Finding a Character to Marry (How to Find a Spouse)

Dear Lindsey,

Chris and I celebrated our twentieth wedding anniversary last month!  Yes, I got married when I was 10!

Chris and I attending a wedding


I thought it would be fun to write a note about “how to find a spouse,” but when I told Chris, he said, “How can you write about that subject, when there is only one as perfect as I am, and you already got me?!” Ha! Yes I do!

Truth be told, Chris was not the first man to propose to me. When I was a young intern at General Motors, every day when I returned from work to my 2nd floor apartment in Sandusky, OH, a man was waiting in the parking lot. He would watch for my car, and then follow me to my place, shouting to my back, “Will you marry me? Please?!”

Having had a previous run-in with a stalker, I was always cautious when I lived alone. I added locks to keep even the landlord from being able to enter without my permission when I was home. In the balcony’s sliding glass door track, I put a long, 1-inch-diamter metal dowel that would prevent the door from sliding if the lock gave way.

When home after work one day, I put on my bathing suit and headed through that sliding glass door to my deck for some sun. I stepped out onto my balcony and slid the door closed behind me. Unfortunately, the rod slid down into the track as I pulled the door shut, locking me out onto my own deck. I stood out there in a bathing suit that was reserved for privacy of a 2nd floor fenced balcony and wondered who would hear my voice from my perch.  I scanned the area, and the only person within earshot was the man who wished to be my fiancé! I decided I would die of starvation on that deck before I would ever climb down in front of him, or ask him for help.


Had I climbed down from there, maybe that would have been one way to gain a spouse. But that is not the way I am advocating in this Letter.

How to Find a Spouse

Tony Robbins suggests that you don’t marry someone until you know how he or she will react when: angry, sick, tired or wet. So I suppose you could ask your perspective spouse on a date to get something to eat, then drive around lost, delaying the meal, almost wrecking and drop him/her off in a big puddle in front of a sprinkler system to see the reaction. If you survive the night, you have found a fiancé! Luckily Chris didn’t choose that route.

When I searched online for “how to find a spouse,” there were many answers – which provided mere entertainment for me. Wikipedia, which is a website of “majority of opinions,” provided solutions, some of which were:

–       Make a list of at least 15 things you want, physical features, etc. Then determine which ones you are willing to give up as less important and compromise.

–       “If you cannot picture self with this person and being happy with them for 30/40 years, then they are not the right person for you. Take marriage seriously to avoid divorce.”

–       “Go over your list and see what a person would see in you. If you want to marry someone with money, a rich person with any sense won’t take up with someone who is overly motivated by wealth; therefore, get your finances in order so that you aren’t desperate, can show that you know how to deal with money, and won’t be disappointed (at least not financially) by a prenuptial agreement.”

–       Watch out. Probably not a good spouse if they have one of these red flags: 1. Can’t get their driver’s license, 2. Can’t hold a professional job. 3. Didn’t complete their college degree.

Or my favorite funny WIKI answer:

–       “You don’t have to jump into bed with everyone you date to know if they are compatible.”

(WOW, I’m glad someone shared that!)

Further search online revealed an actual mathematical calculation for how to find a spouse.

Calculus Horribilus

In an article entitled, “How to Find a Spouse: A Problem in Discrete Mathematics with an Assist from Calculus,” Dan Teague states:

If there are N candidates, how can you maximize the probability that you select your best match?

Strategy: Date k people without making a selection. Then, select the first person judged to be better than any of the first k.

We want to find the value of k (relative to N) that gives us the greatest probability of selecting from the best spouse for among the N potential choices.

…The probability of success settles down as k increases to approximately 0.368 as well. Using this process, we find that we can be successful in selecting the best from a group of N by letting approximately 37% of the available positions go by then selecting the first choice better than any seen before about 37% of the time. And this is true no matter how large N is! This is a strikingly high probability. Using this process, you can select the best out of 5000 almost 37% of the time, by letting the first 1839 go by and then selecting the first choice better than any of those 1839.

So, in essence, date 1,839 people, and break up with them. Then choose the next one you like better than the first 1,839 and you may have found your spouse.  This article also suggests to students that marrying your high school sweetheart is not a particularly good strategy, so don’t get too serious too soon. “Go out with a number of people to see whom you like and who likes you. Then make your choice.”

Wow! I guess Chris and I REALLY beat the odds, because he was a number less than 1,839!

Ruth BookPastor Stephen Davey has different (and more helpful!) advice for looking for a spouse. In Chapter 7 of his book,  Ruth (when Fairytales Come True), he says that there are no Bible verses that tell how to find a mate or biblically fall in love. I personally saw some methods in the Bible though: like God making a mate for a guy (Adam) out of one of his ribs (Genesis 2:22). Or having your dad send one of his servants to find you a mate working at the well (Genesis 24). Or maybe this one: work seven years to earn the right to marry your mate’s older sister, then work another seven years to earn the right to marry the one you really wanted (Genesis 29)!

OK, I jest. I am not suggesting those methods, but they seem easier than some of the methods I have heard people share!

Twenty-five percent of couples today meet online. Out of those, it is estimated 90% are lying about something on their profile.  Guys tend to lie about income or current marital status (ouch!), while ladies are more likely to gloss over their physical attributes or their age, according to Davey’s book.

Many singles are trying to speed the process by developing more than one online relationship at a time!

So really, what is more godly: using an online dating service or your dad sending his servant to the nearest well to see if there are any chicks hanging out there? My answer: both are allowed by God…IF you do the right thing, and do not act in fear. (Lying, for example, is acting in fear –  doing the wrong thing for fear the right thing will take too long).  However, as Davey rightly cautions: wherever the meeting, online or at the well, it should be for introduction purposes only.

He continues by saying that the search for a mate shouldn’t be so much about looking for someone compatible – someone like you – as it should be about looking for someone with character – someone like Christ.   “Looking” for a spouse and “waiting” for a spouse are two different actions. If you feel led to “wait” instead of “look,” then by all means wait! God has a plan for the character you will marry!  The following still applies:

Davey has a “checklist of character traits,” that I thought worthy of sharing here. After all, I think this should trump WIKI’s opinion!  This list is not only that which you would be seeking in a future spouse, but also one you should strive to emulate while you are waiting.

As John Maxwell says, we attract that which we are.

Checklist of Character Traits:

Spirituality :

  • If looking for a Christian mate, your search should begin with looking for conversion. Is their Christianity a secret? If they treat Christ dishonorably, they are more likely to do the same to you.
  • Is it a secret?
    • Does your prospective spouse talk about God?
    • Does he/she want to please Him?
    • Does he/she encourage you to follow His ways?
    • Have you ever seen his/her Bible?
    •  A common love for the Lord can erase all other compatibility issues.
  • Psalm 127:1 “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it.”


  • “I can’t believe you chose me!” should be his/her attitude.
    • Even after twenty years of marriage, I still feel this attitude from my husband, Chris…and I really can’t believe he chose ME!
  • While a common love for the Lord can erase compatibility issues, a common love for SELF will destroy any relationship.


  • What matters most to him/her?
  • What does he value most in you – and is it something that you value as well?
    • If Chris had told me it was
      • my potential salary
      • my body
      • my hair
      • my common love for football and ability to throw it
    • I would have realized it was TEMPORARY admiration
  • What your perspective spouse values most will be what he/she values in you and even your kids after marriage, so his/her priorities MATTER.
  • Priorities matter when judging character


  • Has your perspective mate been truthful about things, even if it has the potential of ruining the party?
    • Former relationships?
  • Have you seen him/her tell “little white lies?” without guilt?
    • Calling in sick for work
    • Fudging numbers to the landlord
  • No matter how it seems different, if you are the witness to lies, you are likely to be on the other side of a lie one day.
  • If you want an honest spouse, then honesty will be displayed before marriage.
  • If you want honest children one day, then marry an honest spouse.
  • I guess the only real candidates for your spouse should be those who are “candid dates.”
  • (OH, By the way, I did NOT get married when I was 10. I just felt I needed to clarify that lie right now. 🙂 )


  • To whom does your perspective mate submit?
    • His drinking buddies?
    • Her girlfriends?
    • You?
      • If your only accountability is each other, you will be like a ship floating at sea with no rudder. You will be lost.
  • Is it the Word of God?
  • You are accountable too!
    • “Become someone who is willing to stay single, rather than disobey the Word of God, and you are worthy of being married. Find someone who is willing to stay single, rather than disobey the Word and they will be worthy of being your spouse.”
  • If that individual does not honor the Word of God, you have no evidence that they will lead an honorable life.


  • Purity is more than just “not going all the way.”
    • What movies do you watch? Together and alone?
    • What conversations do you have? in texting?
    • You will know it is pure, when you could invite Jesus to sit down next to you and watch or read it.
      • Because He does.


  • If you find someone who is stingy and selfish, do not think that he or she will become generous once you are married.
  • Does he think of others?
  • Is she serving and caring?
  • How does he treat his mother?
  • Are there causes on her heart outside of her hair salon?

“This is the kind of person to find…to become…to keep.” – Stephen Davey

Watch for “Finding a Character to Marry (How to Find a Spouse), Part 2” in another Letter to Lindsey soon.

God bless,

Terri Brady

P.S. I was able to shimmy the door on the balcony open, raising the dowel rod and allowing me back into my apartment without summoning a future fiancé or starving to death. I guess my blocked entry was not as break-in-proof as I had thought. 🙂

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22 thoughts on “Finding a Character to Marry (How to Find a Spouse)

  1. Thank you for writing this! I am single and losing hope of finding a guy with the same principles as I. What a refreshing way of knowing what to look for.

  2. Love your Letters! Thanks so much for sharing in all areas of Life. I did pass this on to my daughter 🙂

  3. Terri,
    First, Happy Belated Anniversary to both of you!!
    Second, the first thing I did when I got the tweet about this (after I passed it back on to Twitter) was to forward it to our unmarried, unattached son. I knew without reading it would be worth it to him. I was, of course, right.
    Third, I remember when Bob and I were courting. We both had our lists of things we wanted in a perfect spouse. Among others, I failed in the waist-length blonde hair category (can’t grow it past my shoulders for the world, and now it barely goes past my ears), and he flunked my height category (I wanted someone taller than me, in the 6 foot range, and he’s 2 inces shorter than me!).
    Both of us decided the things the other “failed” in were minor “wish list” items when presented in the light of the total packages of Christian commitment, love of music, priority of family, sense of humor. love of reading, agreeable political viewpoints, shared interests and at least some shared likes and dislikes. We rightly figured we could work the rest out.
    This was also advice we gave to our daughter before she was engaged and married, and give to our son now.

  4. I am SO grateful you posted about this subject. Can’t wait to read Part 2. Thank you for bringing light to this topic. I know so many people it will help!

  5. wow. my husband also was much less than 1, 839…he was number 1! and ONLY 1! yes, it’s true: I dated one guy in high school and married him. Did we do all the above mentioned things? nope. should we have? probably some of them. but you know? I got the right one at the right time and right place in our lives. it has worked for 37 years (married 35) and it will continue to work: even better now with great blogs and great info to read and add into our relationship! thank you so very much, terri!

  6. Pingback: Could it be love?… (Chapter 7) | Reflections

  7. Beautifully written Terri! Thanks for sharing! Every line that I read made me realize that Kenyon qualified but I wasn’t even close. Luckily I was a good salesman and she was patient!

  8. Wow! This is exactly what I have been talking about with my family and mentor! I am excited to eventually meet the man I am to marry one day (hopefully soon) and this is a great reminder to not settle for anything less than who God has for me!

  9. As always Terri, very well written! Thank you for this topic as it makes a great resource in teaching our children and encouragement for so many people who may be struggling in this area. [Our twentieth anniversary is this year as well:)]
    I have to say I got about 3/4 of the way the way through when I started to wonder what happened to you on the balcony, lol…. Perfectly timed:)
    Happy Anniversary! God bless!

  10. WOW Terri! Love this article 🙂 Ironically my pastor said on Sunday that if your future spouse does not LOVE Christ, then it will be hard for him to love you for all of your days. So #1 – find a Godly man! Many lessons I have learned on the journey and in the ‘waiting’ stage of God’s plan. Thank you for all the amazing advice, I can’t wait for part 2!

  11. Wonderful article and funny too! Mostly, I am sooo glad my daughter read this and took it to heart. Terri, your influence goes across the nations and generations and I can not express my gratitude enough for the godly way you use it. Can’t wait for part 2!

  12. Terri,
    Thank you for sharing your wisdom on the topic of marriage. I am excited to share this article with my kids and all singles looking for a wonderful mate/marriage.
    Thank you again for sharing your blessings.

  13. Thank you Terri! Being a single lady out in the world today can be tough at times, and this definitely helps keep things in perspective, and my standards where they should be! It is always a true pleasure reading your blog! God Bless!

  14. That was awesome and insightful!!! I have been waiting on u to write something like this for a while!!!! Thank u very much!!!!!!

  15. Great Post as usual Terri! I once read that there are 2 secrets to a successful marriage. First is finding the right person. The second is being the right person.

    God Bless,


    • I agree with Lynn. Before I found my husband, I spent so much time focusing on what I wanted in a man instead of working on making me the best I could be. Once I focused on me and my relationship with God then Justin (my husband) came into the picture. We have been married for six years and we look forward to many more.

  16. Thank you Terri. Fantastic post. My wife and I were 30 when we were married. Although we had been friends for 8 years we ‘dated’ for less than a year. On thing we agree on is that no one is ready to marry until they decide they could be single for life. Life is full of paradoxes like that. We are at 31 years & counting.
    Steve T.

  17. Pingback: The Trouble With Romantic Comedies… Or This One, Anyway. | Children of the Words

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