Advice for confused single Christian men, part 2

This is the second part in a series offering some advice to Christian men who are looking to get married. Part one, which sets the scene, is here.

2. Have high expectations, but don’t create a fantasy.

Some people seem so desperate to have a partner that ‘any dream will do’. That’s a bad song lyric and an unhelpful perspective: it’s inviting dodgy decision-making and unromantic sentiments such as, ‘Well, I chose you because I really wanted to be married.’ That is not wedding speech material, nor is it a good foundation for a joyful marriage. If God is your heavenly Father who has repeatedly promised good things for you, you can expect good things from Him. Having positive expectations of your future wife is therefore not only acceptable, it’s recommended.

Now we swing over to the other side of this discussion: expecting too much.

One of the reasons the influence of pornography in our culture makes me so angry is that it is a ridiculous lie about women, destroying their intelligence and will – their humanity, in fact. You’ve seen the Lynx adverts where the girls can’t help themselves, they do whatever the man wants – that’s the kind of crap I’m talking about. This way of thinking creates a pathetic level of expectation in men: that his woman will be whatever he wants, and do whatever he wants. C.S. Lewis wrote about these fantasy women, who are “always accessible, always subservient, call for no sacrifices or adjustments, and [are given] erotic and psychological attractions which no real woman can rival.” The man, furthermore is “always adored, always the perfect love, no demand is made of his unselfishness, no mortification ever imposed on his vanity.  In the end, they become merely the medium through which he increasingly adores himself.” (cited in Leanne Payne, The Broken Image)

You’re hopefully aware that basing your choice simply on what Hollywood thinks a woman should look like is risky (after all, “Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.” Proverbs 31:30), but have you considered that you could be creating a seemingly-sacred fantasy bride? You might avoid the trap of physical beauty but instead create an impossible expectation in every other way: of a wife who does exactly what you want at home, at church, with the children, etc. You imagine that her calling will fit perfectly with yours, that she’ll be the one playing the dutiful supporting role... because you’re still thinking solely of yourself. Marriage cannot work like that. Nor does Christian life, for that matter. There are loads of things you will need to work out - but that's a plural “you”, not a list of conditions that must be met before anything can happen.

So how do we manage our expectations, resisting fantasy and desperation?

When I was single, I intentionally studied other peoples’ marriages to learn all I could. The conclusion I came to in what to look for in a wife was similar to this advice from Mark Driscoll: “1. She loves Jesus, 2. She’ll put up with you. Everything else is detail.” That might not sound much better than ‘any dream will do’ but it does tally with what I’d observed because so many different kinds of people with different kinds of connections have happy marriages. So the long shopping list of attributes in your potential wife is not only selfish, it’s naive. I do want to add to Driscoll’s advice, however:
3. You can run together the race God has marked out for you. Whilst going out with Deb I discovered that although we have different abilities and preferences, we make a great team and we wanted to serve God together. Marriage is teamwork, not simply putting up with each other.
4. You think each other are great! I cannot say that the previous three statements are sufficient to explain my love for Deb. In fact, that would be an insult to her.
Find out what kind of beauty the Bible celebrates. Do your research: read about the women celebrated in the Bible and Church history, ask men whose marriages you admire what they love about their wives. These things were in my mind when I was single: I simply wasn’t going to allow myself to ‘fall’ for someone. Despite what movies tell us, we do have a choice in love. This is especially true about making a wrong decision, as Christians are explicitly told:
“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation He will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13)
So hold on to these two truths: it’s good to have high expectations, it's bad to create an impossible fantasy. This should help you see a good woman when God puts her in front of you. The fact is, Deb is far better than I could ever have imagined, I simply don’t have the brilliance to have imagined her – only God could do that. But when I met her, I knew I’d found who I’d been looking and praying for.

Next: what to do with your eyes.