Focus on the Family

Focus on the Family with Jim Daly

Finding Your Lifelong Love

Finding Your Lifelong Love

Pastor Dan Chun and Boundless' Lisa Anderson discuss some of the most important qualities singles should look for in a potential spouse.



John Fuller: Dan Chun is our guest today on “Focus on the Family” with Jim Daly and Dan, what’s one characteristic that a single person should look for in a potential spouse?

Dan Chun: Wow, one characteristic! I think the biggest one is character, is will this person say what he means or she means? And do they really follow through? Do they have honesty and integrity? Character’s a big one.

End of Teaser

John: Well, character is a big one and you’ll hear more from Dan today. And this is gonna be a program for you if you’re single and hoping to marry. Our host, as I said, is Focus president and author, Jim Daly. I’m John Fuller and Jim, as we talk a lot about marriage and parenting on these programs, we also like to come alongside singles and that’s exactly what we’re doin’ today.

Jim Daly: We are, John, and it’s not just for singles. I’m thinking of the moms and dads, too, that have adult children that are tryin’ to decide what’s goin’ on in their life. They’re maybe 20-, 30-something and they haven’t found the person that they want to marry. And this show will be for you, too, to have that dialogue as a concerned and you know, good parent, to say what’s happening. So, we’re speaking to all the audiences today.

Also I recognize, you know what? We’ve got a pretty good, 20-something, 30-something listenership, John and we want to say right from the git-go, the pressure to marry, don’t feel that today. If people feel called to singleness, that’s a blessing and the Bible talks very specifically about that.

John: Uh-hm.

Jim: There are a lot of people, though, who are single today that want to get married and want to do it in a biblical way. And this will be specifically for you and also joining us today will be our very own Lisa Anderson, who heads up Boundless, which is our ministry to singles and it’s gonna be great to have both of their perspectives.

John: Well, I’d agree and Dan has been a pastor for over 35 years, along the way helping singles meet and marry. And he wrote the book, How to Pick a Spouse: A Proven, Practical Guide to Finding a Lifelong Partner.


Jim: Let me say, welcome to both of you.

Dan: Well—

Lisa Anderson: Thank you.

Dan: –it’s great to be here.

Jim: Hey, Lisa, let me give you the opportunity for that plug. What’s Boundless all about?

Lisa: (Chuckling) Well, we exist to help single young adults grow up, own their faith, date with purpose and prepare for marriage and family. But really functionally, we like to think of ourselves as a community for singles, where they can come and share, not only their joys, but their frustrations with where they are along the road, whether that’s in relationships or grappling with their faith or their career, just trying to navigate adulthood.

Jim: How does a person get in touch with Boundless? primarily is where it’s all at. I mean, we publish articles. We have an advice column each week. We have a group blog and we have a weekly show. And so (Laughter) it’s fun. I mean, we get great dialogue going between singles and they feel like they’ve found a place where they can be real and where they can be supported.

Jim: Dan, you’ve written a book with the perfect title. It’s called How to Pick a Spouse. What were you trying to do there? What were you trying to accomplish for those who are single, but want to do it in a godly way, that they want to find a mate in a way that honors God?

Dan: Well, for 6 ½ years—

Jim: Okay.

Dan: –and so, Menlo Park Presbyterian Church, asked me to—

Jim: Big church.

Dan: –start a singles’ department, which is a really crazy job description. Nobody grows up saying, “I think I want to be a pastor just to singles.” And so, for the never married, widowed and divorced, all ages and within three years, we had several thousand coming through our program. It was just the thing and Silicon Valley was booming, too.

But I think singles are looking for a safe place where they can find friends, maybe possible dates, maybe a mate, but some community. And so, being with them for 6 ½ years, I realized the great need for them to choose the right spouse, if they were to choose to get married.

And we discovered 20 years later that when I researched it, I wondered, “Gee, I wonder how many of them who got married, how many of them got divorced after I taught them all these different principles.” And 20-plus years later to my stunning amazement, only 25 got divorced out of 261.

Jim: So, it’s about a 9 percent—

Dan: Yeah.

Jim: –rate.

Dan: Yeah, about 9 percent–

Jim: That’s terrific.

Dan: –which is way below the national average, which is around 25 to 30 percent depending on your demographic. It could go as high as 40.

Jim: Well, we’re gonna get into some of those things that you taught during that time and other things that you’ve learned along the way, but let me start kinda at the basics. You know, we hear from a lot of singles every day who don’t want to be single. And Lisa, you’re certainly hearing that with Boundless. Of course, again, some are comfortable there and they’re quite content. But what’s the balance between trusting in God to provide you a spouse and going (Chuckling) you know, out of your way to make it happen? That’s probably one of the most common questions we get here at Focus on the Family. How far should I go in making it happen?

Dan: Well, I don’t know if we can make it happen. I think the bottom line is we have to trust God. We also have to know that when we look at the Bible, the single life is actually the life that the Apostle Paul promotes the most. And it’s kind of like, well, okay, if you can’t be single, then yeah, get married. So, we think singleness is like the second tier, but actually it was the first, because you could be totally devoted to God and not have the anxieties of the world, as Corinthians says.

Jim: So, let me push you a bit on that, because as the marriage rate has been postponed to a later age, in other words, if it used to be 21, it’s now 29 or 30, is that a good thing, you’re saying?

Dan: I would say, that’s a good thing. I think the statistics actually say the longer you date, the longer you wait, is a very good thing and you’re less likely to get divorced if you have longer courtships.

Jim: Let me push on that a bit, because a lot of theologians now and church leadership, they’re promoting marrying younger, because of the, you know, the infatuation hormones, it’s hard to control that through your encouraging people to wait and at the same time, they’re still, you know, they’re in their production years. How do they fight off those temptations that they need to fight off?

Dan: Well, No. 1 and I think whatever age you’re in, you’re gonna be fighting temptations and whether it’s with money or power or sex. And I … it is in our younger years and even in the older years, when we get into romance, we can get into what I call the “weird zone.” We can get infatuated and so, you just have to deal with that in a mature way. And what is worse, actually, when you think about it? Do you want to make, you know, the wrong choice in marriage and suffer through that for decades? Or do you want to wait? And I think it’s worth waiting to make sure you’re picking the right spouse.

If you think about it, a million people, according to the census, there are a million divorces a year. That’s 2 million people involved in divorce. And if they have two kids, that 4 million involved. If there are in-laws, that’s 8 million. If there’s any disease that hit 8 million people for a year in America, we would call that a pandemic. And so, we’ve gotta slow down and figure this out.

Why go through a divorce when it’s so painful and can cause such havoc in one’s life? It’s worse to be lonely in a marriage than lonely as a single person, because when you’re lonely in a marriage, it’s kind of the night of the living dead. You’re constantly reminded by your spouse, you don’t count. You’re not with it enough. I find somebody else more attractive. And so, going through a divorce and having gone through a divorce before I became a pastor, is not something I would wish on an enemy.

Jim: We’ll get back to that. Lisa, what do you think?

Lisa: Yeah, you know, I mean, I agree with Dan in the sense that, you know, I’ve heard from many married people and many people in our Boundless sphere that were married that say that very same thing. I wish that I could look up dating in the concordance of my Bible and just figure out what this is about, but—

Jim: You haven’t seen it?

Lisa: –it’s not there. Well, I mean, I probably need a different version, you know, and see if it’s there. But you know, it’s just not explicitly spelled out for us, which can be frustrating for singles, ’cause we just want to be told, what’s the right way?

And I would say I probably disagree with Dan just a little bit in the sense of, you know, I did wait. I did protract my singleness. I did utilize my 20s to “find myself.” (Laughing) I’m not actually sure where I arrived by the end of them. But (Laughter) you have to be careful as a single not to enter a state of paralysis by virtue of trying to evaluate and find the right mate.

Obviously, and certainly this is what Dan unpacks in his book, there are things that have to be on the table and characteristics that have to be present. But at the same time, I think we can overthink it, too, and get into this idea of, okay, am I sure I’m ready? Am I sure this is the right person? Am I sure they have this quality? Am how can I have this iron-clad conviction that they will never leave me?

Well, you can’t (Chuckling), you know. Eventually, you do have to put this into God’s hands and say, “I have done the best I can to entrust this decision to the Lord and to make a wise choice.” And then from there, you know, you go for it. And I think that a lot of younger singles, if they are mature enough and can get to marriage, have a good chance because of the opportunity to grow and mature together in their marriage, to make that transition a little more smoothly. I jokingly tell people now, you know, [if] I get married now, it will be probably a 12-step program for me to unshackle myself from my own selfishness, my own plans, my own ideas. Everything that I do, you know, authorship and ownership of my finances, my time whatever, I’m sure it will unveil many horrible things about me. And so, I’m just gonna be prepared for that, I guess.

Jim: Well, which I think is one of the great benefits of marriage. I think we—

Lisa: Yeah.

Jim: –I’ve said this before—

Lisa: Absolutely.

Jim: –what one of the reasons I think we come together is two individuals to become one is to learn selflessness. And It’s hard for human beings. Dan, I don’t want to kind of skirt by what you ended with, because I think it’s quite a paradox for you to be doing single ministry and helping singles to find their mate and train them and teach them and we’re gonna get to some of those helpful hints in a minute, but you mentioned just briefly there about your divorce. That had to be such a paradox for you. Tell us what happened and what God taught you in all of that.

Dan: Well, clearly it was one of the worst seasons in my whole life. And here it was, I went up to seminary and you are normally commissioned by your local church. They lay hands on you. They send you off to seminary. And two weeks after we got there, my wife said, “You know, I don’t love you. I never did.”

And it was a stunning shock and we went through some weeks of emergency therapy and then she left for her hometown on the mainland and I stayed there. And a year later we were divorced and it was clearly a very sad, sad time for me and I think for us, we got married very young. She was 20; I was 21 and there are some cultural differences that I didn’t foresee. And so, it was a sad time.

But you know, out of that, God used it tremendously and I was able to become a singles pastor later and use that pain and be now I would say, a “wounded healer.” And I think what gave accessibility to me and authenticity to what I was saying to the singles.

By God’s grace, I then five years later, found my wife, Pam and this year will be our 32nd year of marriage. And so, I do know how to pick a good spouse in the end.

Jim: That had to be a very dark period in your life to go through that, but the Lord, like Romans 8:28 says, He uses all these things for His purposes. If you went back, what were some things that you would’ve done differently at 20, 21, that would’ve helped you perhaps chose more wisely?

Dan: Well, I think No. 1 is you know, one of my principles is it’s good to [do] summer and winter together, meaning you should take a lap around the track of a full year at least. And we had a very short courtship and I don’t think that is wise for most people. And statistically, it shows in research, the longer your courtship, the better. You just discover more about each other and not that you throw your hands up, but just know what you’re getting into.

Jim: Well, it’s true. The research shows that premarital counseling is significant when it comes to stability in marriage. But the stats show very clearly that if they receive 10 hours of premarital counseling, the incidence of divorce goes way down. And that’s a good thing for all of us to invest in.

John: And this is “Focus on the Family” with Jim Daly. Our guests are Dan Chun and Lisa Anderson. And we’ll remind you to connect with us online to get helpful advice on this subject from Dan’s book, How to Pick a Spouse and also from our Boundless outreach. We’ll post some articles and you can learn about the Boundless Pursuit conference here in Colorado Springs in July, when you stop by

Jim: Dan and Lisa, let me just throw this out to both of you, because I think, you know, we want to be rooted in Scripture. I think everything that we should do here at Focus on the Family needs to be rooted in Scripture. So, when you look at courtship and dating, it is a rather new phenomena. It’s not something that they did in the old country. I mean, usually families were involved and a lot of marriages were arranged marriages, which frankly when you look at the data, many of those succeed at a higher rate than infatuation marriage, if you want to call it that. Talk about that change, that new, relatively new phenomena of dating. What’s right about it? What’s wrong about it? And how do we as Christians, how should we approach this, both for parents and for the 20-, 30-something who is looking for a mate?

Dan: Well, that’s absolutely right. Dating is pretty new historically, and that was about the Victorian Age at the turn of the 20th century. But yet, what happened back then is, the community helped chaperone and the community helped pick the date.

And today through the church we have a community, and it is very important to allow the community to have a part in helping you decide is that the right person to mate? And well, one of my principals says, it takes a village to choose a spouse. (Laughter) And we are just not in the habit of giving permission to our friends to speak into our lives, to say that person is good or not.

Jim: Why? Why are we so individualistic around this area of courtship?

Dan: Well, a lot of it has to do with the infatuation stage, in that we are so caught up with the person, so what happens is, we say, you know, the girl says, “What do you think of Ryan? Isn’t he a great guy? He seems so spiritual and he loves to pray and he knows what I’m thinking before I even say it. What do you think?” And at that point, all the friends are like backed into a corner. What can they say?

Jim: Right.

Dan: Because what if you do marry this guy and we don’t want to burn a bridge with him and we want him to be part of our friendship. And so, they say something like, “Oh, he’s nice. Yeah, I like him.” (Laughter) And under their breath they’re saying, “If you don’t mind a sociopath” (Laughter), you know.

And there’s so many stories of people who have broken up five years, even 10 years. Last year a friend broke up after 10 years and they turned to their friends and their friends say, “Yeah, we never thought he was good for you.” And it’s 100 percent and it’s like, what a waste of 10 years.

Jim: But it is tenuous, because you know, for the friends, you might be breaking up something that God is wanting to bring together. It’s a delicate balance. Lisa, have you gone through that?

Lisa: Oh, yeah (Laughter), several times. I’ve been on both sides of this conversation. So, I consider myself a very rational person, but I have noticed in dating people that when I start dating, I go nuts. I basically lose my senses and my friends have, as well. Because immediately, we get so into a person and just backing up a second to what Dan was saying, part of the thing is, a few generations ago, you ended up marrying the people that you grew up with. You had very limited—

Jim: The village.

Lisa: –social circles. You know, it was that person the next farm over. You know, so you knew what they were about. You knew what they came from. You knew what they struggled with. Now we’re meeting people online. We’re doing speed dating, where getting random, you know, set-ups with people. So, you have to do a lot of reconnaissance about this person (Laughter), okay. I mean, this is like, you can take on some full-time, like private investigators. I have searched people via their online handles and found crazy stuff about people that I’ve dated. So, it’s sketchy. And so, you get crazy, and immediately, once you decide you’re into someone, the excuses start and I’ve been here.

I met a guy online. He came out to Colorado, stayed with one of our pastors. I thought he was so great. The whole time he was here, he didn’t pay for a single thing. I paid for everything we did and it was all awkward and I was like, well. And my friends, I remember them staging an intervention with me after he left. And it was like, what was that about? And I immediately started in, look, I’m sure he was nervous. I’m sure he didn’t want to come across like chauvinistic. I’m sure that if I were to go out there, he would pay for everything. I’m sure there’s an explanation. And they’re like, or maybe he’s a jerk. And (Laughter) you just don’t know—

Jim: And that’s the—

Lisa: –what you’re talking about.

Jim: –explanation.

Lisa: Yeah and I just couldn’t believe it, ’cause he was so funny and he was smart and he went to church and he said he loved Jesus and you know, but where was the proof of that? And the proof was, he treated me terribly. As I examined his friends, he had friends with a bunch of frat boy losers. He didn’t have good guys in his life. So, stepping back from it and the thing imploded, praise God, I just see that it was a bad situation and I needed the objectivity of my friends to speak into that.

Jim: Dan, it’s probably touching on a number of the elements that you talk about in the book. Tell me if you’re—

Dan: It does—

Jim: –counseling Lisa.

Dan: –I mean, it’s like you know, what Lisa says, it’s like picking all these different things of all these different chapters. And you know, first of all, I want to say that friends, if they’re your friends, they really want the best for you. I can’t imagine a friend lying to us and saying, like if this guy was really bad, “Oh, he’s good; why don’t you marry him?”

Lisa: Uh-hm.

Dan: I mean, they would really say to Lisa, as they did in this so-called intervention, this guy is bad news. And in the book I talk about having an “anti-virus software.” It goes, Beep, beep, beep, beep.” And your friends can be that and the first one of anti-virus software is stinginess. And so, the guy’s not paying for any meal, that’s a big, you know—

Jim: Red flag.

Dan: —yeah, it’s like a Norton Utility software goin’ off and saying, something’s wrong.

Jim: You talk about the three M‘s. What are the three M‘s in your book?

Dan: Well, I think the three or three of the most important decisions you make in life is, No. 1, you know, what is really your mission in life? What do—

Jim: So, mission.

Dan: –you really want to do? Mission is No. 1. And the second one is “master.” Who is your master? Is it Jesus Christ? Is it money? Is it status? You know, who is your master? And third, then is who is your mate? Three very important decisions. And if you think about it, if you start differing on those from the beginning, it’d be start off seemingly like you’re very similar. But if you’re off on “master,” if you’re off on “mission,” you’re gonna be miles apart later.

It’s like two F-16 fighters taking off and they’re one degree off in their directions. Well, the first 10 feet, 100 feet, 100 yards, you might not notice. But a mile down, 10 miles down, if you’re one degree off, you’re in different lands. And I actually know of somebody who read this book and she and her boyfriend, the day they read it, they broke up that night, because they realized, hey, the guy said, “You’re into Jesus; I’m not. Your mission is to serve the church and serve Jesus’s purposes. That’s not mine.” And so, by the end of the night they said, you know, we need to break up, because there’s no future in this.

Jim: But what an emotional moment. I’m thinking and I don’t mean to be gender specific, but for a woman who is uncertain of her future and wants to be married, to have that conflict, you know, well, maybe if I just hang on to the relationship, he’ll come around and I will show him the way and he will accept Christ and we’ll have a better relationship. I would think, Lisa, a lot of women, this is a great tension for them in their 20s and 30s, maybe beyond that, a remarry situation, where you so desperately want a companion, a mate that you forego some of the red flags that Dan’s talkin’ about.

Lisa: Yeah, you absolutely do and a lot of it’s born out of fear in the sense of, if I let this guy go, will another one ever come along?

Jim: Right.

Lisa: And so, it’s that fear of have I passed up my best opportunity? Maybe this guy is good enough. And quite frankly, there are a lot of women out there and I have met them and I’ve been a little bit in this boat, where I’ve met a lot of Christian guys who are kind of lame. I mean, honestly. (Laughter) I’m gonna put it out–

Jim: I don’t think you need—

Lisa: –there.

Jim: –the Christian label in front of that frankly (Laughter), but—

Lisa: No.

Jim: –we’ll leave it there.

Lisa: But I’m saying, you would expect, you know, oh, he’s a Christian. He’s gonna have all his stuff together.

Dan, I want to give men and women some practical tools for finding a lifelong spouse and to help them think clearly about that decision. You have written about the “seven C‘s” in your book. Give us the list, and John, let’s post that if you–

John: Great idea.

Jim: –will let us, Dan on the website and—

Dan: Wonderful.

Jim: –then you’ll do the same on Boundless, Lisa. But let’s talk about those seven C‘s. What are they?

Dan: It’s just a basic checklist of looking at a person’s character, that’s the first C. And then there’s chemistry. Is there a pizzazz there? I know it’s not No. 1, but—

Jim: That’s okay; it’s important to—

Dan: Yeah.

Jim: –have that chemistry.

Dan: Yeah and sure, it’s not No. 1. It may be secondary, but it’s not 152; it’s No. 2. Then there’s competency. As Lisa was saying earlier, Can this guy keep a job? You know, is he competent in his word?

John: Uh-hm.

Dan: The fourth one is culture, knowing we come from different cultures. It could be ethnic; it could be religious. It could be educational. It could be financial, differences in culture. Commitment, where is he along the spectrum on commitment? Can … will he follow through? Will he be a promise keeper, so to speak. Communication, does he listen well? Does he articulate things well? Does he intuit what you’re feeling? And then lastly—

Jim: (Laughing)

Dan: –core values.

Jim: Maybe one out of 10 that hits that one on the nose.

Dan: Yeah. (Laughter) And then core values. And that’s what I was talking about earlier about mission and master. You know, what are some basic core values are you missing on that? But you know, I want to say, I always think it’s dangerous to give kind of a list, even if it’s a short list. But it’s more important to become the kind of person you want to marry, than to just look for the person who you want to marry.

Because I think oftentimes a guy will come up to me and says, you know, “I’m looking for a woman who’s, you know, a real prayer warrior and who really goes to worship all the time and really serves the poor and loves children and helps out at the church.” And then I ask, “Oh, so, how’s your prayer life?” “Well, not very good.” “You go to church often?” “Well, not really.” “Do you serve the poor?” “No.” “Do you like working with children?” “Well, no, not really.”

So, I say, “Oh, great; so you want to marry somebody who you’re not even like. Why would she like you, ’cause you’re not even like her?” And so, I think we have to become the kind of person we want to marry.

Jim: Well, and that raises something that you said in the book, the infatuation versus courtship. And this is very important biblically, because as the Christian community, we’ve got to get our hands around this. There’s a distinction, but we fall prey to the culture that we live in and really the media, the global media culture. I don’t think it’s just a U.S. issue.

I know friends in Canada and you know, places that “Focus on the Family airs around the world fall prey to the church acting more like the culture they’re in. And around dating, it’s certainly true and we become infatuated first physically. Psychologists will say that’s pretty normal, but for Christians, we’ve got to bridle that appetite and better understand the core character of the individual. That’s what you’re saying.

Dan: Yes and I think also, I think you’re dead on in that the church or followers of Christ has been seduced by the world in so many significant ways. As you just look at movies and premarital sex, for

When I speak on this topic to a variety of groups, whether it’s schools or churches or whatever, I just say, “Okay, just for fun, just list off for me, with all the millions of movies made, list all the movies that you can recall where a married couple is having romantic intimacy.”

Jim: Right.

Dan: And I say, “Go ahead.” And time and time again, they cannot come up with more than two titles. I say, “You gotta be kidding, with all those movies.” And that just shows the tremendous saturation we’re having of how it’s the other way. And so, if I said, “Oh, and how many movies show, you know, sex outside of marriage?” You know, a zillion hands go up and they can go on for hours listing all the different TV shows—

Jim: How—

Dan:–and movies.

Jim: –does a single build a hedge of protection, to use a great Christian cliché? How do we actually build that protection, to not let the culture seep into our own hearts, so that we protect our hearts?

Lisa: I would say, I mean, I think first of all, we have to pay attention to what we’re ingesting. Because I think that the way the church dates is so similar to the world, it’s because we’ve bought hook, line and sinker, the fact that, oh, this is the way it has to be done. If I’m gonna meet someone amazing, I expect this person to be perfect. I expect, you know, kinda to Dan’s point about movies, movies always end after that hour and a half, the romantic comedies do, with that couple getting together. You never see the story continue to all of a sudden, they’re married and they’re doing the dishes and they’re paying their mortgage and—

Jim: The normal stuff.

Lisa: –the real life stuff. Yeah. And so, that’s why I always tell singles, I’m like, get into the church and get into the lives of the married people in the church. Don’t hang around just with all the singles who are out, you know, goin’ out for pizza and that kind of stuff. Get into the lives of married couples. Ask to do dinner with them. Ask to show up at their home and see how they relate to one another. See what real marriages look like so you know what you’re signing up for, because what you’re seeing in the movies is not it.

Jim: And that’s good step in the right direction, Lisa, to become more real about it. This has been a great conversation, Dan and Lisa. I hope that singles and moms and dads with single adult children are encouraged by this. And you know what? In the past year, about 140,000 singles—that’s right, 140,000 singles—have told us we’ve helped them to prepare for marriage and that’s exciting. And you’ve helped us do this through and in other ways. If you’ve not yet become a Friend of the Family here at Focus, can I ask you to get behind our efforts to build strong marriages today? Our culture needs strong marriages. We need to be able to show the benefit of marriage in a culture that’s losing the definition and the understanding of what marriage does to strengthen our society. And when you pledge to support us with a monthly gift of any amount, we’ll send you a copy of Dan’s book, How to Pick a Spouse.

Dan: And my book has study questions at the end of each chapter, so you can discuss it with your friends, in a small group, in your church.

Jim: Oh, that’s great.

Dan: And so, you can walk through it, with an audio

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Pastor Dave Carder offers couples practical advice for protecting their marriages from adultery in a discussion based on his book Anatomy of an Affair: How Affairs, Attractions, and Addictions Develop, and How to Guard Your Marriage Against Them. (Part 2 of 2)

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Balancing Gender Differences in Your Marriage (Part 1 of 2)

Robert and Pamela Crosby help married couples understand and celebrate their gender differences so that they can enjoy a stronger bond and deeper intimacy. Our guests offer practical tips for improved communication, successful conflict resolution and offering affirmation to your spouse. (Part 1 of 2)