What should you look for in a spouse?
What you’re attracted to is more influenced by the culture around you than you might realize.
One thing that might be particularly helpful is just a simple observation that you may not realize about yourself. And that is, that what you’re attracted to is more influenced by the culture around you than you might realize. So, when you find that one particular person more attractive than this other person, without even knowing it, you have some sort of values or things that you think of as good or best that you’re kind of reading them with.
So, the question is, how did those values get in there? How do you find that set of characteristics more attractive than that set of characteristics? And the answer, largely, is that it’s a mystery. It’s shaped and influenced over the years by what you’ve found good, and valuable, and attractive, and secure in your home and your upbringing. It’s shaped by what you take in on television, or on the internet, the media that you consume. You have a world full of people giving testimony to what’s most beautiful and most attractive. And, that has more of an influence on you than you realize.
So, you might have heard the phrasing, ‘We live in a pornified culture.’ I find that to be helpful phrasing just because it recognizes that there is this effect that pornography has on larger culture. Even if someone isn’t using porn, there’s this cultural value system where the elements of what make pornography so powerful and attractive weave their way into the way we tell our stories about romance, weave their ways into fashion. It’s an entire framework of understanding what’s beautiful and good. And basically, it packages beauty in this convenient, flashy package that supposedly costs me nothing and requires nothing of me to appreciate. Beauty becomes a way of serving myself. It’s just instant gratification, it’s “Yeah, I find that visually appealing,” and so I just reach out and I take in a way that’s meant to fill me, that’s meant to serve me. It’s having a really dangerous effect, I think, on the way Christians think about finding a spouse to marry, finding a mate to love and to cherish and to value. Because true beauty takes more effort, it costs more of us to truly appreciate because it’s this acknowledgement that I have to conform what I perceive as good and attractive to what God actually says is most good and most attractive. And that’s, in other words, believing His testimony above the testimony of everyone else.
So, for instance, if you watch the average romantic comedy, ladies just need to be aware of the pornified expectations that might shape their initial assessment of people. Instead of, sort of, a certain body shape, so much, as it might be with men, maybe it’s a certain personality or a certain style of romantic consideration. What’s missing from your average romantic comedy is a value that says, “Actually, when I read the Bible, and I read, for instance, the Book of Proverbs about what a man in his prime ought to be, a man who fears the lord, a man who works hard, a man who does what is right, a man who doesn’t take a bribe, a man who just has all the things that conform to God’s values displayed there.” And then Proverbs 31 gives the female version of that, of a woman who fears the Lord. But if you actually read Proverbs 31 for the values that it lifts up as most attractive, here’s at least one surprising thing. A woman who fears the Lord is displayed primarily in her industriousness, in her work, in her labor, in her strength, actually. In her valiance. Two thirds of the verses that are talking about this Proverbs 31 woman are dedicated to the fact that she is smart, and works hard, and is productive in those ways. If you look at that value system, and then you look at what’s valued in terms of the priority structures of what we find attractive in our pornified culture, that does not line up.
And so, the question is, how do I move from here to here? And it’s through reading the Scripture enough to where the heart of God, the values of God come to map and have authority over mine. And that happens in the context of a culture where there are people valuing, in the folks you know, what God values, and drawing your attention to those things. In the context of that input into your life, do you actually start to make wiser choices when it comes to who I ought to pursue, or who I ought to allow to pursue me?
I have just been able to witness in my ministry so many conversations where older Christians who have just a really good established relationship with a single Christian are excellent resources for someone saying, “Hey, this person’s pursuing me,” or “I’m thinking about pursuing this person. What do you see in their lives?” And sometimes it’s, “Man, I see that that girl, she serves well, she’s always engaged, I’ve seen her sort of suffer well through different seasons of her life. I think that’s a worthwhile person to pursue, you should do that.” And then other times they say of that person or help you assess, “You know, if you actually think about the way she lives her life, she might have this attraction for you or this thing going for her, and we acknowledge that, but the overall pattern of her life doesn’t seem like a strong pursuit of the Lord. We would caution you against that.” What I’ve just suggested is actually really counter-cultural because, especially on issues of attraction, we tend to think so individualistically. But the great irony of thinking that it’s my choice, it’s my attraction, it’s my thing is we’re totally missing the fact that, actually no, you’ve already been influenced by a community. It’s just, which community have you been influenced by?
So, I want to be careful here, because I’m not saying it’s wrong to have preferences, or to find certain personalities easier to get along with than others, or to even find certain appearances more attractive visually than others. That’s not wrong at all. It becomes wrong when that becomes the control value under which the values of God are arranged, rather than the values of God being the control value under which all these other values are arranged. So this answer is very counter-cultural, but I hope it’s been helpful to just make us aware of what our hearts are doing when we find one person attractive and another person not, and then submitting that whole thing to Scripture and to the church and to a better community than the communities that we naturally orbit in.