DEAR ALI: ‘What Kind of Person Should I Condsider for Marriage?’

Dear Ali,

I’m greatly encouraged that I’m not alone in all the crazy thoughts about ‘potentials’. My question is regarding ‘the list.’ Should I be checking off traits from a ‘list’ or allow God to bring me someone totally unexpected but complementary?

Thank you so much for this question. It is one I get a lot and one I have asked God a lot about myself! I do cover this topic from my own experience on pages 31-36 in by book, but I want to share some words of wisdom from another source called Boundaries in Dating, by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend (

Dr. Cloud shares about an experience when he was asked to speak to a Christian college group on the topic on how to pick someone to date or marry. He opened by asking them, “What do you look for in a person to seriously date or marry?” These were some of the responses:

  • Deep spiritual commitment to God
  • Person who loves God’s Word
  • Someone with ambition
  • Someone fun
  • Attractive
  • Smart
  • Witty
  • Leader in their field
  • Like sports

“Great list,” he said. “ I like people like that too. But in all the years I have done marriage counseling, I have yet to meet a couple who was ready to divorce or having significant problems because one wasn’t witty enough or did not read their Bible as much as the other wished, or was not a leader in their field.”

He went onto say however, that he did meet hundreds of couples who were about to end their relationships over things like:

  • She’s so controlling, I feel smothered all the time
  • He doesn’t listen to me
  • He is so critical, I feel like I am never doing anything right
  • He is so irresponsible. I never know it the bills are being paid or if he has taken care of the things he promised to do.
  • She over-spends all the time
  • He can’t connect emotionally. He doesn’t understand how I feel.
  • His anger scares me
  • After his affair I can’t trust anything he does or says

Interesting isn’t it? All of the things Dr. Cloud listed above have little to do with the list of ideals, characteristics and accomplishments we often use to judge the level of ‘potential’ in a person with whom we might consider for the long-term. The point he is trying to make is this: character is the main issue. Dr. Cloud says,

“Initially you are attracted to a persons outsides, but over time you will have to deal with his insides. His character is what you will experience long-term and be in relationship with over time.”

Does that mean we have to toss our natural tastes and preferences out the window? Not at all. Some of us prefer athletic types, while others prefer more musical or artsy types. That’s fine. Having our own personal tastes in what attracts us to another person is a God-given healthy thing and is what makes the process of getting to know someone interesting and engaging.

But with that said, we should be careful not over-value these tastes so they become a substitute for the things that really matter over the long haul. Dr. Cloud says he is shocked at how under-valued things having to do with character, maturity, etc. are in the Christian dating world and he has witnessed the disastrous consequences that follow.

So what are some examples of preferences we should have on ‘the list’ when it comes to considering a relationship with another person? What are others that we should avoid? How do we hold to a standard without being too rigid, unrealistic or picky? It is possible to remain open and flexible without ‘settling’? How can we enjoy romantic sparks without being completely blinded by them?

These are all great questions and one’s which I will address more in detail over the next few weeks. I hope Dr. Cloud’s example helped to kick-start your thinking on the kinds of things you should consider in a mate. Until we meet again next week, ask yourself:

  1. What is my current approach in deciding if I am compatible with another person?
  2. What is on my ‘list’ of traits, qualities and characteristics I hope to find in a mate? (If you don’t have one, make one!)
  3. Why are these things important to me?
  4. Are the majority of them outer or inner qualities of a person? Do I need to make some adjustments?

Be as honest and real as you can as you write it out. Have it handy as we tackle this topic in more depth and be ready to re-work it as we discover together what we should look for in a life partner, from God’s perspective.

Tune in same place, same time next week!

With Love,


2 Comments on “DEAR ALI: ‘What Kind of Person Should I Condsider for Marriage?’

  1. Ali, I am soo excited for this series 🙂 I’ve wondered how to know who to consider & I’ll say as I read the first list I thought “great I’m doing it right” & then I read the rest of the post as what people actually get divorced about & started thinking ” I have some lessons to learn”

    • Hi Tonya,

      I totally had the same thought your did when I read those lists in that book–“I have a lot to learn!” Hope you are blessed by some of the insights in the coming weeks. Pass it along to your single friends!



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