Is finding Mr. Good Enough what I'm aiming for?

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Candice Watters

Is finding Mr. Good Enough what I'm aiming for?

Aug 26, 2014 |Candice Watters
Question

I've spent hours poring over Boundless articles, and the general consensus regarding dating and marital relationships in many seems to be: Just settle; it'll probably work out.

They say that attraction, as we've been trained to determine it by worldly standards, is not a make-it-or-break-it aspect of a relationship in light of the presence of godly character traits. However, although these articles acknowledge that physical attraction is still important in a relationship, they don't (at least in the articles I've read so far) address how to reconcile a lack of physical attraction in an otherwise ideal relationship. Furthermore, multiple articles bluntly suggest settling for "Mr. Good Enough" simply to ensure you have someone.

I'm only a freshman in college. I'll be 19 in a month, and I seemingly have plenty of time ahead of me to find a husband and settle down. I greatly desire marriage and a family, albeit not immediately, but I'm still holding out for a godly man with whom I have the elusive "spark."

After reading these articles, I'm beginning to wonder: Is it reasonable to hope for a good, godly man to whom I am also attracted? Is that asking too much? I'm struggling with whether I blow off the "Mr. Good Enough" advice because "I have plenty of time" or I settle now for fear of running out of the good-enough options. I don't know whether it would be wise or cynical.

Furthermore, is it fair to either person in the relationship if one person is not physically attracted to the other or perceives him/herself as settling? For all the wordiness and rabbit-trails I'm chasing, one question remains at the root of them all: At what point is it necessary to give up my girlish, fairytale-esque dreams of butterflies and the "spark"?

Answer

Typically when I hear this question, and I hear it regularly, it's being asked by one of two women. The first is a woman who is being pursued by a man whom, though godly and kind, is not romantically appealing to her. My advice in these situations is fairly consistent: If you don't delight in him, don't date him. The second is a woman like you who is looking ahead to what they think might happen in the future. I’ll address the first woman first.

I'm not sure what you've read on Boundless that would lead you to believe I'd advise something else, but apart from a few articles that refer to Lori Gottlieb's book, Marry Him, it isn't the goal of this ministry to convince Christian singles to "settle for Mr. Good Enough to ensure you have someone." Far from it. The better summation of our beliefs, rooted in God's design for marriage as revealed in the Bible, is that you should only marry someone with whom you're "better together for the kingdom than you are apart." That's not the worldly wisdom that Gottlieb fans encourage. Marry Him has some important insights that believers are wise to consider, most notably that in our culture, we tend to set unrealistic expectations for a mate in our early dating years, only to realize too late that they were fantasies. By then, most of the solid candidates for spouse are married, and you're left with a much smaller pool of marriageable singles to choose from.

It's conceivable that if you jumped into Boundless via Google word search or began listening to The Boundless Show with the episode that featured Lori Gottlieb, you could follow a trail of linked articles that, after reading a few, give the impression that we believe it's better to marry a good-enough man than not marry at all. That, however, would be a wrong impression of Boundless' overarching convictions on this subject as well as an unbiblical way of understanding marriage and singleness.

Let me suggest just a few articles to read for an accurate perspective:

A recent Q&A argues that you should end a relationship with a man you're not attracted to. One calls out the sinful selfishness of dating someone you hope will lose weight so that your attraction for her body will increase. And still another talks about ways in which getting married means that everybody settles as well as ways in which nobody does. I urge you to keep reading Boundless, and if at points you find that we've contradicted Scripture — this is a human tendency, after all (James 3:2) — go with Scripture (and let us know).

Theoretical Lack of Attraction

I said at the start there were two types of women who ask me about the role of attraction in getting married. The second is like you: a woman looking into the future and wondering in theory what she will do if no one to whom she is attracted appears. What then? Or to your specific question: "At what point is it necessary to give up my girlish, fairytale-esque dreams of butterflies and the 'spark'?" This is a good question. It's never too soon this side of puberty to trade girlish fairytales for grown-up wisdom. If what you hope for is a princess-fueled vision of romance that's heavy on Prince Charming on a white horse, you're right to set that aside. But that doesn't mean you can't hope and pray for a man to marry who makes you swoon.

There's no lack of passionate longing in Song of Solomon. Attraction was a big part of what was going on between Solomon and his bride — and it wasn't just their admiration of one another's hearts and minds. God made us male and female, uniquely fit for one another, and He made physical attraction part of what motivates the ongoing birth of new generations of male and female. There's a lot more than attraction that goes into making a good marriage. A lot more. But not less.

It's an artificial fear that we'll have to settle for a spouse to whom we're not sexually attracted. God designed us so naturally for intercourse and procreation that there is often a desire for coupling even where the possibility of being well-suited for marriage is remote. That's why the prohibition against unmarried sex is so essential to human flourishing. Generally speaking, the problem when you get a roomful of single men and women together isn't too little chemistry, but too much. (See any college campus or my review of the book Unprotected.

The challenge for most singles is to find a potential spouse who is not only attractive to them, but also biblically qualified and developmentally ready to take on the roles and responsibilities of marriage. There were plenty of times in my single years when I had the "burn with passion" temptation (1 Corinthians 7:9) with someone I would never marry. Knowing marriage wasn't an option helped me turn down the heat. It was a needed reality check. You can't build a healthy marriage and form a strong family with a mere spark. It takes more than physical desirability and chemical attraction.

Attraction is essential, but it's not comprehensive. As I've written before, it is important, but it is not everything. And without all the other substantive requirements in place, the "spark" will in time — if it is all you have — fizzle. It will become detestable. Attraction cannot long satisfy where there is no maturity, no responsibility, no leadership, no charity, no fruit of the Holy Spirit. Yet the reverse is often not the case: Where there is godly kindness and gentle strength and bold leadership, where a man is seeking to obey and serve God with all his heart, mind and soul, attraction may develop. Give it time.

In short, if you have the opportunity to get to know a godly man with high character, give him a chance. Then, if no attraction develops, follow the other, often overlooked portion of 1 Corinthians 7 and remain single. Paul says it is good to remain single where there is grace to do so (vv. 6-8). In the meantime, do not worry (Matthew 6:25-34); trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding (Proverbs 3:5-6); do not walk in the ways of unbelievers (Ephesians 4:17); and make it your aim to grow in godliness and as Paul said, to "walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (Ephesian 4:1-3).

Sincerely,
CANDICE WATTERS

Copyright 2014 Candice Watters. All rights reserved.

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