I’m sure every person has a mental picture of what they would like their soul mate to look like. When I was growing up I knew that I wanted a man who was tall, lean, with light skin and elegant hands (I have a thing about stubby fingers). He would be a respected man in the community, be very educated and be super romantic. To be completely honest, I wanted to be a pastor’s wife. So when I met the man who would become my husband, I didn’t spare him a second look. In fact, I didn’t really bother to make note of his existence. He really didn’t look like anyone I would usually be attracted to: he was tall, yes, but very bulky and slightly overweight; matter of fact, his face still had the baby chubby look to it.
We started off as friends, so I didn’t really take time to contemplate his looks. Our friendship started really casually and kind of happened without me even noticing. Our churches had the same pastor and we would see each other at youth events. We started taking a youth leader class together with a few other mutual friends and had some projects to complete before we could get our certificates from the class. So in the last month of our program, we started meeting up to work on the projects together. He invited me to Bible studies and they were really amazing, so we would end up having long talks about God, life and everything else in between.
It wasn’t until he expressed to me that he was starting to become attracted to me that I realized he was totally opposite of what I wanted my man to be like (or so I thought). So I let him know immediately that I didn’t see him that way, and he was okay with that. We continued being friends, but the more time I spent with him, the more my heart was touched by his sincerity and integrity. And he was just a really good friend: encouraging and always willing to listen and give godly advice. He would remember little details of our conversations and surprise me with encouraging text messages, cards and other small gifts. And that made me…panic.
As time passed I became more and more anxious because I could feel myself “falling” in love with him even though I didn’t want to love him. I kept reminding myself over and over that his looks weren’t what I was looking for, that we weren’t compatible because I was done with school and he wasn’t. I was already working in my career and he was still trying to figure out what his calling was. I came from a close-knit family and he came from a very broken up home. It just seemed like aside from being sincere Christians we were opposites in every way.
I made up my mind to break things off with him before they could even start. I told him I needed to meet with him to talk. We met up at a park. My heart was pounding so hard, I felt like I couldn’t breathe properly. I tried to explain to him that I didn’t want to go any further with our relationship, but in reality I had no idea what actual words were coming out of my mouth. Now that it was time to break things off I just couldn’t bring myself to say the words. I broke down in tears at the end and ended what I’m sure was a confusing speech with, “But I can’t see myself not having you in my life.” Or something like that before I burst into tears. My husband (then friend) was taken aback, to say the least. He could see that I was struggling with the decision I was making and that I myself wasn’t convinced of what I was saying.
Long story short, we’ve been married for six years, have two kids and we’re still best friends. He’s turned out to be an even more awesome guy than I imagined. And I’m excited to see what else God has in store for us as a couple. But I said all that to say this: Sometimes you have to get out of your own way. I learned from my experience that the person you marry ought to be the person that you can be completely vulnerable with. It should be the person who makes you feel that you can be all of yourself with: the good, the bad and the ugly. That person may not have the characteristics you prefer (6’7″ height, caramel-colored skin, six-figure salary, etc.), but at the end of the day you need to ask yourself what you’d rather have: a stunning wife/husband who’s looks make everyone envy you, whose bank account can assure that you’ll never have to worry about money, OR the person that you feel comfortable kissing with your morning breath, puts up with your stinky farts, or won’t look at you crazy for wanting to arrange your shoes in alphabetical designer order.
The Bible says that there is a friend that sticks closer than a brother. That friend is the one you should marry. And believe me, the emotional attraction that you start to develop with that person will soon become a physical attraction as well. It’s kind of the natural order of things that when someone captures your heart, you’ll start to see them in a new light. Once I let myself fall in love with my husband, the physical attraction grew on its own. I love my chocolate honey bear! So my take-home message is: Don’t automatically friend-zone people who don’t meet “standards” that are actually superficial preferences. It’s okay to have them, but don’t make them more important than the person’s character or the connection you have with them.
If you want to learn more about how attraction works in relationships and dating check out this interesting book Dating From the Inside Out. by Dr. Paulette Sherman. It has really good information on how to prepare yourself for meaningful dating.