More than a few men have challenged me on what I am ‘bringing to the table’, so to speak. The idea behind this is – I want to get married to someone who shares my values, but what qualities do I have and how am I preparing myself to be a desirable wife?
This is a fair point, so I thought I would address it. Reader Christian puts it in the following way:
I challenge you to observe whether any potential mate, in addition to observing all the external trappings of religion (which are of course necessary too), is genuinely, authentically serious about pursuing a Catholic life – I mean by receiving the sacraments frequently, praying with humility and conviction, and practicing virtue in his everyday life. Also that you yourself are following the prescription just described. I’m reminded of the old maxim, “First become worthy to rule, and then rule,” which is beautifully transferable to the realm of relationships. I feel that you grazed the surface of this aspect, but it remained somewhat under-emphasized.Christian
I’m also curious about what specific qualities you, personally, would most value in a man, and which virtues you think are most important for a woman herself to have if she wants to attract such a man. I think a major issue in the Catholic dating scene is the tendency for one of the parties to expect an ideal partner to fall into his or her hands more or less automatically without reflecting long and hard about how to make oneself morally worthy of such a person.
Important questions. As to the first, the virtues I prize most highly in a man, apart from devotion to his faith, are:
- A good work ethic
I have no doubt the answer to this question differs from woman to woman, but these are what I find most attractive in men. I’m happy to report I’ve met a number of men who possess all these qualities. Most of them are married, but I believe this shows that these are not unrealistic qualities to seek for.
As to the second question, I think that both men and women should strive to embody the virtues they seek in a partner, if possible.
To that end, I will break these down to explain why I value them so highly.
Well, let’s face it: nobody likes a liar. But being an honest person goes beyond simply not telling lies. Making an effort to be consistently honest means facing the truth squarely, and that takes guts. As a bonus, it also develops self-awareness and integrity. I don’t think anyone, man or woman, wants a dishonest spouse – or a dishonest friend for that matter.
Honesty is a virtue I try very hard to cultivate in myself consistently. Many years ago I told a lie to get some time off work. Not a big deal, you might think, but this lie was planned and executed, and I was fully aware it was the wrong thing to do. Afterwards I felt so tremendously guilty I couldn’t even enjoy the little holiday my friend and I took. I decided nothing was worse than feeling the way I did, so I made up my mind that, no matter what, I would never deliberately tell a lie again.
By the grace of God I’ve kept that promise, even when it put me in a negative light with people whose opinions I care about. But a major bonus I didn’t see coming is that it is the most LIBERATING thing in the world!
When you don’t give yourself a choice between truth and lies, everything in life becomes marvellously simple. I’ve also discovered that people often don’t expect you to be honest (a sad reflection of our world), so telling the truth can be wonderfully disarming. Committing myself to truthfulness, no matter the cost, has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
This one shouldn’t require much explanation. Who doesn’t like a humble person? We are all afflicted with pride, but some are more aware of it in themselves than others. When I say I admire humility in men, what I mean is I admire and am attracted to men who strive to conquer pride in themselves. None of us is truly humble – but those who strive to be so draw a great deal of admiration and respect from me. Also, men who don’t take themselves too seriously and can have a laugh at their own expense are very attractive to women. (I suspect the same goes for women, too!)
I’ll be honest, I probably find humble men so attractive because I am so lacking in humility myself! Being of a choleric temperament, I have the tendency to be impatient, demanding and, yes, prideful. Humility is a daily struggle for me, but I emphasise the word struggle. I’m nowhere near where I’d like to be, but I am striving for humility. In Catholic terms, I’m trying to “die to myself” in little ways, including on this blog. Putting myself out there for scrutiny and criticism isn’t pleasant, but it’s great practice in developing this virtue!
Good work ethic
Just to clarify, having a good work ethic doesn’t mean having a well-paying job. It really just means not being lazy.
My parents taught us responsibility in all things from an early age. If you wanted something, you had to earn it. My siblings and I were on a rotating chores roster throughout our childhood. We were expected to help set the table, wash and dry the dishes, sweep and vacuum, clean the bathroom and make our beds. We weren’t given pocket money (“allowance” for my American readers). If we wanted to buy things for ourselves, we had to get jobs and save up.
At the time, I did not appreciate this at all. I looked at the chore-free, money-filled lives of other kids and thought my lot was distinctly unfair. Now, I am so grateful for this early training. Apart from anything else, it prevented us from developing a strong sense of entitlement, while teaching us to value what we had. Everyone in my family works really hard, and this is a quality I respect deeply in men.
Leadership doesn’t necessarily mean someone who is a natural-born leader, but someone who will step up to the plate when necessary. Many women, myself included, want the confidence of knowing the man in our lives will lead his family when he needs to, even if – no, especially if – I disagree.
I imagine some will refuse to believe this. Perhaps they’ve been burnt too many times, or perhaps they’ve seen women dominating men too often. I think both sexes are equally to blame for this.
Radical feminism, among other things, has caused some men to be fearful of leading, lest they be seen to be dominating. However, some men have doffed the responsibility of leading and allowed themselves to be led by their wives because it’s just easier.
Well, for the men reading, let me tell you: when a man puts his foot down and says this is what’s happening when it comes to important decisions – not aggressively, but firmly – it’s attractive. Plain and simple. Because it’s true masculinity – not dominating, not overbearing, but confident.
As Jordan Peterson puts it, this is ‘power’ in the true sense. Not dominance, but competence.
I’m going to deviate from what I said earlier. This is not a virtue I try to cultivate in myself. I already find it easy to lead, so what I want is a man who can and will lead me and our family.
Is this asking the world? I don’t think so, but remember, this is my ideal. If I never find someone with all four qualities, so be it.
I put the question to you – what qualities do you value in the opposite sex?
Update: the below comment by Il Deplorevolissimo questions what I mean when I use the word ‘attractive’:
That wording is usually where things start to go off the rails between men and women. When men read this, they process “what I find sexually attractive in men” because attractive is functionally short-hand for “sexually attractive” today when discussing relationships.
When I say I find a quality in a man “attractive”, I mean it in a slightly broader sense to just simply “sexually attractive”. It means if I meet a man who displays this or that virtue, I’m more likely to find myself attracted to him overall; attracted to him sexually, yes, but also attracted to his personality, desirous of getting to know him better, to spend more time with him, and all that attraction entails.
I hope this clarifies things!
Update 2: I didn’t go into this specifically, but I think it’s crucial for both sexes to bring to the table an active prayer life and a personal relationship with God. I try to cultivate this in myself with regular prayer morning and night, as well as the Rosary, weekday Mass, spiritual reading and, importantly, mental prayer. The last is the toughest one for me, but hugely important.
My life has improved significantly in the last few years since I started making a concerted effort to put 5-15 minutes aside each day to have a heart-to-heart chat with God. I’m by no means perfect at this, or anywhere near where I want to be, but in my experience, people who don’t have an active prayer life or a good, prayerful relationship with God are going to encounter significant problems when tying the knot.