headed decisions about when to “arouse or awaken love“. And that is usually when you can safely let your heart open up to fall in love with someone because chances are high that you will likely enter into a committed relationship and marry.

It’s wise to keep your eyes WIDE OPEN before marriage. Do your due diligence or you will regret it later. Ignorance is definitely NOT bliss. What you don’t know is still real: knowledge is not necessarily bliss, but neither is ignorance. Certainly character traits are not the only factors in selecting a mate. Personality,  chemistry and common interests definitely play a role. However, moral character should be the foremost priority because without it most marriages fail. Once your prospective life partner has cleared the first screening test of spiritual maturity, then you can check him or her against your other “must have” criteria.

Top Ten “Must Haves” and “Can’t Stands”

One of the best books I’ve read on the subject of finding a husband or wife is How to Know Whether Someone Is Worth Pursuing in Two Dates or Less by Neil Clark Warren, founder of eHarmony. The book has been replaced by an updated version. My biggest takeaway from the book is the importance of the two top ten lists that each person looking to get married should develop: Top Ten “Must Haves” and Top Ten “Can’t Stands”. Figure out for yourself what are the top ten non-negotiables you must have in your mate-to-be. And you also need to decide what are the top ten things you would not be able to tolerate in the person you’ll be married to for the rest of your life. These lists are personal to your particular values, needs and personality. They require you to really know yourself first in order for you to know who would best match you in marriage.

Now the idea of making top ten lists may cause some push-back from some. You may not want to limit your choices. Or you consider yourself a free spirit who likes to think out-of-the-box. However, realistically with close to seven billion people on the planet it only makes sense to narrow your options down to a more reasonable subset.

One of the best reasons why Dr. Warren advocates these lists is that it saves you time and heartache. If you don’t know who you are and what you want, then any person that is half-way attractive and makes you feel good is a candidate for you. However, later on when problems arise, you realize that you should have “done your homework” earlier. By then, though, you may have invested months or years into the relationship and you’d be reluctant to throw that all away and be back to square one with nothing to show for the time and money sunk into the relationship. At that point, you’d also be emotionally involved and thinking rationally would be a stretch. You also may have already gotten sexually involved or married or worse, married with children, and a break up now would be very costly indeed. How much better it would be if you could “rewind the tape,” so to speak, go back to before all that, make your lists and have been able to have confidently said on the second date that this person is not for you and moved on with your life. So much time, heartache and money saved! And for most people, there are only so many years when there is an adequately large enough pool of unmarried people your age to choose from. I’d say you really have only about ten years, from age 22 to 32, when you’re still young enough to have children (for women) and most people your age aren’t already married or divorced. You really don’t have time to waste. If you can determine whether someone is worth pursuing in two dates or less using top ten lists, why not do it?

So, what are your Top Ten “Must Haves” and “Can’t Stands”?

I suggest selecting the top six or seven of each list from moral character traits taken from the Bible as listed in the “Seek/Become” and “Avoid/Redeem” section above. Then fill out the rest of the list with more personal criteria such as things like:

  • wants to have 2-3 kids
  • willing to live in a certain city or state
  • doesn’t smoke
  • likes the outdoors

All the best to you in your search for God’s best in a spouse for you!

This blog post was written in preparation for the OnePlusOne relationship seminar to be held at HSK church in Hamamatsu, Japan on March 26-27, 2010.

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