couple holding hands

I’ve had the privilege of being mentored by a marriage and family therapist for the past fourteen years.

Mentoring is a huge understatement and is probably only a euphemism he uses to soften the fact that I’ve actually been receiving free therapy all this time! Meeting with professionals like him would normally cost a truckload of money, so I’m very thankful he’s never sent me a bill. If he did, I’d probably owe him at least twenty thousand dollars—no joke.


Through hundreds of our unofficial counseling sessions, I’ve gleaned at least five key aspects of dating that are relevant to both singles and those who are in a relationship.

1. Search for a Spouse Like You Would a Calling 

Some people had their vocational calling revealed to them from an early age. Whether it was a doctor, school teacher, or an artist, these individuals knew their ideal career since they first listened to a heartbeat through a stethoscope or sketched with a pencil. The majority of others, however, have probably hiked more ambiguous career paths, placing effort into searching for their God-given vocational passions by trying at least a few different venues.

Likewise with finding a spouse: Some people married their high school or college sweetheart while the rest of us will probably need to go on at least a few dates to find Mr. or Mrs. Right. The point of searching for a spouse like you would a calling, therefore, becomes twofold. First, resting in the fact that God knows our hearts, and we can trust he will bring us a spouse as part of our overall calling. Second, it is God’s responsibility to reveal this person to us as we put effort into finding him or her.

2. Rethink Your List 

A lot of us have created a mental or physical checklist of qualities we seek in a spouse. These traits are based on the values we hold or what we find most important. The first list I created many years ago contained over thirty obligatory qualities for my future partner! (Any wonder why I’m still single?!)

However, it is important to remember that lists will always reveal more about us than they ever will about someone else. Whenever we label something (or someone) we are essentially only defining ourselves. Understanding this concept helps us hold on to our list loosely, writing most items in pencil, not in pen. If, however, we clutch to an ironclad, stagnant list, we could very easily miss a potential mate. Our future spouse will be far more colorful and dynamic than a list will ever encompass, so give God permission to add, subtract, and modify it frequently.

3. Regularly Visit the Spiritual Gym

I believe the type of effort required to create an amazing marriage will be similar to the work required to win the Super Bowl. Professional football teams spend countless, dedicated hours at the gym and endure many grueling practices during the regular season. They fully expect their hard work and discipline to pay off. If the team becomes the champions, you would expect words like endurance, sacrifice, and preparation to be used by the players in postgame interviews.

Likewise, the time we invest during our single years becomes our own “regular season” and the optimal training ground for marriage. Marriage will undoubtedly challenge all of our selfishness, pride, and ego, so why wait until the playoffs (dating) and the Super Bowl (marriage) to begin training for the most daunting human-to-human relationship? It is true that Christ doesn’t ask us to refine ourselves for our future spouse; instead, he commands us to transform for his sake (1 Timothy 4:8). A healthy marriage will just reap the benefits of spiritual fitness.

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