Should You “Choose” To Be Attracted To Your Potential Spouse?

Recently Mike McKinley and Tim Challies both wrote articles which argued that young people, particularly men, should choose to be attracted primarily to a potential spouse’s spiritual beauty rather than physical beauty. I really respect both of these guys, love their gospel work, and usually agree with them, but as a pastor, both of these articles made me nervous. They made me nervous for two reasons.

First, the articles don’t fully appreciate the place of physical attraction in scripture. Yes, scripture is clear that in a marriage relationship, character is more important than physical attraction. But physical attraction matters. When Adam first laid eyes on Eve, there was a definite physical attraction. There was a flash of affection when he first laid eyes on her. He loved what he saw. When Adam saw Eve he burst into praise:

Then the man said, ?This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.? (Genesis 2:23 ESV)

The Song of Solomon devotes chapter upon chapter to describing the physical attraction between a man and woman. Song of Solomon 1:9-10 says:

I compare you, my love, to a mare among Pharaoh’s chariots. Your cheeks are lovely with ornaments, your neck with strings of jewels.

Just a few verses later Solomon says to his spouse:

Behold, you are beautiful, my love; behold, you are beautiful; your eyes are doves. (Song of Solomon 1:15)

Solomon clearly delights in the physical beauty of his bride. He doesn’t go on and on about her quiet spirit and devotion to God, as important as those things are. He is enraptured by her beauty. He is magnetically drawn to her appearance, and can’t stop thinking about her. Throughout scripture there is an underlying assumption that a man will be physically and spiritually attracted to a woman.

If a young man came to me, and said he was thinking about a particular girl, I would ask him two questions:

  1. Is she godly? If yes, proceed to question number two.
  2. Do you think she is attractive?

If he answered “no” to number two, I would counsel him to pause, and pray, and wait before pursuing the relationship. I wouldn’t want to press him into a relationship based solely on spiritual attraction, and then later have him feeling trapped in the relationship. Scripture is clear that spiritual character is most important when considering a potential spouse, but physical attraction also plays a significant part.

This leads me to a second, pastoral concern, regarding these articles. As a pastor, I’ve seen difficult marriages in which one spouse felt pressured into marriage, even though they weren’t particularly attracted to their spouse. Basing a relationship primarily on spiritual attraction creates unhelpful, hyper-spiritual pressure in relationships. It creates an unsaid, unbiblical rule that only reason a relationship can end is for spiritual causes.

Yes, our idea of beauty has been distorted by media and pornography, and this should be a topic of conversation when considering any relationship. But we can’t dismiss the ideas of beauty and attraction all together.

A husband and wife should be spiritually compatible AND physically attracted to each other. This doesn’t mean that the man or woman is a supermodel. Beauty is fleeting, and charm is deceitful, which is why we don’t make those things the primary factors in a relationship. But God created us as both spiritual and physical beings. We are not sexless, spiritual beings. God made us to have flesh and blood. He created us to be attracted to the opposite sex.

If you are considering entering into a relationship, consider both the spiritual aspect and the physical aspect. Don’t let your values be determined by media or pornography, let them be determined by scripture. Find a beautiful, attractive spouse, who loves Jesus.

Comments

  1. Eric Robert says

    Intriguing debate, Stephen. I agree that completely ignoring physical attraction isn't wise, but I don't know that I would make it the number two issue when evaluating a potential spouse. No matter what, you will marry an in attractive spouse. He or she will be a sinner, imperfect in many ways. By holding out physical attributes as a category equally weighted category to all other spiritual or personal characteristics, I think we're further reinforcing our culture's obsession with physical beauty.

    • Stephen Altrogge says

      Those are good points Eric. I'm not sure where the physical attraction category should fall. My main concern is that we overspiritualize relationships and make them all about spiritual attributes.

  2. Lauren says

    Out of curiosity, what if a guy or girl has a deformity? Or can't meet even the very basic conventions of beauty? I totally agree that there should be a balance between physical and spiritual attraction – I'm just pondering about those who really don't have the physical advantage.

    A group of girls can be equally godly, but the process of elimination still goes by who's prettiest. So, how does that reflect people's hearts? It's confusing, and a bit discouraging.

    • Stephen Altrogge says

      That's a great question Lauren, and I'm not sure if I have a good answer. It seems like the sovereignty of God has to factor into the equation somewhere. If God wants a person to get married, he has a person for them. I don't mean that to be cold, just trying to think through the issue logically and biblically.

      • Lauren says

        That's true, and this is a great answer. At the same time, I think it's a heart issue that the church needs to address. :D

  3. Tracie says

    Great post, today. I was attracted to my husband of 15.5 years by something he said. He stood up in a Campus Crusade meeting and said he had an Old Testament scripture to share because he was an OT buff. That intrigued me and I wanted to get to know him. When we started spending time together, I was definitely attracted to him physically, but more than that, he was someone who loved Jesus and was so fun. We were great friends first and the love developed the more time we spent together. We dated 2 years, were engaged 2 years, and have been married for 15.5. We still love each other and are physically attracted, but the relationship is deeper because of the life events we have lived through. Beauty is fleeting and as we age and things change, it's definitely important to have a connection that goes beyond beauty. I know I will still love him like crazy, even when he's gray haired and wrinkly!

  4. says

    I agree in attraction. I am very much attracted to my fiance and I think the feeling is mutual! But, I would offer advice to men and women (but men in particular) to adjust their standards of beauty. I witness average looking men pass on attractive women all the time simply because they aren't a perfect 10 — they do this under the defense of 'God made men to value physical attractiveness." All this to say, I am very attracted to my fiance (as previously stated) but I am sure I have seen better looking men in my lifetime. I value attraction but I don't expect perfection. Maybe more men should do the same. Attraction is important — far more important that other authors are emphasizing — but its not the most important. Attractions fades or atleast waivers up and down, there must be more. And plenty of people might be attractive to you, just not perfect!

    • Stephen Altrogge says

      Good points Katy. We should be attracted to our spouse without expecting perfection. That's a great way to put it.

  5. says

    "Don’t let your values be determined by media or pornography, let them be determined by scripture. Find a beautiful, attractive spouse, who loves Jesus." This is key, I think. The problem is not that men pay too much attention to whether they are physically attracted to their future mate, but that they don't work hard to maintain that attraction.

    I love the Song of Songs series by Mark Driscoll. He says your spouse is your standard of beauty. If she's skinny, you like skinny. If she's not-so-skinny, you like a little extra weight. And if she used to be skinny, and now she's not? Well, your standard changed!

    Amen.

    I imagine this requires some spiritual "work' on occasion too, especially as Christian men battle with sexual temptation all around.

    Of course, wives should take care of themselves and do what they can to be attractive, but a wife can do this with the confidence that no matter what happens, her husband still finds her attractive.

  6. creativehomeschooler says

    I want to point out that the comment by Adam in Genesis 2:23 seems to be about how Adam was overjoyed that there was finally someone like him, another human being he could relate to. The verse doesn't convey that he was talking about her physical beauty. And I certainly would hope that men, especially Christian men, would deem character qualities much more important than physical attributes when searching for a mate. I don't want to be valued for my looks, as I'm sure you don't want to be…especially since looks fade with time.

    • Stephen Altrogge says

      Hey Stephanie,

      Jen and I had this exact same discussion before I posted this. I agree that Genesis 2:23 seems to be primarily about his joy in finding someone like him. But I would also argue that his joy was a visual joy. Before Eve speaks a single word, Adam is filled with joy toward her. He delights in her. He delights in who she is, and to some degree, I would say what she looks like.

      And yes, I agree that character qualities are much more important. However, I wouldn't want someone to feel pressured into a relationship simply because they thought a person was godly. Does that make sense?

      • creativehomeschooler says

        Yes, I see what you're saying. I suppose it would be really bad to tell someone to marry a person even if they felt no physical attraction toward them. I think I misunderstood what you were getting at, sorry about that:)

  7. Andrew says

    Stephen – well said. And had I understood this two years ago, there wouldn’t be a godly, plain, hurt ex-girlfriend to regret now.

    Guys – some of you are capable of talking yourselves into courting a girl who’s spiritually attractive and physically not. You’ll find verses to substantiate your decision. You’ll be affirmed by people you respect. You’ll think things are going ok for a while. And you won’t be able to sustain it. God made you human: part material, part immaterial, and both are good. Sexual desire itself is good, despite all the ways you’ve sinned with it. If you pursue someone whose beauty is only internal, you’re overestimating your own ability to love like God does and defying the reality of what He made you. And reality doesn’t tolerate rebels. So, please. Date like a human.

  8. SR88 says

    Interesting thoughts, and while I agree physical attraction between spouses is definitely an important factor, what about those who are not naturally blessed with this world's "standard of beauty" (which, by the way, IS very skewed thanks to porn and the media)? To make the physical attraction category in the top two questions you would ask someone seems like – pardon me – a very "male" thing to do. Spirituality and character DOES need to be the most important area of attraction. I'm blessed to be married to a very good man who I think is super cute (and he thinks I am too), but over and over again I see all the super-petite, super-pretties at church being chosen over the "plain janes" who are radiant on the inside and passed up simply because they are not the "cream of the crop" outwardly – at least, I'm sure that's the case, after many years of watching this happen, over and over again. To me this is just terribly discouraging and unfortunate. Yet, I see a lot of super-pretty gals content with super-average/nerdy guys… Just an observation. Understand that I'm not disregarding the importance of being attracted to the person you marry!! I agree with the vast majority of your posts and have to say I'm just not totally agreeing with the tone in this one. It's easy to say this kind of stuff when you haven't been passed up for years because you have acne, a large nose or carry a few extra pounds. Just thoughts…

    • SR88 says

      And please pardon me if I seem frustrated and know it's not directed at you – I'm very grateful for your blog posts and many of them have been extremely encouraging to me! :) Ultimately, I do see your point in this post. Thanks for sharing.

  9. Joy says

    Great post…I appreciate that you have the courage to say things others wouldn't.

    Relationships are organic, and you can't just decide to be attracted to someone. God causes us to be attracted to someone, which makes us want to get to know them more, which causes us to love them more, which makes them more attractive to us, and the cycle continues. Or it doesn't…in which case, you probably shouldn't get married.

  10. says

    Song of Solomon has a lot to say regarding physical beauty. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. When you choose to see beauty as scripture does, I find it hard to believe that a man would not be happy with his wife in all her 'glory'. Love is a choice that is made. We made a promise to love one another and this includes through all kinds of physical form and spiritual fluxes throughout our marriage. I hope we will continue to show grace and love to each other when we are 'less than perfect' all while encouraging one another to persevere in all areas of life.

  11. says

    Interesting article. As I recall, wasn't it Bob Kauflin’s daughter as quoted as not being attracted to her spouse but married him anyway. This was in Josh Harris’s 2nd book “Boy Meets Girl” where this couple was held up as an example of how well courtship works. Sadly despite their being an “example” the couple is either divorced or moving that way.

    Hopefully groups that promote courtship including Sovereign Grace Ministries will learn the need for attraction.

  12. CB1982 says

    Hey Stephen, what would say to a person who was pressured into getting married? This pressure was more of a “it’s better to marry than to burn” type pressure. The person is later-on in the marriage, like more than five years, and the second most important relationship to this person had always been in shambles, now the husband wants a divorce. It just got me to thinking, if the attraction want there in the beginning, why would a person want to wake up day after day looking into the eyes of a person who regrets marrying them? Thanks for your article.

  13. says

    It's an interesting question, isn't it? I tend to agree with you here, but with an interesting caveat: don't be unwilling to start a relationship based mostly on character attraction. I'm of a mind that more relationships should be explored then actually are. Sometimes, physical attraction can follow. When someone is recommended to me as a potential dating partner, I may not have considered that person at all! So I may need to think about them in a new light first.

    One example comes from my own life: I was in a relationship this past year, with someone I had never seen. We wrote letters back and forth, making use of the US Postal Service. It was a lot of fun, and I got to know the woman long before I met her. And it turns out, I was attracted to her physically too when I actually got to meet her. The relationship ended due to other reasons, but had I required I be attracted to her before starting, I would have missed out on this relationship, which I do not regret at all.

    What I DO think is that we shouldn't pressure people into getting into relationships they don't see working because "She's such a godly person! He has such great character!" These aren't the only considerations, though they ARE important. After all, if a friend is in a relationship where there ISN'T godly character, you should be concerned.

  14. Repulsed&Confused says

    I did a search on this topic because I am currently in a courting relationship with a wonderful man that is a dear close friend. We are in a ministry group together and theologically we are about 90% the same. We have the same future goals and desires. We both center our lives around Christ and serving. He is so good to me, however, one huge glaring thing has been staring at me… He is the first one my church and family and gave their blessing on… or rather were praying about w/o my knowledge. However, one huge glaring thing has been staring at me. I am not attracted to him at all. He's much older and he's overweight and a serious slob. He has a heart of gold but I am REPULSED. I can't kiss him, it tried and stopped, I hated it… and the idea of a wedding night with him terrifies and sickens me. My family has said that maybe I'm rebelling against God or too fearful of man because he doesn't fit the worlds standard. I've also been told that attraction is not a requirement for marriage. I disagree strongly. I've cried for hours and days over this. I'm praying and making my final decision in 2 weeks. In my past I've dated men that were gorgeous hunks and ugly or nerdy guys too but I had attraction to them and I didn't not care at all what others thought. Looking at this man makes me ill and the pressure I'm receiving is causing me to struggle greatly with bitterness. I don't think that I'm the hottest girl ever, but I'm attractive. I try to fight hard to avoid dating and not leave my heart unguarded. I've sinned plenty in the past, but I repented and do not believe that God would have me marry someone who makes me sick.

Trackbacks

  1. […] Should You Choose to Be Attracted to Your Potential Spouse (Stephen Altrogge):?”A husband and wife should be spiritually compatible AND physically attracted to each other. This doesn?t mean that the man or woman is a supermodel. Beauty is fleeting, and charm is deceitful, which is why we don?t make those things the?primary?factors in a relationship. But God created us as both spiritual and physical beings. We are not sexless, spiritual beings. God made us to have flesh and blood. He created us to be attracted to the opposite sex.” […]

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