Is it OK to know who I want to marry without having dated much?

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Candice Watters

Is it OK to know who I want to marry without having dated much?

Jun 16, 2015 |Candice Watters
Question

I absolutely adore, respect and cherish a guy I know. He is an incredibly godly man, loves Jesus, loves people, respects and takes care of his mom, is hard-working, kind, fun, humble, self-sacrificial, loved and respected by so many, responsible, and so many other amazing qualities.

I've known him for about a year and a half and am always amazed at his integrity and pursuit of Jesus. For me he is it. There's no guy that I respect more, admire more, or enjoy more than him.

I know there are many people that would deter me from putting my hope in one man, that would encourage me to go on dates with different people, be open to different things and different people for the reason of finding someone better. I understand their thought process, but I don't completely agree with it.

First, I'm not in the business of always looking for the "next best guy." I understand the wisdom of going on multiple dates with different guys, but when I have found the one that I would like to marry, be committed to, and serve, it doesn't seem fair or considerate to continue to date other really great men when I know that my heart is elsewhere.

I'm not planning our wedding, making life decisions based on a future with him, practicing my signature with his last name, or anything like that. But I can easily say he is my absolute favorite and exactly the man I want to marry and labor for the Gospel alongside.

Answer

Thanks for writing. I think you've asked two important questions. To the first — Is it OK to know whom you want to marry without having dated many, or even one or two, or three other men? — I'd say, yes. Not only can it be OK, often it's better than the alternative of dating around to see what you want in a husband. The second question raises a whole different set of issues, however. You may not have realized you asked two questions, but implicit in your email is the second: Is it OK to know whom you'd like to marry without having dated him at all? To that, I'd say, no. More on that after I answer your first question.

Yes, it's OK if you marry the first man you date, without what many would call the "benefits of dating around." Conventional wisdom says you'll know what you want only after you've seen a lot of what you don't. One problem with this view is that it puts your preferences in charge of your decision. You end up comparing each man you date against a subjective standard of your own making, as well as comparing each man against the others. What you need is an objective standard for measuring the character of the men you meet. The best and only reliable guide is outside of you and your likes and dislikes. The only standard for who will make a good, godly husband is the Bible.

Nowhere in Scripture does it require dating a certain number of people — a lot or a little — before you can decide whom to marry. It prescribes an entirely different standard, one based not on quantity, but quality — or rather, qualities.

What should you and every unmarried Christian woman be looking for in a potential husband? The first and most important quality is that he be a believer. First Corinthians 7:39 says a widow "is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord." This applies not just to widows, but to all of us. Second Corinthians 6:14 says, "Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?" Beyond that condition, there are many variables to consider but a few core character qualities to insist on.

What a godly man is: righteous, wise, generous, helpful, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money, dignified, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, and not greedy for dishonest gain (see Job 29:7-25, especially 15-17, 1 Timothy 3:2-3, 8).

What a godly man is not: quarrelsome, foolish, lazy, a whisperer, hateful, flattering, puffed up, obtuse, deceitful (see Proverbs 26:16-26). Note especially verse 26: "[T]hough his hatred be covered with deception, his wickedness will be exposed in the assembly." This verse warns us against overvaluing gracious speech and commends to us the protection of our church body. It's imperative to get the input and approval of your pastor, elders, and close, mature friends in your congregation.

Once you've begun to understand what qualifies a man for biblical marriage, then you can discern if this man you're attracted to is a good candidate. But as helpful as this will be, it's still only part of the process. And this gets to your second (implied) question.

There's something missing from your letter, and it's this: Where do the two of you stand together? It doesn't seem from what you've written that he's indicated any interest in dating you. I hope I'm wrong about this and you just left that detail out. But if not, it's risky to set all your hopes and affections on a man based on your observations of him but not on any commitment from him.

Has he asked you out on a date? Has he stated his interest in getting to know you exclusively? Has he shown any interest in pursuing you? If not, you're getting ahead of him emotionally, and this often ends badly.

He may be all that you say he is, but it's possible, and even likely, that your perception is rosier than reality. It's tempting to idealize a man you've observed but haven't had the opportunity to date. The longer this goes on, the more you can convince yourself that "he's the one."

The hard reality is that if he's not initiating, or even reciprocating, what you have is a crush. And if that's the case, he's not the one. At least not yet. You can't make a marriage by yourself. He may yet become the one, but there's no guarantee that he will or even that you'd want to marry him once you got to know him in an intentional dating relationship. You might, but you can't know with any certainty this side of a relationship.

I have a friend who sounded a lot like you. She knew a man who was everything she'd hoped and prayed for in a husband. She even had signs that pointed to the fact that he was "the one." All was well — until he announced he was engaged to someone else. You see, they weren't dating. She had nothing objective to go on; no evidence that he was destined to be her husband. It's true God's ways are mysterious. But He works His inscrutable will through natural means. And when it comes to making a marriage in our day, that's most often done through the natural process of friendship, conversation, dating, attraction, and input from older believers. Where this isn't happening, there's no reason to believe things are moving toward marriage.

If he were pursuing you, I would say there's no biblical reason that you must date other men before deciding he's the one. But it's clear that you will need to be in a relationship where he's demonstrating the ability to lead you in love, displaying the attributes and aptitude necessary to be a godly husband (Ephesians 5:22-33), and — this is key — setting his affections on you in particular. Without that, you don't have anything to go on.

Rather than focusing on him as the exclusive object of your hopes, I urge you to pray for wisdom, to treat him like all your other brothers in Christ, and to ask God to satisfy you with His unfailing love. Then look around and see who else is in your life. Who are the men God has placed in your church, your work, your school, etc.? Ask the older believers you look to for wisdom, "Who do you think I'd be a good match with for marriage?" May the Lord guide you.

Sincerely,
CANDICE WATTERS

Note: There are many problems with the dating-around-to-decide-what-you-want-approach, which Scott Croft discussed thoroughly in his article, "Is courtship fundamentally flawed?"

Copyright 2015 Candice Watters. All rights reserved.

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