How can you tell the difference between settling for someone or tearing down your unrealistic expectations of marriage and romance?
My boyfriend and I have been dating for almost two years now. Since the beginning, we have tried to be intentional with our relationship by putting God at the core and making sure our motives are pure. During the past couple months, we have begun to talk more about marriage and our future together. He is very sure that I am the girl he wants to marry, and he says he has a complete peace that we are supposed to pursue each other toward marriage.
I, on the other hand, am not sure. He is not my picture-perfect guy on the outward appearance, but he has a heart of gold, and I’m in love with his personality and his never-failing love for God. There are no red flags and nothing that causes me to have a legitimate concern, yet I am not sure if he is “the one” I am supposed to marry. I don’t have that same peace or sense of knowing he is “the one” as he has for me.
I have talked to my parents, and they are not sure he is the right choice either, though I’m pretty sure their reservations are due to our physical appearance together as a couple.
By now I know you are thinking my family and I are extremely vain. But is it really wrong if you have a hard time getting past some physical issues? Are my reservations a sign that I don’t really love him, or am I just being a silly schoolgirl waiting for her Disney Prince Charming to magically come and sweep me off my feet?
Thanks for your question; there’s a lot packed into it. Several years ago I wrote an article here on Boundless called “Brother, You’re Like a Six.” I know, weird title — but it addresses some of your concerns more fully than I can here. Having said that, let me offer you some biblical and (hopefully) helpful thoughts as you wrestle through these questions.
Let me start with the bottom line and build out from there (and do forgive me for being a little blunt here): If your only hesitation about marrying this guy is some aspect of his physical appearance, and that alone keeps you from moving forward in the relationship, then you have veered into personally and spiritually immature and unbiblical thinking in your approach to finding a husband.
Now, I am not about to argue that physical attraction (and its close cousin, the mysterious “chemistry” as defined by the “Twilight” series and other movies) plays no role in finding a spouse. We all know it does, and the Bible acknowledges and affirms that as well (see Song of Songs). What I am saying is that the world’s notion of attraction and chemistry cannot be the foundation — the first and most important and deal-making or breaking consideration — in a biblical relationship or marriage.
Why not? What’s wrong with letting physical attraction drive the ship when considering a spouse?
First, and most importantly, such an approach is profoundly unbiblical in the sense that its priorities are the opposite of Scripture’s (which is to say God’s) priorities. When the Bible talks about what should be valued and sought after in men and women — and in husbands and wives in particular — it always talks about godliness, the fruit of the Spirit and character. Never looks or appearance, which the Bible speaks of as deceptive and shallow.
Ephesians 5 gives us the main qualifications (in God’s eyes) for husbands: It’s basically to love well, lead faithfully and sacrifice yourself for your wife’s spiritual good. Nothing about appearance at all. If you look at the qualifications for elders in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 — the other passages that present a basic blueprint for manhood as approved by God — you will see everything about godliness and character and nothing about penetrating blue eyes or a strong jawline or a six-pack. And remember when Samuel gathers David’s brothers to see which the Lord will anoint as the next king? Samuel looks at David’s tall, attractive brother Eliab and says, based on his appearance, “This must be the guy.” How does God respond? “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).
It’s the same for women. In 1 Peter 3, Peter instructs wives, “Do not let your adorning [also translated “beauty”] be external … but let your adorning (beauty) be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.” Proverbs 31, in describing the excellent wife, provides 20 verses about her godliness and character, then for good measure throws in verse 30: “Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised” (emphasis mine). You can also check out Ephesians 5 and Titus 2 for more discussion about what God prizes in a godly womanhood — especially in the context of marriage.
As Christians, it’s our job to value what God values and to measure our desires against God’s desires as laid out in Scripture. Choosing (or rejecting) a spouse by physical appearance fails that standard.
Second, making a marriage decision based on the way someone looks to us is a wholly selfish (or at least self-centered) concern, and “selfish” is exactly the opposite of the way the Bible pictures love or marriage. First Corinthians 13:5 tells us that love “does not insist on its own way” (also translated “is not self-seeking”). Numerous other passages in Scripture paint love not as mere sentiment, but as active and selfless and effective, most clearly exemplified in the love of Christ for His people (John 15:13).
As for marriage, Ephesians 5:22-33 makes clear that it is anything but a selfish endeavor. On the contrary, marriage is the most intimate, longest-lasting, deepest exercise in service and ministry to another that most of us ever undertake. When we use language like “settling” (meaning I may not be getting a good enough prize) or “is he/she the one” (for me) or end a relationship based on a non-biblical “list” of physical attributes we have in our mind, then we are taking a self-centered approach to finding someone to serve and minister to for the next 50 years. It just doesn’t make sense.
Third, as a practical matter, basing a marriage decision on physical appearance is short-sighted. Physical beauty as the world understands it fades in 100 percent of people – sometimes much more quickly than we thought it would. Two people who marry one another based on physical appearance instead of biblical criteria will literally see the foundation of their relationship fade and weaken as they watch.
Finally, this approach is just unkind. I cannot tell you how many heartbroken in-person and email conversations I have had with godly men and women who either lost relationships or have never had a chance to be in one because they do not embody Hollywood’s fleeting notion of what is physically attractive. None of us would want to be treated that way, and while anyone is certainly free to make a choice not to marry a particular person, not all reasons for making that choice are created equal.
So, bottom line, I think the answer to your question is in your question. It appears that you have a godly man who is devoted to you, wants to marry you, and whose “heart of gold,” “personality” and “never-failing love for God” you are already in love with. Sounds like a good foundation to me.
Copyright 2013 Scott Croft. All rights reserved.