I received the following email (edited for length and taking out any identifying information) from a reader:
I am so grateful a friend recommended your book, Sacred Search. I’m currently on my fourth reading! I’ve found it so helpful in evaluating my dating relationships….as well as realigning my beliefs & hopes about marriage with Scripture (& confirmation of the Holy Spirit). I can’t thank you enough.
Still, I have a lingering question. Is it wise to marry someone if deep down you’re not as proud of them as they deserve? Or worded another way…What do you do if your only hang-ups about a potential spouse are superficial traits (like physical appearance or position/profession) you wish didn’t matter to you at all, but in reality, still bother you?
I believe marriage is a choice, and I want to make a wise choice based off qualities God values. With that in mind, if I don’t want to be a superficial person, do I just ignore the fact that I’m bothered or embarrassed by my boyfriend’s appearance, profession/position, etc? Or should I trust that if a man’s character isn’t enough to make traits I don’t want to value in the first place seem unimportant, then he just might not be the wisest match, after all?
Here’s how I’d respond:
The marital choice is a lot about preference. We should definitely marry a believer (1 Cor. 7:39). We should marry a person of high character (Prov. 31:10ff.). But on issues of preference—appearance, personality, vocation, there isn’t any absolute “this is the right or wrong thing to decide.” It’s more “What are you willing to live with?”
I think the greatest weakness of The Sacred Search is that it may set the bar a little too high. Some have written to me that the kind of person I’m describing in that book doesn’t really exist–everyone must make compromises. I agree to a certain extent; it’s just that I’ve seen what happens when people compromise too much, and I want to help people avoid that, so maybe I went too far in the other direction.
Having said that, to answer this person’s question: I, personally, wouldn’t marry someone who embarrasses me. “Embarrassment” is a strong word and respect is the backbone of a solid marriage. Both husbands (1 Peter 3:7) and wives (1 Peter 3:1) are biblically commanded to respect their spouse, which is difficult to do if you’re embarrassed by them.
It’s impossible to “fake respect” someone for very long; eventually, he or she will catch on, and that will launch a number of negative things into your marriage.
When a guy doesn’t feel respected, he’ll feel like a “project,” as it will be difficult for you not to keep needling him about the issue(s) you hope will change. He may get discouraged that you don’t respect him and, as a defense mechanism, stop trying to earn your respect and worse, seek to be respected somewhere else. There are plenty of other ways a disrespected guy might respond and none of them, frankly, are good.
If you’re embarrassed by your wife, how is she ever going to feel cherished? How can a man tell his wife, “My dove, my perfect one, is the only one” (Song of Songs 6:9) when he wishes she looked more like someone else, acted more like someone else, or had another woman’s personality or job? And if you don’t cherish your wife, no one else is biblically allowed to, at least not in that way, so you are choosing to keep your wife from ever experiencing a marriage as God designed it.
We all have to compromise somewhat as no one gets to marry the fourth member of the Trinity. But in general, I want to see premarital couples feeling proud of each other, eager to show each other off, and each feeling like they got the best end of the deal.
When a couple is meeting with me and the woman can’t wait to tell me, “He’s not the kind of guy I’m usually attracted to,” that’s a bad sign, in my view. She’s apologizing for him before he’s even opened his mouth. Why does she want me to know that, anyway? Why should it matter to me how he looks? That’s a statement of pure embarrassment, and since I’m not much of a judge when it comes to masculine appearance, it’s a wasted observation anyway.
Making a reasonable compromise or two is a necessity in a fallen world when you’re marrying an imperfect man or woman. Accepting something that embarrasses you is, in my opinion, too big of a compromise.
The writer’s last sentence sums it up well: “Should I trust that if a man’s character isn’t enough to make traits I don’t want to value in the first place seem unimportant, then he just might not be the wisest match, after all?” To that I’d say, “Probably so.”
What do you think? Let’s get a conversation going.