My friend Heidi once said, "The difference between the wrong man and the right man is like the difference between the darkest night and the brightest day."
On the journey to finding lasting love, one of the most important things I've learned is that it's important to know what you want—and don't want—in a man to date.
Think about the kind of people you've picked in the past. What went wrong? And, what do you want to be different in your next relationship?
Maybe, like me, you've dated men who are always too busy, and now you want someone who's willing to make time for a quality relationship.
I know one quality I want in a man is someone who has the courage to step up and pursue me, not just "hang out" and keep me guessing as to whether we’re really dating or just friends.
Here's the thing: If you don't know what you want it will be hard to recognize it when it comes your way.
If you want a God-centered, lasting love relationship, you need to have criteria. Some people call them standards. Or principles. Basically, you need to have an idea of qualities you look for in a member of the opposite sex—and not compromise on what's really important to you. Because one day, the person you date may become your mate.
So it's important to choose wisely.
There are many important traits to look for in a date. Here are the top five qualities—the foundational basics—I look for in a dating relationship: Christian, Communication, Character, Chemistry, and Calling.
1. Christian. Is the person you want to date a Christian believer? Has he accepted Jesus as Savior and Lord? Is he on a path of growth in his spiritual life and choosing to live what he believes? It's one thing to say that you're a Christian, it's quite another to make right choices every day—in both the hard times and the good times.
Think about the spiritual aspect of your relationship: Do you want someone who will attend church with you every Sunday? Do you want to pray together as a couple?
2. Communication is essential to any good relationship. Think about the kind of communication that’s important to you: Are you comfortable going deep in conversation, or do you prefer to stay in the shallow end? Is your date able to toss the conversational ball back and forth—both talking and listening? Or does he drive you crazy because he never stops talking—or doesn’t share enough? Does he interrupt? Is he critical?
Years ago, I went on a dreadful date with a guy who clearly had conversational issues. One afternoon, "Brandon" and I drove to a football game in a city nearly three hours away and he was completely silent throughout the drive, the game and halftime! That was our one and only date.
3. Character refers to temperament, personality and moral fiber. How well do your personalities and temperaments mesh? Does he have integrity? Does he keep his promises?
If your date says he's going to meet you at a certain time and stands you up, that's a definite character issue. If you're exclusive as a couple and he dates someone behind your back, that's dishonest.
If you talk to married folks, you'll find out how important character is in a relationship. You want to know that the other person is honest and reliable; you want to have confidence that he will be there for you no matter what may come.
4. Chemistry is another word for attraction. Chemistry—what pulls you toward another person—is important in a relationship, but don't let your feelings dictate your choices based solely upon someone's looks. True beauty is more than a perfect smile or fit body. It's comprised of both inner and outer qualities, and how that person makes you feel.
Attraction is just one of the essential five C's for a healthy and fulfilling match, one piece of the entire love puzzle.
5. Calling is the term I'll use here for God's desire for your relationship. Is God calling you (leading you) to date this man? And, down the road: Is God leading you to marry him? You can have all four of the five C's, but if the "C" of Calling isn't present, it will never work.
For instance, I once liked an amazing guy who was a strong Christian, a great communicator and a man of solid character. We even had a mutual attraction. However, he wanted to be a lifelong missionary overseas and I didn't feel God’s call to that life.
It never would have worked.
Finally, while it's good to have standards and consider the different aspects of what you want in a date (spiritual, intellectual, social, emotional and physical) or potential spouse, it's also wise not to expect perfection. None of us is faultless.
As you ponder what you really want, be sure to include God in your love life and pray about this important choice.
He knows what you truly need.