Monday, February 16, 2015

Five Signs You Have Found a Keeper

My Valentine's Day Roses
I am almost thirty. When I was twenty-six I could still think of myself as in my mid-twenties, but now that I am twenty-seven, I can only think of myself as almost thirty. Not that there is anything wrong with thirty. I just expected to have things more figured out by the time I reached it. I expected to have had at least one full-time job by that point. I expected to have figured out how to keep up with my laundry and to diligently create a monthly budget. In short I expected to have grown up, but I am discovering growing up is not something you do overnight. 

I see thirty on the horizon and it does not look the way I anticipated. Of course, I haven't been idle the past few years. When I turn thirty my son will be six, my daughter will be four, and I will be looking forward to my tenth wedding anniversary. And THAT is the one thing I feel I have figured out: marriage. I don't know if I really believe in soul mates, but sometimes it seems I have found a man who fills in the missing pieces of me. We fit together like coffee in a cup, as a friend of ours once said. As I see many people my age facing the pains of infidelity and divorce, I am reminded just how much of a blessing my husband is. 

So in honor of Valentine's Day and the amazing man I have found, I want to write a post to help out ladies who are still in search of the coffee for their cup. Here is a list of five attributes to look for in the man you think may be marriage material.

1. He puts God above you

Many women look for a man who will put them above everything else in their lives. They want a man who makes them the center of their world. There is a flaw in the logic of this desire. Humans are not perfect. We regularly disappoint others. When we are made the center of someone else's world, we will shatter that world when we eventually fail. 

The man who is truly marriage material will have God at the center of his universe. Jesus made the importance of making God a priority clear in Luke 14. He said "'Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple'" (v. 26). The word used for "hate" here is a word of comparison. Our love for Christ has to be so great, so important to us, that we seem to hate every other important person in our lives and even our own lives.  

So we should seek out someone who puts God above us. He should be willing to do what is right and kingdom minded, even if he will disagree with you. He should pray and seek God's guidance instead of relying solely on you, when making decisions. 

2. He celebrates your success

During my marriage, I have graduated with two college degrees. My husband was there with me to congratulate me and tell me how proud he was of me. He did this even though he was not able to finish his own degree because of our finances. He did not mope about how it was not fair that I had this success when he did not. He chose to celebrate with me. 

From Cain and Abel to Jacob and Esau to Joseph's brothers, the book of Genesis is filled with stories of people becoming jealous of someone else's success. In each of these stories, the jealousy they feel leads them to damage their relationship(s) in some way. Cain kills his brother. Jacob steals his brother's blessing. Joseph is sold into slavery by the other children of Israel. Such jealousy has no place in a healthy relationship and will only serve to cause division between you and your spouse. 

We should instead follow the example of Paul. Throughout his letters he shares the joy he feels when he sees the people he has discipled succeed. Even from prison, Paul writes to the church at Philippi that he is thanking God for their success and praying with joy for them. He is ecstatic that they are succeeding in their mission, even when his current circumstances are less than favorable. A spouse should do the same for the good of your marriage. 

3. He is willing to suffer with you

During the nearly eight years I have been in a relationship with my husband, we have faced our share of suffering. We have seen both of his parents die. We have attended numerous other family funerals. We have sat with each other in the emergency room and hospital rooms. We have cried countless tears in each other's arms. 

As I was working on this post, I sat in the emergency room with my husband twice in 24 hours. He had a kidney stone and then was dehydrated from vomiting because of the pain medication. I did not think twice about being there with him because I knew he would do the same for me. When our children were born, he spent several nights in the hospital with me. He got up with both since I was recovering from cesarean sections both times. With our daughter I do not think he slept for the first six weeks of her life. 

In Romans 12:15, Paul tells us to "rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep." A man who is marriage material is willing to celebrate your successes and suffer through your pain. He does not belittle you or act as though your pain is unimportant. He never claims it is all in your head or you are just being overly emotional. He is affected by your pain because he cares for you so deeply. 

4. He chooses to communicate

One of the biggest problems I have seen in most damaged marriages is a lack of communication. Instead of communicating, people in these marriages either shut down or explode. They either shout insults or bottle up all of their emotions. They lie about or fail to share their feelings. 

We do fight occasionally, but neither of us let an issue rest after a fight. We take the time (sometimes all night) to talk through our feelings and come to the root of the problem. It has taken us time to get into these habits, but it has strengthened our marriage in the long run. 

Again, I turn to Paul for his instruction on communication. In Ephesians 4:31-32, he tells the church to "put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you." Within true communication we find a place to lay aside bitterness, anger, wrath, slander, and malice. We find a place to be kind and tenderhearted. Most importantly, we find a place to forgive. Every couple must spend time in the safe haven of communication in order to grow and thrive.

5. He takes on responsibility
Many marriages also die because one spouse or the other refuses to take on necessary responsibility. They cast blame for their mistakes or refuse to grow up. I know a woman whose marriage died because her husband would not get off the couch. 

To me a lack of responsibility is also the essential problem at the root of infidelity. Remaining faithful is the most important responsibility spouses have toward one another. It takes effort to train oneself to have eyes only for one's spouse. No one sets out intending to cheat, but adultery begins in the mind not in actions. As Jesus said in Matthew 5:27-28, "'You have heard that it is said, "You shall not commit adultery." But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.'"

Infidelity is something I do not find myself worrying about from my husband. He used to get on to other men at work for looking at women lustfully. But I also know he is more responsible than that. When our second child was born, my husband became a stay at home dad to two children under two. We made this decision based mostly on finances. We are saving more money by having him stay home than we would by putting two kids in daycare while he works. Even though it was not what he expected, he has taken on this responsibility in stride. 

My prayer for all of the women in my life who are looking for a keeper, is that you will not settle. I pray that you hold out for a man who will treat you like the child of God you are. I pray that you will respect yourself enough to believe you deserve him.

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