Seeking a Spouse
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Who is “the one” for you? Jonathan “JP” Pokluda answers this question and outlines specific things to look for and to avoid when seeking “the one” to marry.
Seeking a Spouse
Ann: Okay, knowing all that you know today—
Dave: And that is a lot.
Ann: —would you still date the people that you dated in the past?
Dave: No, never.
Dave: Oh my goodness! I had so many bad choices.
Ann: So none?!
Dave: The sad thing is they are probably thinking the same thing about me. [Laughter]
Ann: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Ann Wilson.
Dave: And I’m Dave Wilson, and you can find us at FamilyLifeToday.com or on our FamilyLife® app.
Ann: This is FamilyLife Today.
Dave: No, I would not have dated the people I dated.
Ann: Because you had the wrong motives/the wrong actions? What was it?
Dave: Wrong motives, wrong motives, wrong motives. [Laughter] I was interested in the wrong things, and I wasn’t thinking about character. I was thinking about me and selfishness, so I would do it all completely different.
Ann: Me too. I would have done it all different, and I wouldn’t have dated the same people.
Dave: But you would have dated me.
Ann: I would have totally dated you.
Dave: That was your first right choice, and the same for me too.
We have JP Pokluda with us, who wrote a great book called Outdated about dating and singleness. We already talked about “Why date?”; and you said the purpose is?
JP: It’s a path to a promise—
JP: —of finding a spouse.
Dave: So it’s: “To find a spouse to get married to; that is the intention of a dating relationship.”
JP: Yes, dating will not fulfill you; and a spouse will not fulfill you. I think, before you date, you need to think about that—
JP: —to make sure you have a grip on that/that: “This is not going to satisfy me.”
Dave: Right; so the second part of the book is who—
Dave: —we date. I love/you know, you [typically] build these on lies. Here’s what you say: “The myth of the one.” You say, “The lie is you have to find the one person made for you, who was created around the same you were; and they are out there, lost in the world of eight billion people.
Ann: I like this, you guys. I think that’s sounds really sweet.
Dave: Well, that’s a lie!
Ann: The truth is you have a relatively small group of people to choose from, and you don’t need to search high and low. You also have many more options than just one.
Dave: Okay, you have got to talk about this, because—
JP: There is good news and better news here.
JP: Yes! So let’s just kill “the one” idea, because that puts pressure on you. If you are trying to find the needle in the haystack—there is one person that was created around the same time that you are that, somewhere in the world, that you have to find them—first of all, it’s a mathematical impossibility. [Laughter] You need to know that; right? That we’re not even—there is not one man for every woman—so there is some real challenges to that.
Secondly, you don’t have to look high and low throughout the world; right? There is a reason that—as we look in history, that there was a time in the ‘50s, that most people would marry someone who was born within a five-mile radius than them—that’s changed rapidly with the invention of the internet. We’re more wired into other cultures and other places than we’ve ever been. This idea of the one—it’s a bad idea—and it’s unnecessary to think about it that way.
I’ll even go closer to home here. I’m six foot seven inches tall; I’m weird tall. My wife is five three. I like guns, motorcycles, and the UFC; she doesn’t like any of those things. Am I the one for her? Let me ask this: “Is there someone out there more compatible for Monica than I?” Hundreds of thousands of men would be a better match, based on some personality test, for her than I; but she’s the one for me, because she’s the one that I committed my life to. I said, “Hey, I entered into a covenant before God with…” That makes her the one.
But the crazy thing is, Dave, people don’t know what they are looking for. They’re/if you asked young people, “Hey, what are you looking for?”—like—“How are you going to know when you’ve found somebody?” they say, “Well, you just know when you know.”
JP: They are going to say, “Well, I guess I’ll feel something I’ve never felt before.”
Ann: Yes; “I’ve never been this happy. This must be the one.”
JP: Yes; “I’m going to get to this/I’m going to experience some level of happiness”; and that sets you up for more disappointment than just about anything.
But you would never interview for a job that way—like not knowing what the job is—and “Hey, I’m just looking for a candidate that I like that I have some chemistry with,”—right? You would never do that.
You need to start by thinking: “Okay, what is the job?”—marriage. “What does it require?” “What am I looking for?” If I’m a woman, I’m looking for someone who would be an amazing husband and an amazing father. If I’m a man, I’m looking for someone who would be a great wife and a great mom—so I begin to think, “What character qualities am I looking for in someone, who would be a great wife and a great mom?”—so that I can know when I find it.
Like when my wife sends me to the grocery store—she is very specific; right? Like if I bring home generic anything, I’m in trouble. She wants Mrs. Baird’s Seven Wheat Honey-something with gluten-free whatever—and I’ve got to find that piece/like that loaf of bread. I’ve got to find that; I have a list, and it helps me. That’s how I know when I have found it. I look at it, then I compare it to my list. Then when it matches the list, it’s like, “Oh, I found it!”
That’s how single people should approach dating; it’s like, “Hey, I’m looking for someone. I need to know what character qualities they have; so when I find it, I’m like ‘Oh, I found it.’”
Then they say, “What if I have I found it, and I’m not attracted to them?”
Ann: —like physically attracted; yes, that’s big!
JP: Right; yes, yes; or “What if we don’t feel chemistry?”
Ann: We’ve had people ask us this a lot.
JP: Yes; I would say there is a place for that—like attraction helps you attract—but Proverbs 31:30 says: “Beauty is fleeting,”/“Charm is deceitful and beauty is fleeting. A woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.” If you hold that—and most of the world does—hold that is the highest criteria that you are looking for, you’re investing in the most fleeting/perishing asset; like that’s the one that goes away the fastest; right? So you don’t want to just base an entire marriage on that external. The reality—
Like Monica is beautiful; by the grace of God, He’s given me this amazing woman. But I’ll tell you: when a kid is sick, and throwing up at 2:30 in the morning—and I’ve gone in the room—they didn’t make it to the trash can, and their room looks and smells like the inside of a Six Flags trash can/I mean, it’s just terrible—her beauty is not helping me. [Laughter] I don’t need a trophy wife; I need someone to go to war with at that time. It’s not the way that she looks that’s going to really be beneficial at that 2:30 in the morning assignment. If that’s all she has to offer, then, we’re going to be in a real bind.
Dave: Obviously, at the same time, you are not going to say to the single person who, right now, is looking at you, going, “Okay, dude; easy for you to say. You’ve got a beautiful wife.” I’ve sat on stage with Ann and said to single people: “Physical attraction”—and they look at me, like, “Look at who is sitting beside you; you can say that after…” So should there be some physical attraction? Is it zero matter, or does it matter a little bit?
JP: You don’t have to be a martyr for sure. [Laughter] I’m not saying, “Find the ugliest person that nobody else is interested in and marry them.” God has given us an entire book, which I think is a lot about our relationship with Him; but He makes provision for this throughout the Scripture. We see that He’s made us emotional beings; He’s given us eyes; He’s made us attracted in some ways—and I think that causes us to engage in the relationship—but don’t rely on that; don’t let that be the foundation of the relationship.
Ann: Talk to the person, who is dating someone, that the person that is listening is like: “I want Jesus; I’m following Him,” and “I’m dating this person. Eh, I think they are Christian; but I’m kind of pulling them along.” Talk to them.
JP: Let me give you some things to inspect; right? So you’re dating; you’re dating for a path to a promise. You’re trying to figure out if they would be a great husband, or a great father, or a great wife, or a great mother. You’re like, “Well, what do I look at?” First Timothy 4:12 says: “Do not let anyone look down on you because you are young; but set an example for believers in your speech, in your conduct, in your love, in your faith, and in your purity.” This is not a dating verse, but it does give you five great things to inspect.
Look at their/what comes out of their mouth. Jesus says, “What comes out of your mouth reveals your heart.” If you want to know what is in their heart, look at what they say—and not just to you, because they are dating you; they are interviewing for the job—look at how they treat the server at the restaurant, or how they treat someone that can do nothing else for them, how they treat the mailman. What comes out of their mouth when they talk to their parents or someone who frustrates them? What comes out of their mouth? Do they use their words to build up?—or do they use their words to tear down, to gossip, to lie, to further deceive, to curse? How do they use their words?
Dave: Hey, before you keep going, I want to/I just want to remind parents—
Dave: —who listen to this, and use this as you teach your children, this is great parenting for your teenage daughters and sons, who may want to date.
You already talked about speech.
JP: Yes; so conduct—setting an example for believers in conduct—how do they act? Are they given to anger; right? Are they self-controlled, or do they have something else that controls them?—are they given to drunkenness?—are they living for the party; right? How/what controls their emotions? You’re kind of observing their emotional quotient and their action.
Consider what they love. That’s the next word, “love.” What are the affections of their heart?—do they love Jesus?—do they spend time at the church?—do they love to serve? Or do they love a [sports] team? Nothing is wrong with loving a team, but does that team/does that obsession mark their life more than anything else?—that you can use it as comparison: “I wish you loved Jesus like that,” or “I wish you loved me like that, and Jesus even more,”—you can kind of begin to see what holds/what idols their heart holds.
Then, consider their faith; right? That’s not a check-the-box—they memorized a verse, and they own a Bible—that’s like, “Do they believe in God? When everything is shaken, like the Psalms say, will they still stand on the solid rock of Jesus Christ?”
A really clear tale-tell is: “Do they honor the marriage covenant with purity?” because the person who will put their hands somewhere other than a ring box—right?—is telling you something. They are saying, “I’m willing to go outside of marriage for intimacy.” That’s what they are communicating to you. If they will do that with you when they are not married to you, they are saying, “I don’t value the marriage covenant enough to hold it sacred and to carry you into it. I’m willing to go outside of it.” So when you marry them, and you make that covenant with them, and they go outside of it, don’t be surprised; they told you they would [by their actions].
Ann: So JP, talk about the red flags that singles should be aware of as they are pursuing a relationship. What kind of things are those?
JP: I think the biggest red flag is someone not having a committed relationship with Jesus. You want to marry somebody who is well-married to Christ. I know that sounds so Christian-cliché, but it is of utmost importance in marriage.
I take about 2,000 questions—I do something called Friday Q&A, and I’ll take about 2,000 questions—I’ll answer about 100 of them every Friday. I see most of them; right? There are so many; but as I go through them, I’ll see most of the questions. There are so many in there: “I’ve just/my spouse is not a Christian. I really thought they would become one. What do I do? I feel so trapped. I don’t know…” I just always want to put that out there for single people to see that:
This idea of missionary dating—dating someone so that they would become a Christian—is a bad idea and unbiblical. It is forbidden in the Scripture.
Ann: —or thinking they’ll change them.
JP: Yes, that’s right; that even marrying someone, thinking they’ll change them—like, listen, the Holy Spirit changes people; He sanctifies us—so you want to marry someone who the Holy Spirit has, because they’ll continue to conform to the image and character of Jesus; but marrying them, hoping they change, is a bad strategy.
Someone that is given to anger—this is a red flag.
Someone that has a track record of unfaithfulness.
Someone who is stuck in sexual sin or sexual addiction. Every Friday, someone asks me, “Hey, my boyfriend is addicted to porn. What should I do?” I just rephrase the question back to them; I say, “Hey, you’re telling me you are dating someone, who is a serial adulterer. What do you think you should do?”—right?—“You’re telling me/Jesus says in Matthew 5 that they are committing adultery. So how would you feel if they were regularly sleeping around? Would that change the way that you look at this struggle?”
It’s not like that person is damaged goods, because I am that person. You want to help them find freedom; you want to help them find healing—go through a recovery ministry, send them into a small group with other people of the same sex that they can get prayer for healing and confess their sin to—but let them heal through that.
I think, if they are not involved in a church, that’s a red flag. I want you/if you love Jesus, I want you dating someone who is thriving in the local body: they are serving there; they are using their gifts; that they are a member there.
They are under the authority there [at church]; that’s a big one too. If they rebel against authority—like that’s cute when you are seven—it’s not cute when you’re twenty-seven; okay? It’s not cool to be an adult and to think that you have to go against every authority that you are under.
The authorities that you are under: obviously, government is one; local authorities—police/those kinds of things—but also, your employer; the Scripture speaks to this: “submitting to your employer”/that authority. Then also, your local church that you would be under the authority of leaders in the church. Those are the three authorities that I think you want to check for as you are dating someone.
A red flag is their friends; you know, you are the average of your five closest friends. So who do they hang out with? People ask all the time: “Well, what if their friends don’t like me?” “What if their family doesn’t like me?” Well, just keep in mind that, especially when it comes to family, you are marrying them too.
I would work to resolve that conflict: to understand, to sit down and listen. Do not avoid it; if you don’t like their friends, they’re going to become their closest friends. It’s a real mystery to me that you would really love them but not like the five closest people that they hang out with/their friend group. That’s going to tell you something about the discernment of an individual: is who they hang out with.
Those are some that come to mind.
Ann: Those are good. I have a few too.
Dave: Oh! You are going to add a few?
Ann: I was thinking about it, because we’ve talked about this too.
I think someone, who won’t apologize—
JP: Yes, that’s big.
Ann: —or admit that they have done wrong—
Ann: —yes; it’s a total pride issue.
Someone who isn’t willing to look at their past or to talk about their past—
Ann: —who is not willing to go back and say, “These are some of the
things that happened to me,”—not that those can’t be fixed, but just a willingness.
Then the other thing that I had was someone who is not willing to engage in conflict. If they are like, “Nope, I’m not going to talk about it,” they are going to carry that into your relationship. Unresolved issues will just become this wall of unresolved issues that, pretty soon, you can’t even talk about anything.
JP: It’s the number-one determiner of marriage success:—
JP: —communication and conflict resolution.
JP: So yes, you want to work through that.
People/single people ask me all the time, “How do I prepare for marriage?” I’m like, “Get a roommate,”—you know?—[Laughter]—“a really dysfunctional one that doesn’t do the dishes, because that will help you with marriage.”
“So no; I hate/I like to live alone. I don’t want to live with somebody.” I’m like, “You’re going to hate marriage, because there is someone always there like a shadow. You’re not going to enjoy marriage if you don’t like living with somebody else.”
Dave: Well, here is a question for you: “If you see these red flags—maybe, not all of them; but at least, enough to be concerned—and you don’t break up,”—because I’ve seen that over and over; it’s like, “Here are the red flags.” They acknowledge, “Yes, he’s got them,” or “Yes, she’s got them,”—“and they just stay—
JP: Yes; I thought you were going to say, “Well, what do I do?” I was going to say—because people ask that on Friday Q&A/they’ll say, “Hey, there are red flags in my relationship. What do I do?”—I always just write the script for them. I say, “You go up to them, and you say, ‘I’m so glad that I dated you, because it has allowed me to realize that…”—insert the red flag; communicate that clearly to them—“and I’ve learned that that is not something that I want in a spouse. So I don’t think we should date further.” You look deep in their eyes, and you say that truth. It’s the most loving thing that you can do.
Why do they continue to date?—a lot of times because the relationship is physical. Being physical in a relationship/a dating relationship will keep you in the wrong relationship too long, and it will keep you away from the right relationship. Some people are hearing that right now, and you know I’m talking about you. I’m just telling you: “God loves you; He’s crazy about you, and He has better for you. He hasn’t wanted you to date someone for four years, five years, six years.”
If we were talking about how to date, I would say, “For as short as possible; like go into the dating relationship knowing: ‘What do I hope to find out?’—like—‘What do I want to learn about this person?’ and ‘How long do I need to learn it?’ and ‘What environments would help me learn it to find out if they would be a great spouse?’ That’s what dating with intentionality looks like/is I am trying to determine if they would be a great spouse.”
They stay in that dead-end relationship, because they are dating for fun.
Ann: Well, when I was 18 years old, it was—I had given my life to Jesus at 16—but at 18 is the time that I said, “God, I give You everything. I am going to go wherever You call me; I’m going to do whatever You want. I’ll say/like I’m all in; I’m all Yours.”
Dave: —right before/right before we started dating.
Ann: Yes; so in my head, I knew that I needed to break up with this guy; I knew it.
Dave: I knew it, too; and I didn’t even know her.
Ann: Dave and I were just starting to talk then. I remember saying to him, “I feel like God wants me to break up with him, because it’s not going anywhere spiritually.” I said, “But he’s such a good guy.
Ann: “He’s just great, and he treats me so well.” The next part I said, “I am afraid I won’t find anyone better.”
Ann: So fear was keeping me in it, and here is what this wise Dave Wilson said to me.
Dave: Yes, we were talking.
Ann: He said, “God is so much bigger than that.
Ann: “If you break up with him, you don’t think God has somebody that is even better for you?”
JP: “Yes; they might be real close to you/right in front of you right now.”
Ann: You really weren’t even thinking of dating me at that point.
Dave: Not then, no.
Ann: But you really did say that, like, “You don’t want to miss the best that God has/somebody that is going after it [seeking God].” And then we were married nine months later.
Dave: JP, you defined my dating relationship before Ann exactly—because when I asked you the question, “Why do people stay with somebody that sees all these red flags?”—it was me.
Dave: I’ve seen thousands [make the same mistake] since.
I dated this girl; I would have—I had had several; I bet this happened eight or nine times—walk up to me and say, “You should not be with her.”
Ann: Your mom said it too.
Dave: My mom said it; friends said it. I was at a New Year’s Eve fraternity party on a campus, and a dude that is a total stranger walks up to me, at this crazy house with all these people, and says, “I don’t know what you see in her. I know you’ve been with her four years. She is not who you think”; and he walks away. I remember thinking, “Who are you?! Get out of my face!” Why did I stay?—it was physical.
JP: Can I say something right there?
JP: You want the opposite of that too.
JP: Like in Song of Solomon, it says their friends and family praise their love—more than wine, more than the party, more than the wedding, more than the dress, more than the cake—you want people around you, in agreement, like, “Man, this just makes sense,” especially if the people around you are God’s people. Really, exclusively—if they are God’s people—if people, who have the Spirit of God, that’s what an arranged marriage is. That’s/biblically, that’s the only example we have of dating was arranged marriages, which is not dating; but people bringing people together.
In modern time, I’m a fan of arranged marriage when it’s your friends and family saying, “Hey, this just makes sense,”—not arranged marriage/like you meet each other at the altar—but everyone around you is in agreement, like, “We are so in agreement with what God is doing here.”
Dave: That did happen with Ann.
JP: Yes, I love it. Ann, can I ask you a question?
JP: Did you say, “Hey, God wants me to break up with you,” to that guy?
JP: Praise God.
Ann: —because that’s what everybody says.
JP: So to the listeners—just a public service announcement—[Laughter]—“Do not blame your break-up on God.”
Dave: “Own it.”
Ann: “Own it”; yes, that’s good.
Bob: Some wise counsel on how to break up/how not to break up [from] Dave and Ann Wilson and Jonathan Pokluda today. Really, talking today about how critical it is to be looking for the right thing when you’re considering a potential marriage partner. The culture points us to a lot of superficial attributes, whether it is appearance, or wealth, or job stability. What we really need to be looking for are values, character, how committed a person is to following Jesus. Those are the more important considerations.
Jonathan has written about this in his book, Outdated, which is a book that we’ve got in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. You can order the book from us online at FamilyLifeToday.com, or you can call to order at 1-800-FL-TODAY. Again, the book is called Outdated: Find Love That Lasts When Dating Has Changed. We live in a time when the whole idea of dating has changed. Order Jonathan’s book online at FamilyLifeToday.com, or call to order your copy at 1-800-358-6329; that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
You know, our goal with conversations like this is to provide you with wise, practical, godly counsel on the issues that matter most to all of us: issues related to marriage and family/issues related to relationships. We want these programs to be conversations you can pass along to others/people you know who might be dealing with these specific issues. You make all of what we do here at FamilyLife Today possible, as a listener, when you donate to support the ongoing work of this ministry. FamilyLife Today is listener-supported. Your donations made today’s program possible; and what we do in the future going forward is entirely dependent on listeners, like you, saying, “I believe in this work, and I want to see it continue and grow.”
Today, if you are able to help support FamilyLife Today with a donation, we’d love to send you a copy of Ron Hutchcraft’s book, Hope When Your Heart Is Breaking. We talked with Ron this week about grief, and loss, and pain, and how to find hope in the middle of that. Ron’s book is our thank-you gift this week when you donate to advance the work of FamilyLife Today and help us reach more couples, more often. You can donate online at FamilyLifeToday.com, or you can call to donate at 1-800-FL-TODAY. Thanks, in advance, for your support. We look forward to hearing from you.
We hope you can join us, again, tomorrow when Jonathan Pokluda will be back to talk about how contentment is not found in finding the right person/dating the right way. It’s found in trusting Christ in your singleness or in your dating relationships. I hope you can join us for that.
On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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