Once again, I’m going out on a limb. I’ve been putting this off. I’ve been putting this off for years. I’ve been putting this off since my mother asked me to make a list of what I want in a wife, my non-negotiables and negotiables. After showing her my first list, which included “can cook well”, “can clean very well” and “can do the laundry and iron well”, she told me, “What you need is a maid!”
The only reason why I put those things on the list is because they’re essential to daily living and I am horribly horribly unskilled in these areas. Which explains why I eat steamed eggs pretty much everyday and rely on cleaning and laundry services.
The other reason is because I’m selfish. Or was. Well, in many ways, I still am.
But among the increase in messages and questions I’ve been getting, along with “Do you have a girlfriend?”, “Are you gay?”, and “Can I set you up?”, as well as a lot of advise-seeking, are the different versions of the most frequent question:
What are you looking for in a woman?
The short answer is: I’m not looking. At least not actively.
Nevertheless, I’m a big believer in clarifying my standards and values, and it is still beneficial for me to finally outline what I do want in a future wife – assuming of course she would want me – flaws, idiosyncrasies, responsibilities, and all.
More and more I see the value of clear standards. I do agree we should clarify for ourselves what makes a great partner so that we’re not just falling for things. No standards is just as bad as low standards in my opinion. No standards means you’ll fall for the easy path – and the easy path is low standards – easy at the start but ending in pain.
I also am not one of those who believes in having “no expectations”. I actually think that’s impossible. The very act of exchanging wedding vows is a process of setting expectations. It is saying, “You can expect this from me.”
This is why forgiveness will always play a key role in the surviving and thriving of ALL our relationships, especially the more intimate it is. Why? Because intimacy creates greater expectations, expectations of trust, of love, of security, and simultaneously reveals more each other, revealing even our flaws and inadequacies – basically our inability to perfectly fulfill the expectations we created.
The wiser route is to set the right expectations, yet committing to a person not a set of expectations. Commit to working with your partner to achieve your standards together, to journey together. More on journey later.
I know this is a long introduction to my list and I’m about to just make it longer with three clarifications I want to state upfront by explaining three concepts you need to understand before reading my list. I make these clarifications not because I think I’m some heartthrob or celebrity. I’m not. But exactly because I want to distance myself, my standards, my thinking, and my values from the popular culture our society celebrates.
Here are the 3 concepts I would like to clarify.
Concept #1: The Halo Effect
I enjoy/suffer a double edged sword known as the halo effect which means:
“a bias in which one’s judgments of a person’s character can be influenced by one’s overall impression of him”
Another term for “halo effect” is “halo error”.
Because of my family, particularly my father who is a pastor and my older brother who is also a pastor and is incredibly wise and very principled, because of their achievements, I automatically get points for their character. People who do not know me extend the character of my dad and brother to mine.
The church isn’t a monarchy. I’m not inheriting a position, a title, or an estate. Pastors aren’t royalty, and neither are their kids. Stop worshipping them. How should you treat them? The same way you should treat everyone: love them.
If you’re only impressed with “leaders” then check your heart, check to see if you’re only generous to the people you like because they’re fun or only those who can add to your stature – that is a good sign of your lack of being genuine – and only you and God can really know that.
My dad’s character, my brother’s character is their character. Mine is mine. So I understand that the attention I receive, whatever interest there is in me or my love life, is not the product of my personal achievement but the overflow of having relatives who have achieved certain standards.
This knowledge, knowing that it’s all the effect of a “halo”, reminds me to be humble, NOT to be like an actor who actually starts believing that the role he has been cast in is who he is. How ridiculous would it be for Christian Bale to really think he was Batman? Or Tom Hanks start living as if he was Forrest Gump?
And it is ridiculous to think that a person, because of his reputation and the role he has been cast in, is actually that person. To fall for someone because of a role is shallow, it is uneducated, and it is NOT something I’m interested in. Neither am I interested in someone liking me for these reason.
If someone likes me for their impression of me, she is will only get disappointed when my temper shows up, my pride rears his ugly head, my impatience becomes obvious, and the rest of my many many many flaws introduce themselves.
And just like what senseless fans and groupies do over and over at the fall of a once great person, the celebrity they celebrated they now hate – because the person they made god failed them.
The truth is, they failed themselves when they chose to place their affections and hopes on an illusion.
This is why I love God. Because He KNOWS me and loves me despite of knowing everything. He is not in love with an impression. He doesn’t love a “renaissance man”. He loves David.
Concept #2: Journey
The second clarification I would like to make is this: as I outline my description of a partner, I do not unrealistically believe that there there is a perfect person out there.
But everyone is on a journey and headed in different directions. Some directions lead closer to purpose, to love, to beauty, to goodness, other directions lead further away. Some directions lead to God, others don’t. Some people believe that all paths lead to God. Does it really make any sense that the path a serial killer chose to walk leads to the same destination Mother Theresa took?
No. It is another “feel good” idea that doesn’t pass under scrutiny along with ideas such as:
God’s grace begins where our ability ends. (No. His grace was at the very beginning. You have abilities in the first place because of His grace.)
God helps those who help themselves. (No. God more than just helps you. He makes everything about you possible.)
It’s bad to judge. (No. We should judge, the Bible always tells us to weigh and judge things, BUT NOT with human standards, not outward appearances, and most especially, we should judge ourselves first, the plank in our own eye. We have no problem with saying someone is cute or ugly (that’s a judgement call of an outward appearance) but we do have a problem accepting the realisation, “You’re shallow. Time to grow up” (which is a judgement call of what’s inside us). Our double standards reveal us for who we are.
I can go on but that’s not the point of this section.
The point is, we’re all on a journey, and while our journeys intersect and meet at points of community, there is a very personal aspect of journey. What is important is not to compare yourself with others. Don’t say, “I should be this rich or this mature by this age. I should have achieved this.” Rather, ask yourself, “Am I journeying with Christ?” How do we know? Well, we become like the people we journey with. If you’re growing in Christ-likeness, in love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, gentleness, self-control, you’re journeying with Him. It’s impossible to constantly grow in these areas without the source of these virtues.
I add this section because my list in no way represents an ideal girl or a perfect girl, but a lady who has chosen to journey towards beauty, truth, and goodness with an attitude of faith, hope, and love. She will for sure not be perfect. She may even be quite far compared to the standards of pharisees, but her direction is clear to all who know her because her life reflects the love of the One she journeys with.
Of course, she will also have to want to journey with me – which I must admit doesn’t promise to be a glamorous one – but for sure, will be a fruitful one.
And this leads me to my final clarification:
Concept #3: A Partner
There is a popular idea many people subscribe to when they think about their relationships, and it is this:
“The perfect partner will make my dreams come true.”
For women this could mean that her guy will secure her, show affection, lavish her with gifts, open exciting worlds to her, to defend her, to be appreciated, give her beautiful kids, build her dream house, or satisfy her desire to please, to impress with amazing meals and domestic skills, to be able to play her dream role of Martha Stewart / Victoria Secret model.
For Christian women it is to be a “Christian” Martha Stewart / Victoria Secret model / responsible mom that is led by this principled, well-respected man that will make her friends say, “You’re so lucky to have him.”
For men, it would be to come home to a Victoria Secret model. HAHA!
Generalizations aside, and I admit those were generalizations, the problems with the idea that “The perfect partner will make my dreams come true.” are the following:
1. There is no perfect partner – that’s a pipe dream. You’re not perfect – even if you think you are, and neither is your partner – even if you think he or she is.
2. It’s not always about “MY” dreams – approaching a relationship with this kind of thinking burdens you with crazy expectations from day one. It is a selfish approach of projecting your dream life on another person.
There is a religious version of this that goes: Make your list and God will make your list come to life because God knows what you want.
My response to this: Maybe He will. Maybe He won’t. And if He doesn’t, it’s because He loves you, because usually, as I see in my own life, the thing I think I really really want, is actually quite disappointing and even dangerous at times.
“What? I thought God honours faith?”
Yes. Faith in Him. Faith in His love for us. That His ways are higher than ours. That’s faith.
“What if He gives me an ugly partner?”
This means you don’t completely believe God will give you something you’ll find beautiful. This also reveals that your depth is skin deep – which isn’t necessarily a bad thing but that’s your limit. Nick Vjuicic’s wife would not be enjoying the relationship she’s in now if she subscribed to popular standards.
It’s sad that the Christian approach sometimes looks like this: Here’s my dream life, but since I’m a Christian, I will achieve this dream life through prayer, honest hard work, and principled living. The process I described is actually great, but the start has a problem: it’s still “MY” dream life. This is why it’s hard for many of us to grasp how adoption, or marrying a person with a disability, or completely forgiving a past, enduring hardship, or the union of differences, is not just a very possible and sensible thing to do, but a very beautiful thing IF it is done out of obedience because faith at the end of the day is “Your way. Not Mine.”
Faith says, “Father, this is what I’m attracted to. This is what I’m believing you for. BUT knowing You, I trust that what You have for me is much greater than what I have in mind.”
If it so happens it’s the person you liked all along, great, because through the process you depended on God. If it turns out to be someone else, just as great, because you depended on God.
And we all need to grow in dependence on God.
Something I’m learning more and more is this: If I do get married, I don’t want someone to make my dreams come true. I already have God for that. I don’t want someone to just tickle me, or look pretty, or be obsessed about how people perceive her or us. I want a partner on this journey, someone to share life with, come what may.
I don’t want anything shallow nor fickle. I don’t want a fan. I don’t want a customer.
A partner is an owner along with you. The big difference between a customer and an owner is this:
When the business is on fire, the customers are running out for safety, the owners are running in to put the fire out.
As my grandfather told my mom when she got married, “Getting married is like building a house with no fire escapes. Get good at putting fires out.”
Now that these concepts are out of the way, without further ado, I’d like to introduce, My Fair Lady.
(I actually never followed this introduction up with my list but it was a good excuse to get people for read my criticism. Haha!)