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What Are Your Non-Negotiables in a Spouse?

couple sitting on couch holding question marks in front of their faces
What is the bare minimum to be considered spouse material these days? if you had to pick a few theoretical "non-negotiables," what would they be?

I was skimming my Facebook feed the other night when I noticed a post titled, “The Four Things You Need in A Husband.” It’s the kind of post I might normally keep cruising past for the simple reasons that I’m (obviously) not looking for a husband, nor am I interested in being more marketable as husband material. (I do still want to be a better husband, but that’s another topic.)

Still, curiosity got the better of me: What is the bare minimum to be considered husband material these days? So I ended up reading the story to find a list of qualities that many female Boundless readers probably wouldn’t quibble too much with. (Please correct me if that assumption is inaccurate.)

The writer said Christian women should be looking for a man who 1) is completely committed to God, 2) is able to openly talk about God, 3) is someone who is motivated in life and 4) brings out the best in the girl. Safe list, I suppose; although, I confess to being a bit skeptical when she introduced the list by saying, “I have decided that you really only need four things in a husband to make him husband material” (emphasis mine).

Really? What if a potential guy was pretty good in three of those categories, but came up short in the fourth? What if he recognized that weakness and was honestly trying to be better? Can some traits develop over time? Is the goal really to find a “finished” product?

I realize such questions would be more appropriate when considering a list of qualities that had more wiggle room involved. The four items above seem pretty foundational and might indeed represent the bare minimum qualities that Christian singles should be looking for these days. Still, the article got me thinking of friends I’ve known since they were single, friends who ended up marrying drastically different people than the theoretical ones we talked about back in college. Have you ever had those kinds of conversations? “Well, he needs to be _______ and enjoy ______.” “She needs to have an interest in _______ and is willing to _______.”

Today, as I keep up with old friends online, I can’t help but notice how these friends’ spouses are not as musical or missions-minded or as athletic or sports-literate as they’d once hoped for. But those qualities, in the end, were not the deciding factors. This doesn’t mean they compromised any standards, because I know that most of them have married spouses that did fit certain core requirements of faith, attractiveness, etc.

When I was single, I wouldn’t have said I had a firm list of qualities I was looking for in a wife. I wasn’t exactly the sort of fellow who could turn down a girl because she wasn’t artistic enough or didn’t have any interest in sports. When I started dating Marci, I just knew she was smart and pretty and had a solid faith and was super fun to be around — and I’d be lucky to win her heart.

Did Marci have any such list? I don’t remember any clear articulation of such; although, she did sometimes mention how glad she was that I was interested in outdoor activities or liked reading or enjoyed some other interest. I know she waited to say, “I love you, Vance Fry” until she saw me playing with a little girl at a camp that we worked at together one summer. Apparently, being comfortable around kids was pretty high on her list at the time — even if she never told me that. (You have no idea how many times I’ve thanked that little girl, wherever she is now, for playing such a major role in my finally winning my wife’s heart.)

So, if you had to pick a few theoretical “non-negotiables,” what would they be? Have they changed over time? Could these qualities become more open for negotiation if you met a partner who was “right” in every other way? And do you feel those traits could possibly develop in him/her over time?

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About the Author

Vance Fry

Vance Fry has been an editor in the media publishing group at Focus on the Family since 2010. Prior to his time at Focus, Vance was an editor and English teacher with Overseas Radio and Television in Taipei, Taiwan. Vance and his wife Marcia (pronounced with a silent final “a”) have four children. In his free time, Vance enjoys hanging out with his family and making stuff in the garage.

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