Every girl who wants to be married has dreamed about what he will be like. Many of us have written lists of the traits our ideal man will have. Over the years, we’ve also heard various views on writing husband lists. Some people say you should have a list, so you know what you’re looking for. Others say that having a list makes your focus too narrow and that you’re “limiting God.”
I had a nice long list when I was in my teens, then a short list of “must haves,” and now a more specific idea that’s not written down. Recently, though, a married friend encouraged me to write a new list to pray over. She had a list, and when she was in her 30s she met a man who fit every thing she’d been praying for (right down to the kind of car he drove) and married him 2 weeks after their first meeting (yes, you read that right. They’re still happily married and have two teenage kids). I know other girls who’ve been told their standards were “too high” yet found guys who matched everything on the list they were praying for, and there are also ladies like blogger Lucinda McDowell who prayed for 24 things in a husband, and God gave her 23. Writing a list doesn’t make you “too picky” — it means you have standards, and that’s a good thing.
So I started work on my new list. And I thought perhaps other girls might find it useful to read about how I decided what to include. There are articles out there offering lists of non-negotiables for you to base your list on, but even the essential qualities are going to look a bit different for everyone. For example, if you’re Christian, some form of “He’s a practicing believer” is probably at the top of your list, but what does “practicing believer” mean to you?
Just a quick note … guys can write “wife lists” too, and I suspect that much of what I talk about here might be useful for that as well. Since I’m a girl thinking about a future husband, though, that’s what I’m going to focus on for this post.
I’ll be honest — I actually didn’t start with this step, but I think now I should have. You want your list to reflect the things you feel like you “should want” as well as what you truly desire, and so there’s often a feeling of not being able to ask for “little thing” or mention appearance at all. But if we’re honest, things that might seem shallow at first glance are still there in the back of our minds, which means they do matter on some level. Starting with free writing gives us a chance to put those little dreams on paper without feeling bad about them.
Grab a piece of paper and just start writing the first phrases and descriptions that pop into your head when you think about what kind of guy you would like to marry. Think about guys (real and fictional) you’ve had crushes on and list the things about them you found attractive. Think about guys you’ve dated and list things that you liked about them, and the opposite of the reason you broke up with him (i.e., if you’re boyfriend didn’t respect your boundaries, you might add “respects my boundaries”). Think about happily married couples you know and list things you want to see in your own marriage. Write down literally anything that you think of, no matter how unrealistic it sounds.
Now look back over your list. Circle anything that 1: doesn’t have to do with physical appearance and 2: you consider absolutely essential in a relationship. You’re looking for things that have to do with who he is as a person, like “loves God,” “good communicator,” and “we worship together.”
Next, look at the things you haven’t circled yet. Cross-out anything that you know is 1: not essential for you in a relationship (I crossed out “rich singing voice”), 2: only related to physical appearance (such as “taller than me), and/or 3: completely unrealistic. While you’re doing this, you might find that you can replace an unrealistic goal with a related realistic goal. For example, instead of “rich as Mr. Darcy” you might list, “able to provide financially for a family.” I would encourage you to pray about the things you want but know are unrealistic. Sometimes, we use unrealistic expectations to push other people away and shield ourselves from being vulnerable in relationships.
Now you have a sheet of paper with things crossed out, things circled, and a few things that are neither. For now, set this list aside.
Red, Yellow, Green
There’s a book called True Love Dates by Christian relationship counselor Debra Fileta that recommends writing three separate lists, and that’s where we’re going to start. Before you spend any more time writing down the things you want in a relationship, we’re going to write a list of things that are never okay.
“Stop” and “Slow”
The first thing you’re going to write is a Red list of traits that always mean “stop” when you notice them in a relationship. If a guy has any characteristic from your Red list, you do not pursue a relationship with him (no matter how many good traits he has). My Red list includes things like “does not believe in God/won’t respect my belief” and “refusal to communicate,” along with others like the examples Debra Fileta gives in her book:
- Abusiveness (physical, verbal, emotional, or sexual)
- Dangerous and uncontrolled temper or displays of aggression
- Pattern of dishonesty or betrayal
The next step is writing a Yellow list. This is for things you’re not sure about and would need serious consideration and discussion before moving forward in a relationship. They give you pause, but don’t mean the relationship can’t work. A few on my list are “previously married” and “trouble handling money.” Here are more examples from True Love Dates:
- Family of origin issues and problems
- Unhealthy habits or behaviors
- Lacks motivation, goals, and dreams
“Go” For It!
Now for the fun part — the Green list or “husband list” of things you want to have in your relationship. If Red means stop and Yellow means slow down and reevaluate, Green means you can feel good about going forward with a relationship. Here’s where we get to go back to the free writing exercise.
I sorted my list into four categories: “Personal Values,” “Family and Relationships,” “Makes Me Feel …” and “Personality.” The circled phrases from my free writing exercise ended up in the first three categories, and many of the phrases that were neither circled nor crossed out ended up in one of the last two categories (you might even list a couple of the ones you crossed-out if they are still important to you). I saw the “Personality” category as representing things I want, but some of which could be negotiable. Here’s a few specific items from each list, so you can see what I’m talking about without me sharing a copy of the whole thing:
- Personal Values
- follows God and Christ first
- uses his gifts to serve in some way
- demonstrates integrity, commitment, faithfulness
- Family and Relationships
- respects and helps set boundaries
- wants children
- hospitable; welcomes guests and visitors to our home
- Makes Me Feel …
- protected and cherished
- listened to and understood
- like I’m valuable and contributing to his life
- slow to anger
- good communicator
- enjoys discussing ideas
Looking At Yourself
Now that you have your list, turn it back on yourself and ask if you have those qualities. Would the guy you’ve written about want to date, or marry, you? Some of this should match pretty easily — you wouldn’t list a guy who wants 6 kids if you didn’t want 6 kids.
Others might be harder. If you listed a man who spends time with God every day, will he want to marry you if you regularly forget to study? Or if you ask for a guy who will never cheat on you, are you prepared to be faithful to him? If you want an Ephesians 5 husband, will you be an Ephesians 5 wife?
I hope this post was helpful to you — writing the list that inspired it has certainly helped me. While we know that God knows exactly what we need without us telling Him, I think it is helpful for us to have something more to ask Him than “please give me a good husband.” You’re putting effort into pursuing a relationship by figuring out what it is you’re looking for. God bless you, my dear readers.
Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart. (Ps. 37:4)
2 thoughts on “Writing A “Husband List””
I have written lists of qualities I would look for in a mate, and tried to pare down the top “essential” traits as well… But I do sometimes question the wisdom in this, because it can sort of give us tunnel vision in what we THINK we want/need.
A friend of mine had a very detailed and particular list of what she wanted in a husband that she admitted was not even humanly possible, but she reasoned that it would keep her from being distracted by the “not-the-right-guys” until God provided her true love. She is happily married now, but her husband didn’t even fit all of her list items! So, I just question if we do ourselves a disservice by rejecting potential mates because they don’t fit a list WE made of what we think we want, when really it could be the person that gives us what God knows we NEED? Maybe the “want” and “need” lists would not be drastically different, but I still ponder the possibility.
Why have arranged marriages resulted in less divorces? You can argue those traditionally happen in cultures where divorce is still frowned upon, but I think a factor resides in the fact that the parents have a more objective view of what the young person needs overall, vs. just what they think they want in the moment. In youthful naivety, we can convince ourselves that our next door neighbor is perfect and perfect for us, but our parent’s can say, “well, you’re probably putting them on a pedestal, and really you’re not on the same page with [xyz]”
For me, I realize that I don’t even know what I want in a mate. Or that what I want is contradictory. Further, I am challenged with the fact that I desire certain traits within the context of marriage that I have no proper window to gauge in singles. “Once married, I would like my spouse to exhibit [xyz], but NOT now with me or any other guy…”
I guess when it comes down to it, my focus as of late is just trying to NOT freak out and try to plan every detail of my life. I need to lay down my life as a living sacrifice to the One who does direct my path. I have a feeling if/when that happens, my plans and lists won’t mean a whole lot, because God can do with me and my life as He pleases; whether that means getting married or not, or getting married to someone who may not fit my list perfectly, but would be a good compliment in life so that we could synergistically glorify God in a greater way than either of us could as singles.
I still think lists have a usefulness, but I can definitely see your point and your plan for seeking God first is essential whether you have a list or not.
If someone writes a list knowing it isn’t humanly possible, as your friend did, then it won’t be very helpful. Still, I notice you said her husband didn’t fit “all her list items” – implying he did fit some of them (perhaps the most important ones?). And I do think that if you have a list, you have to be willing to compromise on a few things depending on your prayers and on feedback you receive from people you trust.
If you don’t have some idea what you’re looking for (whether you write it down or not), how will you know when you’ve found it? If used properly, lists can help give us the sort of objectivity that you mention as a good thing about arranged marriages. You could even get input from parents and other respected married people about your list. In any case, having a list gives you something to work from that doesn’t have to do with how you feel about someone “in the moment.”
Let’s say I meet a guy who I find really attractive, and he fits most everything on my list except I want kids and he doesn’t, or I attend church every week and he would rather go once or twice a month. Or let’s say I’m friends with a guy who people suggest might be a good match and who fits every quality on my list except for some of the one’s having to do with personality or appearance. In both these cases, having a list to check the guy against forces me to step back and take a good look at him, and make time to pray about the list items he doesn’t fit to decide if it’s something God wants me to let go of, or if it’s something that’s really important in a potential mate.