Idealized Men–Do you really want the guy on the white horse?

A white knight on a white horse, charming, courageous and smitten with you, an idealized man–that's what many young women dream about and expect to find–I did. But an idealized man can cause us to make poor choices. You might be thinking, "But shouldn't we set high standards?" Definitely. How do wise women navigate this tension?

        My husband isn't the man I married, and I'm not the woman he married–thank goodness. He has become the godly man I'm proud to call my husband, but it's taken over 40 years of God working in his life while God has similarly been working in my life–and still is. A good man will not be the same man in time, just like you won't be the same woman at sixty that you were at twenty. Why do many of us expect men to be "fully mature" in their early adult years? We aren't. Why do so many of us hold tight to an idealized view of  potential life partners? It's the source of an ocean of tears.
           What should we look for? No doubt many of us would offer different advice, but after forty-one years and five days of marriage, here's my counsel. Look for a good man who loves the Lord and who doesn't think he has all the answers. A good man listens to others and is willing to learn and grow. A good marriage is a partnership where you are helping one another become your best selves according to God's design and not some presupposed stereotype. Inflexible formulas are usually flawed.
         A good man doesn't always have to have his way or be the center of attention. He is kind to people (especially you), flexible enough to adapt, and he thinks your life is as important as his. Make sure he' s not the ultra-controlling type. A good test is to disagree with him sometime and see how he reacts.
       Find someone who shares similar values. If you want a house full of kids, make sure he's excited about kids  too. If you want to lead, speak, or teach for Jesus, make sure he's behind you and illustrates a willingness to make sacrifices for what God wants in your life, not just his.       
         Notice what's not on the list: the "coolest" guy, the life of the party, the suave guy who keeps you guessing, the one who impresses everyone with his quick wit, and certainly not the man who needs "saving"–too many women are attracted to these kinds of men. They step out of romance novels and chick flicks. They aren't real and, sadly, some real men who try to imitate them aren't good. Yet too many of us romanticize in our heads about men like this. These men usually "get the girl" in the movie or the novel, but would you really want to live with them for fifty years?  
       At the end of our first date, David wrote a little note on a napkin, with his phone number, saying, "If you need help, whatever it is, whenever you need it, just call me." I was working at my first job out of college, living alone, and my father had just died of cancer. His kindness struck a chord. Not only did David say these words, but he acted on them. David is a techy, an engineer, hard-working, reserved, quiet–not like the men I usually dated at that time in my life. He wasn't a jock or a fraternity guy, but he was a good man. We both had so much to learn about God, life, family, communication, love, you name it. We were pretty clueless, early years were rough some times, and we both messed up plenty. But we had several things going for us. We cared, we wanted to make a difference, and we were willing to learn together. More and more, he's become the man that God wants him to be and a wonderful life partner, and he often tells me that I'm been just the right woman for him.  Girls, if you are still looking for the white knight on the white horse, the suave guy who sweeps you off your feet and carries you away to some make-believe wonderland like in the movies, get over it. You have to share your life and your bed with this guy for the rest of your life! Find a good man who loves Jesus, loves you, and wants to figure out life together. Life's muddy, the horse needs a bath, and idealized men don't exist.

Dr. Edwards is Assistant Professor of Christian Education (Specialization: Women's Studies) at Dallas Theological Seminary and holds degrees from Trinity University, DTS, and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. She is the author of New Doors in Ministry to Women, A Fresh Model for Transforming Your Church, Campus, or Mission Field and Women's Retreats, A Creative Planning Guide. She has 30 years experience in Bible teaching, directing women's ministry, retreat and conference speaking, training teams and teachers, and writing curriculum. Married to David for 34 years, she especially enjoys extended family gatherings and romping with her four grandchildren.