Every now and then I’ll have someone tell me that they are dating a very godly woman or man, but are not physically attracted to them, and they want to know if they should break up. My answer is that they should absolutely break up, because clearly they do not yet have the spiritual maturity to be attracted to the things that God is attracted to (1 Samuel 16:7). Until it is possible to commit to cherishing that person for a lifetime, breaking up is the best option. But it’s more an issue of their own spiritual maturity, not of their significant other’s physique. I don't say that to shame them, but I get the sense that as The Holy Spirit continues to conform us to Christ we will eventually see people as God does.
That brings up another common dating question, continuing the theme from last week:
How important is physical attraction when choosing a spouse?
Probably less important than you think.
I say that because, in dating, physical attractiveness is often at or near the top of the list of what people are looking for. Some people won’t admit that it’s a major factor, because that might make them seem shallow. But, it is likely still the first thing you consider when meeting someone and deciding whether you might be interested in dating them.
However, in marriage, physical beauty is far from being the most important thing.
Let me put it this way: there are a lot of traits that are important to look for in a spouse. Those traits will contribute to your happiness in marriage. Nobody’s perfect; your spouse will be stronger on some traits than others.
So, let’s say you had to choose between traits. On one hand you could have a spouse who was knock-out gorgeous, but critical and quick to argue or nitpick about anything. On the other hand you could have a spouse who was always kind and quick to forgive, but was just so-so physically. Ask anyone who’s married, and they’ll tell you that kindness and forgiveness are more important to your happiness than physical looks. You won’t be happy with the quarrelsome spouse, no matter how physically attractive they are. Here’s the point: good looks, while nice to have, are the less important trait. (See also Proverbs 21:9, 21:19, 27:15, and really the whole book.)
Then there’s the other big problem with looks: they don’t last (Proverbs 31:30). Someone who is beautiful today will be a little less beautiful 5 years from now, and less beautiful than that 10 years from now, and so on, until we’re all old men and women. Now, there is a wonderful thing in marriage where your spouse can appear more beautiful to you over time, but objectively speaking, we’re all getting uglier. So if someone’s focused solely on physical beauty, they’ll never stay focused on any one person for long.
While beauty is a depreciating asset, most other positive traits—wisdom, patience, commitment, good communication skills, etc.—are things that can improve over time. They make for a better investment, so to speak.
Speaking of investments, it’s possible that someone who really does look like a CoverGirl or Men's Health model may be less likely to invest time and energy in developing these other traits. It makes logical sense: if you can get by just fine on looks alone, why worry about kindness or patience or faithfulness? I know that’s not always the case, so don’t rule someone out based on appearances (either way). Just be careful, and don’t ignore red flags because he or she looks good on the outside.
Now, I know some of you are about to get defensive, or maybe even claim that I have no credibility on this subject because my wife is hot. (And I definitely think she is.) But I never said that physical attraction doesn’t matter at all. It’s just less important than many people seem to think. When I have kids who are sick, or throwing a fit, or I’ve made some mistake, or we have a disagreement about our family budget—in times like that, which is a lot of the time—it’s not Monica’s physical beauty that I’m thankful for. It’s her wisdom, patience, forgiveness, grace, diligence, and other internal qualities that make our marriage work.
It is important that you are attracted to your spouse. But that attraction needs to be based on much more than just outward beauty. And since those other traits can’t be seen at first glance, it may mean you need to give someone a chance and get to know them better.
To help with that, next week we'll look at some tips for first dates.
(With help from Kevin McConaghy)