At a recent singles seminar organised by a particular church we were invited to conduct, we had fun with this subject. We described what we see as a common difference between single women and men who are looking to get married. Of course there are many exceptions, but quite often, this is what we observe:
A woman is in a serious relationship with a man when she recognizes some warning signs and red flags. Her first instinct usually isn’t to “run”, but it’s “How can I fix him and make this relationship work?”
A guy on the other hand, could be dating an attractive, healthy, personable, funny, intelligent, godly and wise woman who earns more money than he does. But when you ask him if he’ll “pop the question” anytime soon, his response often implies, “what if there’s someone even better out there?”
We don’t scientifically know the cause of this discrepancy except we speculate around how men and women are created differently, but we have seen it far too often. What makes a woman wants to fix a narcissistic egomaniac who won’t admit he has poor financial management and communication skills? But when the tables are turned, he’ll be the first to run out of the relationship, or at least drag her along until he finds someone else?
Again, we’re admitting this is a general stereotype with numerous exceptions.
These are the two contrasting tendencies: “How can I fix him and make this relationship work?” and “What if there’s someone even better out there?”
The danger of the first tendency, prior to marriage, is that it usually excuses many things that shouldn’t be excused. It’s one thing to help a spouse with whom you have children confront and overcome an addiction. It’s another thing to willingly go into marriage and plan to conceive children with someone you know is going to be fighting – or worse, not fighting – an addiction for perhaps the rest of his life.
It’s one thing to figure out how to deal with more of a temper than you thought your partner had once the honeymoon is over; it’s another thing to go into a marriage fully aware that one mistake can set him off for a fifteen minute rant. We’ve said this many times, if your partner seems a little too angry as a boyfriend or girlfriend, he or she will seem much too angry as a husband or wife. Because marriage changes no one; it shines the spotlight on a behaviour that was already there.
If your natural default position is “How can I make this relationship work?” just be aware of your tendency. Are you excusing something you shouldn’t? If so, guard against it. Bring others into your relationship to gain perspective and objectivity.
Those whose tendency is to ask, “But what if there’s someone even better out there?” often have a distorted view of marriage. They tend to be a little more selfish, and they frequently fail to understand that a great marriage is about buildingsomethingmore than it’s about finding someone. You’ve got to add intention, purpose, chosen intimacy, etc.
God hasn’t created anyone specifically or exclusively for you. The “soul mate” concept is a myth. There are thousands of people with whom you could build a God-honouring and even happy marriage if you’re willing to work at it. Some choices are certainly wiser than others, but no person is the “complete” package, in the sense that for the rest of your life you risk finding someone “better” in comparison to your current partner. Comparing a new infatuation with a more mature relationship isn’t fair. It goes back to thinking marriage is about “finding” someone instead of building something together.
If your hesitancy is based on thinking you need to choose the “right one” so that you can have an “easy” marriage, just talk to some married people. No marriage is ultimately “easy.” Two fallible adults living in one house create sparks.
Instead of wondering whether there’s “someone even better”, spend your time considering whether you’re with a person you have shared values, shared purpose, are compatible in character, are physically attracted to, and possesses the necessary relational skills to keep a marriage growing. If those qualities are present, you’re well on your way to a wonderful marriage and a fulfilling life.
Knowing your tendencies is helpful so that you can guard against the natural weaknesses all of us carry. It may sound contradictory to put these two tendencies against each other because they seem like opposites. One is too quick to pull the trigger, the other is frozen and can’t move their finger if their life depended on it. But notice the difference:
One woman moves forward even though there are numerous red flags. One man won’t move forward even though there is much reason to do so. One can’t say “no” and one can’t say “yes.”
The first group needs to pay more attention to the red flags, and the second group needs to give more consideration to the positive qualities.
An abundance of problems should cause you to pull back or at least pause, and an abundance of positive qualities shouldn’t be ignored by the off chance that somewhere out there, someone even better is just waiting to meet you. Think of all you’re missing out on by not beginning to build a life together right away.