Elisabeth Elliot quoted her second husband in her book, Love Has a Price Tag:
“A wife, if she is very generous may allow that her husband
lives up to eighty percent of her expectations.
There is always the other twenty percent that she would like to change,
and she may chip away at it for the whole of their married life
without reducing it very much. She may, on the other hand,
simply decide to enjoy the eighty percent,
and both of them will be happy.”
Elisabeth Elliot might well have known this was true. She was first married to the swashbuckling Jim Elliot, who sought to evangelize tribes of people who had absolutely no background in Christianity. He hacked through the jungle, swam in its rivers, hand-built a house for his family, and made tentative contacts with the natives, who murdered him and his friends. Thirteen years later, she married professor Addison Leitch, who passed away four years later. Then, she married Lars Gren, who won her heart through his unwavering service. He outlives her.
So, what do we expect?
I’m afraid that women’s expectations go up and up and up while the character of men goes down and down. Without bemoaning the state of manhood today, let’s look at women’s expectations. Are they too high? What influenced them in the first place?
The flawlessly dreamy prince on his white steed and happily ever after is a myth, of course. But if so, what are women supposed to look for? Aren’t girls supposed to dream big and not settle for second best?
When we need to know the truth, we go to the fountain of Truth, the Bible. What does it teach us about the qualities to be looking for in any potential mate? What does it teach us about marriage itself? You might be surprised!
Must-have, biblical qualities of a potential mate:
- He has to be a Christian. Can two walk together, except they be agreed? (Amos 3:3) Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? (2 Corinthians 6:14) Also see Exodus 34:16 and Deuteronomy 7:1-3.
- He needs to be drop dead handsome. (Just kidding! The only qualification mentioned by Scripture is Christian compatibility.)
Let me qualify a little bit by using common sense. The Bible talks about being unequally yoked, agreed, and of the same mind. I really believe it’s a huge mistake to marry someone who will drag you down in your faith. Look for:
- Is he faithful to his church?
- Is he actively serving God in his church?
- Is he in touch with the Lord on a personal basis? (Does he read the Bible and pray? Does he show a daily desire to please God? Does he talk with you about spiritual things?)
- Where are his values and priorities? (Possessions, entertainment, philosophy of life, vices, attitudes, spending, hobbies, etc.)
- Is he honest?
- Is he violent? (Temper, physically, words, etc.)
- Is he kind?
Is there anything about this man that you absolutely do not want to live with? If so, it’s time to say adios.
This guy is a keeper. You marry him—gorgeous dress and ceremony—and you begin your life together. You find out quickly that Addison Leitch had it just about right. Your dreamy husband is about 80% what you’d like him to be. He’s terrific, but he’s a long way from perfect.
What to do?
First, look in the mirror. What do you see? Are you a ten? Nope, you’re probably—if you’re honest—just about 80% your husband’s dream girl.
So, how do you have a terrific marriage with two eighty percents?
If you add 80% + 80% you get 160%. That means it’s still better than one! A whole lot better than one! The Bible says, two are better than one (Ecclesiastes 4:9a). Look at the good stuff. Enjoy his positives. Love your husband as he is, and appreciate him. Respect him as head of your home. Compliment, praise, adore.
And, you know what will happen? He will gradually change for the better. An appreciated person wants to be appreciated, so he’ll try even harder to gain your approval. Praise him, and he’ll strive to hear that praise again.
Do you know what else will happen? You’ll change.
You will quit looking at the way he leaves his clothes on the floor or misses the laundry basket. You’ll quit dwelling on how he chews his food. You’ll quit being critical and demanding and acting like his mother instead of his wife. You’ll be a happy wife . . .
and, you’ll have a happy husband.
Your guy is 80%. Great! Enjoy him!
In a few years . . . he’ll be up to 90%. (Shhhh! It’s our little secret.)
For more about Elizabeth Elliot, you can read her biography here.
Note: This post isn’t about ignoring abuse. If your husband is violent or abusive toward you, report it to the authorities and get the protection you need. Also, get Christian counseling and support.