When Steve and I started dating, one of my close friends said she was worried that we'd end up getting married. What in the world? I thought. We've only been dating a few days. Marriage? And so what if we do? What would be so bad about that?
"I just don't want to see you settle," she said.
At the time, Steve was still planning to use his degree to go back to his small hometown to be the principal of his dad's church-sponsored school. I guess in her eyes that was beneath me. Me, a soon to be holder of a master's degree.
"You've got so much ambition," she said. "I'd hate to find you, years from now, disappointed in him. A frustrated wife who 'under married.'"
Not Wanting to Settle
My friend was a believer in the notion that to marry a man without certain traits or ambitions would be settling. And in her mind, settling was bad. No longer just a guideline, not settling was itself a goal. Something worth striving for. As in: Finish that report for work, lose 20 pounds, get a boyfriend, don't settle.
And so we find ourselves in the midst of a massive shift in marriage trends: women waiting longer than ever to marry, all the while holding out for their soul mate -- "the one." When a nice guy asks a woman out, if the sparks of attraction aren't hot from the start, she turns him down, reasoning, "Sure, I want to get married someday, but I'm not about to ... settle."
Have you ever known a man that you've thought about dating, but in the end, ruled him out because to do otherwise would be settling? If you're holding out for perfection, or have a long list of must-haves, it's possible you're overlooking some good men who are already in your life. Knowing what about a potential mate is worth appreciating and what's just eye candy has everything to do with when you should "settle."
Choosing to marry a man -- whomever he is -- inevitably involves compromise (on his part, and yours). That's why it's not truly settling. It's just making a decision. Something we do every time we pick one thing over another. In most areas, it's called being decisive. For some reason, we've made indecision noble when it comes to dating.
A New Standard
What's needed is a new, objective standard for what makes a good match, because, for a Christian woman, there are some non-negotiables for choosing a mate. That's where Gottlieb's advice falls short. Thankfully we have a standard that's completely reliable.
- A man must be a believer.
- He must be able and willing to provide for his family.
- He must love sacrificially.
- He must be honest, have a good reputation and strive for the qualities of a spiritual leader. (See Acts 6:3, 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:6-9.)
If you're measuring a man against that list, considering his aptitude for growing into full maturity in those areas, then marrying him is praiseworthy. Even if he is shorter than you. Or younger. Or bald. Failing to meet our worldly expectations — our romantic shopping list — is no liability if he meets biblical ones. That's the only list that matters.
And marriage to such a man could hardly be called settling. In another day, it went by the much more pleasant, and desired, description: settling down. When faced with a big decision, my dad used to say, "Honey, you have to settle the issue. Make the best decision you can, in view of the wisdom of Scripture and prayer. Then move forward confidently." Putting the unending list of options to rest is freeing. Once you make a decision, you can stop noodling, debating, and weighing the alternatives, and get on with the rest of your life.
And my friend who said I'd be settling if I married Steve? She was looking at externals, so her ability to rightly judge was skewed. I saw beyond where Steve was at that moment, to the man I knew he could become. And because my faith was based on that biblical list, I knew it was well founded. Thankfully I followed the wisdom of Scripture.
I wasn't disappointed.