So lately you may have noticed that I haven’t been posting quite as much. Part of the reason is that I’ve had a couple of different speaking engagements. And since, like most of you, I have a real day job, my time has been limited and I wanted to speak and share well which takes prep time. But one of the benefits of this is that whenever I get to share with groups, it makes me think about things in new ways. It also leads to new questions from people who are smack in the middle of singleness. So I’m looking forward to sharing some new thoughts, as well as some new angles on old thoughts.
One thing that got brought up at each engagement was the idea of who it is that we are looking for. This is kind of an interesting question. I know for me, that sort of changed at different times. The basic questions are things like, “I don’t want to marry someone I don’t love.” “I can’t seem to find a ‘real’ Christian.” “Should you marry some one that you can live with or someone that you can’t live without.” Those are all upcoming blogs but I want to start with something more simple today.
I asked each group to give me a list of things that they were looking for. Now understand that these were mix gendered groups with diversity of age and experiences so there were a lot of answers. Here were some:
- A Christian
- A leader
- Someone who is compassionate
- Someone that likes athletics
- A gentleman (lady)
- A guy who knows his bible
- Someone who loves their family
- Someone who has a plan
- Someone who is driven
- Someone who wants a family
- Someone who sees finances the way I do
- Someone who sees politics the way I do
- A guy with a job
- Has a balanced life – work/life balance
- Respects people
- Interested in me – wants to know me
I could go on, but you get the idea. We all have some sort of list. We have things that we want in another person. Some are a big deal to us and others are kind of negotiable. But most of us have a list.
But here is the truth about our list. Most of the things on it are qualifiers not attractors. What I mean is that we can say, “I want someone who is a ‘real’ Christian” but what we mean is “I want someone who I’m attracted to who also is a Christian.” I know this is true because if it wasn’t then everyone at my church would be married, but as it stands only about half of them are.
Now your list is actually important. The list is what keeps you from marrying someone just because you are attracted to them. Or at least it should.
But you can meet someone who has everything on your list but it probably won’t matter if you aren’t attracted to them. A woman can say I want a Christian man who is serious about his faith, who is a solid guy, who is smart, has a job etc. The thing is I could introduce you to fifty of those people right now. As I said to one group, “If that is what you are looking for, look around the room, pick someone and get married.”
That might be ok, but the deal is you’ve got to own it. Because if you don’t you end up running in a circle and basically sort of start becoming dishonest. You can say, “Well I just haven’t met anyone who has this of that quality.” – But you have. All the time actually.
As I’ve said before, at it’s base level, attraction is not a choice. The good news is that we are attracted at some level to all sorts of people. But we aren’t attracted to that list. The list should help us decide what to do with the attraction.
This has huge ramifications both personally and corporately in the church.
We spend a lot of time telling people that they need to be the things on the list, which is fine. But we spend about zero time talking about how to deal with attraction – both how to be more attractive, and how to handle it when we are attracted. Continually beating us over the head with what should be on our list (i.e. “don’t settle”) isn’t enough. Neither is telling people that if they are those things that they will be attractive – because that’s false.
We also end up hurting people. We say things like, “well you have all these great qualities, someone will want that” or “you’d make a great husband (wife)”. While a nice compliment it doesn’t help anyone get married. It also can cause more pain when we interact with the opposite sex.
In one group I was teaching at we asked people why they thought they were still single. One woman said, “It’s tough to meet a Christian.” I smiled and kind of cringed because really this woman just disrespected every guy in the room. She didn’t mean to, and she doesn’t have to. What she should have maybe said is “I haven’t met a man who I’m that attracted to that is a Christian.”
Now this of course raises many questions including can you marry someone you aren’t attracted to? That’s a post I’ll write soon but we need to begin to get ahold of this idea. We need to own our attraction issues which can be complicated. We need to understand that just because we would make a great spouse doesn’t get us married. They are different skill sets – not opposing skill sets, but different.
There are all sorts of people that can get married that would make horrible spouses and vice a versa.
Some things to think about:
What is really on your list? How much does your list matter vs. attraction? How honest are you with yourself and others about all of this? What is your attraction measurement?
Something I’ve learned being a 35 year old single guy having only been through two real relationships is that attraction isn’t something we can initiate or dictate towards someone else. It happens and it happens for a variety of reasons. On the most basic level it could be outward beauty that God created in women. It is always enhanced and complimented by the inward traits such a lady exihibts by being a believer in Christ. But usually it’s physical attractioin.
Physical attraction isn’t bad. I believe God created such attraction in marriage as a means to help keeping adultery and sexual sins out of the marriage. Plus, who would want to be married 50+ years to someone they had no attraction too? Boy that’d make adultery more tempting in the flesh by the day!
Anyway that physical attraction obviously extends from us believers to non believers on that basic level too. God created women beautiful to us men and God created us men to be attractive in a specific way to women. However when I’ve found myeslf having an attraction to a lady that crosses my path, when I discover she is not a believer and thus worshipping Christ is of no importance to her, my heart breaks and I loose that attraction. I know that in a marriage Christ wouldn’t be the center of both our lives and such a maritial union would be fractured and filled with hurt.
This leads me to say that my attractions are of a biological nature that God created in me which are pretty much out of my control. I’m a guy, I’m attracted to a beautiful woman with probably a thousand attributes attracting me. However, to fully enjoy those attractions with someone they must be with a lady who is a believer in Christ and which is something I do have control over.
Many of the qualities and traits you listed above from your speaking engagement are qualities that first don’t affect the foundation of a marriage if both are centered in Christ. They are obviously great qualities to have, but if a lady doesn’t have them all, doesn’t mean I couldn’t marry such a lady if the Lord lead me to her. It just means I need to be willing to be patient and sacraficially loving as possibly such qualities develop in her. Or secondly, maybe the Lord brings me to a lady where I have a certain qualitythat she doesn’t, to be a blessing to her.
I’m just afraid that in the culture we find ourselves in, such periphial issues as what men/women want in each other take center stage shoving aside the traits we need to have in Christ to be ready to enter into an imperfect marriage with a fellow saved sinner. Attraction may be out of our control to an extent, but loving someone selflessly, sacraficially, and unendingly are things we can fully control.
I will add one foot note that personally for me there have been times where I’ve casually met a lady and at first wasn’t attracted to her just based on outward beauty. However as I crossed paths with her I found myself having a growing attraction. So men and women need not just base a potential mate on the initial physical attraction, because that can develop later.
Justin, I still respectfully disagree that “attraction isn’t a choice”
I have heard over the decades from women (and men) that they “can’t help who they fall in love with” and the whole “pick up artist” community (PUA) has made a very thriving cottage industry on this phrase. This is mostly to the detriment of lonely men in their thirties and forties by emptying their bank accounts for classes, workshops, speakers, lectures and in the end causing a lot more pain and frustration in their lives when they do learn it is a choice. A woman chooses to like you or not in that way.
Perhaps I am biased because I too believed this phrase for several years at the end of the 1990’s and early last decade when I was still dateless but had a good career, was educated / degreed, and all the trimmings as well (well groomed, well traveled, spoke another language fluently, knew the difference between “King Lear” and “king Kong,” stuff like that…)
I just find this phrase an excuse for poor choices, and “justifiable” bad behavior in Christian circles today.
Thank you for your insightful posts otherwise.
It’s totally cool to disagree. I do want to say that I’m not saying what you do with attraction isn’t a choice. In other words, just because I’m attracted doesn’t mean I should act on it. And honestly just because I’m not totally attracted doesn’t mean I shouldn’t act on it. To me attraction is just one small part of the whole thing. But to me it seems we either ignore it or we make it the only thing. Neither of those seems right to me. That’s where I’m at.
Fair enough brother. Thank you for making that more clear. Have a blessed and joyful Christmas! Looking forward to continue reading your posts.
Thanks! You have a great Christmas as well!
I no longer put much faith on initial attraction. The reason I say this is because of two experiences I encountered. First, I met a Christian guy late last year and at first glance saw nothing attractive in him (physical or otherwise) We were attending seminars and workshops together so we saw each other (as a group) at least once every week. Much to my amazement, in spite of the fact that I initially found nothing attractive in him, I started liking him. The more I learnt about him, and his love for Jesus, ministry and his Christian values, my interests intensified. I would not have minded taking our friendship to the next level, but he never showed any interest beyond friendship so I left it at that.
Second, a month ago another Christian brother asked me out on a date. Again, I felt no attraction towards him (although I’ve known him for years) and I nearly turned him down, but decided to go out with him once and see how it goes. Would you believe that after spending time with him, talking and getting to know him more,I find the attraction just building up! We’re now officially dating and I’m loving the vibe between us and it makes me cringe to think that I nearly passed him up because I felt no initial ‘chemistry’.
On the issue of lists, all I can say is that we have to be careful that our lists do not sabotage our chances of having meaningful relationships which may, hopefully, lead to marriage. Since dating this guy; according to my list he’s not as spiritual as I would like him to be. He’s not sinning or anything like that, but he’s more of a laid-back kind of guy. So does that mean I should forget about the relationship? I think not, nobody is perfect and it’s just an issue of deciding whether you’re willing to live with the ‘shortcoming’ in the long run or not.
Good thoughts. This is sort of where I’m going. It’s about making choices. Can you set initial attraction aside if the person has the qualifiers you are looking for? This is why you have to look at what is most important to you and act out of that.
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