Looking for a spouse can be tricky today but it’s simply because most aren’t sure what to look for. Feeling butterflies around someone should not be grounds to pursue to dating or marriage.
Before I go any further, let me say this: singleness is not wrong. Singleness is actually a gift from God (1 Corinthians 7:32-35), not a curse. Singles are not somehow “less than” married people, and singles should never be subtlety discriminated against.
This post is for those who are actively searching for their future spouse, those who aren’t in the place for a relationship not but one day they desire marriage, and those dating to know what characteristics are important.
(I’ve included quotes from dear friends of mine to help give additional perspective.)
What are the most essential things to look for? Here are ten.
1. Believe in Christ
The first thing is that they are a fellow follower of Jesus. Almost everyone I asked said this right away, but I thought my friend Dan Glosson gives great clarity:
“… Jesus holds utmost value and significance to them… someone who has a fierce love of Jesus… their delight and joy in Christ are so central to their being… Their character, principles, values, plans, etc. will all be shaped by their love for Jesus.”
Marriage in the Old Testament is created by God (Genesis 3), but God also instructs His people to marry within the faith because marrying outside the faith could lead people away from Him (Deuteronomy 7:3-4). Marriage is beautifully revealed even deeper as a representation of Christ love for His church:
‘…submitting to one another in the fear of Christ. Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord, because the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of the body. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives are to submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her to make her holy, cleansing her with the washing of water by the word. He did this to present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or anything like that, but holy and blameless. In the same way, husbands are to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hates his own flesh but provides and cares for it, just as Christ does for the church since we are members of his body. For this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. This mystery is profound, but I am talking about Christ and the church. To sum up, each one of you is to love his wife as himself, and the wife is to respect her husband.’
2. Share Values and Vision
Your future spouse should have a similar vision for the future. Example: If you want to live overseas and the other person will not live far away from their family.Neither desire is wrong or a deal-breaker, per se, but this difference of values and vision can create a foundational division. Another friend of mine, Billy Glosson, describes what can occur if there is this kind of division:
“Obviously there’s room for change as time changes. You may decide differently. But seeing couples where one wants kids and the other wants to wait. It causes so much conflict. Or if one person wants to be a missionary and the other wants to live in their small hometown. Just loads of conflict.”
Commit to someone who wants similar things and someone that demonstrates unity to the world. Enough marriages out there display division and brokenness to the world, so commit yourself to showing the world unity of mind.
Proud people refuse to see their wrongdoing, and they have a hard time seeing their need for forgiveness from God and others. Seeing sin and their need for forgiveness only occurs in humility. Rachelle Cox, fellow intern at Karis Church during my time, backed up my initial thoughts when she said,
“… somebody who has a solid theological understanding of sin… It affects their ability to forgive, because somebody who understands their sin understands that they’ve been forgiven for way too much. It affects their humility.”
Paul in Ephesians 4 says,
‘with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love,‘
Don’t settle for someone that is not marked by humility. You’ll regret it if you do.
4. Involved in a Local Church
The Christian life is not a solo mission from God. Each and every Christian needs God’s people to grow in sanctification and to spread the love of Christ to the world. There is no such thing a “lone wolf Christian,” and to pursue a healthy marriage is impossible without the guidance of others. Rachelle Cox said it like this:
“… someone who is willing to immerse themselves in community. Marriage is way too hard to do on your own, and I’ve seen a lot of marriages fail because a husband or wife weren’t willing to be transparent with other believers when they needed help or counsel.”
Throughout the New Testament, the church is referred to as a body, consisting of many members/parts (people) who each have their own helpful function to the entire body.
‘For just as the body is one and has many parts, and all the parts of that body, though many, are one body — so also is Christ…Now you are the body of Christ, and individual members of it. ‘
1 Corinthians 12:12,27
Your future spouse should be actively pursuing a life within the church. They should understand their need for godly direction and, when needed, godly rebuke.
5. Eager to Learn, Able to Adapt
Does this other person want to learn and grow? They should be continuously maturing in the faith. They should also be able to adapt to life and its circumstances. This is key for any relationship because your future is going to be different than you imagine. And they should be able to adapt with you. Aarik Danielson, journalist, writer, and pastor at Karis Church, explained why this is so important,
“… I think about what you’re like when you first get married and what you’re like 5-10 years later, it is (or should be) night and day… So it’s hugely important that the person is adaptable, willing to follow the Spirit’s lead, willing to learn from wise people.”
2 Peter is the foundation for what he said. It says,
‘But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity.’
2 Peter 3:18
If this person seems to be the virtually the same person a year or two ago, then they may not be pursuing knowledge from wiser folks. This person needs to be adaptable because it’ll be agonizing to have a spouse desire their old life; you both should experience increasing joy in life, in time of suffering or ease.
6. Follow Through
Does this person keep their word? If they promise something, do they follow through? Are they trustworthy? Their ability to keep their word is a sign of their commitment to you; When God makes promises, they come to pass because He perfectly follows through.
‘God is not a man, that he might lie, or a son of man, that he might change his mind. Does he speak and not act, or promise and not fulfill? ‘
If God fulfills His promises ,this potential spouse should pursue faithfulness to their promises, like when God spoke saying,
‘I will not violate my covenant or change what my lips have said. ‘
Do people they’re close to trust them to follow through? They should.
Is their instinct to give when there is a need or do they hold onto what they believe is theirs? A future spouse should have the perspective that everything they have is not their own, but everything they have is a gift from God to give and use for the benefit of others. Rachelle Cox stated it like this,
“A person who gets that their time, treasure and talents all belong to God will spend their time, treasure and talents wisely and joyfully.”
They should be generous with their schedule (time), their unique gifts (talents), and their money (treasure). But, going along with that, do they give joyfully or begrudgingly? God says there’s only one way to faithfully be considered generous,
‘The point is this: The person who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the person who sows generously will also reap generously. Each person should do as he has decided in his heart — not reluctantly or out of compulsion, since God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make every grace overflow to you, so that in every way, always having everything you need, you may excel in every good work. ‘
2 Corinthians 9:6-8
They should be a cheerful and generous giver.
8. Patient and Quick to Forgive
This should simple to understand: Do you want a spouse who is quick to anger and slow to forgive or slow to anger and quick to forgive? Seems easy enough.
But most people don’t look for this prior to getting involved, but you’ll save yourself a significant amount of pain. If you don’t search for this prior to involvement, you could be committed to someone prone to bitterness instead forgiveness.
‘Therefore, as God’s chosen ones, holy and dearly loved, put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a grievance against another. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you are also to forgive. ‘
For your own good, don’t settle for anything less than a patient and forgiving spouse.
9. Sexual Purity is Important
This person has to take sexual purity seriously. If they are struggling with some form of sexual sin (most people are on some level today) but they are not actively fighting against temptation, they aren’t taking this seriously. God has called us to be holy, blameless, and an example to the world, and if they aren’t serious about their sexual purity, they will not be serious about your purity. They should show you respect and value you enough to live a life of obedience to God and not a life of impurity and rebellion of God’s design.
’Additionally then, brothers and sisters, we ask and encourage you in the Lord Jesus, that as you have received instruction from us on how you should live and please God — as you are doing — do this even more. For you know what commands we gave you through the Lord Jesus. For this is God’s will, your sanctification: that you keep away from sexual immorality, that each of you knows how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not with lustful passions, like the Gentiles, who don’t know God. This means one must not transgress against and take advantage of a brother or sister in this manner, because the Lord is an avenger of all these offenses, as we also previously told and warned you. For God has not called us to impurity but to live in holiness. Consequently, anyone who rejects this does not reject man, but God, who gives you his Holy Spirit. ‘
1 Thessalonians 4:1-8(Emphasis added)
This encompasses most of life. Love drives humility, dedication to the church, willingness to learn and adapt, following through on your promises to anyone and everyone, cheerfulness in generosity, patience and forgiveness, and honoring God in both individuals sexual purity. Love should drive all aspects of their life. Love is an essential and absolute necessity for any potential spouse.
If I speak human or angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith so that I can move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give away all my possessions, and if I give over my body in order to boast but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. Love does not envy, is not boastful, is not arrogant, is not rude, is not self-seeking, is not irritable, and does not keep a record of wrongs. Love finds no joy in unrighteousness but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. ‘
1 Corinthians 13:1-7
These are 10 things to look for, but this an exhaustive list. Read the Bible, be in prayer, and talk to wise Christian men and women when considering a potential spouse.
God loves you and so should they. Don’t settle.
Here are a few more articles about singleness and dating: