January 23, 2016

6 Signs He or She Isn’t Marriage Material

Gary Thomas — 


Somebody could be beautiful, funny, a pleasure to be around, and even be active in their church but still not be good marriage material. A few relational “infections” can all but erase many good qualities.

Put it this way: a gregarious guy could be a lot of fun to have in the dugout of a baseball team, but if he can’t hit, throw, or catch a baseball he’d be a poor choice to join your team. In the same way, someone could be wonderful in the context of dating and still be sorely lacking when it comes to the “game time” issues of marriage.

I’ve seen the following six major character weaknesses become significant hurdles for marital intimacy and satisfaction and even take down some marriages. This isn’t, by any means, an exhaustive list. There are many more. But each one of these is significant enough that if the person you are dating displays several (or even one or two to a deep degree), they may not be emotionally or spiritually ready for marriage—regardless of how much fun it is to date them.

1.He or she is a “taker”

The sad reality is some people are givers and some people are takers. Givers don’t always mind being in a relationship with a taker because they like to give; it brings them joy. But there are times when the giver will need to receive. For instance the giver gets really sick or is laid off, even though he or she provided the bulk of the income or just goes through a discouraging time and suffers things she has never known before, like depression or anxiety.

In those instances, can your taker learn to give? In many cases, sadly, the answer is no. The taker freaks out, abandons the relationship, or just runs around in an emotional and relational panic wanting everyone to feel sorry for them, only adding to the giver’s problems rather than alleviating them.

If you marry a taker, you’re sitting on a relational time-bomb, because you’re making the bet that, as a giver, your fallen body and your fallen soul won’t ever get so fallen that you’ll someday need help, even for a season. You’ll have better odds trying to win the lottery.

It is not selfish to want to marry a giver. It is wise. It is being a good steward of your time and life. It is a gift to your future children (just think about it).

How do you know if you’re dating a taker? I have an entire section on that in my book The Sacred Search (pages 203-208).

2. He or she is lazy

Many particularly younger couples are often surprised at how difficult life can become. It’s a lot of hard work. Raising kids is exhausting. Taking care of a house, working, and being married will sometimes push you to the limit of your energy. Unless you have unlimited funds and can pay for your house to be cleaned, your kids to have a full-time nanny, and your spouse to stay home (if he or she wants to), you’ll run into serious problems if you marry a lazy person (and if you are a married person you won’t be able to afford any of that).

It might seem like a holiday when your boyfriend or girlfriend is all about play and always trying to take you away from work, but if they do that to an extreme and never demonstrate self-discipline and initiative that carefree spirit will grow very tiresome, very quickly.

3. He/she lives primarily in the virtual world instead of the real one

I’ve talked to couples where the wife spends too much time on Facebook or Instagram, or the wife is so invested in her blog about her marriage that she barely has time for her marriage.

I’ve also seen many occasions where the husband can barely restrain himself from getting into his video game seat for eight hour sessions. I’ll grant that a man or a woman without kids can enjoy a four or five hour round of golf on occasion and still be a rather responsible adult. But when someone is playing video games, or is online several hours a day every day, or eight hours at a time it has become an escape. Worse, the more we participate in an escape, the hands on computermore tempted we are to double down and do it even more. The real world loses interest and the virtual world becomes our passion.

If your guy plays a little too much gaming now (or has to play on Christmas and Thanksgiving or is inflexible to be with you at an event that’s important to you because he doesn’t want to let other gamers down), it’ll frustrate you even more when kids come along or household tasks get ignored. If your girlfriend regularly loses herself in ten-hour Netflix marathons of Gilmore Girls or Grey’s Anatomy, ask yourself a simple question: “If this is how she escapes from pressure while single, why wouldn’t she do the same after we are married?”

And if you’re thinking, “Hey, if she watches ten hours of Parks and Rec then I can do ten hours of gaming!” you’re accepting a very low level of intimacy in marriage.

4. They’re not kind

A study listed kindness as one of the top two qualities contributing to marital happiness, and I believe it. Kindness never gets old. Bodies may deteriorate, mental functioning may slow down, beauty may fade, but a kind person usually becomes kinder. Your happiness will increase if you marry a kind person.

If you choose a kind person, you’re going to be blessed by their kindness for the rest of your life, maybe even every day. Kind persons love being kind; it gives them joy to be kind. Does your girlfriend look for ways to encourage and bless others in their discouragement? Does your boyfriend go out of his way to make people feel better rather than worse in social situations? If there’s a need, is your significant other someone who is often the first to step up?

Why stress kindness when so many other issues could be mentioned? Kindness is one of those qualities most associated with happiness, and most people desire a happy marriage. If that’s you, choose someone who is kind and drop someone who is unkind.

5. They’re addicted to porn and not dealing with it

I wish this wasn’t true, but the devastation I’m seeing from it has to be stated: women, if you marry a man who is an out of control porn addict, he won’t be able to be a satisfactory lover in marriage for very long (if ever). He will lose interest in you. He will face ED issues decades before men normally do. He will fight the urge to use you in bed instead of bless you. He will be comparing you with women who are acting according to script, not real life.

Infatuation can temporarily “cure” men of porn use for about nine to twelve months. But once the marriage settles into routine, many men go right back to the easy sexual fix. High speed internet pornography will literally re-wire your man’s brain, affecting how he gets aroused and his ability to handle that arousal. Google it. Study it. Look it up. Don’t just take my word for it! The results will and should concern you.

Some of you will say, “Isn’t this true for women, too?” Yes, though it appears to affect their brains a bit differently. But as a man, you should be equally concerned.

Women, be wary of allowing a man to rush you into marriage in hopes that this will take his struggle away. Marry a healthy man who wants to have an intimate, mutually satisfying sexual relationship not a man who wants to use you to overcome a habit that he hasn’t been able to cure on his own. Marriage alone never cures pornography use.

Since porn use is now virtually universal among younger men, you’ll be hard pressed to find a man who has no history with this or even one who doesn’t still occasionally struggle. Just be wary of a man who has never found any freedom in this area for any significant period of time. There’s a huge difference between marrying a man who has some accountability in place, people he talks to, and long stretches of obedience, and yet still occasionally stumbles and someone who has never been able to live without porn for any appreciable length of time.

I have worked with some young men with good hearts and a sincere desire to follow God who have struggled with porn to various degrees—and yet I was able to recommend them to marriage with no hesitation. They may yet struggle, but they are fighting the battle instead of simply surrendering to the desire, and they are intent on living without it. They’ve demonstrated obedience and wise living and I believe they will be honorable husbands. I don’t want you men to think I don’t have any empathy for you—I do. And I admit that there is a difference between a guy whose brain is being shaped by this who in fact has no history apart from this, who settles into hours-long porn sessions as his brain is sadly re-wired away from real-life on a regular basis, and a man who earnestly struggles because of his past but is seeing far more victory than defeat.

Any defeat represents future vulnerability, however, women do need to be careful and wise—that’s simply the nature of addiction. Porn certainly isn’t the only sin, but left unchecked, it can be among the most destructive.

6. They’re not humble

Humility is sadly under-rated. The Christian classics call it “the queen of the virtues” for good reason. Humility is the foundation for virtually every other positive character quality. It’s what spawns kindness, service, generosity, and confession.

Humility isn’t thinking less of yourself, but less about yourself. If you marry an arrogant person, every time there’s a conflict he/she will expect you to change instead of examining their own heart to see what they need to change. That gets really old.

A proud person will choose to live where he/she wants to live. They will spend their holidays with whom they want to spend their holidays, and they will find ways to punish you if they don’t get their way. They will spend money as if their needs and wants are more important than anyone else’s. And you will feel as if you matter less and less as the years go by, instead of mattering more and more.

If you want a few tests for humility, I’ve got a few sections on this in The Sacred Search (see especially pages 127-128 and 134-136).

A lot of married readers who follow this blog still read the posts intended for singles, so other married readers, help me out: what important warning signs did I leave out? Do you agree with the ones I mention here?

Let’s start a conversation.

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49 responses to 6 Signs He or She Isn’t Marriage Material

  1. I’ve seen many marriages fail when the husband and wife could not agree on how to raise their children. Each had such a strong belief that their parenting style was correct that they find their partners ideas “ridiculous” or “old fashioned”.

    I was lucky…. I found a man who’s parenting style was very similar to mine. Yet even being that well suited we had moments when I realized (as we were arguing) how easily a major parenting rift could rock the foundation of a marriage.

    While in the dating, infatuation stage of a relationship, it is easy to glaze over small warning signs. But, I believe strongly that discussing…. children (and not just the number of kids desired!) should be one of many important discussions young couples should have.

    Thank you for writing this blog!

  2. Yes, those statements are true and helpful. How about jealousy? If a person is jealous of another and cannot allow them to have other family-friends relationships without their presence or control, it’s very damaging.

  3. I agree whole heartedly with every one of these! I have been married for 5 1/2 years so far to a wonderful man but thinking back on previous relationships I had before I was married, several of them easily fit 2 or more of these. It’s easy to try and overlook those flaws while dating especially if you don’t want to admit to yourself something is seriously wrong but to go ahead with marriage would be detrimental. I hope singles read these and seriously consider them.

  4. Jennifer Billis-Gehrke January 26, 2016 at 11:54 am

    I am so glad to see a Christian teacher address this issue! As, a single I have heard many many many sermons on marriage! I understand that marriage sermons are important but if you want a healthy marriage it is important to begin with healthy singles! Who do you think gets married?many issues that effect

    • Jennifer Billis-Gehrke January 26, 2016 at 11:57 am

      I’m sorry hard to post stuff on online with my phone it posted too soon. Manyissues that affect marriage in a person’s character or a partner’s character are issues that affect other relationships in a single’s life.at the very least this article and this topic are every bit as important as any marriage sermon I’ve ever heard if only for the sake of marriage. Thanks for writing it and keep up the good work.

  5. After reading the blog, I’ve asked my boyfriend how often he played on computer games being a “gamer”. He said an average of 2 hours a day up to 5 days, and when he’s had more time up to 5 hours in 1 sitting. I’m asking God will he be able to kick off this habit, will he be marriage-ready, is he good enough to marry. It’s heartbreaking that i may be heading for another breakup because ‘he isn’t ready to marry me’ because he doesn’t feel connected enough to me to make that leap of faith. I’ve always maintained optimism & hope that this nice, christian guy who goes to small group & church with me is a keeper…but at the age of 42 he seems to want to wait just a little longer after 1.5 years of dating. Watching my friends wed & commit having dated in less time than us is stirring up impatience. I’m very driven, he’s very laid-back. I’m very goal-oriented he prefers to play games & spend a lot of time online. We live in a country that’s quite isolating…i’m feeling sad. I’m 41 years & still single.

    • Daphne, if you read your own comment, you know what the situation is and you know what you need to do. Sometimes, it’s just difficult to admit it.

      And if you’re wondering whether there might be a connection between that much gaming and passivity and a hesitancy to move forward in life, even in his forties, well, there probably is.

    • your boyfriend is a player.

  6. Hello from Japan, Gary 🙂 I discovered your blog since I received Sacred Marriage as a Christmas gift from my husband of almost 1 year now, and love it!

    Definitely agree to all the points above. For me, one of the most important qualities I seeked out for was whether my future spouse is a weekly church goer and servant, and in fellowship/small group and is receiving godly counsel from pastors/leaders/Christian brothers. Also, I watched how he is with his family and friends. Oh, and I also didn’t want to marry a recent convert to the faith as it says in 1 Timothy 3:6 – “An elder must not be a new believer, because he might become proud, and the devil would cause him to fall.” I guess I have seen new people at church who left the church after a year or so, and I wanted to make sure he truly believes and lives for Jesus!

  7. Great reminders. Taking note. Thanks!

  8. I so agree with you Gary on all these points. I can relate and testify to all of them in marriages I know! My mum married a lazy taker (yes, it’s my father and I love him nevertheless) with porn addiction and they difficult marriage didn’t survive. My sister married a proud guy with a host of other problems and he left her with 3 small children after he just changed his mind about marriage. He won’t accept that he might bear at least a partial responsibility for their problems although he decided about nearly everything in their life together. I almost lost my marriage too, to my husband’s pornography addiction although he is a loving, kind and a very giving person. It just brought him to places he never thought he would go to! And I didn’t know if I could still love him after all he had done. Thank God for repentance and forgiveness, for the power of His love and salvation.
    Thank you Gary for your wonderful writing.

  9. Very well said Gary, thank you!

  10. Gary,
    I think that this is a great article! I think that one thing that accompanies the lack of humility would be the inability to take ones self less seriously. My wife and I have been married for 11 years and I think that in the last 5 years this has been our biggest step forward. In those first years of marriage it seemed like every little offense was taken so seriously! As we have grown in the Lord and allowed him to give us eyes that see our own flaws and missteps, it has produced grace in the midst of conflict. When I remember how many times I have missed the mark with my wife, it reminds me of her forgiveness and grace towards me. So, when she misses the mark, I can be gracious with her. We find ourselves laughing at our petty frustrations and things seem to resolve so much quicker now. So for singles, the encouragement would be to look for that quality in a person. The ability to see their own mistakes and be forgiving of others who make mistakes will go a long way in a marriage.

  11. The ones you listed are the top ones for sure. Of course, we know that having a daily walk with Jesus can solve many if not all of these. Maybe one more could be that the partner des not want to pray together. The intimacy that comes through praying as a couple is missed in many marriages and I believe is needed!

  12. Honesty. The single most important factor in evaluating a future mate has to be their character. If you spot someone lying to others, and fhemselves (even small lies), then you can be sure thaf when pressure comes to your relationship, they will lie to you. Trust is vital to marital happiness. Intimacy and respect cannot be sustained in an environment where trust is missing or damaged. Listen carefully to their words and make your evaluation by their actions. Don’t make excuses for them, dishonesty is very destructive to relationships.

  13. Great list that every single-gonna-be married person needs to memorize!

  14. I’m not married, but I think it’s a great list!! Some of my preferred criteria and non-negotiable items can probably easily fit in as sub-categories or simply fall under these 6 signs. I was going to pick out my favorites and mention them, but they all seem equally important. Also, I like how you addressed #5 and gave clarification to the two types of men. As one with a history but still struggles with being tempted, how much victory I need to have in order to become marriage material has been a question in my mind for a few years now. Your explanation helps answer that. Thanks, Gary!

  15. Marcia Klungler January 23, 2016 at 1:40 pm

    Thank you for this review, Bro. Thomas. These points are so important in marriage. Another thought I had was how a man or woman relates to his/parents. Are they disrespectful to their parents? Are they tied to the apron strings? I’ve seen marriages strained because the husband wasn’t able to separate from his mother. Sad situation.

  16. What do you do if you already married a person who lives in a virtual world & is not humble? I stumbled into this marriage blindly & we now have 3 kids. I’ve read your book “Scared Influence” & Ioved it. But the marriage is still very difficult. Sometimes, I feel like giving up.

    • Dear Tisha, My heart aches to hear of your struggle. I will be asking the Lord to do a powerful work of redemption in your marriage. And while He is at work there, my encouragement is to draw ever so near to the One who is our perfect, heavenly bridegroom. I find that when I bask in His love and the truth of His word, He gives me the grace to walk in His strength and truth when I feel hurt by my husband in different ways. Blessings to you dear sister.

  17. As usual your blog’s are excellent, however point #5 only addresses as men only having an addiction to porn. Statistics state that more than 30% of women are addicted to porn.

  18. Reliability is one. It is a word that encompasses many attributes. If there is no reliability then everything falls apart…it’s very simple, but a man, or woman, needs to be reliable. If they are not, then there is no trust.

  19. As I am prone to always have something to say or add, let me add this one…
    Has this person ever “dealt” with or gone through forgiveness of their parents (one or both). While not EVERY person has grown up in a dysfunctional family where parental hurts or lack of good parenting skills left their mark, we are ALL still dysfunctional at some level. My experience has found that even my friends who grew up with the BEST family life, found later in life that they did have some hurtful memories or events from one or both parents that had scarred them in some way and had become “triggers” for some of their reactions or behaviors towards others.

    So the warning would be, “BE AWARE” if the person you are dating seems to not have ANY negative memories of parents that have or have not been dealt with or if/when they do comment about some negative memory/event about that parent, they quickly excuse or dismiss the whole thing…as if they CANNOT be critical or talk in anyway negatively about that parent. Why is this so huge? I would warn that if this person has never been able to appropriately accept that parent’s failure/hurt towards them and found that it IS ok to be appropriately critical of a parent, you may very well find that this person has much deeper emotional struggles or even disorder issues going on inside. One good “test” is to see if other siblings are able to be critically honest in anyway. If NONE of them seem to be able to “call a spade a spade”…big problem. In my specific experience, one of four other siblings has been a strong Believer for 30 years…probably the most holy person I know. He has a very clear perspective and understanding of the obvious dysfunction that exists within his family as a whole (aunts/uncles/cousins). However his sister (my wife) has passionately disagreed with him in these discussions to the point she must leave the table.

    The result in my marriage has been that I, as her husband have become the “donkey” to which she pins all of her “tails” to from her past. Childhood hurts, traumas and anger MUST have an outlet. They must be expressed, processed, or exposed at some point in life. If left to be handled after marriage….get ready. As the spouse, you WILL become the punching bag. If this person is someone with a serious Personality Disorder such as Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), you may never even realize it until years into the marriage and after hundreds of hours of counseling together. You may find that you are the only one continuing to seek change and still being asked to change even more, all the while this BPD spouse has only become more secure in their belief that YOU are the problem, not them.

    So if you are dating someone who seems to portray their childhood as wonderful and parents that did no wrong, yet the facts show there were definitely SOME issues…look further. Can this person EVER seem to OWN their mistakes, their reactions or behaviors…or does it always seem to be YOUR fault? Do they apologize AND ask forgiveness when clearly at fault? We ALL have some Red Flags in our lives. The question is are we aware of these issues AND are we seeking God to heal them and to change the impact they have on our lives?

    • Wow. Very insightful. I have lived through what you just shared, to a “T”. Even to where my ex-wife would get up from the table due to disagreeing with her brother about family hurts and deep-seated issues from their childhood. Thank you.

    • Lynnette Hebert March 3, 2016 at 1:42 pm

      I want to thank you for your post. It was very well presented and highly personal. I am a punching bag too, so what does a person do to change the narrative? I’ve also been used as my husband’s (now ex) extremely aggressive, passive/aggressive ways. His deliberate silence was deafening and aggravating. I think this article was insightful, and I also appreciate the wisdom of your words. I pray you and yours be blessed. . .

  20. This list is definitely a great starting place! One thing that is missing is if someone has spiritual disconnects/inconsistencies-for example, someone who behaves as his spiritual life is in order, yet pressures you to be sexually involved and sees nothing wrong with it. It may seem to be a common sense item, but it can so easily be overlooked.