If you want to marry well, marry someone who has these traits and don't even think about settling for anything less. Because healthy marriages aren't just magically found, they're chosen and they're created - one decision at a time.

I Settled in Marriage…And Here’s What Happened

In Advice and Encouragement, Marriage by Debra Fileta

I settled in marriage.

What I mean by that, is that I married a man who wasn’t at all what I had envisioned. I had a perfect little plan in mind, a plan that I had been adding to, adjusting, and dreaming of since I was a little girl. A plan that I had scribbled about in my journals, and whispered about to my friends.

But luckily, God tends to shatter our plans, because His are so much better. That’s what He did for me.

In many ways, the man I married is not the kind of person I would have planned on marrying, but he is exactly the kind of person that I needed.

When it comes to finding the right person to marry, there are some no-brainer truths that can never be ignored. In Chapter 5 my book, True Love Dates, I refer to those as “MAJORS”. There are some traits and qualities within a relationship and in a potential partner that we cannot, and should not, look over or settle for.

For me, my majors in any future relationship included my partner’s relationship with Jesus, personality traits, communication abilities, positive relationships with friends and family, a prayer-filled life, a heart for service, morals and values, and respect for sex and sexuality, among other things. But what I didn’t realize at the time, is that there were some things on my “list” that weren’t really essentials to a loving and life-giving relationship. After we’ve got our majors solidified, we have to realize that some things are “MINORS”.

I believe as Christians, we are often bombarded with a list of things we should look for in a relationship, and ways in which we “shouldn’t settle”. Sometimes, the advice we’re given is rooted in God’s truth- but more often than not, it’s advice that’s simply rooted in someone else’s preference and experience, rather than God’s providence. We can find ourselves wasting years for our lives looking for a person that doesn’t exist, instead of letting go of our so called “preferences” and trusting in God’s glorious plan.

I’m often frustrated as I look out at this generation of believers- because so many of them are so focused on such superficial things. The list of MINORS occupies their vision in pursuit of a spouse, while the MAJORS get thrown to the way-side. This generation has become so influenced by our culture, getting caught up in a guy’s flirtatious abilities, or the size of a gal’s chest…instead of getting caught up in the things that really matter. What if we were to focus more on the majors, and less on the minors? How would that change the state of marriage in our country, and in turn, our entire world?

As I look at my husband, and compare him to the man I “thought I would marry”, here are some areas where I settled: Settled for God’s best, instead of my own. And I am so glad I did….

1. Appearance: Before you start to worry, let me assure you that I am completely and incredibly attracted to my husband. But I can honestly say, he wasn’t my type. I had always imagined myself with a blonde-haired, blue-eyed, fashion-savvy man. But in the end, I was swept off my feet by my tall, dark, and handsome husband. Okay, so maybe he’s not the most fashionable guy out there (to which he replies “Come on, this gym shorts and t-shirt combo is the next big thing…”), but everything about him (including that sense of humor…) is exactly what I want- because it’s him.

Oftentimes, we have a rigid idea in our heads of what we want our future spouse to look like. I met a guy who is single at 38 because he’s waiting for his (in his words) “super-model”. While I believe being physically attracted to your spouse is highly important in the equation of finding love, oftentimes we’re stuck on qualities and features that don’t really matter in the long run. We can get so caught up on the superficial, at the expense of the significant. Let go of some of your rigid ideas, and be open to what God might have in store for you.

2. Location: If you would have asked me if I would have ever entered a long-distance relationship, my first response would have probably been “no way”. Lucky for me, God had better plans. John and I were long distance for the entirety of our dating relationship and engagement. In fact, the longest we ever spent in the SAME town was two weeks – right before our wedding day!

Though I have to admit, long-distance relationships are harder in many ways, it was this part of our story that shaped our communication, our affection for one another, and confirmed our desire to be married. Long distance is not what I would have chosen- but location was a “minor”, and one desire that I was willing to let go of in exchange for the joy of a meaningful relationship.

3. Career: Is career something you should settle for in a relationship? I always dreamed I’d marry someone in the ministry- preferably a guy who could sing and strum the guitar, too…and instead, I married into medicine. Since day one of our relationship, my husband has been pursuing the medical field wholeheartedly. Our life has been one big adventure of move after move, from his medical school, to residency, and now to fellowship. We’ve seen different parts of the country in a short period of time as he’s pursued the calling on his life to be a doctor.

I’ll be honest, it hasn’t always been easy. In fact, sometimes, the commitment that comes with the career has been very difficult. But when it comes to career choice, I think it matters far less the career your future spouses chooses, and far more the priorities, vision, and lifestyle you choose therein. Though my husband and I have completely different careers- we are on the exact same page when it comes to prioritizing our family and our faith. We support each other, work together, and help one another pursue our dreams.

I’ve heard a lot of people who choose whether or not to date someone based on their career choice, and while that may be a “major” for them…for me, it wasn’t worth the trade-off of losing the man I knew would make an amazing husband, and father- even if he doesn’t have a single musical bone in his 6 foot 4 body 🙂

4. Background: I meet a lot of single people who seem to have an exact lay-out of their future spouses “background” with a specific denomination, culture, and ethnic background in mind.

They might even have their entire history laid out with things on the list like “someone who doesn’t come from a divorced family, someone with no sexual past, someone who has been a Christian their entire lives, and comes from a specific ethnic background….” and so on, and so forth. I have to laugh, because we humans have a tendency to think that we know exactly what we want, sometimes without having a clue of what we need.

For example, I always thought I would marry someone outside my ethnic background. There were certain traits that I unfairly stereotyped to my Middle-Eastern culture; things that I wasn’t a fan of and didn’t want to get involved with. But my husband obliterated my sheltered bubble in so many ways, and opened my eyes to the truth that BACKGROUND is just that: the backdrop.

No matter what “background trait” we’re talking about, how often do we move the background qualities to the forefront- defining people by their history, their past, or their origins…instead of defining them by who they are today? As Christians, we should be the FIRST to have eyes of grace and clarity, looking for the truth of a person’s here and now, instead of defining them by the background story.

So there you have it, I settled in my marriage…by learning to let go of the things that didn’t really matter, while holding on firmly to the things that did. As I reflect on my husband, our marriage, and our two beautiful children- I am so glad I allowed God to open my heart to what He knew that I needed, by choosing focus on the things that were the most meaningful. He was so ridiculously right.

Somehow…He always is.

In what ways did your spouse break the mold of what you thought you wanted?  

Debra Fileta is a Professional Counselor, speaker, and author of the book True Love Dates: Your Indispensable Guide to Finding the Love of Your Life, where she writes candidly about dating, relationships, and how to find true love. She’s also the creator of this True Love Dates Blog Connect with her on Facebook or Twitter