DEAR ALI: ‘What Preferences in a Mate are Good to Have?’

Dear Ali,

What are some preferences that are good to have when choosing whether to engage in a relationship with someone?

Dear Reader,

Last week we covered how to guard against being too picky. Hope you found some of the insights helpful in learning to keep more of an open mind and allow God to show you what Your need in a mate. This week, we are going to discuss some preferences that are good to have and keep in the process of getting to know someone new.

I am going to draw again from the wisdom and experience of Dr. Cloud and Dr. Townsend in their book called Boundaries in Dating because I think their perspective is one of the best I have heard in terms of striking a balance between faith and practicality, hard rules and free choice. If you are in a dating relationship or are feeling ready to enter one, I highly recommend the book!

The following are three areas in which preferences should stem:

Shared Interests. It’s important to share common interests and activities with the person you are with. I had a friend who was extremely attracted to a woman physically, but when they started spending time together, he discovered he loved the outdoors…she hated them. He was passionate about sports…she couldn’t be bothered. He loved to socialize and meet new people…she liked to stay home and keep a private life. He said, “Though there was definitely chemistry between us, it was always a battle when we were deciding on things to do. I know now that I prefer to be with someone who shares some of the same interests and hobbies so we can both enjoy them together.” In a long-term relationship, romantic feelings will ebb and flow (according to my parents and many others who have endured many years of marriage). But sharing common interests is something that can be a constant source of joy in a relationship over a lifetime. It’s important to maintain individual passions and hobbies too, but having things that you enjoy doing together can help keep a lasting bond between a couple.

Shared Goals. Goals have more to do with what direction in life you are headed. Dr. Townsend says one’s goals “will affect where you live, what career you choose, how you spend your time and money, and even how you develop your character and walk with God.” A dear friend of mine was seeing someone with whom she shared many interests and common personality traits. But over time, she discovered he had a strong calling to minister to a specific people group in a specific area of the world, while she had a strong calling–also in ministry–but to a completely different people group and country. While being with someone will inevitably call for some sacrifices and may entail giving up some of your own dreams, goals and desires to make it work, in this instance she felt the direction God was leading them in was too different and decided to break it off. Better to realize that in the ‘getting to know each other’ phase rather than in marriage. It was a tough decision, but God enabled her to end it with such grace and maturity and they have even remained friends and supporters of each other’s ministries. She has now met someone who shares both common interests and shared life goals and has the green light from God to move towards marriage. She is so thankful she listened to that unrest and had the willingness to call it quits when she knew they were not compatible in their vision for how and where they would spend their life together. Praise God!

Shared Values. The third area identified in Boundaries in Dating where preferences are important is values. This is where one’s character, faith and priorities will be exposed over the long haul. According to Dr. Townsend, these are the things you are going to “abide with, bump into, develop around, share with, receive from, grow with, and so on…” Someone might be extremely good-looking and you like where he or she is headed in life, but if he doesn’t have the honesty, integrity and good judgement to get through the tougher things in life, it might be something to consider. Jesus says, “A bad tree cannot bear good fruit” (Matthew 7:18). Looking for someone who exhibits the fruits of the Spirit on a regular basis in real life circumstances–like love, peace, patience, joy, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control (Galatians 22:5)–is a good preference to have. This in addition to whether you share a similar commitment level in your faith and how you prioritize things like family, friends, church and money. I’ve been told over and over by older couples, “character is what you’re going to experience the most over a lifetime, so choose wisely!”

With all of these guidelines laying out preferences that are important to have when choosing to be in a relationship, it is important to remember there is no perfect person and there is no perfect match! As long as we are all ‘fallen’ human beings on this earth, we will all have flaws and imperfections. It’s just a matter of identifying which imperfections you can live with and which ones you cannot–and should not–live with.

In the next two weeks we will tackle those very questions… don’t miss it! May this series be some nourishment for your soul, helping to prepare and equip you for a healthy and godly dating relationship, as God directs your steps in His timing!

With Love,

Ali

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