In the Spring of 1991, I was driving back to school from Las Vegas. To the left of me was probably one of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever seen. There really is nothing like a sunset over the desert. Oh my, sometimes I miss the desert.....
Oh, yeah, back to the Spring of 1991. I barely noticed the sunset. I was crying. My boyfriend, Frank, and I had just broken up. Frank was kind of structured (very unlike me) and his weekends were laid out just so: Saturday night, he usually spent that evening with his friends Ray and I don't even remember the other one...he was more Ray's friend anyway. Sunday was spent with his half-brothers. Neither one of those things could bring any complaint, really. It is good to spend time with your friends and your brothers. I just happened to live 175 miles away, and I worked on Fridays, and only sometimes on Saturdays if I was needed, and I usually didn't know if I was needed until Saturday. Frank didn't cancel plans without notice. I'd driven down to see him, hoping that he would be able to make time for me, and he didn't. (I did get to do some great four-wheeling with my friend Todd, though). In the midst of those obligations, there was no time for me, the person he willingly entered into a relationship with, and said he loved. On top of it all, Frank and I had been dating off and on through high school (mostly off) and this was the longest we'd gone, and I had really started to hope we could make it work this time. I realized there was something wrong with that, and we had the first fight we'd had in our six year friendship and relationship. Usually, we'd just distance ourselves for a while. It was good to have that fight.
Somewhere along that drive though, I had an epiphany. I realized that I dealt with those same issues with my father. My father is a good man who keeps his word....but he's not very flexible, and sometimes it seemed like the obligations he made to other people came before the ones to his family...in the name of taking care of his family.
At that point, the tears dried up, and the realization came to me that I had been saved from a very trying relationship, one in which I could not win. It also occurred to me that if I didn't want to end up in this situation again, I'd better really figure out what I wanted in a guy and be on the lookout for it. So, I put together this list.
I had a guideline. I decided that it would all fall under this category: He must be a good father. I didn't even know if I wanted kids, but I figured the traits that I wanted for my kids, if I had them, would be a good guideline. And I loaded that definition with A LOT more than just - he must like playing with kids and will be willing to change diapers.
1. He must be a good Christian (Frank was not..he was a good guy in many ways, and he was curious and respectful, but he was not a believer. I don't think any guy I ever dated had been a Christian, not a committed one, anyway, and this part scared me. I did like a guy who was exciting and who got my blood pumping. I didn't know if the two were really compatible. They are).
2. He must be respectful and have manners. If he cares enough to pull out my chair, open my door, or get me flowers - then that is a good sign that he will be respectful when things get more serious. Convincing myself that I deserved these things was another story. But I did. I told myself that I wanted a man who would show my son that it was important, and just as importantly, his daughter should expect this from any man who was interested in her, as well. And if they don't take time to do this at the beginning of a relationship, they won't be any better at it (in fact, they'll be worse) when they are comfortable with you. They have to believe you are a gift from God (and you have to believe they are, too).
3. I need to be able to respect him. This is so important. More important than I could've ever imagined. Today I would put that in terms of "He loves God more than he loves me." Because there have been times I wanted him to conform to my will, and that was against God's will - or at least there was some wisdom that I was missing. And when my husband loves God more than me, he takes even more seriously the command to love me as Christ loves the church. And still the quantity of the love that my husband has for me is more than I can ever fathom.
4. I want him to want to spend time with me. I want that to be a strong priority. I want to enjoy being with him. I want him to believe that building and maintaining his relationship with me is what the foundation for the family should be built upon (only second to our foundation being built on Christ). When we have a happy marriage, we have a happy family. And the problems....when we emphasize this, we work through those problems.
5.He has to have a great sense of humor and like to play....with me as well as with our children.
6. He can't make his decisions in life based on the risk of getting hurt. He has to want to risk loving and know that getting hurt is part of the process of loving a sinner and being a sinner. He also can't be the kind that wears his heart on his sleeve either -showing off his hurts or expecting them. He simply knows that God is going to take care of him in this.
Not long after this list was made , I met Jeff. I don't know if he knows what kind of scrutiny he was under (but he had his own list, too). Having guidelines helped me to keep my head on my shoulders while I was falling in love and until the very day I said "I do." It was amazing the difference that there was. I also think the fact that he possessed all of these traits and then some led me to fall in love with someone I may not have normally considered my type. It took me out of "my type" and drew me to someone who was truly good for me. Sometimes the fact that he did seem to fit these so well kept me there even when I really thought it might be better to go my merry way, just to see what would happen next. It was a completely different process.
I don't believe that we are victims of our emotions or our pheremones. I do believe we can fall in love with whom we choose. And when all the stars and such seem to fall from the sky and we are back on earth again and calling attention to each other's faults in spades, the fact that the person who now seems very very human is still a very good man and inspires me to be as good as I possibly can be in the face of this new adversity ends up being the strength that the relationship stands on. (because in the end, that was based on finding someone who truly put their trust in Christ in the first place) --and what rescues it from our sad and sometimes evil flaws (Okay, this sentence is such a grammatical nightmare that I can't believe I published it. I am still wrestling through a more concise way to say it. At least it poetically expresses the tumult that is felt when this situation finally comes, right??? Repeat after me "Rationalization is my friend.")
To a great extent, this is why I think arranged marriage or courtship can work so well. Other people recognize a good man, too. My parents certainly did recognize that Jeff was "the one" from the very moment they met him. And so did my friends - even the ones who hadn't met him - like Frank. Often, they've seen things I wasn't willing to see.
And when you have a person who trusts in God and has good character and integrity - you will have a good relationship - because at some point in time, that is what you are left with.....and love and passion continually flow through these and are fed by these traits.
I have friends who let their kids become everything when they have them. Their lives become centered around their kids and all of a sudden the husband is a means of supporting this lifestyle they have with their kids. They don't understand when their husband is working longer hours or going out with his friends more, and they fear for the day that their kids will grow up and leave them. I don't have that. I love and respect my husband, and above all, he is my best friend. I love the time that God has given me with my kids, but I actually look forward to when they will be gone, and it will be just us again, and we can just lay about and talk and do other things without interruption, and enjoy life together again at our pace.
And - as far as all those people who say "sexual compatibility is so important." I agree....but beyond physical attraction, beyond intelligence, beyond money -- NOTHING is as sexy as a truly good, loving man.