(Or “My momma told me I better shop around.”)

Dear Unrealistic,

Here’s the hard and sad truth that not too many people want to face when it comes to dating: dating is an elimination process. A pastor once said that successful dating was not necessarily measured by finding the right one as much as ruling out the dozens of wrong ones.

Not that many of us have “dozens” to have to worry about.

Anyway, we’re forced to make an exclusive choice. We can’t marry every eligible person. I know, I know ladies: I wish there was a way to spread the love that is me around. I was going to run the idea by my wife–using Solomon as my Biblical model (“Honey, it’s in the Bible”)– then it occurred to me that if I can barely (and not all that often) please one woman, what makes me think I can do it with two? Plus, two women means nagging squared (my wife is not a big reader, so I can get away with stuff like this. Unless some friends draws her attention to my comments).

But I digress.

It’s good to be picky, to have high standards and stick to them. You deserve it and marriage is a lifetime – too long to settle. However, it’s bad to be too picky, to be unrealistic about a potential spouse. I understand that some friends have advised you to make up a list of qualities that you are looking for in a possible future spouse. I’ve heard arguments, pro and con, about the usefulness of such a list, so I’m glad that you came to me to get my advice.

Allow me to start off by informing you that you’re high maintenance and marriage is for a lifetime, too long for someone to put up with your neuroticism. Sadly, I know whereof I speak.

When I was 20 years old, I made up a list of the qualities that I was looking for in a woman. Say what you want about lists, at least they get you thinking about what you consider important in a spouse and aid in recognizing that spouse when you bump into them, for the most part (more on that later). However, when I was 20 years old, my list was about two pages long. Now, say what you want about lists, but I did hear this interesting fact: once your list is past 10 items, you are statistically ruling out the possibility of actually finding that person. In existence. To wit:

Age 20 (some of the highlights)
Black
5′ 4″
110 pounds
long, black hair
attractive
funny
be a martial artist
be a mechanic
be a Christian woman
be accepting of my friends
have unconditional acceptance of me
strong
determined
opinionated
challenge me
be ambitious
be (career) driven
intelligent,
wise
crafty
be well rounded and interesting
have hobbies
be independent
athletic
fun
adventurous
comfortable in a variety of cultures and situations
adaptable/flexible
be social
a critical love of TV and movies
a love of books
a strong conversationalist
a strong maternal nature
a good cook
tough
a non-complainer

The shame was that not only were these non-negotiable points, but I considered them of equal importance.

Now, when I was 26, my list was pared down to about four items that I considered essential. (I also calculated that by the time I was 30, my list would be down to two items: 1) strong Christian woman; 2) breathing.)

Age 26 (the order of priority, though it’s not like I forgot my previous list):
1. Must be a God-fearing woman in right relationship with God, pursuing God. A lot of times we accept a profession of faith as good enough just to check this item off our list. If this is the most central part of your life, you want to have this in common. Which means you have some difficult things to figure out if they came to know Christ through “dating evangelism.” Part of you may be wondering if they made a profession just to be with you. A similar dilemma is if the person you met just became a Christian recently. How mature a believer do you want to be with?

2. Must share similar world views. This is where you live, your values as committed, growing Christians. For one thing, just because you are both “committed Christians” doesn’t mean much if one is a strict conservative fundamentalist and the other is a free-wheeling emergent type – you two are going in different directions. Things important to you should be important to them. You should be going in the same general life direction (education, career, missionary work, etc.). Your worldview involves your choices in TV, movies, music. Practically speaking, this is not an area where opposites attract.

3. Must have an attractive personality. Here, opposites may attract. Diverse interests don’t equal incompatibility just like common interests don’t equal compatibility.

4. Must be physically attractive. Let’s be real: if you’re going to have healthy, regular sex, that person better do something for you. While this shouldn’t be the focus of your list, it should be on your list. This doesn’t make you shallow, as long as it is in perspective (on the list, but not at the top). And if you remember God’s standard of lasting beauty (I Peter 3:3-4).

Let’s face it: you can add as many dream qualities to you list as you want, but eventually, if you’re planning on meeting any actual people instead of this fantasy image you are creating, you’ve got to prioritize your list. Two things to consider: what’s really important to you? And what will make your marriage work? Truth be known, my would-be dating friend, most marriages don’t end over issues of whether or not your spouse likes to go camping or not; most end over problems in three areas: money, sex, and religion.

And remember, especially you ladies, YOU AREN’T GOING TO CHANGE THEM! Oh, we may change for a minute, but once we have you, we’ll revert.

I’m just saying.

Sincerely your,

He who speaks of the pompatus of love.

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