Two years ago, I began dating a young man with whom I had recently become friends. Although I wasn’t romantically interested in him, my family members who introduced us urged me to give him a chance because of his godly character. Since then, we have dated off and on and have recently become engaged.
From the articles I’ve read on Boundless, I’m sure you would assure me that he’s a catch. He has a continuously growing relationship with God, uses his gifts to serve actively in the church, is under the authority of his pastors and mentor, loves me like crazy, is looking forward to being a father and provider, etc. All these things are wonderful, but because they come from him, they don’t touch my heart in a meaningful way. I still don’t have peace about marrying him, and I think it’s due to a lack of attraction to him physically and emotionally. His good qualities are dwarfed by the things I find annoying or even embarrassing, and I’m way more attracted to other guys physically.
We broke up for over six months while I wrestled with this issue in my heart, and I thought I had finally become content enough with his looks and personality to continue on with the relationship, but right after he proposed, the doubts appeared again, and I almost gave the ring back.
I know you say that attraction isn’t everything, and I definitely agree. But from my experience, it’s incredibly difficult to have a relationship without it, and I know it makes a difference in the way I treat him, whether I want it to or not. Any advice would be appreciated.
Thanks for writing. In a day where the age of first marriage keeps getting older, it’s understandable that people in your life would encourage you to consider, and then marry, a man they perceive to be such a good catch. It’s also understandable that in view of their urging, you would try to talk yourself into marrying him, especially if he is as godly a man as you say he is. I suspect some of our readers might also say go ahead and, in the words of Lori Gottlieb, “Marry him.” What all of this is based upon, though, is what other people think, and that is a snare (Proverbs 29:25). But it’s also a disastrous foundation for marriage.
As you guessed, I would assure you your fiancé is a catch — but not without adding “for someone other than you.” From what you’ve described about how you feel about him, I would advise you not to marry him, feeling the way you do. Why? Because it isn’t loving to go into marriage with him if you’re not excited about and committed to fitting in with him, serving alongside him, and honoring and respecting him. All this and more is foundational to biblical marriage (see Ephesians 5:22-33, 1 Peter 3:1-7). And the requirements of biblical marriage require infinitely more than gritting your teeth and just doing it.
Certainly, you shouldn’t let your feelings of attraction (or lack thereof) lead, but you shouldn’t ignore them either. Your feelings about him aren’t everything, but they’re something. And if you’re having a hard time feeling good about being his wife, his for-life helper now, when both of you are on your best behavior, imagine what life will be like after the wedding, when you relax into living life day-in-and-day-out together, for better and worse, richer and poorer, in sickness and in health.
Have you told your fiancé about your doubts and concerns? If you’ve been honest with him, and if he’s the godly man you say he is, he should want to break things off at least until you’ve settled these issues. If he’s urging you to go forward, despite your reservations, he may not be as mature as you say he is. But maybe you’re pretending too well to be in love with him and ready to be his wife. In which case, you’re deceiving him. Though it will be painful for him to walk away, if he is mature in Christ, he will realize this is the wise decision. The stakes are too high to wait until after the wedding to address your reservations (Malachi 2:16).
In addition to coming clean with him, I think it’s important that you recognize your own complicity in this matter. You have been leading him on. You say he is annoying and embarrassing to you, yet you have agreed to marry him. You have said you will occupy the most intimate and exclusive role in his life — his wife — even as you hold your nose at the thought of it. This is hypocrisy. And it is a sin. You are bearing false witness: saying one thing with your actions, and another with your thoughts and emotions. Won’t you consider not just your need to break things off with him, making them right by admitting you are not qualified to be his wife, but also your need to confess your sin to God?
Your fiancé is a man made in God’s image, a brother in Christ, and a fellow believer. He is deserving of the same love and respect that you desire. And if he were to become your husband, you would be commanded by God to respect him, regardless of whether you think he deserves respect. Wives are called to honor and submit to their own husbands because of the office their husbands occupy. (Just as husbands are called to love their wives and live with them in an understanding way, even when they don’t feel like it.) You are only called to follow one man with such unswerving loyalty: your husband. That is why you must be so careful in choosing whom you will marry.
You have the freedom to walk away from this match. There is no shame in admitting the two of you are not suited to marriage. It may be the most loving thing you can do. What you mustn’t do is go on as you have been. As a mom of three sons, I would never want a woman who wasn’t 100 percent committed to marry one of our sons. You shouldn’t want this for yourself. Nor should he. Both of you should desire the sort of husband-wife synergy displayed in Proverbs 31:11-12 — “The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life.”
What you describe reminds me more of the relationship between Michal and David in 2 Samuel 6:16-23. She despised him in her heart because he worshiped the Lord wholeheartedly in public, then told him so, and was barren the rest of her life. If you can’t respect him, you shouldn’t marry him. But you must consider that the problem isn’t his quirks, but your heart.
Are the things that embarrass and annoy you about your fiancé the sort of character flaws that are life-long? Are they sinful? Or are they habits that might be broken? Are they things the world despises but that God values? It’s important that you think deeply about what it is that’s bothering you and why. Maybe you’re not a helper fit for him. Maybe he’s not as godly as you say he is. But maybe what’s off-putting to you is what’s worthy in God’s sight. That would be cause for repentance on your part, not rejection of his proposal of marriage.
Because of sin, marriage will never be easy, no matter whom you marry. Because of the cross, marriage — as a picture of Christ and the church — has the power to point unbelievers to Christ.
Pray for wisdom to see this brother as God does, covered in the blood of Christ, forgiven, and a son of glory (Hebrews 2:10). Pray to think clearly about him and about the possibility of you as husband and wife. Will you be better for the kingdom together than you are apart? Study Scripture for a deeper understanding of marriage as God designed it — this is especially important in a day when our understanding of marriage is shaped largely by a culture that despises God’s design for it. What qualifies a man for marriage? What traits do you value? What are your priorities in a future leader, provider, and father of your children? Pray for wisdom. Pray against the spirit of the age that prizes sex appeal above all else.
The sweetly satisfying, sometimes intense intimacy that endures over the life of a marriage is learned. It is acquired. It is practiced. And by God’s design, that learning belongs after the wedding. Don’t confuse godly desire for that intimacy with lust. Study, too, what it means to be godly. Are you pressing on toward that prize?
Fear God, not man. Only you will be married to him. Or not. Either way, you must fight against worrying about what other people will think. I pray God will give you eyes to see what’s true.
Copyright 2013 Candice Watters. All rights reserved.