How should a Christian think about another Christian when it comes to a potential romance? The answer to this question must be thought through biblically and practically. Although these categories are not exhaustive, they may be helpful for you as you think about a potential spouse. I have found that there are four main ingredients for Christian “chemistry.”

1. Character

It need not go without saying: when it comes to marriage, godly character is not just a deal breaker; it is what the game is all about. It is our joy, as Christians, to be conformed into the image of Jesus (see Rom. 8:29). Character outlasts charm, and godliness goes beyond goosebumps. Whoever you marry will either help you love Jesus more or pour water on your fire for God. If Paul was right in 1 Corinthians 15:33 about bad company corrupting good character, then I guarantee that your spouse will impact your spiritual life. You don’t just spend an hour or two a week with your spouse; you eat, drink, and sleep with them.

Character is first on the list because, without it, nothing else matters. A woman needs a husband who is maturing in the faith in order to lead her closer to Jesus. Perfection is not required, but pursuit of holiness is mandatory. A man should be seeking a woman who is already exhibiting love, compassion, wisdom, and gentleness.

2. Harmony

Not everyone is meant to get along all the time. It is a sin to have ungodly character (see 1 Tim. 3), but it is not a sin to be socially incompatible. Perhaps you are an extrovert and can’t help but be the life of the party. You may or may not mesh with the introvert who loves studying instead of singing karaoke. If you love hiking, rock climbing, and adventuring in the outdoors, you might not want to marry someone who is content never to see sunlight. Then again, that kind of thing just might stoke your fire. To each his own.

The point is that you need to marry someone you can have a happy conversation with, someone who enjoys at least some of the things that you do. Marriage is not meant to be miserable. The best way to figure out whether your personalities mesh well together is to spend time together in as many appropriate settings as possible.

This harmony is important in areas such as theology, politics, and commitment to children. The more you talk about now, the better.  

3. Trajectory

It is not enough just to be godly and personable.

As a woman, do you want to follow the man you are interested in? Do you want to submit to his leadership and pursue magnifying Jesus together? If he wants to be a construction worker who shares the gospel while on a forklift, are you okay with raising his hard-hat family? If he wants to be a missionary to Alaska, have you warmed up to the idea of wearing a parka?

Do your visions of life align? Are you okay with moving away from your parents? What areas of ministry are you passionate about? What do you picture your future family looking like? Do you want to work in or out of the home? How do you envision spending your money? Are you of one mind, as Philippians 2:2 says? Don’t talk about just the big things. Talk about the small and medium-sized issues as well. 

4. Attraction

Your future spouse should be your best friend on the planet. But a spouse needs to be more than this. If you come home from work and only want to play checkers together, we have a problem. The Bible commands spouses to delight sexually in each other, and this requires a level of physical attraction (see Prov. 5:18–19).

Notice that attraction is last on this list. I place it last because attraction can be automatic or it can be cultivated. You may be interested in someone simply because they caught your eye. This is not necessarily a problem. However, don’t underestimate the fact that physical attraction can also be cultivated.

It’s funny how this works. Attraction can blind people to ungodly character. “Do not desire her beauty in your heart, and do not let her capture you with her eyelashes” (Prov. 6:25). Yet godly character can open eyes to see beauty. “But let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious” (1 Pet. 3:4). That beauty can spill over into physical interest.

You may not be swooning over someone the first time you see them, but after you notice this person’s character, personality, and trajectory in life . . . you might be surprised to find yourself growing in physical affection for them. Sexual attraction can begin with an initial flash, or it can slowly build into a boil.

Sexual purity in both thought and deed is the biblical standard for everyone. Christ—not a marriage covenant—enables us to obtain sexual purity.

You need the body of Christ to help you evaluate character, compatibility, trajectory, and attraction in the context of your relationship. Invite the church into your life, and don’t be afraid to ask your church whether or not you are concocting the right ingredients in your Christian chemistry. 

The content for this post comes from an edited portion of Letters to a Romantic: On Dating which will be released in September, 2017 by P&R Publishing. 

Sean Perron is married to the lovely Jennifer Perron. He is the Chief of Staff at ACBC and blogs regularly at Unspoken