Sometimes people ask me about my “list” – that is the list of traits I began to look for in the man I wanted to marry. As I shared in article, “Christian Dating,” I realized after break-up #3 that I had made the same error again and again: I had settled for a man who didn’t really love me and didn’t possess the qualities I valued anyway. God showed me that my standards were too low and I hadn’t valued myself enough to say No to dates with men who raised red flags. Indeed, the only thing I wanted to know is if they liked me, and if they did, I went out with them subconsciously assuming that I didn’t deserve something more, someone better. Simply being noticed and liked in a non-committal, casual way was enough for me to throw heart my into the hands of a man who didn’t want it and didn’t deserve it.
So I share my list below NOT so that you will carbon copy it as your own (you may value different things – and that’s great!), but so that you will begin to think about what YOU want in a man. Our current culture does not value high standards. There is a cynicism that “all men are dogs,”or “any man is better than no man”and as Christians, we have to stand opposed to such thinking and raise a Godly standard. There ARE good men out there – and having NO man is better than having the WRONG man! You can experience more fulfillment and more vitality single than you will dating the wrong person. But what will the right man look like for you? Will you know him when you see him? Are you only looking for superficial, shallow qualities? Or will you only go out with Mr. Perfect (that is, the reincarnation of Jesus, Himself)? Your man will not be perfect, so what will you settle for and what will you demand?
As I stated in the Dating piece, when Marvin and I were just friends, I measured him against this list and found that he had all 18 characteristics, plus many things I didn’t even think of! By the time we went out on our first date, I knew he was the One. I knew his heart before I ever kissed him and respected him before we even held hands. Knowing him preceded romance and that made all the difference.
A Man Worth Waiting For:
1. Generous and kind, big hearted. Generous with his words, money and time.
I had dated one guy in particular who always wanted to “go Dutch”; we’d split the bill. I remember feeling common and a bit like I was doing him a favor by going out with him. He was tight with his money – when it came to spending it on me, anyway. At first, I gave him the benefit of the doubt because he was a grad student, but then I saw him freely spending money on himself. This was one of the many ways I realized he didn’t really love me – as there was little practical sacrifice on his part. Love gives. He also tightly guarded his time – meting out little bits to me here and there, like throwing a bone to a dog. And he rarely opened his heart to me. He rarely offered, freely, on his own, “You’re beautiful,”or “I really like you.”I had to squeeze such sentiments out of him. And the rest of the time, he held his cards closely to his chest.
This trait created so much unhappiness and turmoil in my heart that I finally realized what I really wanted was the opposite. It also occurred to me that this was one of the positive traits my deceased father possessed. I spent a lot of years judging him for his faults and then, largely because of the men I dated, I saw that all the bad aside, he had a big heart. He was different from my boyfriends. He laughed big, wept openly and gave bear hugs and sloppy kisses. He was bad with money, but when he had it, he spent it generously on us. I missed that giving spirit and wanted it in my husband. So this trait easily claimed first place and became the sine quo non of the next man I dated (without which, nothing).
2. Has kind parents who love me and would welcome me into their family.
Since my father and all my grandparents had died, and all that remained was my sister, her family and my mom, I had wistful thoughts of warm, cheerful Christmases with the in-laws and experiencing from my husband’s father something of the paternal affection I earnestly missed and longed for. My family is so small and I always wanted to taste the “big family”experience, with aunties and babies and even a wise, old granddad. In truth, what I lack in natural family, God has more than made up for in church family. I am rich with extraordinary friends. Nonetheless, the longing for blood family gatherings remained and I took a risk and put this on my list. This is one of the traits I would be willing to do without, but it couldn’t hurt to make my requests known to God and see if He might grant me this desire too.
3. Humble and teachable. Able to say “I’m sorry.”Wants to learn from others.
4. Has good relationships in his life: male mentors, close male friends, family.
Numbers three and four both reveal a humble heart: one that is open, accessible and soft. For some reason, in my earlier years I had been attracted to the “strong, silent type”; I think I had associated this with discipline and in reaction to my father’s undisciplined nature had determined that the best match for me would be a lean army general with a strict budget and life-style. It took being burned by a few such men for me to realize a softer, gentler man would be better for me. When we were just friends, I suggested that Marvin seek a male mentor and even though he resisted at first (West Indian men don’t spill their guts to other men, he said), he soon saw the value of it and sought one out; that man helped Marvin tremendously during our courtship and was his best man at our wedding! He also has male “buddies”that he likes to hang out with and I appreciate that. I didn’t then and don’t now want to be his only friend or the only one with whom he was transparent and he sees the value of that, too.
He also said he was sorry with such ease that on many occasions I shook my head astounded by his emotional maturity and security. I wondered that such men existed and my respect for him grew exponentially.
5. Has a good work ethic. Not lazy. Respected at his job by his boss and colleagues.
My last boyfriend before Marvin hated his job, got fired and collected unemployment for months. And I learned the same thing from him that I had learned from my father: men who hate their jobs are miserable to be around. I realized that I didn’t just want a provider, I wanted a career man: one who found his niche, loved his job, worked hard and made himself invaluable in his field. It wasn’t really about his paycheck (although, realistically, I wanted it to be enough to support a family…), but it was more about his joy level at work, his sense of accomplishment. I wanted someone with a job I would be proud of, one that helped people and carried a bit of clout. (Again, I am sure some of this came from having a childhood marred by embarrassment about my father’s odd, minimum wage jobs.)
So listening to Marvin talk about his breast cancer research and his expertise in his particular field (he is a scientist), my heart swelled with pride and one more piece of the puzzle slid neatly into place.
6. Disciplined, but not legalistic. (Not uptight and bound up.)
7. Has high moral standards.
Both six and seven speak to the same chamber of the heart. I wanted a man of principle, but not that strict army general I talked about. So when I discovered that Marvin was (and is) an early riser who cooked nutritious meals (rather than frequenting fast-food joints like a lot of bachelors I had known) and had a savings account and had slightly old-fashioned views about how men and women should behave together, my heart sang. He too didn’t believe in married people having one-on-one friendships with people of the opposite sex. He cut off cable TV as a newly saved, single man to guard his eyes and heart from the barrage of sexual images. He was always faithful to girlfriends and is actually more turned off than turned on by breast exposing tops and easy women. Yes, I discovered these things when we were just friends and these traits and others caused me to fall in love with him deeply.
8. Committed to keeping our dating relationship pure. No hang-ups about sex. Open and honest about it. Not lustful; though he may notice other attractive women, he helps me to know that I am the “apple of his eye.”No wondering eyes.
I dated a couple of guys who expected me to do all the work of keeping things on the straight and narrow, and I wanted a man who would do some of the work, too — indeed, who would actually take the lead in this area. I also had the putrid experience of being with guys who snuck glances at other women when they thought I wasn’t looking. And on the other hand, I had boyfriends who were so worried about lust that they practically relegated sex to sinful, but necessary behavior to indulge in every once in a while with one’s prudish, sexless wife. Yuck! I wanted a man who wanted me (yep, sexually), who had eyes only for me and yet waited for me.
I looked at Marvin with disbelief when he told me he didn’t even notice my body until we started dating. When we were just friends, he would not let himself look below my neck. He knew it wasn’t time to “go there”; so he didn’t. When we were dating, we established boundaries — and he did a better job than I in keeping them! And when we were engaged, we freely and honestly talked about sex; we both looked forward to it and often prayed about it together.
9. Spiritual leader. Reads his Bible, knows how to get the Rhema word of God, has a regular prayer life – wants to pray with me and read the Word together. Takes the lead in spiritual matters with me. Prophetic and intuitive. Calls me higher, encourages me to trust God. Has something to give spiritually.
I didn’t just want a church goer, or a guy who spoke Christian-eeze, but someone with a real relationship with the Lord. Someone who heard from God and had insights and revelation and got me thinking about deep stuff. There are so many shallow Christians out there and I didn’t want to marry one! I didn’t want a ball and chain around my ankles, but rather wind in my spiritual sails: someone who would run this race of faith with me, neck in neck, rather than lagging behind, sluggish and unmotivated.
10. Straight-forward personality: “black and white”- not overly analytical. Sees it and does it! Assertive: knows what he wants and goes after it!
I had dated plenty of indecisive men. They liked me, but didn’t know if they loved me or wanted to marry me. They liked their jobs, but didn’t know if they wanted to keep them. They liked their home, but constantly thought about moving. No stability. I had heard of men who when they saw their future wives for the first time, knew that they were going to marry them; that’s what I wanted! No hemming and hawing, no weighing and waiting. I wanted my man to see the prize and run after it, without compunction. And that’s exactly what I got.
11. Dynamic and personable. Easy to talk to. Comfortable around people, not awkward. People person – not a recluse.
I’m a social person and I wanted a man with whom I could go to parties and barbecues and he’d fit in, be comfortable and just a regular guy: someone who would laugh with my friends and put them at ease. No geeks, recluses or introverts. (In truth, Marvin is a bit of a geek, he likes to be alone and he’s more private than I am, but he also has a social side and can handle himself very well around people.)
12. Secure and mature. Encourages me to “go for it!”Not threatened by me being in the public eye or in leadership positions.
Being a woman in ministry is challenging! The church is still a man’s world and many men don’t think women should even be in the pulpit. However, God made it clear to me that He’s called me to be a teacher and to be in the public arena. My husband would have to not only deal with that, but like it and encourage me in it.
13. Physically bigger than me, taller, broad, healthy, in good shape.
I like wearing heels, I like dancing and I like hugging. All three are easier with taller men. I also like guys who are someone athletic and who would go biking and walking with me. I’d be willing to do without such things, but since they were my only physical stipulations, I didn’t feel too greedy asking for them!
14. Marriage and family: takes marriage seriously. Wants to marry and is ready for its responsibilities and commitment. Open to adoption.
Many men have no desire to adopt children; they want to have their own, or none at all, but have closed hearts when it comes to adopting someone else’s kid. Before we started dating, Marvin and I went to a fundraiser at a children’s home. As we looked at a video on foster children, Marvin casually said, “I’d like to adopt someday…”I took note!
15. Financially stable: has a good job and vision for his life, ministry and future in general. Not floundering. He likes his job; and has a sense of purpose and calling.
16. A romantic (Enjoys romantic things like good food, wine, music, dancing, walking, talking, giving flowers, etc.).
So many Christians are tea-totalers, and yet I enjoy a glass of wine with dinner. Somehow, it didn’t seem romantic to go to an expensive restaurant and order wine while my date asked for orange juice! I also know men who don’t notice their wife’s perfume and others who think flowers are a waste of money. Nope, I wanted it all. Life is too short to be so practical!
17. A gentleman.
The first time Marvin and I took a walk together, he insisted on walking on the outside, next to the traffic. He apologized for his old fashioned nature but wouldn’t hear of it any other way. He also held doors, picked me up at home and paid for dinner. AND YET, he loved my mind, respected me as an equal and never patronized me. Wow.
18. Has good manners but is down to earth; can mix with the high and the low.
My father taught me to hate pretense. And so, I wanted my husband to be able to relate to blue collar, white collar and no collar men. I have both rich and poor friends and can easily go from one side of the tracks to another, and I wanted my husband to be able to do the same.
Most people have no idea that Marvin has a PhD, because he’s so down-to-earth, humble and, well, normal!
So, there’s my list. Again, you may value different things, but the important thing is that you have values! What are YOUR standards? If you are younger, you may have to look more at a guy’s potential, than what he actually already has, but there should be some hard evidence too! Maybe you’re in college and the guy you have your eye on doesn’t have a savings account. No problem, but is he wise with money? Does he blow every extra cent on toys? If so, is he open to change or will that be a constant source of tension? Maybe you’re in your twenties and your guy hasn’t found the ideal job yet. That’s ok, but does he have goals and desires. Is he working towards SOMEthing, or is he apathetic, content with earning barely enough and passion-less? If your guy has dabbled in pornography, has he repented, asked a mentor for accountability and removed any source of temptation from his life, or does he still toe the line and play with fire?
Remember, there’s no such thing as a perfect man, but what is his HEART like? Is it teachable, pliable and soft or is it proud, obstinate and closed?
This Scripture guided me and became a source of confirmation that Marvin was the One:
“The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (I Sam. 16:7).
In truth, you should ultimately be physically attracted to the guy you marry. But the most important thing, the thing to examine and probe, is his heart.