Many of the Christian singles I’ve known through the years, those who are actively praying for/looking for that special someone to share their life with, have some kind of “list,” some sense of criteria of what they’re looking for in a spouse. The list usually includes the following three elements:
Physical attraction: They don’t usually list this one first, but it seems to be the deal breaker. The other factors might be strongly present, but if this one isn’t present there’s zero potential for a relationship to develop towards marriage.
Common faith/values: The biblical concept of not being “unequally yoked” is well known, often taught, and appears frequently on most lists. I’ve seen plenty of people cross this one off their list when other criteria are met, so it’s not usually a deal breaker like physical attraction seems to be.
Shared interests: We both like music. We both like movies. We both like long walks on the beach. Online dating profiles are filled with such descriptors, affirming the importance of finding someone who likes to do the kinds of things you like to do.
These things are important, and attraction usually includes the kind of “chemistry” that these criteria give expression to, but these things in themselves are not actually sufficient indicators of whether a relationship will work.
We all know plenty of people who were drawn to each other, at least in part, by a strong physical attraction who ended up having a difficult if not a failed relationship. Physical attraction is a God-designed dynamic, but its ability to predict relational success is very weak. I find it odd that the one factor that generally serves as the “deal breaker” actually has so little significance as a criteria for evaluating relational choices.
Common faith/values is also important. But I’ve known many marriages without this that have stood the test of time. I’ve know plenty of couples who go to the same church, affirm the same faith,vote the same politics and share many of the same values who are now married to different people. Maybe the shared values weren’t held deeply enough. Maybe an insufficient list of values was evaluated. Maybe a set of shared values is insufficient as a criteria for making wise relational choices. I’m not saying it shouldn’t be part of the criteria, but rather that it can’t be seen as proof positive that this person is a good choice for marriage.
Shared interests are fun too. Nancy and I started dating at a Sting concert as we both marveled at the smoothness of the way his melodic lines flowed over the odd meter of the songs on the “Ten Summoner’s Tales” album. But once we were married, had kids, responsibilities, schedules, bills, etc., it’s amazing how our “shared interests” bumped down on the priority list. They were still present. Still enjoyed. But they certainly were not the glue that kept us together.
These kinds of criteria matter. But many couples with these criteria in place have a very difficult go of it in marriage. Given that reality, shouldn’t we broaden “the list”–not to exclude these factors, but rather to place them in the proper context, including with them the kinds of factors that actually have a measurable impact on whether a marriage will succeed?
I think so.