Here is a statement which sounds shocking to many modern people: while choosing a life partner you should apply some standards to the whole process! Yes, this means you should judge potential candidates, including on their appearance since what is on the outside often reflects values inside.
The decision whom to marry is probably the most important decision of your whole life. More important than what a career path to choose. While some couples are infertile or stay childless for another reason, for the vast majority creating a family means getting children. And children inherit their genetic material from both parents.
Recent research in this area shows that in most cases, nature will triumph over nurture. Besides biology, children need a stable environment to grow in, which excludes being raised by addicts, mental cases, criminals or simply people who don't take their commitments seriously and will walk out when the first thrill dies and everyday boredom creeps in.
And even when you can't or won't have children it's much nicer to have a spouse who supports you and whom you can trust, not the one who beats you black and blue or runs away with a milkman taking half (or more) of your stuff.
I'm really shocked how easily marriages among the younger generation fall apart. Married at 23 divorced at 25 seems to be the motto. It's difficult to say who exactly is more guilty, men or women since both sexes nowadays aren't taught what the marriage is all about. Hint, it's not just glorified dating.
Historically speaking, though both men and women can cheat and destroy their marriage, women used to be taught to use their "feminine wiles" to keep their men, as we know from historical examples (such as all these harem life stories where women would fight tooth and nail to win the attentions of the powerful men), but it's a bit off topic for now. May be, I''ll write a post about it one day, and in the meanwhile you can always read Fascinating Womanhood.
Besides FW, the author also wrote a book called Fascinating Girl, where she gives advice on how to win a husband and discusses among other things, which qualities to look for in men, for instance, honesty, integrity and high moral standards (p.185), good basic education, wisdom, good judgement (p. 186) and masculine traits (Does he look and act like a man? Would he made a good father? (idem). Undoubtedly, men looking for a wife should ask themselves similar questions.
Here I'm going to say something which many would probably not approve of. Past behaviour is usually a good predictor of future behaviour. Some Christians think that if one is "born again" he/she automatically changes. It's true to some point, but a Christian life is often a struggle and past sins and bad habits can haunt a person for a very long time. It's up to you to decide whether you want such a baggage.
For the record, I knew a "born again Christian" guy who after a less than stellar life married a nice girl and had several children with her (because God tells us to be fruitful and multiply) and then ran away with another. It's up to you to decide which risks you are prepared to take, but marriage is a very serious business and no one should be criticised for exercising precautions before tying the knot. Actually, it should be vice versa, people marrying on a whim and divorcing after a couple of years are those who should be met with disapproval.
Fascinating Girl mentions the type of men to avoid: addicts, those who are promiscuous or have loose morals, lazy or dishonest types or those with a harsh temper are some examples mentioned (p.187). I should say it basically goes for both sexes. Don't marry someone to "reform them", it seldom works.
The Scriptures teach us not to be unequally yoked. It's usually interpreted as not marrying outside of faith. Faith for Christians is essential, but there is more to it than just that. When the prospective spouse comes of a vastly different background, social standing, culture, ethnicity etc it all can and will create potential for future problems.With some exceptions, like should generally marry like.
Again, it's a personal decision. I'm not presuming to tell anyone what their standards should be. They should be realistic though. Before aiming for the stars, evaluate if you yourself are a great catch. Don't marry someone only for their status or material possessions. On the other hand, marriages based on "love only" are the ones who fall apart the most. And Helen Andelin agrees with me:
Love standing alone...means very little...everyone who marries is in love. But, how many marriages succeed?...love in itself is not a justification for marrying a man. (p.188).
A word of caution about marrying divorced people. I know some churches forbid remarriage in all cases. I'm not of that school of thought. We live in a broken world and after a certain age it's difficult to avoid divorced folks if you are dating. Sometimes second families are very successful. You should look into the reasons someone is divorced though. If the woman is divorced because she cheated on her first husband, the chance is big she will cheat on you, too. If the guy you date was left by his wife because he was too lazy to earn a living, prepare to be the breadwinner of the family. Etc etc.
If you use your common sense, you should be OK. Just don't let your feelings overrule it.