The Non-Negotiable List

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Have you ever made a list of characteristics that describe your “ideal mate?”

My girlfriend Theresa and I did when we were sixteen. My list included really mature traits like the color of my dream date’s hair (brown) and how his derriere looked in a pair of Levi’s 501’s.

Theresa—who I’m still blessed to be friends with almost three decades later—and I had a great laugh when I dug up those old lists several years ago. I had been asked to speak to a group of Christ-following college women about how to make wise decisions about men. (I’m pretty sure they chose me because after years of making really poor relationship choices, I had finally gotten it right with my amazing husband.)

On one hand, what constitutes each woman’s ideal mate varies from person to person. But on the other hand I believe that, if you desire to walk with God for a lifetime and partner with your husband in bringing God’s kingdom here to earth, there is a list of five essential character qualities he needs to possess.

If I were advising a younger Christian woman about character qualities that are non-negotiable in the man she dates and marries, this is the list I would give her: 

  • Does he have strong Christian male friendships?
  • Watch how he interacts with other women, especially waitresses and his mom. Does he treat them with honor and respect?
  • Is he quick to forgive?  Is he able to admit he is wrong and ask for your forgiveness?
  • Does he inspire you to walk with Jesus more closely?  Does his thirst for the Word challenge you to drink from it more deeply?  Does his prayer life cause you to fall on your own knees?
  • Does he love Jesus more than he loves you?  Is he willing to walk away from you if you don’t love Jesus more than him?

Now, just because you can answer “yes” to all of the above questions about a guy doesn’t necessarily mean you should marry him. But if you answer “no” to any one of these, I would strongly caution you about moving forward in a relationship with him.

What do you think about the list? Do you agree or disagree? What character qualities would you add?

6 thoughts on “The Non-Negotiable List

  1. When my husband and I married we made non negotiable lists about ourselves. Things that we knew would never change about us, and things we wanted to be supported in throughout our lives. Our relationship to Christ, our dreams and goals for the future, our quirks that make us who we are, etc. It led to great pre marriage discussion and has helped in communication post marriage. The simple phrase, “It was on the list!” Has stopped many arguments, solving them with openess and mutual respect.

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  2. Were jean shorts a deal-breaker for anyone else, or just me? Rumor has it that Andrew owned a pair, but I was quick to get that out on the table on our first date. I have never seen him wear them.
    Your list is excellent. Andrew totally would have passed, even when we were just dating.
    I also want to point out that I think answers to these questions can be found out ON DATES. I know you weren't commenting on this one way or the other, but I will. 🙂 I think you can find out some answers to these questions second hand or in groups, but some are more difficult. And I fully support going out on one date with the expectation of JUST going out on that one date to find out what a guy is like. Maybe that is a topic for a future post.

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  3. I would add “teachable.” One of the things that attracted me to Jason was his willingness to learn and grow. When he recognized a weakness or character issue that needed to be worked on, he intentionally sought out someone who was strong in that area in order to learn from him.
    I have seen so many husbands in my extended family who can't take the tiniest bit of gentle correction from anyone.
    I love that Jason is so quick to receive Godly correction and even seeks it out!

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