In evaluating a relationship that might lead to marriage, three elements are really important (you may decide to include others). I recommend continually assessing any dating relationship in these terms. As the relationship grows more serious, you will want to talk about these categories with the other person.

Character

This is the highest priority in finding a potential partner. Attraction and compatibility are important. But when romance comes and goes, character remains. Here are a few character traits to consider:

  • Unselfishness. This person does not make it about him or her all the time. They can empathize with others’ feelings. They put other people first. They are not demanding, clingy, critical, unkind, or other self-centered traits.
  • Humility. This person is able to receive correction. They are willing to hear and learn from another point of view. They really value others.
  • Integrity. This is not just telling the truth, although that is vitally important. But they are the same person around you as around others. They act the same and display the same values out on the town or in their workplace as they do at church on Sunday.
  • Self-discipline. Nobody is perfect, but this person is able to manage his or her life. Without being obsessive, their life is more orderly than chaotic. They are able to say “No” to whims and to defer gratification.

I suggest you make a list of non-negotiable character traits that you are looking for in a partner – remembering that no one is perfect. It’s also very important that YOU seek to be a high-character person. You’re not likely to attract that kind of man or woman if you are self-centered, undisciplined, or lack integrity yourself.

Compatibility

Compatibility is not limited to having common interests, although it’s great if you like the same music, sports, or activities. But that is actually the most shallow level of compatibility. You don’t need to be clones of each other. It’s best if you aren’t. But you should have a basic level of compatibility in some key areas of life.

  • Values. Values define what is most important in your life. These are the non-negotiables that would make a deep relationship and common life together very difficult if you don’t share them at some basic level. I decided to share some of my basic values pretty early in a relationship – things like generosity, hospitality, doing ministry, staying active, and eating right – so my date could evaluate whether she wanted to invest in a relationship with me.
  • Spiritual Identity. I don’t just mean that both of you are Christians, although that is very important. (I don’t believe a Christian should even be dating a non-Christian.) But more than just “Are we both Christians?”, the issue is what does your faith mean to each of you? For example: Is Jesus central to life, or is faith just another interest in life? Is the Bible the final authority, or just a helpful guide? Are you comfortable with the style and emphasis at the church your potential partner attends? If not, why not?

[Related Resource: Three Questions to Ask Before You Date a Non-Christian]

Chemistry

A relationship isn’t going to make it to marriage without a spark of attraction and excitement. Romance will come and go, and love is certainly far more than romantic attraction. But the Bible teaches that the union of life in other areas culminates in physical union. That’s why physical attraction is part of the equation. Even with great character and strong compatibility, I would not recommend that a couple move forward toward marriage without romantic attraction.

When you’re infatuated with someone, or when you’re tired of waiting for the right person to come along, it’s hard to apply these standards. But if you do, you will spare yourself many potential headaches in the years to come.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Watch the video together or invite someone to summarize the topic.
  2. What is your initial reaction to this video? Do you disagree with any of it? What jumped out at you?
  3. Why is character the first and most important element to look for in a potential mate?
  4. What character traits do you consider non-negotiable, and why?
  5. While dating, how do you discover another person’s character?
  6. What areas of compatibility are most important to you, and why?
  7. What happens when romantic chemistry becomes more important in evaluating a relationship than character or compatibility?
  8. Write a personal action step based on this conversation.

Ministry Tools: