What Are You Looking For?

About 10 years ago, the concept of listing out what I wanted in a future spouse was introduced to me and like an obedient girl, I started my list.

A few years later when sifting through my life in therapy, I was told that I didn’t know what I was looking for in a spouse. Au contraire! I had my list! I showed it to my mentor/friend Katharine.

“Laura, you wrote the Proverbs 31 for men! This is completely unrealistic. And it says nothing about real things you want in a husband.”**

Me: “I did?”Gold pen with signature

Yet, not to leave me hanging, Katharine helped me pare down my page-long list to 3 columns. She guided me through selecting traits (physical, character, spiritual, personality, even how he spends his leisure time) into three categories:

  • Non-negotiable
  • Really want
  • Bonus!

One thing that has contributed to “success” is that my list is short; I think I have less than 15 items between all three categories. I’m also guided in my conversation on first dates by having “The List” in the back of my head. For example, I hate doing taxes due to a traumatic experience with them in college. Thus, I want my husband to be financially sound. On dates, I’m not shy to ask questions related to money and saving – while I don’t ask about his debt, savings, or salary, I am able to guide the conversation in order to ascertain his attitude towards retirement savings, budgeting, and financial management which let me know if I even want to keep considering spending time with him.

Depending on how long you’re in dating land, the list might need tweaking as years pass.  A small part of me dies when I look at “4 kids” in one column. It’s good to think about the number of kids you want (even if the number is zero), but being 30 with few prospects makes me less optimistic towards that original number as I’ve lost those years of childbearing/child-rearing. Also, “ministry group” had a specific meaning in my Protestant days; not so much in Ortho-world.

Here’s my suggestion, Ladies and Gents: write down what you want in a spouse. Be specific, even painfully and stupidly specific. Hair color. Ethnicity. Quirks. Height. Interests. This is your list. It might be longer than my 12-15 items, but if that’s what you need, do it. Then go through the list and pick out the “Absolutely, 100% MUST HAVE” for column A. Go through and pick the “I would REALLY WANT” items. Everything else is in “BONUS” – column C. You must have at least one criterion in each column, and it’s best to do this when you don’t have a specific object-of-your-affection in mind.

It’s frustrating to be in The Land of Few Prospects or The Land of Not-Right-Now and even The Land of Everyone-Else-Is-Married. The last 6 to 7 years of my dating adventures have been a little easier thanks to my list – if something doesn’t feel right on a date or in a relationship, generally one of the criterion in my first column isn’t present. And knowing what you’re looking for helps you not be distracted with Mr. Not-for-you-but-definitely-single no matter how great his personality.

**It has come to my attention that cradles or non-Protestant converts in the Ortho-world have not heard of the Proverbs 31 standard for choosing a wife. Proverbs 31:10-31 is an Old Testament passage describing a virtuous woman/wife. Some women, especially Protestants, feel it an unattainable standard held over their heads while wife-seeking men can never find their “P-31 woman”. It was only recently that it was brought to my attention that Proverbs 31 is an allegory for the Church and Christ. Yay, Protestant literalism!

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Categories: Articles, Words of wisdom | Tags: , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

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11 thoughts on “What Are You Looking For?

  1. Richard Barrett

    “Where is my Boaz?”

    (sorry, couldn’t help myself with your reference to the “P-31 woman”…)

  2. Will S.

    “Yay, Protestant literalism!”

    Hey, I resemble that remark! 😉

    Seriously, just an allegory for Christ and the Church? Funny; I thought one of the benefits of the Proverbs 31 model is that it DOESN’T require that women only be homemakers, but recognizes that they can bring money into the household, too; I might have thought such might be liberating for those who feel that the woman-as-just-homemaker meme in traditionalist circles might be a bit of a straitjacket, and not entirely supported by Scripture, either.

    People have interpreted the Song of Solomon as an allegory for Christ and the Church, too, and I don’t disagree with such, any more than I would disagree with Proverbs 31 perhaps being such, too. But I’ve always found the language of the Song of Solomon rather blatantly sexual; and as such, the more common interpretation these days of it being a picture of an ideal relationship between an ordinary husband and wife strikes me as equally valid, at the very least; but, if it is just about Christ and the Church, what does it say about such, that it describes it in such terms; at the very least, it shows God is favourable to the relationship between Him and His people being as passionate as a married young couple who are passionately in love, in visceral, physical ways; certainly, the old tendency to shy away from seeing it as anything other than an allegory of the relationship between Christ and His Church seems unwarranted, at least.

    But I digress.

    Going back to Proverbs 31, look at the chapter as a whole, not just that passage you quoted; verse 1 indicates that all that follows is advice given to King Lemuel by his mother; verse 2 very explicitly reiterates this, and verses 3 to 9 deal with practical advice that a wise king might follow, to be a good ruler for his people; is that allegorical, too? And if not, why would there be a sudden switch at verse 10, for the remainder of the chapter?

    No; I think the Protestant interpretation is not inaccurate, even if one could also see a possible allegory of the relationship between Christ and His Church in those verses. Seems very practical, down-to-earth advice to me, just as in the first part of the chapter. (Should we all not drink wine, just because King Lemuel was advised by his mother not to, as a king? Are we all kings? Or, if we as the Church are the bride that the King is supposed to seek out, then who is the King that King Lemuel’s mother is really addressing; is she presuming to lecture God on what He is supposed to be like, or just telling us? Over-allegorizing can bring complications to what otherwise can be a straightforward, easily-understood-if-literal text – even if we may not LIKE all the implications of taking the text in such a manner, esp. as 21st century people…)

    • The footnote about a “P-31 woman” was to explain to our Orthodox readership who might not understand the reference to finding a “P-31 woman,” which is something from my Protestant background. The purpose of this post was to encourage people to know what they are seeking in a spouse. Taking it literally, the woman in Proverbs 31 is already married (reference to children who bless her), thus to put expectations of a mature married woman on a new bride is rather unfair.

      • Will S.

        I got that; I’m just saying that I find the reading of it as purely allegorical of Christ and the Church somewhat problematic; but then, as a Protestant, I suppose I would. 🙂

        I agree with you that a ‘Proverbs 31 wife/mother’ would be something for Christian women who are already wives and mothers to perhaps consider as an example, rather than a single woman – but a single woman surely does well to consider it, too, in considering what kind of wife and mother she might want to strive to be, perhaps, should she wish to marry, some day; ditto a new bride (without pressure, of course). 🙂

  3. sciencegirl

    These messages are not in competition because allegories never have only one layer. Any allegory can also be read at surface level, at the symbolic level, and at deeper levels. The Christ/Church allegory is taken from Christ calling Himself the Bridegroom; thus, in Scripture, we can find out more about Christ by finding out about Bridegrooms and Brides. Any marriage or sexual imagery can therefore help us understand Christ, and predominately teach us about Christ. The point is that P31 does not apply solely to women, or to men seeking brides, because any Christian could see the P31 woman as an example of what any man or woman seeking to follow Christ would do. Be generous to the poor. Care for others. Bring good to Christ all the days of your life. Work for the Kingdom.

    I kind of liked her, and thought she was fun and charming, someone I would like to know, but then, she hadn’t been used as a putdown all my life.

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  6. Anthony Bulldis

    “It was only recently that it was brought to my attention that Proverbs 31 is an allegory for the Church and Christ. Yay, Protestant literalism!”

    WHOA WHOA WHOA. I had literally never thought of Proverbs 31 in any context other than the literal description of a virtuous woman. This is incredible!

    In case it’s not obvious I am presently a Protestant myself (but perhaps not for much longer).

    • Brigid

      Things can be multifaceted 🙂

      With Proverbs 31, on the one hand, yes it can be a description of a very virtuous woman. (Though it has to be noted: she’s a middle-aged woman, not a young single woman on a first date with a guy who’s seeking his Bible-quoting Martha Stewart. P31 Lady has developed many skills over years and years, including entrepreneurship, and also she has staff.) On the other hand, as an allegory of Christ and the Church it has so much richness.

      There’s an extraordinary amount of depth above and beyond the literal interpretation, and that’s true in many many other areas too. Have you found any others?

  7. Dorothy

    I had a list. It had three things on it: Must be Christian, must be honest, preferably diplomatically honest. I got that. Now, I also had a…type of guy I fell for. And my husband is squarely within that type (and has all three traits). I had a youth pastor (former Protestant) that had us write a list at one retreat. I really didn’t get further. Never felt led further.

    Knowing your non-negotiables are important. I’d say, make sure you have an idea for the following: children (number and how to raise them); how to relate to extended family (especially if there are any boundary pushing types in said family); religion (what and how…fervently); and finances (how much debt is too much). Finances is one of the top reasons cited for divorce. If you can’t stand debt and he can’t stop impulse buying cars, we’ve got problems.

    Also, know red flags for abusive behavior. There usually isn’t any one thing that is going to be a red flag, there is a bit of discernment. But better to avoid than have to escape.

    • Laura

      Thank you, Dorothy. You make some excellent points. I have heard that Children, Religion, Money, and In-Laws are the root of most divorces (I don’t have a solid source for this or I would share a link).

      I think having a list helps all types, from free spirit to insanely picky, to have concrete traits and focus on what is important. This also means that someone has needed to spend more than 5 minutes thinking about a spouse. I also appreciate you comments on “red flags” – they can be subtle, yet being aware of the signs may help someone stay away from a potentially damaging situation.

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