What should I look for in a husband? This is no easy question to answer, yet it is an important one. The following list of what to look for in a husband is clearly selective and by no means exhaustive. But these factors make an excellent beginning to a checklist. While any group of people could brainstorm a number of desired qualities, here are the top six things women should look for in a potential husband.
1. The man should be committed to growing in his relationship with Christ.
Some well-intentioned women enter marriage knowing the groom is not where he needs to be spiritually, but they intend to “take him on” as a discipleship project. Bad move. The intensity of a marriage relationship is challenging even for two spiritually mature people. It is far too great a challenge to learn to be a good husband and a good Christian simultaneously.
Women should not seek out husbands who merely have mastered “Bible trivia,” but should look for those who are serious about growing in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus (see 2 Peter 3:18). Does this mean that he should be more spiritually mature than she is? Ideally, yes. But if he isn’t, prior to the marriage he should seek out a male mentor to help him prepare to fulfill the God-given role of husband and spiritual leader.
2. A husband should be an individual of obvious integrity.
Many years ago I was staying with a family when a young man came for a date with one of the daughters. While waiting for her, he sat confidently in the living room and talked with the mother. He boasted about how well he was doing in sales and explained how it was necessary to tell “little white lies” to customers. For example, to keep from losing business to the competition, he would promise delivery dates when he knew there was no possibility of meeting them. He seemed quite pleased with himself.
The girl was drawn to his good looks and eager for a relationship. They went out on the date, and eventually the two of them got married. Sadly, their decision was premature, and a messy divorce followed. The girl had known about the guy’s predilection for little untruths, but wasn’t concerned. In the interest of advancing the relationship, she figured she could get married first and work on her husband later. But she discovered that he was much more masterful at deceit than she had expected. The marriage crumbled around them.
No matter how some men try to justify their use of untruths, those lies should serve as warning signs to prospective brides. What makes someone think that if a person would lie to a customer, a boss, a teacher or a parent, he wouldn’t also lie to a wife? Women should watch and listen closely when they enter a serious dating relationship. It should be patently obvious that a prospective husband is honest to the core. If he isn’t, the woman should keep looking until she finds one who is.
3. A husband should be able to lead boldly.
Not everyone will be able to marry the high school quarterback or the class president. That’s not the kind of leadership to which I’m referring. Every woman should look for the kind of man who can think for himself, weigh options and make good decisions.
Clearly, no one person always makes the best decisions. We all make mistakes. Many times good leadership requires willingness to take counsel, change one’s mind and then proceed with a different course of action. So don’t expect perfection in a husband.
Nor should a woman settle for “leadership” that is selfish and domineering. Christian leadership is marked by an attitude of servanthood and submission to others.
A woman should witness genuine affection between the man and his family members, but at the same time she should detect a readiness on his part to step out on his own. It is unlikely that he will ever cleave to his wife if he is unable to leave his family of origin.
4. A husband should display the ability to love sacrificially.
Self-sacrifice is detected in subtle ways that vary from person to person. Watch at the end of an evening with friends to see if he is quick to organize and spearhead the cleanup. Listen carefully as his elderly aunt mentions whether her nephew has been faithful in his visits to the nursing home. Observe the way he relates to children, his willingness to hold doors for passersby with full arms, and his attitude with waitresses and other service people.
Most prospective husbands will express the intent to sacrifice for their wives. However, if a woman detects that a man hasn’t practiced this attitude with other people, she has the right to be wary.
5. A husband should be able to laugh heartily.
Humor is a vital element in preventing marital failure. The ability to laugh does not mean being a class clown or even a joke teller. A key trait to look for is his willingness to laugh at himself. If he takes himself too seriously, a marriage will probably have problems. Can he tell a story where someone else is obviously the hero while he comes off looking foolish? Is he willing to reveal pictures of himself when his teeth protruded and his ears stuck out — in much the same way they still do? And when he laughs at the comic misfortunes of others, can he do so without becoming cruel or crude?
We all face opportunities to make decisions whether to laugh at ourselves. We don’t always get it right the first time, but we can learn to do so with a little practice. A husband who cannot laugh when he makes a mistake is not likely to be any less severe with his wife’s blunders.
6. A husband should model genuine humility.
Simply put, a good husband should not be stuck on himself, and his attitude should be genuine. Watch out for people who attempt to manufacture humility by debasing themselves. Such people constantly declare their shortcomings and inabilities in order to draw attention to themselves. Even when the focus is on “my” big mistakes, “my” failures and “my” lack of talent, the emphasis remains on “me.” Those people hope to have others contradict their negative statements and make a big fuss over them.
Genuine humility keeps its focus on other people. Watch to see if the other person can share the joy of a competitor’s success. Can he be a good understudy without being critical of the person to whom he reports? Does he discuss the talents of his co-workers, or only their faults? Does he enjoy the competition of sports, or does he make excuses every time he loses?
Humility can also be detected in his prayer life and in the way he approaches opportunities for which he is naturally talented. Is it clear that he really believes that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom? Does he really believe that apart from the Lord’s enabling he can do nothing?
This article was adapted from Lasting Love: How to avoid marital failure by Alistair Begg, who is the senior pastor of Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio.
Whether you’re engaged to be married or you’re serving as a pastor or mentor coaching an engaged couple, find more information about marriage preparation at Ready To Wed.