WANTED: The Perfect Wife

"You have one wing, I have another, seeking shelter like sister and brother; through the winter and through the summer, like one angel we'll fly far away...."

- Burlap to Cashmere, "Eileen's song"

I'm sure you've heard of it before....a hopeful and youthful teenager or young adult dreams about the day when they will not be alone. Some have friends on every side, and some have none; some are radiant with beauty, some are not; but all are searching for something...for someone to be their companion, to share the joys and sorrows of life with, someone to grow in Christ with, someone to personally spur them on toward love and good deeds. And so, in the spirit of dreaming, these young ones create lists of just what they hope for in a mate, what qualities they will judge their acquaintances by to see if perhaps each one might be Mr. or Ms. "Right."

Well, a similar sort of thing goes on in my mind. Recently, a group of friends decided it would be fun and exciting for each of us to make a list of what we look for in a potential mate. At first creating this list seemed to be a compilation of the things I believe to be important to me, and little else. And it's true that most of these are things that I hold in high regard for myself. And although they say that "opposites attract" and that spouses complement each other in their differences, I still stand by my list of qualities here. These are things I think are important (to one degree or another), and I would have serious questions about any proposed spouse who did not share these ideas. Surely, there are enough differences in the details of life to make life interesting and to help us complement each other.

So without further adieu, my LIST:

1. A Christian. This is, as they say, a "no-brainer." Because I am a Christian, and because my guidebook the Bible tells me "Do not be unequally yolked," I state this as my top priority. I believe it is safe to say that a choice of faith (whatever that faith is in, even if it's in nothing at all) will rule a person's life. So if I and my spouse are to be heading in the same direction at all, I believe she would need to be a Christian. And, I might add, not just a "Sure I'm a Christian, I guess, I go to church just like my parents told me to" so-called Christian. There is a difference. Even though one who says this may appear to be somewhere on the Christian road, most likely if they are only holding on to childhood teachings, without any realization that Jesus is a real, relevant, important part of adult life as well, then they are not really following Jesus as fully as He would like. Sure, people change, but people more often do not. Wagering the rest of my life on an assumption that someone is going to change is not wise, in my opinion.

2. Good Listener. This is another "no-brainer," I suppose. You often see this item in other lists such as this one. What do I mean by it? Well, I think that I often have interesting ideas to share, or a unique perspective on life, but don't have anyone really to share it with. Or if I do, I expect them to say, "That's nice," and not really listen to what I say. So I'm looking for someone who will be interested in how and what I think, who wants to draw out of me the stuff that "makes me tick." And I'm not looking for a mute listener, either. Mutual sharing is the ideal -- someone who can listen to what I say, match it up with a similar (or even opposing but related) situation in their mind or their life, and shed new light on a subject by such communication. I'm looking for someone who will show me, for once, that it's possible to be completely honest and not fear condemnation because of honesty.

Added Dec 2001: Just to be clear, I'm not expecting to be a motormouth here. I'm looking for someone who is a good listener, of course, but as you might guess with a wish like that, I realize the importance of being a good listener myself. Trusted sources have said that I am a good listener (references available upon request), and I hope to continue that character trait in the future.

3. Christian Music Preferences. I personally prefer a variety of music to listen to, with biases toward such quiet/thoughtful artists as Michael Card and Steve Green. However, I do not mind some "mixed" bands like Petra. What bothers me about the people I see today is this: high schoolers I see listen to rock Christian music, almost exclusively, and whine incessantly if forced to listen to anything else. College students (my peer group right now), listen to soft rock secular music, which has value, but is, well, not Christian, and I personally think that Christian music is a big part of growing as a Christian. It is the few "older young adults" (in their 30s or later) that listen to "quiet" Christian music, as in music that focuses on meaning, not drumbeats. Now, I guess my greatest goal is to find meaning in the words of the song, combined with the melody, and that's what I'm looking for in a mate -- someone who values meaning, no matter what the package.

Added Dec 2001: Over the last year or two, my music preferences have broadened a bit. I have begun listening to a soft rock radio station (can we say, "Delilah") and, on occasion, the local pop rock station. Most of my previous thoughts remain intact; I still value music for its meaning, and not so much for it's style alone. But, I see that secular music can have value as well. Some secular music is rather evil and I try to avoid it. But there is a good deal of it that has a good "moral" to it, or tells a story that is so close to my own heart that I can't bring myself to think badly of it. So in one sense I prefer a mate who enjoys Christian music, but I also would like someone who can see the value in some secular music as well.

4. Computer Literacy. Obviously, this is not as important as some other issues. But, being a computer engineer, I would find joy in finding someone who has some appreciation of computers...someone, even, who has some fascination with them, someone who would not be forced to say, "There goes Joe again, playing with his SE-30s in the basement," but someone who would say, "Let's have a date fixing the SE-30s" and share in my computer-ness. Hey, I can always wish, right?

Added Dec 2001: Just to keep up with technology, in case any of you are wondering: No, I don't make a habit of playing with SE-30s anymore. The baseline tends to be a PC of about 133 or 200 MHz. But the principle of computer literacy still stands as a "wish".

Added Dec 2005: While I still have a special spot in my heart for computers, I am thinking that... my life has become more well-rounded since I originally wrote this one. Life is about so much more than playing with tools for their own sake. So, my goal is about appreciating my interests, and understanding when I want to go administrate my Linux server, but not necessarily to the extent of having a "his" and "hers" Linux installation -- such a state is not likely, and now I'm not sure whether I'd really want that anyway.

5. Savor the Moment. This is one of my mottoes in life. Someone whom I intend to savor the rest of my life with, I think, should have some appreciation of "savoring the moment." What I mean is this: Picture a sunset. There are dishes to be done, or maybe food to be eaten, or (scary) children to be put to bed, or exercises to do, or whatever. But I value someone who can stop, and say, "Wow...look at that sunset" -- someone whose mind can be interrupted from the normal pace of life by something as simple, yet so amazing and beautiful, as a sunset or a sunrise, or so many other "simple pleasures" of life.

6. Honesty. Yes, another commonly wished-for trait. But as I mentioned earlier, I value honesty. All the time I see (or think I see) the results of deceit and dishonesty around me. From someone ignoring a problem, thinking it will go away, to someone lying to cover their tracks (those of you who watch "Friends" may realize that that whole show is about covering up how they really think and/or act when it may jeopardize their friendships with others), dishonesty is common, maybe not in it's blatant form, but it's more coercive form. What I'm looking for is someone who doesn't buy into the "Time heals all wounds" -- implying they should be ignored -- idea, someone who instead believes in restoring broken relationships, and really thinks that honesty is the best policy. This is, admittedly, still a ... not-set-in-stone ... principle of mine. Maybe honesty isn't best. But I'd like to find someone who believes (like I think I do) that it is the best, in the long run, who believes that there is such a thing as reconciliation, and has a lifestyle to prove it.

7. Humor--?. Oh, what a bittersweet role humor plays in our little lives. I find that many people are rampaging through life, looking for some reason to laugh or make a joke about something, even if that something has no real significance. While I don't mind a good joke now and then, I often find useless, pointless humor annoying. I have long thought about the value of a national day of mourning, like the Israelites had. There are many many days to enjoy life, why not one or two set aside to "ponder" about the deeper things in life. These are not always the things that bring an "easy come easy go" smile to our faces, but are the things that will enrich our lives later on, and allow us to "expand our minds" and see a little bit more fully how God has worked in the past, and how He works in the world today, and in each of us. How does this relate to a spouse? Well, good question. I believe what I'm looking for here is someone who can enjoy a joke, but also knows when a joke is inappropriate, and knows the value of solemnity when it's appropriate.

Added Dec 2001: I find in my life that my attitude towards humor changed rather dramatically during college. Before college, I was at times...frustrated...about people and things in life, and so I saw little value in the flippant humor that goes on in the world. Through my experiences, perhaps from trying to get attention, or perhaps just "growing up" in college, I have found a greater appreciation for humor, and for those of you that know me, you would not be surprised that some people now call me the "king of cheesy jokes". So I have a strange sense of humor still, but I do find value in it. At times, I think I place too much emphasis on it, and am tempted to crack some stupid joke at an inappropriate time; such an action would go against my principles, and perhaps it's an area I need to work on. There's a balance that I'm always striving for. As I said originally, I'm looking for someone who values a joke, and can laugh at jokes, especially the nacho cheese ones, and yet knows when to be serious, and doesn't treat everything in life as one crazy joke.

8. No Divorce. Here's a popular discussion topic. Perhaps it is my inexperienced, youthful idealism showing through, but I'm hoping not.... I want to find someone who will take their vows seriously...someone who, when she says, "till death do us part," really means it, and not "till I get tired of it," or "till life gets hard." I want to find someone who will commit, along with me, that divorce is not and never will be an option. Yes, that's scary, because no one knows what the future holds. But we know the future-holder (God), and I want to find someone who will agree that He's big enough to keep us together. Included in this idea, I'm looking for someone who is passionate about keeping their commitments...someone with integrity, someone whose word is their bond, as they say. It should be obvious that this rules out a good deal of people who have been married previously and/or have children.

9. Bible Discussions. Perhaps this is due to my parents' influence. But that's okay. In my dreams, who knows the limit of what conversations would transpire? But one thing seems clear: I find joy in discussing Biblical passages that I find uplifting, or troubling, or confusing, and hearing what others think about them. This is one of the true cases of, ideally at least, two people drawing closer to each other by drawing closer to God through the study and careful discussion of His Word. What an ideal that is! Also, I would hope to find someone who tries to find "real-world" applications of Bible topics...someone who looks for ways to apply what she learns in the Bible to modern-day life.

10. Material Possessions (Not). If you're familiar with the story of Mary and Martha, you'll know what I mean, kind of. Mary was the one sitting at the feet of Jesus, hanging on every word that he said, while Martha was in the kitchen feverishly trying to cook the meal and wanting Mary to help her. But Jesus valued Mary's thirst for living water over Martha's quest to fix the best banquet. That somehow applies to material possessions as well. I've seen and heard about some women (and men too, obviously) who treat as their "gods" everything from money to cars to careers to houses to jewelry, etc. Those are not my aspirations. Of course I value cars, houses, and jobs. But I would hope to find someone who realizes like me that these things are only temporary .. only dust, and seeks to sink their effort into things that will last. I have not completely learned that trait of life myself, so it may be a mutual pursuit. But I'm seeking someone who seeks to be content with less than the best, someone who doesn't always have to be the first, to be the pacesetter with the newest car, the biggest house, or the most jewelry.

Added Dec 2001: You may think that the words in the previous paragraph are only those of a poor college student, but surprisingly (even to myself at times), my frugality has survived six months of work at a well-paying job. I now have more means to spend without discretion, if I chose to, but still I find that my priorities are generally not in what most folks consider "the finer things in life." Yes, I do tend to eat at more non-McDonalds restaurants these days, but these are usually social occasions and I go for the social interaction with coworkers or friends and not so much for the food, especially for the "superior quality" food of finer restaurants. I've realized that I'm very non-picky about food, and the$3 McDonalds hamburger/fries deal seems about the same as the $7 one from a more expensive place. Put another way, I'd prefer to save the extra $4 to spend on some computer equipment or (cheesy) to buy a gift for someone special, rather than waste it on transitory food. It's not that I'm adverse to spending money, if the cause is right. I just have different priorities about what's worth spending money on and what's not. I have learned to share in the extravagant ways of "the world" when appropriate, but the world has not converted me yet.

11. Feminisist Radicalism (Not). Another popular topic. I see a "happy medium" being best here. I don't feel drawn to someone who makes it their goal to subvert "males" at every turn, to show those "chauvinistic pigs" where their proper place is. On the other hand, I'm not drawn to the "barefoot and pregnant" idea (I don't suppose many women out there are, either!). Like I said, happy medium -- what I mean, I guess, is equality -- social and spiritual. I seek someone who will realize that God has given a man and a woman different responsibilities in the home and family, but that neither is inherently "better" and neither should be domineering towards the other. The spirit should be one of cooperation, not one of "I'm better than you."

12. In-Laws. I find it hard to believe (in a way) that in-laws are as evil as spouses say and imply they are. I hope to work hard to build strong bonds with my future wife's parents, probably long before marriage is in the picture. Perhaps this becomes a little less important as potential mates in my age group begin to become independent of their parents and strike out on their own. But as long as there are parents, I think it's my job to make every effort to be in good standing with them.

13. The Wedding. How can I say this? I think that traditional weddings are in a way too ... ceremonial. I think that family and friends place too much emphasis on the details of a wedding. I think (and am hoping my future spouse will agree) that the ceremony should focus on the new couple, their vows to each other, and the seriousness and joy of the commitment they are making, and not on the cute little flower girl or the ring-bearer who drops the ring or the aunt who has to take 15 rolls of film, etc. Sure, these are all a part of the ceremony, but they are also distractions from the real point. Don't get me wrong -- I hope to have a meaningful wedding, but I hope the meaning will come from the vows and the shared words of love, not the meaningless details.

14. "A time to be silent." When looking for a wife (or for any companion, really), I look for someone who realizes that there are times that are not appropriate for conversation. Specifically, at a church worship service or similar gathering, I look for someone who would not take offense if I seem to be distracted or even seem to be ignoring them. This may be common-sense, but I often wonder when sitting next to a good friend, or a potentially good friend, "Do they think I'm ignoring them?" This of course is not the case -- usually I am very happy that they chose to sit next to me. But at that moment, I feel it my responsibility to keep my focus on the speaker or the event at hand. I usually do not mind an occasional comment, especially if it pertains to what's being discussed, but my response will probably not be as "polite" as it would be if there were no other event occurring. One thing to note about this: Because I shy away from socializing during worship services, I sometimes wish there were more times set aside for "socially spiritual" conversations at church. Often, as soon as the service ends, either 1) everyone leaves, or 2) the conversation immediately devolves into everyday conversation. It would be most beneficial, I believe, to be able to savor the moment of God's presence for just a moment, while everyone has the sermon and/or worship experience fresh in their minds. So relating this to a future wife once more, I am looking for someone who understands my lack of response during a church service, but is willing and eager to discuss the events and discussions of the service once the service is complete. Ahhh, what a happy thought. :-)

15. (Added Dec 2002) Intrigued with My "Wise Thoughts." As I go on in life, I see that my "wise thoughts" archive (of which this is a part) becomes more and more a major outlet for "the real me". Even as I go back and read past wise thought entries, I am struck with how I can still relate to them, and how each one helps paint a clearer picture of who I have been, who I am, who I am becoming, and who I want to be. I am stricken to the point that I think that "the right one" would need to have a healthy appreciation for these little snippets of my mind, since they do record some of the deepest and most heart-felt pieces of my being. I long for someone who will take these writings as...dare I say "precious" things, even if they are open to the world to read (or maybe partly *because* of that fact). I long for someone who will...anxiously await the next installment of "my inner thought life", and (this is important) be eager to discuss some or most of the articles. I can write all day, and that in itself is useful and helpful to me, but my "dream" is that someday someone will take an interest in the Joe that is represented by these essays, not just by the crazy Joe or the funny Joe or the silly Joe that I can be on the surface.

Conclusion. Well, there you have it -- my LIST of desirable traits that seem to influence who I find "attractive" and who I look to as a potential future spouse. As I implied earlier, in some ways these traits are a combination of what I like in my own life, and the opposite of the things I don't. So some things (the more subjective ones) are debatable, and perhaps finding someone who is not identical may be beneficial (although I don't see that being true from my perspective). However, other items (like finding a Christian who is growing and does not consider divorce an option) seem to be foundational principles, and I would be foolish, I think, to compromise them at all.

As always, your comments are welcome. Send email to joeclark@iastate.edu. I'm interested to hear what your LIST is, as well. And if my list matches yours, and you want to know more, I'll work on creating my "Application for Dating Joe." Request it when you email. :-) :-) Ha ha...

Modified 6/22/00 (B2C Quote)
Modified 12/2/01
Modified 12/31/02 (#15 -- Wise Thoughts)
Modified 12/04/05 (computers)