On choosing a spouse–the MOST IMPORTANT thing

First DanceWe had been dating for several months and he was a great guy. We were sitting in his living room together talking. And then it happened. He told me that he loved me.

I burst into tears. And they were not tears of joy. You see, I had planned to break up with him.

I grew up in a small town and attended college close to home. I was getting ready to graduate and wanted to move away and experience another part of the world. I had contemplated living in another country, even, as an English teacher. And, well, this man was tethered to the small town I grew up in by his business.

That night, I ended up not saying anything in return and awkwardly excused myself to go home. I didn’t break off the relationship because of the circumstances. But the situation left me feeling very confused.

I realized that things were getting serious and if I wasn’t planning on sticking around, I needed to end it very soon. But suddenly I wasn’t certain ending the relationship was the right decision either.

I’ll never forget going home and telling my mom that my date had told me that he loved me. At first, she was over-the-moon excited. Once she realized that I hadn’t returned the gesture, her countenance quickly fell.

“I love him… I mean WE love him,” she blurted out almost in tears herself. It made sense. It was because of her that the two of us began dating in the first place. She met him at church first and worked behind the scenes and in prayer to push the two of us together :).

Over the next couple of days, I really began to think about what made for a  good spouse. Because that is what dating is really about, after all. And what were the key ingredients for a love that would last. And, well, did I love this guy?

The thing that kept coming to me was his amazing character.

I dated some during my college years and even less during high school, as in hardly at all. But I did have enough experience with the opposite sex, from my own relationships and observing others, to realize that few guys are men of character. Or, men of virtue, as they said in days-gone-by. Sadly, even those who claim to be religious.

Sure they weren’t criminals. But more often than not, there were some major character flaws present. Deceit, arrogance, manipulation, impurity, and selfishness were far too common attributes among these young men.

And I too often allowed my love of love to cloud my vision and excuse these major character deficits.

I would make excuses like these for these guys I had previously dated.

Oh, is it really a problem that he constantly brags about how much better his family is than mine because of his parents’ salaries? Or how afraid I should be of his father because of his respectable job/position in Washington?

I know he promised to come visit me this Thanksgiving and I arranged my holiday plans for that and now he has decided not to come last-minute and instead will be hanging with some other friends. I guess I just need to be accommodating.

Maybe he is being so physical because he loves me and thinks that I am special?

But deep down, I knew that this kind of behavior was a problem. And so did my sister and friends who were dating men who were acting less than virtuously as well.

And yet, the man who had just told me he loved me was different from those kinds of men. No, he wasn’t perfect and neither was I. But he was a man who sought to live his life in a way that honored his maker–in a virtuous way.

He was considerate and kind to my parents. He loved his family (father and brothers and grandmothers) and stayed in touch with them even though they lived far away. He was honest and thoughtful and pure. He loved God’s word and truth.

Did it really matter so much where I lived? I suddenly realized that I had something special and it would be foolish to let him go.

As a woman married 10 years now to Brance, I could pinch myself for how blessed I feel to be married to a guy who wants to do what is right–regardless (even when it doesn’t earn him friends).

And let me tell you, virtuous is totally attractive!!! 

If only single gals knew just how dang sexy it is to be married to a man of character, there wouldn’t be a single one left on the market! They are hard to come by as it is.

You see, culture lies to us and gives us a terrible list of attributes to look for in a beau. Money, job, fitness, status, friends, looks, charm etc. etc.–things that could change quickly in the course of a relationship. A downturn in the economy, a sickness, or move could wipe one or more away in an instant.

I am not saying that these things don’t matter at all.

Yes, I think my man is handsome. And I wouldn’t recommend marrying someone you feel zero attraction to.

Yes, he is funny and enjoyable to be around. (He still makes me laugh like no one else I know).

And while status and number of friends and income level are an unstable foundation for a relationship, observing my man’s interaction with money and others was important.

Because  MOST IMPORTANTLY, character matters.

Recently, at an outdoor dinner party, someone asked me what it was that drew me to marry Brance. Without hesitation, I smiled and said, ” It was his character.” This person who had been married three times as long as I have smiled and enthusiastically nodded in agreement. “Yes!” she exclaimed, “Character is the MOST IMPORTANT thing.”

In Brance, I had found a man who did his best to live a life of virtue–to be a man of character. And THAT my friend is a recipe for an amazing relationship and marriage.

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