After last week’s look at the idea of making a list of characteristics to use to shop around, I thought that I’d share a couple of lists that people had sent me. Oddly enough, I had no problem getting people to tell me the list of things that they were looking for in a potential mate. Part of me thinks that they assume that telling me is the equivalent of taking out an ad in the yellow pages. Anyway, we’ll start with a list by a woman I am dubbing Jill (her real name and phone number available upon request).

Jill’s list:
-a man who’s seeking God with all his heart
-a man who loves and respects his family and her family
-a man who is a leader

She assures me that there are other things on her list, but her list is in fact heavily weighted toward those three items. There are a lot of things to appreciate about this list. It is short. It is not unrealistic, nor is it especially demanding. It leaves a lot of room to negotiate the relatively little things (personality, looks, etc.). Basically, it is a broad guide that manages to weed out potential suitors from the dross, while not straining out the good and the bad.

Next, let’s look at a list from someone I’ll call John. John has his list divided into four sections, reflecting that he has seriously thought this out, not that he’s an anal retentive control freak.

John’s List:
1) what are the qualities that I am looking for in a woman?
-Has a servant attitude and is willing to entertain
-likes kids willing to have (possibly many) children

2) what ones are non-negotiable?
-Committed Christian: believes and is an active Christian
-Multi cultural interest and exposure

3) what are the qualities that I want to have as a husband?
-Being a committed Christian: having a good and active relationship and walk with God
-Being responsible

4) how do these things mentioned affect my relating to women now.
-I still have more to learn in order to deepen my relationship with the Lord

Believe it or not, I love John’s list. For one, it’s specific and realistic for him. He’s from a multi-cultural background and expects to go into the ministry field. He’s obviously looking for a spouse that is prepared to not only go on such a journey with him but be able to survive and thrive in a variety of cultural situations. His list also does what a good list should, namely, point back to himself and areas to improve in his life. His list impacts where he is now; not that he would term it “baiting his hook”, but he is. What I mean is that he is looking for the kind of spouse he wants by being the kind of man he wants to be. “Sticking to his criteria and not compromising for the sake of finding someone” is how he puts it under his area number four.

Obviously, lists are specific to the individual. You and your potential may mesh well in a lot of ways: they may be a nice guy, they may be attractive, you may have a lot of common interests, they may make you laugh, they may treat you well, and that’s fine criteria to go out on a date. But if you are talking about “dating to mate”, your list has to be prioritized by what really matters. That’s another point of the list, to help you prioritize what’s important and for you to figure out what kind of relationship you want to have. Some things to keep in mind:

Spirituality. They must be a God-fearing person in right relationship with God. If you want me to generalize this a little more, you need to not just be religious, but the same kind of religious.

Personality. They must have one and it must be attractive to you.

Communication. One of the chief abilities one needs to have to make a relationship work the French call le devoir de s’asseoir, roughly translated, “the duty to sit down” (have you ever noticed that when you want something to sound more sophisticated than it is, you say it in French? And if you want to sound intellectual, you need to say it in Latin?).

Respect. For example, do they respect their parents? (Ladies, how does he treat his mother and/or sisters?) How does he treat you? What self-respecting woman wants a guy who puts her down all the time. After all, you are trusting them with your reputation (and self-image).

Looks. Let’s be frank: appearance is important. More specifically, it is vital that the person who you wish to date be someone you find sexually attractive. This means different things to different people. As I listen to men and women discuss these things, I am struck by the weird things that they look for in regards to physical presentation. One woman said that she looks for white bumps on tongue since they indicate improper hygiene. She was a dental hygienist. However the issue of having a good set of teeth did pop up fairly often. One woman I spoke with said that she looks to see if he is wearing a well taken care of shoes. She had an elaborate theory about how this was the prime indicator of his grooming habits. I was ready to take up smoking to get out of that conversation.

I’ve already alluded to the fact that my wife had only a few characteristics on my ideal (read: age 20) list of qualities I was looking for in a woman. And there are times, in our day-to-day life together, that I wish she had some of the other characteristics – maybe a better love of tvbooks or movies or music or whatever. Just so that we were a more comfortable fit (mind you, this is all a part of learning about each other and learning the particular rhythm of your relationship rather that forcing some model onto it). But, about six months into our marriage, we hit a rough spot. Things got so bad, we were ready to give up on things and we would’ve except for one thing that we had in common: our love for Jesus Christ. We made a covenant before Him, friends, and family and it meant something to us. Covenant and community: that’s what kept us together, that’s what made us commit to working through our difficulties, that’s what consoled us in the dark times.

The tension lies between treating your like it’s Scripture (you may have to learn to compromise) vs. not settling (learning to stick to what’s important). Tunnel vision is anti-relational: strict adherence to a list–especially true of the multi-page kind or lists filled with very shallow items–rule out a lot of neat people. What I end up telling people who lament how so-and-so didn’t want to go out with them because they were blonde (or not blonde or some other trivial item) is that said person was probably someone you didn’t want to get involved with anyway. After all, you can learn a lot about a person by what’s on their list. See John and Jill versus a (20-year old) me.

Now, all of this is all good in theory, but there are a couple things to keep in mind. What initially at
tracts us to a person will more than likely be the same things that will annoy us about them once you get married. (Thus my wife’s lament. She now laughs all the time.) Also, lists are great if we are dating/marrying static models. Unfortunately, people change. Sometimes they grow as a person, sometimes they wilt.

As another point of tension, you must recognize what you want versus what God wants for you. They are sometimes two different things. Once I had my revised list to guide me into my thirties, I met and fell in love with the woman who would become my wife. Do you know how many things that she had on the list that I had? One–she was a strong Christian woman. The qualities that she possessed were qualities that I hadn’t thought of as being necessary, nor were they the kind of qualities that immediately spring to mind when making up a list (patience, forbearance, gentility of spirit, etc.), but they are qualities that go a long way for a person not to be driven insane by someone as high maintenance as myself.

In other words, I don’t know everything and the fact that I ended up married reaffirms the fact that God knows what He’s doing.

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