When I was single, I had a number of qualities I was looking for in a prospective wife, and although I could’ve distilled those qualities into about 19 bullet points, it really wasn’t much more than a vague, disjointed wish list inside my head. Some of the things I was hoping for were reasonable and good, like wanting to have a wife who was serious about her faith; others were far less essential, like hoping she could sing.
I eventually met my wife at a party and got engaged to her four months later — which was crazy. But I felt OK about it because when I looked at my checklist, she had the three qualities I really cared about, which were a love for Jesus, a love for me (or at least strong infatuation), and physical attractiveness. Plus, we had major chemistry, too, which is probably why I didn’t care what other qualities she did or didn’t have (though she actually can sing).
Raquel and I have been married for almost seven years now, and we’ve been through a lot together: the birth of two children, the sale of one house, the purchase of two other houses, three moves, three churches, three jobs for me, three jobs for her, and a family tragedy, to name a few. It has been a fairly stressful time, now that I think of it. But in the midst of all of that intensity, I’ve come to see that I got a remarkable woman with great qualities, many of which had nothing to do with her looks, her infatuation with me, or our chemistry.
So to the young men out there who want to pursue a woman they will still be glad they married after seven years, here are some suggestions of a few critical things you might want to look for:
1. Look for a woman who handles stress well. All the decisions that come with marriage — like having kids, making life-altering financial decisions, or negotiating what church you’ll join — are so stressful. Look for a woman who can work through those hard decisions with dignity and grace. I’m not saying you should find a woman who doesn’t get emotional, raise her voice or challenge you when you’re negotiating. I’m saying you should look for a woman who may get upset, raise her voice, and challenge you and then takes a deep breath, holds your hand, and moves forward with you after you’ve made the decision together.
2. Look for a woman who cares about your connection to your family. My wife knows my family is important to me, and she has made it a priority for our family. She has made a move to be close to my family; she has been willing to spend thousands of dollars to visit them over the years, and she has made a consistent effort to get to know them. I never imagined how important this would be to me, but I appreciate it even more as I’ve watched other couples struggle when a spouse wasn’t interested in getting to know the in-laws, and for some reason, I’ve noticed that for whatever reason, wives seem to be more likely to do that. On the other hand, if you choose a wife who loves your family of origin, it will affirm one of your greatest sources of identity and help avoid all kinds of unnecessary drama that might otherwise happen.
3. Look for a woman who is willing to admit she’s wrong — and willing to tell you when you are. You want to marry a woman who’s got a teachable spirit, who isn’t prideful and unwilling to admit when she’s wrong, but at the same time, you’re not looking for a pushover. I think there’s a particular danger by some conservative Christian men to secretly assume that biblical submission means perpetual compliance or maybe even polite silence. It’s certainly not that, but it’s not constant disagreement either. As Candice Watters has said on Boundless before, if “a couple is constantly in disagreement, I would suggest that the problem lies not primarily with submission, but with spiritual maturity and being able to discern God’s will and relinquish their wills to His.”
4. Look for a woman who won’t have sex with you before marriage, but will have sex with you after. If you’re a godly man, you don’t have to marry a virgin, but you do want to marry a woman who is serious about the two of you waiting to have sex because: (a) it shows that she takes God’s Word seriously, even when everything in her wants to question it (1 Corinthians 6:9, 1 Thessalonians 4:1-7); and (b) it shows that she respects herself enough to say, “Listen, bro. Until you’ve committed your life to me, you have no right to the most intimate gift I can give you.” But after you tie the knot, it’s equally essential to have a wife who understands — really understands — that when you want to have sex, it’s not just about the sex. Both of you need it because it’s a tangible (and fun) reenactment of your unity as a couple.
I know it’s hard to believe you two won’t want to make love five nights a week for the rest of your marriage, but when you throw in interference from things like work, pregnancy, hurt feelings, and needy children, there can be seasons where intimacy becomes an uphill battle. During those times, you want a wife who’s committed to being physically intimate on a regular basis because: (a) it shows that she takes God’s Word seriously, even when everything in her wants to question it (1 Corinthians 7:1-4); and (b) it shows that she cares for you enough to say, “Listen, bro. You committed your life to me, and even though I’m feeling drained right now, I know we need to physically connect to stay healthy in our marriage.” I realize it’s difficult to predict this sort of thing before you get married, but it’s a topic you should at least broach during pre-engagement counseling because if there are major issues already brewing in this area, you may need to go ahead and start working through the emotional issues behind it.
5. Look for a woman who expects you to lead your family spiritually. Listen, man. I don’t care if you led a Bible study for four years back in college and have led people to the Lord since you were 9 years old. Spiritually leading in the home takes a whole different kind of commitment. When you get home from work and you’re helping get the kids in bed, it’s so much easier to read Goodnight Moon to your 3 year old than it is to disciple them. And you’ll also find that although spiritual intimacy is usually great when you do it, when you’re not in the mood, engaging spiritually will seem like a big chore. You need a wife who will not give up on you in that area, a woman who will look you in the eyes and say, “I need you to step it up as a spiritual leader, because I don’t want to spend the rest of my life practically functioning as your pastor.”
I’m sure you’ve thought about some of these areas and many others as you’ve considered what your future spouse will be like. But as these things come to your mind periodically, don’t just mull them over or daydream about what your spouse might be like. Pray about these areas; pray for her. Furthermore, as you may have noticed, most of the aforementioned areas easily apply to you as well. And with that in mind, I encourage you to pray that God will mature you and develop in you the qualities that your wife will appreciate and need one day. Even if you don’t currently have any prospects for marriage, getting yourself ready — and praying for the woman you might one day marry — are two of the best ways you can invest in your future marriage now.
This post originally appeared at Boundless.org.