Dear Future Wives: Rules for Making “The Husband List”

After my Lenten dating fast in 2014, I decided to start seriously praying for my future husband. If I’m meant to be married, it must mean that the guy I’m going to marry is out there somewhere, even if that somewhere is Mars. I remembered a Steubenville Women’s Session led by Jackie Francois Angel, where she talked about a prayer journal she kept for her future husband. On the first few pages of the journal, she wrote out her “husband list,” or everything she wanted in a spouse, and she wrote prayers in that journal every month for three years. She re-met her future husband when the journal was almost full.

I don’t know if the timing will be as awesome as that for me, as I have a lot of pages left in my own “future spouse” journal. But as I’ve written in this little book over the past year and a half, I’ve realized this practice is much more common than I thought. After doing a little research among Christian female bloggers, I’ve found that Christian preteen girls are generally encouraged to make their “husband lists” way before they’ve started dating, so their filtering system for any future love interests is all based on speculation. I had gone through several relationships and many awkward dates before I started my prayer journal, so I had a semisolid idea of what I wanted and didn’t want. I didn’t tell anyone about it because I thought it would be seen as totally antiquated in today’s culture. So imagine my surprise and relief when my best friend since sixth grade, who isn’t Catholic, told me she had made her own future husband list!

As with any trend in Christian culture, the husband list has gotten some backlash in recent years. Some say that these lists hold men up to impossible standards, much in the same way pop culture has done to women for years. Others argue that checklists set girls up for disappointment because, as one blogger put it, we all want a perfect, fictional man who doesn’t exist. (Yes, my little fangirl heart is broken because Gilbert Blythe doesn’t exist.)

I get the criticism, but I think there are merits to writing such a list. It’s a good way to organize your thoughts and keep yourself honest about any crushes that come your way. However, I think we need to lay a few ground rules before we draw hearts in pink gel pen all over an old notebook. (Do people even use gel pens anymore?)

So without further ado, here are my 10 rules to keep in mind while making a “future husband” list.

1. Eliminate any physical characteristics.

It’s OK to be attracted to certain physical traits moreso than others, and mutual physical attraction is important in a relationship, but don’t write someone off because they have brown eyes instead of blue. If that seems silly, maybe some secondary characteristics have made it onto your list. What if God handed you your perfect partner, but he was several inches shorter than you? Would you really turn him down over that? I hope not.

2. List traits that YOU are looking for, not what makes other people happy.

One of the merits of the future spouse list is that it’s a great personal reflection exercise. If you’re someone who keeps a to-do list or writes down the pros and cons when making a major decision, this is a wonderful way to organize your thoughts. Remember, this list is for you. It’s not for your mom or your parish priest, and your professor isn’t going to grade it. So don’t put anything on your list that you are not truly looking for in a lifelong relationship.

3. Don’t treat your list as a binding contract.

I wrote my future husband list in the summer of 2014, but even after 18 months, there are several things I would add, delete, or change. It’s so easy to overthink this list, as if dating or life experience won’t fill in gaps along the way. God won’t give you a husband who has a gambling problem simply because you didn’t think to put it on your list! That said, if you’re still holding onto that list you made when you were 11, it might be time for a revised edition.

4. Separate the negotiable from the non-negotiable.

Any physical characteristics? Negotiable. Common core values? Non-negotiable.

Oh, and for the record, you two don’t have to like all the same things. Sure, friendships and relationships usually begin due to common interests, and it is important to have some similar interests with your spouse. However, our individual hobbies and interests are what make us, well, interesting. Don’t expect your husband to give up one of his interests because you don’t share it, just like you wouldn’t want him to tell you to give up a hobby that you love because he doesn’t like it.

To recap: A guy who will binge-watch Gilmore Girls with you? Negotiable. A guy who is your biggest fan even if he doesn’t like/understand what you like to do? Non-negotiable.

5. Look for constant effort, not perfection.

Laraine Bennett, a blogger at the Catholic Match Institute, wrote an article against the idea of the husband list, in response to another blogger who had listed 12 ideals that should be on every girl’s future husband list. Bennett writes, “My husband and I would never have gotten married if we had required that we already possessed these twelve ideals, and we have been happily married now for 36 years. We were working on many of those supposed ‘non-negotiables’ at the time we met.”

As the chaplain of my college’s Catholic community always used to say, we’re not perfect yet. Faith is a journey. There are going to be good days and bad days, and you won’t always be the best version of yourself. Don’t look for someone who doesn’t ever make a mistake because he doesn’t exist. You will both make plenty of mistakes in your dating relationship and especially, especially in marriage. The key is that both of you choose to love, choose to forgive, and choose each other, no matter how many times you screw up.

6. Be your future husband’s prayer warrior, not a seeker.

Seriously, your husband’s not a Golden Snitch. He’s a human being with thoughts, feelings and issues, just like you. Let’s face it: being a young person of faith can be really hard in today’s world. We need the prayers and support of others, and I guarantee your future husband needs your prayers, even if you have no idea who he is yet.

A few months ago, two of my good friends and I completed a 54-day Rosary novena for our future husbands, wherever they were. It was a powerful experience because every day, not one, not two, but three Rosaries were being said for each of our spouses! For Lent, we’re doing another 54-day novena, this time for ourselves, that we can become the best daughters of God we can be, which brings me to …

7. “Strive to become the woman of your dreams, and you will attract the man of your dreams.”

This piece of awesomeness comes from another Steubenville talk by Sarah Swafford, and I think it nails the point of making the husband list. It’s a form of discernment — not just of who you want to marry, but who you want to be, regardless of marital status. If you want a husband who goes to daily Mass, you should be at daily Mass. If you want someone who’s close with his family, make sure you carve out time to spend with those you love. Make a separate list of goals that have nothing to do with getting married. Whether God calls you to marriage or to a different vocation, you should constantly be working on yourself, while remembering that you are a beloved daughter of God.

8. Forgive yourself and him.

Once again, people make mistakes. We’re broken. Getting into a relationship doesn’t make your problems go away; in fact, once the honeymoon phase is over, all your faults, issues and insecurities will rise to the surface. It’s up to you to decide whether you will stick it out, or walk away. Granted, if the guy you’re into exhibits any of the traits on Crystalina Evert’s “Dump Him” List, well, do as the title suggests. But don’t expect a perfect partner. You’re not perfect, either. I once read a quote from a woman who said that she knew she found “the one” when she found a man with faults she could live with and virtues that she didn’t want to live without.

9. Remember who the real Bridegroom is.

One of the most frustrating pieces of advice you hear as a Christian single person from well-meaning adults is, “Make Jesus the love of your life.” The frustration is twofold; on one hand, you don’t know how to do that, and on the other, despite this advice there is an unbelievable amount of pressure to date someone, anyone, just to have a relationship. To be honest, I’m still trying to figure this one out. But one thing I’ve learned is that a relationship with Jesus takes effort, just like any human relationship. Walking humbly with God is a daily choice. Jesus is not going to be the love of your life if you don’t let Him. And believe me, you, as part of His Church, are already the love of His (everlasting) life.

10. It’s not all about you.

Repeat after me: Marriage is not just about making you happy. The sacrament of marriage is beautiful, but it requires hard work, patience, forgiveness, kindness, and putting someone else’s needs before your own — even when you don’t feel like it. If your list sounds a lot like a Meghan Trainor song, you might want to scrap it and start over.

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So to all my single ladies and gents (and those in relationships), Bonne Saint Valentin!

À la prochaine!

– Vicky

Question of the Week: I just want to hear your thoughts on this topic. There’s so much to talk about, so leave me a comment!

Blessings Come Through Snowflakes: My Lenten Dating Fast, Day 1

“What if Your blessings come through raindrops? What if Your healing comes through tears? What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near?” – Laura Story, “Blessings”

This is going to make me lose some of my Catholic street cred, but this is the first year I’m taking Lent seriously.

I know, I know, where the heck have I been for the past 21 years? Well, I’m not going to make any more excuses.

Throughout my college years, and especially this past year, I’ve often caught myself throwing spiritual temper tantrums. It’s odd, because I never really threw tantrums as a kid; one look from my dad squashed all thought of rebellion. Yet here I was, fighting my Heavenly Father as He tried to draw me closer to Him, to call me to a deeper understanding of my faith, to help me be satisfied with His love before anyone else’s. This last point has kept me from a deeper relationship with God for a long time. I’ve been single for about six months now, and I don’t think I ever fully healed from my last breakup. It sounds backwards; why wouldn’t I want to get over it and move on?

The truth is, I have wanted to move on. I just haven’t allowed myself to.

Our culture has a hostile attitude toward grief of all kinds: breakups, death, illness, divorce, financial troubles, loss of a job, etc. We’re given a grace period of two or three weeks before we begin to hear silent remarks of “That was ages ago! Why are you still crying over it? Can’t you just move on?” Anyone who has ever been through grief knows that these things don’t just vanish in two weeks. A scent, a look, a thought will trigger a memory months, years or even decades later. Bottling it all up does no one any good. So this Lenten season, I am allowing myself to heal, to grieve, to run into Jesus’ arms and find rest.

I stumbled upon Katherine Becker’s book “The Dating Fast” while browsing through Catholic articles on the Interwebs one night. I’m sure there are other types of dating fasts out there, but Becker’s is a 40-day devotional about healing from past relationships, building a deeper relationship with Jesus, and rediscovering God’s true plan for love and marriage. Oh, and by the way, no dating, no crushing, for 40 days. I’m serious. I ordered the book from Amazon and it came in on Valentine’s Day — too perfect, right? So for the next 40 days, I’ll be reflecting at random intervals about what Jesus has been revealing to me and how I’ve grown.

Day 1: “Love is patient, love is kind, yadayadayada” – 1 Corinthians 13:4-8.

Ah, the classic wedding passage. I admit that I rolled my eyes when I saw this as my first reading. Wasn’t I supposed to turn away from taking BuzzFeed wedding quizzes and focus on God? But as I reread it slowly, I realized that the passage is not just a bunch of rules about how two married people should love each other; it’s a reflection of how God loves us. Becker’s reflections suggested replacing the word “Love” with “God.” “God is patient. God is kind, etc.” This is how God loves each and every one of us, even if we are not patient and kind and loving to Him or to others.

But I was still frustrated. I didn’t know how to let Jesus love me. Jesus couldn’t take me out to dinner and give me a big hug and kiss at the end of a rough day. How could I be satisfied with just His love if He was up in Heaven and I was stuck down here? I finally said, “Jesus, You need to show me how much You love me, because I can’t see it.”

When I left my apartment to go to my first class, it was snowing. I felt the snowflakes hitting my cheeks and lips, and I imagined they were little kisses from Jesus. I know, I’m so corny. But Jesus kept showing me little ways He could love me, through a stranger who held the door open for me, or a classmate who ran to get me paper towels after I had spilled my coffee. Of course, I also received His love at Ash Wednesday Mass, through ashes, Communion and the faces of my beloved community.

I wouldn’t call today the best day ever: I took a grueling Italian midterm, snapped at one of my colleagues, and dragged my feet on answering emails. But through it all, Jesus made my day better. He’s not stuck up there in Heaven; He is with us, always. He is ever-vigil, always scheming new ways to show us how much He loves us. He wants to show every single woman how beautiful and loved she is; He’s just waiting on your “Yes” to His love.

How are you preparing for Easter during the season of Lent? Tell me in the comments!

A plus!

– Vicky

For more information on Katherine Becker and “The Dating Fast”, please visit www.thedatingfast.com.