I’m a working professional woman in my late 20s. I’ve been dating a guy for about a year, and our relationship appears to be getting serious. He’s a member of my church, our families have known each other for several years, and he’s doing quite well in his profession. Here’s the thing; he’s a decent, God-fearing man, but I don’t like some of his habits. I believe I love him, but I’m not yet “in love” with him. Will the feeling of being in love with him finally come when he begins to get rid of some of the habits I don’t like? How will I know I’m ready to accept his proposal for marriage when he pops the question? So many of my friends from college have gotten married and are already divorced. I don’t want this to happen to me. Am I missing something? This is why I’m being very careful and cautious and would like to get your perspective.
Congratulations on finding a man who’s a member of your church, whose family you’ve known for years, who’s gainfully employed, and who has demonstrated an interest in pursuing a serious relationship with you. You are way ahead in the game. While every relationship is different, the similarities you share with the young man you’re dating are among the best indicators for what makes a strong foundation for a lasting marriage.
We often share with dating couples—and married couples too—that there are no perfect couples because there are no perfect people. So regardless of whom you marry, you can be sure that person will have habits—how they speak, dress, eat, comb their hair, or any number of other issues—you don’t like. While it’s true that habits you don’t care for will invariably make a person less attractive to you, don’t confuse that with love or being in love.
To love someone is a decision you make. The love we’re referencing here isn’t built on the feelings in love songs—mostly centered on a physical attraction that leads to romantic feelings, which are fleeting—but rather a decision based on principles and values that tend to help every successful marriage go the distance.
Relationships based on surface issues—the way a person looks, how much money they make, or what kind of car they drive—are never as important as sharing similar values, especially your beliefs about God and your commitment to living by those ideals. As such, answering questions such as: Does he love and honor God? Is he kind, considerate, flexible, and forgiving? Is he honest, patient, hardworking, and does he have a healthy relationship with his parents and siblings? Is he altruistic, and does he value people regardless of their race, social class, or gender? These are the kind of questions you need to answer to satisfaction about a potential life partner.
To be sure, there are certain essentials and nonnegotiables you want to see in the character of the person you hope to marry. The more things you have in common—especially on issues of faith—the easier it will be to establish a relationship that’s truly satisfying and has what it takes to endure.
About the habits he has that you don’t like, we can assure you he doesn’t like all your habits either. What’s important at this point is to begin preengagement counseling to help you to identify together your strengths and growth areas in a safe place with a skilled facilitator. This is where you can explore your likes and dislikes and develop strengths from your growth areas.
Once you’re at this point in your relationship, the notion of loving someone or being in love with them (an artificial concept made up by our culture/society) will not matter. Loving someone is a decision you make. So being in love with that person is also a choice you can make as you invest in a solid and long-lasting future together.
Please know you’re in our prayers as you allow God to lead you and provide you with the kind of husband you need. And remember the promise in Philippians 4:19: “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”*
Trust God and allow Him to order your steps.
* Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Willie Oliver, an ordained minister, pastoral counselor, family sociologist, and certified family life educator, is director for the Department of Family Ministries at the world headquarters of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
Elaine Oliver, a licensed clinical professional counselor, educational psychologist, and certified family life educator, is associate director for the Department of Family Ministries.
You may communicate with them at Family.Adventist.org or at HopeTV.org/RealFamilyTalk.
The original version of this story was published on Adventist World in September 2022.