A college sophomore in psychology 102 was asked to write a profile for a prospective mate for an online match making site. The following is his profile:
Must be a strong Christian who exhibits the following characteristics:
Strong time management and organizational skills
The ability to prioritize in a matrix-driven environment
Proficiency in various Apple products and Microsoft Office
Strong interpersonal skills and excellent judgment
Strong money preservation abilities
Effective oral and written communication skills
Commitment to active learning
Strong critical thinking and conflict resolution skills
Ability to adapt to new locations and changing environments and priorities
Ability to adapt to irregular income
Ability to maintain a positive attitude with integrity
Ability to maintain a physically attractive body
Desirous for a passionate love
Strong desire to serve on the foreign mission field
It would be fun to be in this class when the professor has the girls pick out a profile from a basket as he passes it around the room and then asks the girls to read the profile they choose followed by reporting their emotional response. Of course the professor would not ask the boys to sign their profiles. I suspect there would be some carping comments when this one was read.
A college student friend of the family asked me one day, “Doc, just how do you figure out what you are looking for in a wife?” We were sitting in my study. I handed him a yellow pad and told him to jot down various qualities that he thought he would appreciate in a wife while we passed the afternoon chatting and watching TV. Later I noted he had a list of about 20 items on his pad. “So, read me that list you have composed,” I suggested. He read the list. When he finished I said, “Now who does that sound like?”
After some pondering as he reread the list he looked up and said, “Mom!” “Yes, I would agree,” was my reply. When a child is raised in a home where parents live a godly model, this kind of selective process is common. The child has a list of qualifications he/she desires but has just not taken the time to intentionally think about it. This will not always be the case. Sometimes a godly parent and the child do not mesh at the level of personality givens. There can be great respect, but the child does not want to live life with that personality. But, even in such cases, the child has that intuitive list.
A good premarital counselor will look at family history—even in well-adjusted families. Helping the engaged (or pre-engaged) couple to surface that internal list will help them be aware of likely areas of conflict. Noting these early in the relationship and addressing them is important. It can keep them from developing into a pattern of conflict.
In the same manner, the marriage counselor may well pick up on these patterns and help the couple unwind them. One couple that I saw is a good illustration. The wife tended to be very persnickety about putting things away that were not in use. Her husband would get irritated with her. For example, when he arose on Saturday he would have a glass of water and put the glass on the counter. When he finished his devotional time he would return to the kitchen to get another glass of water only to find that his glass had already made it to the dishwasher. As this and other such rather silly matters bubbled up in counseling, I asked her if her mother tended to do this. They both responded, “Oh, yeah!” This was a learned attitude and habit that she acquired from her mother. Granted, it was also a personality bent. Getting this to the surface and out in the open helped both gain an understanding of the conflict over such matters.
So, the bottom line is this. It is good to move towards marriage having thought out expectations. It is good to discuss the expectations you might have with someone who knows you well and can help you evaluate them. Finally, it is good to discuss your expectations with a prospective mate long before the relationship becomes an emotional attachment. Preventative steps may prevent the need for corrective steps later.