Chemistry or Rationality? – Finding Romantic Love

Singles seeking to marry well can learn so much from a man who got married four hundred years ago. He made a supremely wise choice for all the right reasons and benefited immensely because of it.

There was a man, Richard Baxter (1615-1691) who lived half his life as a single man because he believed a zealous clergyman was “married to his congregation” and didn’t have time for a wife. When his church fired him and he was forced to make his living as a writer (he became the most popular writer of his day, he thought having a wife would be a very good thing, and he soon entered into a very happy and fulfilling marriage to a young woman named Margaret.

In making his choice, Richard was already a wise man who, as a pastor, had seen the folly so many others had fallen into to. Thus, he was determined to “avoid the foolish passion which the world calls love.”

He didn’t minimize love, but sought a higher love: “I know you must have love for those [you marry],” he wrote, but he was insistent that it be a “rational” love that discerns “worth and fitness” in the loved, not “blind…lust or fancy.”[i]

Richard had seen how “blind lust and fancy” (sex appeal and romantic infatuation) could make seemingly wise people curiously blind to a person’s poor worth and low character so he determined early on that he would not be guided by those things.

Instead, he was determined to find a “worthy” spouse, and a “fit” spouse.

If you find yourself crazy with infatuation, and your highest desperate desire is to hear that they feel the same way about you, force yourself to ask two rational questions:

  • “Is this a worthy person?”
  • “Are they fit for a long-term relationship?”

Let’s look at each in turn.

First, are they worthy of you having such interest in them? Force yourself to look at them objectively. Does this person live by core values that you admire and respect? Have they created a life for themselves that works? Are they happy? Are they accountable for their actions? Do they have good coping skills? Do they have good relationships with others in their life?  If you didn’t have such strong feelings for them, would you still like them, admire them, and respect them? If you can’t answer “yes” to all three questions you’re falling prey to “blind fancy.”

If you’re at all embarrassed by them, or constantly finding yourself having to explain away and excuse the faults and character flaws that everyone else sees and points out to you, you’re in the midst of “blind fancy.” They’re not truly worthy of you; you shouldn’t be afraid that they don’t feel the same way about you; you should be afraid of why you’re feeling that way about them.

Next, ask yourself, “Are they fit?” That is, do they have the necessary relational and emotional skills to be a superlative partner or spouse? Can they handle conflict? Are they humble and gentle and patient? Are they a giver or a taker? Do they seek out or are they open to personal growth? Would they be a good parent and a true friend? Can you trust them in every way? These are rational questions that promote healthy and successful relationships.

If the answer is no, they’re not be “fit” or emotionally available to be a good partner.

Feelings are loud and strong, and they come and go. Asking questions about “worthiness” and “fitness” will help you to be objective and make a wise choice.

One person cannot sustain a relationship. It takes two fit people to be present, attuned to each other and committed to make it work.

Because long term relationships include the future and because feelings are only about the present, it makes the most sense to choose someone you can love who is not only worthy of your love but also fit with maturity, coping skills and a desire to make it last.

Find out first if the person you are interested in is worthy and fit. Then ask yourself, “Is this someone I’d enjoy spending time with- Physically, emotionally, sexually and spiritually? Sexual desire can be a delightful spice in life. If you make it the main course, however, you’ll end up relationally hungry.

Worthy and fit. Chemistry AND Rationality.

That’s what you want to look for and consider when evaluating qualities in a date or partner.

-paraphrased from Gary Thomas.