Marriage marketing for Christians

One of my favorite posts about finding a mate is "People are worried about marriage market liquidity":

There are two ways you can go about it – either “over the counter” (finding a partner by yourself) or “exchange traded” (said exchange could be anything from newspaper classifieds to Tinder to Brokers are frequently used in the OTC market – either parents or friends (who set you up) or priests.

The general rule of markets is that the more bespoke (or “weird” or “unusual”) an instrument is, the better the likelihood of finding a match in the OTC markets than on exchanges. The reason is simple – for an exchange to exist, the commodity being traded needs to be a commodity.

I love this framing, it's such a useful starting point for Christians to talk about getting married.

As of this writing in the early 2020s, a Bible-believing Christian seems to be searching for a mate in a fairly illiquid market. You can't just go to the quarterly John Calvin Appreciation Conference and browse around for the hottest eligible attendees that you think you could woo. Serious Sola Scriptura subscribers are rare enough that just finding yourself in a room with a potential mate might happen less than once a year, depending on your community.

We are selling a bespoke product, and we need to alter our strategies appropriately.

Side bar: don't waste time finding buyers for your product

Or: "will the market clear before I'm 40?"

Your product is not fungible, a Christian who takes God's law seriously is an oddity in our marriage market.

The popular path-of-least-resistance dating is not a good strategy for you. You can't waste a year or two of hanging out, becoming friends, deciding you like each other, and then start up with the "so hey, uh, how do you feel about trying for 4+ kids and homeschooling them all the way?"

You have a bunch of things that make you a poor marriage prospect (and more importantly, downright inappropriate yoke partner) to most people in America. Ideally you need to get all those "no thanks" answers as quickly as possible so you don't e.g. start dating at 22 and then find yourself at 35 years old having only pursued relationships with 5 women at 3 years each.

You probably shouldn't be running up to people and saying "so-hey-are-you-postmillennial-or-open-to-the-idea?-no?-okay-thanks-bye" and then running off, but you should probably be closer to that end of the spectrum than the multi-year tentative relationship side.

Finding a broker

So, I'll be honest, this part of the story is a bit bleak.

I think American Christians have really dropped the ball on matchmaking over the years, so you'll probably have to do some legwork.

Depending on the strength of your presbytery or church network, you might be able to ask your elders if they know of any good prospects in other churches. You could ask if there are any elders in those churches who they think could act as reasonable brokers.

Unfortunately even among elders in the church there's a risk of someone who gets more excited about the emotional romance of matchmaking than high-quality spousal lead generation, so you might have to use your judgment to try to route around some of them.

Once you have someone willing to act as some sort of broker in another community, you can give them your pitch – what you are, your current mission, your non-negotiables, whatever makes you unsuitable for the broader marriage market and whatever distinctives you have that might be interesting to someone in your niche market.

If they have any good leads, you can move on to making contact.

Making first contact

There's a good chance that this hypothetical elder (or elder figure) giving you hot leads on eligible parishioners isn't actually working from a list of singles who told them "hey, I'm on the market, make sure you mention me to anyone who seems like a good match."

You're probably getting the names of people who they know are on the market to various degrees, but haven't thought too much about the possibility of getting cold-called by suitors.

If there's someone who sounds like they're worth talking to about whether or not you might be a good pair, you should seriously consider using a broker to make first contact. The matchmaker who referred you might be a good choice.

Depending on your relationship with your parents, you can even consider the classic "ask your parents to talk to their parents about whether or not they're interested in marriage now" tactic.

If you're a man looking for a woman to marry, you or your broker contacting her father is the most biblically correct first step, though depending on her family situation that may not be possible or appropriate.

Looking for potential spouses through intermediaries sounds pretty odd in a lot of American subcultures today, so you may worry about seeming weird, but you have the advantage that it also makes you a Person Who Is Serious About Finding A Spouse, which is a positive trait in our illiquid market.

The marriage marketing funnel

Don't waste time during this stage. You don't want to waste 6 months as conversation partners if you have completely incompatible plans for the rest of your life. Not only is it an awful marketing strategy, it's unfair to them and wastes their time.

Whatever pace you move at, I would recommend having a list of serious questions that need to be talked about, and be working through them regularly. *Preparing for Marriage* isn't super deep but is a fine place to get a few ideas.

One of your goals should be "before proposing, there shouldn't be any unpleasant or disruptive secrets about me left to discover."

I recommend marrying

He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the LORD.

Seriously, it's great. Cuddling, talking, working, sex, it's good to have a partner. Marriage is hard and stuff, but in my experience it's preferable to being single by a significant margin.

Addendum: a few things that might make you illiquid

These could be framed as either "things that make you weird in broader culture" or "things that you're looking for that are hard to find."

  • Believes Bible is the word of God
  • Believes that God's laws apply today
  • Plans to go all-in on marriage, no option for divorce even if you hate your spouse some day
  • Wants to train children to worship God in such a way that they will train their own children to do the same
  • Close enough theologically that you can worship and study together
  • Willing to go along with you on your mission, maybe one of:
    • Raising descendants to pass on Christianity
    • Ministering to a nation or group of people
    • Serving some local church body or organization

Your list may vary, it might be worth writing down.