The patriarch Isaac married a woman who was essentially selected for him by his father (Genesis 24). The Eastern custom of parents’ selecting their children’s mates seems strange to us (even a little scary, depending upon your parents) but one could argue that such a custom makes more sense than some of our own practices. Many newspapers print a “companion section” in which men and women seek dates and mates. The following ad appeared in a local newspaper and illustrates well the thinking of many regarding the matter of finding a marriage companion: DWF, 39, 5’ 3”, 126 lbs., hazel eyes, frosted hair, looking for SWM, 30-42, who likes country music, dancing and kids. Must be 6’ +, 190 lbs. - 225 lbs.
This woman evidently believes that the key to success in a relationship is to like the same kind of music and be of a particular physique. I can just imagine all the 30-42-year old, dancing, kid-loving, country music lovin’ men out there who are groaning because they happen to be only 5’ 11’’!
The wise selection of a mate can help avoid the tragedy of divorce. A healthy marriage requires personal growth and the adaptation of spouses to each other, but there are limits to the changes one can expect to quickly make in one’s companion. Many people have simply not developed the character traits that will make them good lifetime companions. And since the choosing of a mate is ideally a one-time task, knowing what to look for in a prospective marriage partner pays high dividends.
But what should I look for in a mate? In the business world, the qualifications of job applicants are usually suggested by the duties which the job involves. To determine the qualities of a good mate, we must recognize what is demanded of both the husband and wife in marriage. That fact alone suggests the first and most important consideration in a prospective mate-is he/she a faithful Christian? A faithful Christian respects God’s word, accepting His instructions for marriage. If our relationships are not governed by God’s word, who is to say what responsibilities belong to the husband? Will the wife’s role be determined by negotiation? Are such matters determined solely by tradition or custom? Marrying an unbeliever is like sitting down to play a board game without any agreement on the rules that will govern the game. Marrying a Christian is not a guarantee of a happy marriage but it usually means that two people begin a lifelong proposition with the same ground rules.
Briefly summarized, the Scriptures teach that the husband must love his wife, provide physical necessities for his family and lead the family (Eph. 5:23-29; 1 Tim. 5:8). The wife must submit to her husband and take care of the home (1 Tim. 5:14; Titus 2:4-5). Both must be sexually faithful to the other and committed to a lifelong relationship. While much more could be said about the role of each spouse, even this brief summary suggests some crucial character traits for good mates.
Trust is the foundation of the marriage relationship. Nothing destroys trust like dishonesty. A good mate is committed to always telling the truth. Dishonesty is like leaven; if allowed to obtain a foothold in one area of life, it tends to spread to all others. Did she go where she said she went? Was he really working late? Living with the constant doubts created by dishonesty in the past makes for a bitter lifestyle. Those searching for a mate would do well to observe how prospective companions handle all matters involving personal integrity.
Few things hinder a husband from loving his wife properly like selfishness. Selfishness will make it difficult for a woman to yield and submit to her husband. It is selfishness that causes a husband or wife to spend on personal luxuries money needed for family necessities. In marriage, both husband and wife must place the needs of others before their own. A good mate will manifest unselfish behavior, demonstrating a willingness to sacrifice his own desires for the good of others (Phil. 2:3-4).
Marriage is a rewarding relationship, but it also requires hard, sometimes tedious work. Women should seek as husbands men who will work persistently at what needs to be done (1 Thess. 4:10-12). Dirty homes and unkempt children are usually the sign of a woman who is either lazy or considers such work beneath her dignity or worth. In either case, she makes a poor mate. It is unwise to marry anyone whose highest priority in life is to seek recreation.
In a listing of general qualities of a good mate, perhaps nothing is more important than godliness. Godliness is that trait which causes a person because of his reverence for God to view all of his activities in light of what will please God. Such a person is “God-conscious” and considers the word of God before making decisions. Obviously this is a trait which will influence all areas of married life.
Another quality of a good mate is self-control. Uncontrolled anger, drug abuse, and filthy or hurtful talk-these are some indicators of the failure to have dominion over oneself. People who don’t control their temper make very poor mates or parents. Anger inhibits effective communication and instead often creates deep emotional wounds. Drug abuse destroys individuals and families. Good marriage partners practice self-control because marriages are not immune to stress and frustration.
We might wonder how Isaac could allow someone else to select a wife for him, but then we also realize that character is more important than physical appearance. The emphasis placed upon romance (which often focuses on physical attractiveness) in western cultures is actually detrimental to choosing a good mate! Trustworthiness, unselfishness, industry, godliness and self-control-look for these traits in the one you would marry and work on developing them yourself. For those already married . . . do we possess these qualities?