When I was single, there was this phenomenon with single women that puzzled me. I wouldn’t find them particularly attractive, but after some guy swept them off their feet and married them, they suddenly looked more beautiful. It wasn’t like I was lusting after these married women or anything — I just couldn’t help but notice how marriage was like a makeover, despite the fact that they didn’t change that much about their overall look after they tied the knot.
I thought I was alone in my observations, but after I talked with some of my guy friends, they all noticed it, too. And after pondering it, I think there were a couple of things going on:
- When a woman got married, I wasn’t judging her anymore.
Back in my single days, I had a bad habit of sizing up women. I analyzed what they had to offer me in the areas of faith, intellect, ambition, personality and looks — especially looks. And here was the problem with that: Scrutinizing a woman didn’t allow me to see her best. It emphasized her flaws and undermined my ability to recognize her God-given glory. But once she was off the market, I didn’t have any reason to evaluate her — she was permanently out of my reach. So I could see her for who she really was, and wonder of wonders, she turned out to be quite attractive in many ways.
- The married women I knew were secure in their love. A woman who is well loved very quickly becomes even lovelier. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a single woman walk around looking slightly fearful and insecure, and then some good man comes along, pursues her, and affirms her loveliness. Her face brightens up; she’s a little more confident in conversation, and she throws out her old baggy sweater. Lo and behold, up under that fearful, frumpy façade was an intriguing woman, just waiting to be discovered.
What’s Keeping You From Beauty
To many of you single men out there (I did not say all of you), the thing that keeps you from marriage is a combination of pride and idolatry. Here’s how that works: Your pride leaves you feeling entitled to judge all the eligible bachelorettes in your life and reduce them to a score in your mind. But the problem with scoring a woman is that it robs her individual, nuanced beauty, because it leaves you with one of two impressions of her: winner or loser.
Unfortunately, there are few winners in your zero-sum game. Why? Because you can’t imagine being married to a woman unless her physical beauty compensates for your inability to love her beyond her flaws — especially the physical ones. Basically, you’re looking for a goddess who is worthy of your worship and who will maintain your attention and affection for the rest of your life. Guess what? That woman doesn’t exist.
Even if you find an inordinately attractive wife, she’s going to get pregnant and have weight fluctuations and grow old. Love is the only thing that makes the difference; love is the thing that looks beyond imperfection and brings out the beauty that God sees.
Guys, believe me, I am well aware that women have their own ways of excluding good marital candidates. However, I find that their unreasonable expectations tend to be in areas like spiritual maturity, impressive careers, and social adeptness. But I’m not writing a column for those women — I’m writing to you, and if you’ve got a problem in this area, don’t ignore it by getting caught up in a reflexive finger-pointing game that’s designed to help you avoid responsibility for the ways you may be perpetuating your singleness.
Go Talk to Your Grandpa
I’m not talking to men who are approaching women with a humble, open and gracious attitude. Nor am I talking to the men who realize that they’re actually like a six on a scale of one to 10. I’m talking to the ones who know a number of reasonably attractive women of good character, but somehow, none of these ladies cut the mustard. To those men, here’s what I want you to do: Get out your family photo album.
Look at the pictures of the women in your family when they got married. Go ahead, check out your mom, your older sister, your aunt, your grandma, and your great-grandma. If the men in your family had been as judgmental as you, would the women in your family ever have gotten married? No, most of them wouldn’t have, but thank God the men in your family were simply looking for a good woman and not a goddess, or you and several of your family members wouldn’t even exist. So if you really want to get married and build a family, maybe it’s time to take a page out of Grandpa’s playbook.
I’m not saying that you have to settle for the first halfway decent woman who comes along. I’m saying that if you’ve been scoring women as winners and losers based on a search for a non-existent goddess, you’re probably not in a good position to understand the nuanced differences between one good woman versus another. It’s time to reset the baseline, to be a man who recognizes all of the natural, God-given beauty that can be found in simple femininity. You really can marry a gorgeous woman, but you’ve got to have the eyes to see her first.