I’ve had my share of bad relationships. Destructive ones, actually. From junior high until my junior year of college, I experienced the spectrum of abuse: emotional, physical, verbal. The relationships I was a part of made me feel absolutely worthless. I would end up broken every single time and had to rebuild myself from the ground up.
Looking back, I feel foolish for not breaking this cycle sooner, but it just wasn’t that simple. I am a highly sensitive person, which means I am empathetic and instinctively put others before myself. People like me are a natural target for narcissists, who take advantage of caring and giving individuals. Those who are narcissistic exhibit certain negative qualities which may not appear until further down the road. They effectively conceal their intentions initially, but their true colors will always come through.
These are exactly the kind of people I was involved with for many years, and it was difficult to clearly understand what was happening when I was caught in the midst of it. My mother would see all the red flags long before I could accept the truth, and it took me relationship after relationship to finally put my foot down and implement a new strategy into my dating life.
When I was in these less-than-blessed relationships, my most important C-word was “comfortability.” If I felt like I could be myself around him, then he’d already won me over. But now I understand that a real relationship is so much more. I should naturally feel safe and at peace around someone, but our personalities and personal goals need to work together on a deeper level too. It was time to wait for someone who not only complemented me, but also challenged me to grow and thrive as the very best version of myself and who Christ needs me to be.
The first step was to focus my attention inward. I had to reevaluate my priorities and my heart. These last few relationships had taken a toll on my overall spirit, so I needed to fully restore myself through a greater connection with my Savior. I took action and decided to amp up my prayer life, reconnect with some strong Christian friends, and dwell in God’s word much more than I did before. Because of this, I was able to come to terms with my past and even gained a deep sense of peace I never imagined possible while being single.
Now that I was on the way to healing, I could embrace the fact that maybe God’s will for me was a lifetime of solitude. But what if I was meant to meet my soul mate someday? What would a love like this even look like? I wondered if I could even recognize a healthy relationship at this point. I wanted to learn from my mistakes and make a list for myself.
After writing, praying, and looking back over my scribbled notes, I was able to distinguish three main desired traits in a partner: Christian, comparable, and compatible. Around the same time, I had just finished reading the book of Proverbs, and my bookmark was still at the final page that includes Proverbs 31. Although I’ve studied being a “Proverbs 31 woman” in the past, for the first time I realized the husband is also mentioned here three times, and he seemed to match up with the list I had just created in my prayer journal.
The First C: Christian
Having a partner with an unbreakable faith in Christ should seem obvious to a daughter of the King like myself. Someone who loves Christ more than you and can be a strong leader of your family someday. Yet, reflecting back on my past relationships, none of them claimed to be a Christian nor lived a life reflecting strong morals. I suddenly realized the importance of not only professing one’s faith, but also living it out day by day. If his lifestyle is lacking, then his words mean nothing. As 1 Corinthians 15:33 (NKJV) states: “Do not be deceived: Evil company corrupts good habits.” These relationships outside of the faith had been slowly leading me astray, whether or not I was even aware of it!
The Second C: Comparable
Another necessary attribute on my list was financial security. By this, I was not solely referring to monetary wealth, but more a feeling of being equally yoked. If you are a diligent woman like myself, wait for someone who has an admirable work ethic, who is driven, and who is not afraid to take a risk.
Proverbs 31:23 says, “Her husband is known in the gates, When he sits among the elders of the land.” And in verses 28-29, it says, “Her children rise up and call her blessed; Her husband also, and he praises her: ‘Many daughters have done well, But you excel them all.’”
In other words, this reputable man, well known throughout the city, also takes the time to acknowledge his wife. He doesn’t let her accomplishments go unnoticed either. Find a man like this, and you will be a team of equivalent quality and worthy of comparison.
The Third C: Compatible
The last component can simply be defined as being able to exist together without fundamental conflicts. One word that comes to mind is harmony. To me, there is nothing on earth closer heaven than when two voices coming together with different notes that entwine flawlessly into music. I want a relationship that works in a similar manner. But, that does not mean we have to be the exact same type of person to be complete and undivided.
The heart of her husband safely trusts her; So he will have no lack of gain. She does him good and not evil, all the days of her life. –Proverbs 31:11-12
These verses seem to echo the saying, “Behind every great man is a great woman,” and the basis of this idea is trust. Honesty is everything in a good relationship while lies consume everything in their path.
All these factors can be woven together into the loveliness that is a vibrant, God-breathed relationship. Even if you’ve experienced nothing but distorted, conditional love from other people in your lifetime, my hope is that by dwelling in scripture you can receive a clear image of what it should be, and possibly will be, within the framework of God’s timing. And if you have been specially chosen to live a life of singleness, may you fully experience the perfect, unchanging love of a Savior who gave up his own life to make you whole.