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6 Character Traits to Look for in a Potential Spouse

When you are searching for the person who will join you in building a lifelong marriage, what really matters is character.

By Dennis Rainey

I am often asked, “What should a single person look for in a potential spouse?” Singles want to know, and parents want to know so they can pass the information on to their children.

Sometimes we create a superficial list of things we are looking for when we’re looking at a prospective spouse. It may involve her physical appearance, or his financial statement, or it may involve similar interests. These are not unimportant, but they’re not really the critical issues, are they?

What really matters is character.

Why? Because life is full of choices; marriage is full of choices. These choices are ultimately a reflection of our character and what we’re basing our life on. And if a person’s life and character are not built upon the foundation of God’s Word, that should be a major red flag as to whether that person is marriage material for a growing believer in Christ.

The following is a list of six traits women should be looking for in a man, and six traits a man should look for in a woman.

A woman should seek a man who:

1. Fears God. Often you can tell if a young man fears God are by his language and how he treats other people. Does he treat them with respect? If not, why? We as human beings are made in the image of God, and respecting people ultimately shows a heart that reverences the One whom we reflect.

2. Is not afraid to commit to another person. That may sound like a no-brainer, but a lot of young men today are afraid of commitment. What we need today are more young men who are not afraid of being real, authentic, and committed to a woman in a lifelong marriage. We need men who are not afraid to love.

3. Can admit his faults, his mistakes, and when he’s hurt you. Ruth Bell Graham made the statement, “A good marriage is the union of two forgivers.” The reason is because you’re going to hurt one another over and over again during your lifetime together. If you don’t know how to ask for and extend forgiveness, you’re never going to have a great marriage. The growth of your relationship will be stunted from the start.

4. Can control his passions. We live in an age that has been invaded by sex. The world sends a message that you are entitled to have it all and satisfy yourself. A young man should be fully in charge of his passion and be able to control his desire for the opposite sex—in his thought life, his private life (no viewing pornography), and in his real-world relationships.

5. Honors his parents. In the Ten Commandments, God tells us to honor our parents that our lives may be long and it may be well with us. Wouldn’t you want to select a man whose life has a sense of well-being in God’s favor? I have heard it said that if you want to see how a young man will treat you, see how he treats his mother. I’d take that a step further—how does he honor both his mother and his father? Does he speak well of them or is he angry with them? Does he refuse to speak about them at all? What’s going on between a young man and his parents is very important.

6. Is in the process of becoming a leader who knows how to serve. Being the head of a home and having so much authority and responsibility demands self-denial and a servant spirit. If a young man doesn’t know how to deny himself on behalf of another person, giving up his personal rights, goals, and dreams, I would question whether he would know how to lead a family well over a lifetime.

A man should seek a woman who:

1. Fears God and maintains her hope in God. Her life will be a reflection of where her hope is. If a young lady’s hope is in any place other than the Lord, the young man who marries her is going to spend the rest of his life trying to help his wife find the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. It isn’t going to happen.

2. Honors her parents. If she has a hard time honoring her parents, she will have a hard time honoring you. Find someone who has or is working to have a healthy relationship with her parents.

3. Knows how to admit she’s wrong, ask for forgiveness, grant forgiveness, and give grace when you fail her. This isn’t just a one-way street. Both of you are going to need to do this.

4. Wants to be a wife and a mother. There are some young ladies who want to get married, but don’t really want to be a wife and a mother. They may want the security or companionship offered in a marriage, but they regard their career as their number-one pursuit. I believe the Scriptures teach that a wife’s number-one pursuit should be ministering to her husband and family. That means if you choose to have children, your priorities and values have already been determined.

5. Displays character through modesty. One way a woman’s character is displayed is how she handles the power of her femininity and sexuality. In other words—how modest is she? That’s becoming a strange word in our culture, but I would challenge young men to keep their eyes out for young women whose character is displayed not only on the inside, but the outside as well.

6. Knows how to follow a man. That doesn’t mean falling unquestioningly in line with anything and everything her husband says. Women are joint heirs of the grace of God, but someone has to make the final decision when you disagree. When one person votes one way, and the other person votes another, I believe it’s the responsibility of the husband to listen carefully and wisely consider the counsel of his wife. But then it’s on him to submit to the lordship of Jesus Christ and be led by the power of the Holy Spirit to make that decision. At that point, it’s the wife’s responsibility to be able to follow him.

Keep it simple

For many single people, the older they get the longer their list grows. Some folks could wallpaper an entire house with their checklist.

It’s a good idea to think through what is important in the opposite sex to you personally. But you can’t develop a checklist of a thousand things that no person this side of heaven could ever fulfill.

It is really simpler than that. Character issues like these should be at the top of your list when you’re looking for someone with whom you can spend a lifetime.

Copyright © FamilyLife. Used with permission.

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