Now that you understand the need to be clear on what you want, let’s clear up exactly what you want. To do this, let's Traffic Light your list.
Traffic Lighting your list breaks it up into the important categories of “Go and No. Everything else that’s negotiable.”
Like a Traffic Light, when there’s a Red Light - you stop. It’s a “No”. If an item on your list is built on a standard, a non-negotiable principle which excludes someone from being a candidate of being The One, that’s a Deal Breaker, that’s a Red Light item.
When there’s a Green Traffic Light, it’s “Go” with regards to the traffic. In terms of your List, this is a characteristic or behaviour in the person that for you is so desirable, that the person must have it for you to consider them as a potential mate.
When there’s an Amber Traffic Light, you have to make a decision. Am I travelling at a speed in relation to the junction which makes it unsafe to stop? If not, then stop. If so, then go.
With regards to your list, everything else is Amber. These are the items which are negotiable and can be allowed without violating a key principle or one of your deeply held preferences.
Red lights (Deal Breakers)
Now, let’s look over some Red Lights or Deal Breakers. Again, they are behaviours or characteristics which stop everything in their tracks. They are the “No go’s” with regards to the suitability of someone for you.
Red Lights are Deal Breakers because of the Standards upon which these are built. Like Red Traffic lights, they aren’t just there to make your morning commute a pain in the posterior. They aren’t just standards for the sake of having standards, they are practical ways of preventing disaster.
You can protest against the law of gravity or even question its relevance all you want, but arguing about it while you’re in free fall from stepping off the cliff won’t help your case.
It is impossible for us to break the law. We can only break ourselves against the law.
Cecile B. deMille
When it comes to The List, Red Lights are ways in which a person behaves or who they are that makes them unsuitable for you and if bad enough, unsuitable for anyone.
These are like what mullets are for hair and I don’t even know what to call that other one. Just don’t go there. Don’t. Please.
First up, for those with a Christian Worldview, do not pick someone with an incompatible worldview. Why? That’s because this affects everything else. Everything. That’s because how you handle the rest of the items on your list is coloured by your commitment or lack of commitment to this one standard.
Don't team up with those who are unbelievers. How can righteousness be a partner with wickedness? How can light live with darkness?
2 Corinthians 6:14
Does that mean a Christian partner is a perfect one? Of course not. They are still human, they can still sin, they can and will still fall short. However, if they have the same values, the same worldview, there’s a unity and power in how you tackle the challenges of life and relationship which will not only help you survive it - it will have you both fully expecting to thrive through it.
Isn’t that a much greater way to expect your life to turn out than otherwise?
As said before, if you fail to plan, you are planning to fail. But if you both have different plans you're headed for trouble particularly if you are headed for different destinations in this life and especially in the next.
Also, a non-christian doesn't have the authority from God to rebuke the attacks that will come against your household - they can't be as good a leader or a help-mate as you need them to be. You deserve better. You need better because you live in a fallen world and make no mistake, attacks will come.
Realise too that relationships aren't static. You need to paddle just to stay afloat. Relationships are meant to thrive not just try to survive. You need a mate who helps you grow in all the dimensions you are made of, including your spirit.
So don't short change your spiritual life. It is just as real as your physical life of sex, career & physical preferences. Make sure you are both headed in the same direction here too.
Can the person you are interested in be trusted?
Trust is made of two things: Character and Competence. Does the person you are interested in say one thing but does something else?
Do they say they agree with a certain standard or value but then proceed to do something in violation of that standard or value?
Do they regularly say they we do something but don’t follow up on it?
Are they in the habit of committing to something without having fully thought through if it is something they can actually do?
Part of being trustworthy is being able to commit. Keep the end in mind - marriage. Right now is the time you lay the foundational attitudes and habits on which you will build your marriage.
If you or your potential mate are not committed to the possibility of a future that involves marriage, this is a Deal Breaker. Someone who cannot even consider the possibility of marriage in the future needs to consider if he or she should be available for dating at this point in time.
Look out for Characteristics which run against honesty, justice and courage. Someone who is characteristically dishonest will have you questioning everything which is not a healthy foundation for a relationship. Someone with no sense of justice or strength of courage will not bring any of that into your relationship and all relationships need this.
One of these types is the Pretender, a person who shows signs of only being in it for the "buzz" of romance. Such a person rapidly moves from one relationship to another.
If they say, "I'm not technically, legally single but we've been separated a long time" - watch out.
Same too with regards to the Depender, someone who doesn’t see the relationship as a chance to grow. They're in it to find someone to "mommy them" emotionally and/or financially. Signs of this is someone who always lets you pay for dinner all the time and asks for loans. You want a spouse, not a blood sucking louse.
Related to this is the Overly jealous, controlling type. They are the ones that declare that they "can't live without you" after just 2 dates or seek to micromanage every aspect of your life. Your alarm bells show be ringing loud and clear here.
And of course, you don’t want someone who Isn't there in time of crisis. You want a spouse, not a so called “fair weather friend”.
All these types are Red Lights because they are incompetent and therefore untrustworthy.
All of these things are characteristics and actions of an untrustworthy person.
Sounds a lot like a job interview? Well, it is and the job is caring for your future. If they don’t qualify for trust in lesser matters, they certainly don’t qualify for the loftier matter of being your spouse.
This sounds rather technical. No, it isn’t about avoiding world wars but it is about avoiding personal ones. Poor anger or stress management is a Red Light, another deal breaker. What’s their skills in Conflict Management?
If someone is bad tempered, lacking self control and always looking for a fight avoid them. Otherwise, you’re asking for a world of hurt when you live with someone like that. Don’t make your life harder than it has to be.
A good way of remembering this is “You may know how to have a good time but do you know how to have a bad time? “
What comes out when they are squeezed?
Real character comes out under adversity. How do they handle it when something goes badly? This gives you a clue as to whether this is someone who you want around when life bumps you around. What are they like when they are in a bad mood?
Watch carefully their behaviour when pierced by the injustices of life. This will give you an insight into how they resolve conflicts. Of course, take this as an opportunity to consider how you resolve conflicts.
Anger is natural but how they handle it is important.
Anger is never buried dead, it is always buried alive so suppression isn't the answer either - controlled expression is.
You will have disagreements. If not, one of you is redundant. The key is to disagree agreeably and that takes knowledge, thought, grace and training to be Godly in a disagreement. Some things are just not worth fighting over. Sometimes, the best outcome is to agree to disagree. Be wise enough to pick your battles. Is the the person your are interested in all that or at least heading down the road to be?
Can you both be depended upon to live in peace? Does the person you’re interested in see every disagreement as a fight where there always has to be a winner & a loser or as a conflict to be peacefully resolved?
The first attitude will condemn you both to a life of perpetual struggle.
The second attitude, develops a relaxed security which blooms your relationship. That’s because if handled right, disagreements don't need to escalate into fights. In fact, they are actually opportunities to really reveal yourselves to each other and hence either deepen your relationship or pull you apart if you don't know how to handle them.
Do they and do you strive to collaborate or conflict? Put it another way…
“If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”
Do they and for that matter do you, know how to handle disagreements well?
It is almost impossible for me to over-emphasise this point. It is no exaggeration to state that if you can’t get this skill right, life can become a succession of one tragedy after another in both your personal and professional lives.
Along these lines, be on the look out for displays of persistently immature reactions to not getting their own way. This is another deal breaker.
Let’s face it, no one gets their own way all the time - not even God. So, why wed yourself to someone who will consistently spit their dummy when life inevitably does what life does?
It’s true, we all have moments like that but if it is the norm for that person, you don’t want to have that introduced into your life as the norm. However, if it is the norm in your life, better check yourself on that.
Grace is a gift required for forgiveness. Is there evidence that the person can forgive? I’m not talking about someone who ignores wrong because they do not have the courage to confront it. I’m talking about someone who can truly forgive.
A hardened person who cannot forgive is a Red Light because if they cannot forgive, they cannot forgive you. You’re human, you’re not perfect, you will inevitably make mistakes - do you want to be with someone who cannot help you get over that?
Watch out for addictions to things like alcohol, drugs, gambling etc. These are reflective of someone who doesn't know how to constructively cope with the stresses in life. Don't let them burden you with their bad habits. Stay away.
Someone who is arrogant gets a Red Light. That’s because they lack the wisdom and humility to qualify for the job. Watch out that that isn’t something you need to work on too.
See if they are sensitive and proactive in what God would have them be and do. This is important as this is a key attitude which will help them fulfill their God-given potential. They need to if they are to have a part in helping you fulfill your’s.
Watch for signs of disrespect. They are markers of an arrogant person. Someone who doesn’t value your opinions or feelings or doesn’t treat you with dignity disqualifies him or herself.
This is obvious, but how many of us excuse such behaviour? It can be as subtle as consistently not introducing you to others when out with him or her through to as obvious as only acknowledging you when they want something from you. If it is a persistent pattern, respect yourself by moving on.
Marriage is a package deal
Is the person ready to leave and cleave? Are their family and specifically their parents, ready to let them leave and cleave?
No, I’m not talking about abandoning and cutting off all connections. What I am talking about is a recognition that marriage is a balance. It is a balance of the responsibility and determination to run your own household with the humility of learning from the generation that came before you.
“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. “
Keep it real
As the ad says, "Fresh is best". As you mature in understanding yourself, those around you and the goals and callings of your life better, keep your list handy so you can tweak your negotiable preferences.
Keeping your list up to date will also remind you of it and help you be smart about seeing who qualifies to be the co-pilot in the journey of your life.
There’s a saying that goes, “The only thing constant is change”..and that includes people. No matter how good or bad the person you have in front of you is - realise, that they can change. Some for the worse, some for the better. So what’s important here, is to check that they have a track record and an attitude to change for the better.
Are they wise and humble enough to be teachable?
Are they sensitive and proactive in what God would have them be and do?
Ultimately, do they have the attitude of fulfilling their God-given potential? They need to if they are to have a part to play in helping you fulfill your’s.
Amber & Green Lights (Negotiable & Must Haves)
Now onto the Amber and Green Light points on your list.
Amber Light Points are negotiable. In other words, since there aren’t any non-negotiable standards on these points, if you do feel strongly about any of these, feel free to shift it into the Green Light position - it is your list.
Your new relationship is built on the foundations of your old relationships..specifically, the foundations of your old family relationships. So, family of origin contributes much to the Amber and Green Lights on your list.
Here’s the key question in understanding this: How does your family and your potential spouses’ family handle the 4C’s? Conflicts, Cash, Career, Children.
Amongst other things, these are some of the big decisions that you will have to make in life. You know they are coming, so you may as well know what you think about it and whether the person you are interested in thinks about it in a compatible manner.
Look at the background, the key role models from your families with regards to these issues. Previously, we went into detail about conflicts, so we’ll leave it at that, aside from reminding you that it is a key skill that impacts on everything else and is a deal breaker if the person in front of you cannot handle that competently.
These other points of Cash, Career and Children are important too but are things which can be negotiable - Amber light points.
They say that money makes the world go around but it might be more accurate to say that money often makes the world break down. This is a potentially dynamite source of conflict.
What’s the history in their family with regards to that? Is there a lot of bickering and even divisions and alienation of family members over money? If there is, here’s a red flag and you need to understand the who, what, where and when’s of the matters. That of course applies to you and your family as well.
What’s your potential partner’s personal attitude to money? What’s their spending or saving style? What do they spend their money on and how do they do it?
There is a world of difference between a person who at the drop of a hat puts anything which catches his or her eye on a credit card and a person who takes days to research which is the best item for what they want and best deal for it. Know your style, know their style and think about whether you can live with each other even just on this one issue.
Love does cover a multitude of sins but why add complexity where it isn’t required? Money problems are one of the more common and major relationship problems.
Obviously there is an inherent conflict if you have different spending and saving styles but as I discussed before, disagreements don’t have to lead to fights. If you are to be together, you need to negotiate how to handle money together.
It’s that simple. Not necessarily easy but, that simple.
However, don’t ignore the fact that there are also problems if you have the same spending or saving style. That’s because if you’re both quick spenders, money stress will be a major uninvited, constant problem for you. If you’re both obsessively watching the money like the only place it belongs in is a bank account, you might be in for some pretty miserable living too.
Since we spend so much time, emotion and energy on this, take time to prayerfully realise where your career paths are leading you.
Really do take the time to think and research it. This might sound a little overboard, but really do actually formally research it.
Many people think of their careers in terms of what their passions are, the training they need to go through and the living they will make from it. There is however so much more in considering your career than that given how much it does and will demand of you and your potential spouse.
Remember, it is a part of your life not all of your life. If it is all of your life, you really do not have room for a partner. That’s just the plain facts of the matter. Consider carefully if that caution is one that applies to yourself or the person you are considering...if so, reconsider if this is the right time in your life to be plunging into a deep relationship.
You must consider what the career will demand of you or prospective partner. If all your mental, emotional and physical energy is spent at work, there isn't going to be any available to spend outside of work, especially on your relationships.
Sure, there are chapters in your lives where such demands may be required but if it is a chronic, ongoing expectation, you have to ask if you or they are qualified to occupy the special position of a spouse since you or they have effectively chosen their career to occupy that position.
Another worthy but sometimes neglected consideration. For some, this is easy enough to figure out since it may naturally come up in conversation. For others, I realise it may be rather hard to bring up.
Still, you can get a clue from seeing how your potential spouse interacts with the kids in your lives, either nieces or nephews at your family do’s or friend’s kids at social functions.
Do they want kids? When do they want kids? This of course is related to the other points of cash and career.
Take time to realise the thoughts you both have on this topic and see if you are compatible as this can be another significant point of conflict