“The man who finds a wife finds a treasure, and he receives favor from the LORD.” Proverbs 18:22 (NLT)
“An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, but she who shames him is like rottenness in his bones.” Proverbs 12:4 (NASB)
When I was a boy-crazy tween, I remember spending HOURS at a time dreaming about what my future husband would be like. I made a truly ridiculous amount of lists full of qualities he had to have, and according to those lists, my ideal guy was a muscled-up, well-dressed, animal-loving athlete/musician with a sexy accent, a sensitive side, and lots of money that he earned honestly.
Oh, and of course he had to be a Christian; that was just the icing on the cake.
I can’t help but laugh now whenever I remember those well-worn pieces of notebook paper. Naturally, I realized as I got older that my standards meant my dream guy was basically Superman/impossible, so I let go of a few things and added a few things, but my focus was still on who I was looking for. I forgot that if and when I ever got married, half of that marriage equation included me.
Compared to the time I spent planning who my guy should be, I spent almost no time allowing God to refine my own character.
Have you ever considered that the person you married had expectations about you too? As frustrated as I get sometimes when Daniel can’t read my mind, I KNOW I haven’t lived up to his expectations either. I’m sure he imagined that his wife would be a perfect combination of qualities: beautiful but humble, smart but not arrogant, athletic but not Schwarzenegger, funny but not crass, bold but not rude, sexy but classy, kind but not mousy, and witty but not hurtful, with an ENORMOUS desire to learn every single meal his mother made and cook them as well and as often as she did.
Luckily for him, I meet ALL of those requirements!
As logical as Daniel is, it’s likely that his expectations weren’t actually as high as I described. But even if they were, it’s not his fault, really – we all do it. Without meaning to, though we would probably never say it out loud, we expect our partners to be perfect. Much like TV or movie romantic leads, they must always apologize first, make at least a couple of ‘grand romantic gestures’, know exactly the right words to say in any situation, be fantastic in bed, and never do anything normal humans do, like use the bathroom, lose their keys, or forget to move the clothes from the washer to the dryer.
I naively assumed that real marriage was like TV marriage, where you can say almost anything in a fight as long as it’s clever, and it’ll all get glossed over and work out in two minutes because the episode is almost over. Before I got married, I never thought about disappointing my husband – I was too busy thinking about how he would fulfill MY needs and make ME happy. But there have been moments in our marriage when I have been inconsiderate, rude, or disrespectful and Daniel’s face made his thoughts very clear: “This is not the woman I fell in love with.” Suddenly, it’s not just about what I want. His needs matter too.
At this point, I feel like I need to point out that it’s not a bad thing to have some standards for your future spouse! It’s kind of important to have some stuff in common with the person you’re picking to do life with forever. But be careful that you don’t set a standard that’s impossible for any human to meet. It’s also okay to reevaluate your “deal breakers” every so often. Some things should always be deal breakers, but some things may not be as important to you as you get older. For example: before Daniel and I met, I wanted to marry a musician. Since I was 12 or 13, I had an image in my head of my husband and I singing in our kitchen, harmonizing perfectly while we cooked dinner. And Daniel, well…at least he LIKES to sing! :) Poor boy couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket. But that’s okay. I thought it was a deal breaker, but it turns out…it wasn’t! I wouldn’t give up every other quality he has for a guy who can sing. Learn to find the line between “no standards” and “impossible-to-meet standards.”
You can also argue, however, that my job was never to create a set of standards for a godly man and then go looking for him. Because the Bible is already FULL of them. Proverbs alone describes a good husband as
self-controlled (12:15, 16:32),
and forgiving (19:11).
Proverbs kicks my list in the face.
Now look at the list again. How many of those qualities do you have? It’s not enough to have expectations for the other person. It’s hypocritical to hold Daniel to a standard that I don’t care about meeting myself. My responsibility, then and now, is two-fold: (1) Pursue my own relationship with God and grow into a godlier woman, and (2) Appreciate and encourage the good qualities my husband has and support his growth in his relationship with God.
Whether you’re married or not, it’s time for you to make a new list – for yourself. Pray that God will make you loving (Titus 2:4-5), respectful (Ephesians 5:33), hardworking (Proverbs 31:13, 15-16, 18-19, 21-22, 24, 27), calm (1 Peter 3:4), courageous (Joshua 1:9), good-humored (Proverbs 17:22), and holy like Him (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
This post is part of “Married Monday,” a series I started in order to expose myths and lies we’ve been told about married life, celebrate moments of joy and growth, chew on hard truths and sprinkle them with grace, and remind others (and myself!) that marriage doesn’t work without Christ in it. I have lots of ideas, but I’d love your input too! What topics would you like to see covered?