Your Relationship List and its Unintended Consequences

your-relationship-list-and-its-unintended-consequencesYes….”The List”.
The one you’ve been working on for perhaps several years now. Both single men and single women have them.
Now I have to admit…the ladies seem to be more passionate and more robust with their “list”…but men have them too.

Let me start by saying that lists are good. This is not an attack on your sacred conscious or unconscious list (The unconscious list is an entirely different beast).

This is however, a reminder about the often forgotten, underestimated and perhaps even uncomfortable part of having a “list”…especially for believers.

Here it is.

Its the fact that our lists (not just about relationships) often have Uncomfortable Unintended Consequences.

Meaning that when we ask God for something or in this case someone, something ELSE happens or has to happen in order for us to get and sustain what we get.
Let me say it another way:

There are some uncomfortable consequences that happen IN ORDER TO answer our prayer (So it comes BEFORE the prayer is answered) and there are some uncomfortable consequences that happen BECAUSE God answers a prayer (So it comes AFTER the prayer has been answered)

That’s why it’s so important to be careful what we ask God for especially when it comes to our “marriage list”. Because:

When WE come up with the list and passionately pray about it, we shut God out of directing us about that list and we become like the Israelites asking for a King for the wrong reasons.

Let’s take a step back though? What exactly are we talking about when we say Uncomfortable Unintentional Consequences?

Best place to start is to understand the Theory of Unintended Consequences.

Wikipedia defines it (In the sociology context) as “outcomes that are not the ones foreseen and intended by a purposeful action.” (Full Wiki article HERE)

In the context of what I am talking about in this article, it means that:

There are some outcomes of having certain items on your “list” that were not foreseen or intended when you put those items on your list.

The discomfort we are talking about when we say “Uncomfortable Unintended Consequences” refers to the discomfort in the PROCESS by which God answers our prayers in such a way that those unforeseen consequences don’t destroy us.

So what do Uncomfortable Unintentional Consequences look like in relationships and marriage?

1) Asking for qualities that seem good on the surface but can sometimes come with other not-so-good OR “uncomfortable” qualities:
So as a woman, you ask God for a man that is successful and has it all. Good right? Well, that could also come having a man who doesn’t see the value you add to “creating” what he has. That may mean never hearing the words “I want to thank my wife for all her help and support in making this happen” at an award ceremony. That could mean having a man who sees you as one more acquisition…or a man who loves you but has issues trusting that you married him not for WHAT he has but what WHO he is. See how that works?

2) Asking for qualities that God will only give us if he changes US
This is really important one. You see, when we pray for a partner, God wants to answer those prayers and even add better stuff. However, he also wants to give us what is SUSTAINABLE.
So in order to sustain that thing/marriage we ask for, he starts by changing US. So that WE don’t ruin the thing/marriage he gives us.
This is a very humbling process.


Because God gets deep with us. So either IN ORDER TO (Before answering) or BECAUSE OF (After answering) the prayer, he starts to work on us…breaks us down, changes us, rebuilds us so that WE are now able to handle and sustain the person he gives us.

So you want a Godly woman who fears the lord and who submits to God and submits to you. Very good right? Yea but because you want that type of woman, God puts your pride on a chopping block and chops away. He tears down the things that have caused YOU to be UNsubmissive to God. Your pride, your selfishness, your self-assurance, your i-gotta-have-all-my-ducks-in-a-row, A-ka-du-eet-ba-ma-sef :o) attitude… Oh yea….cos:


God may just decide that he can’t give you a woman who submits to you, if YOU don’t learn how to submit to him

3) Asking for qualities that mean we will get exposed for what we really are.
Pay close attention here.


Many times, the qualities we ask for in our relationship “list” are things that we think will help us escape our current reality…and when we get someone with those qualities, we forget that the first thing they do, is expose us for who we truly are.

So you want a man who takes on the role of a leader in the home…who can be the spiritual head of the home. But having this type of man might just expose you for the prideful woman you really are.
Or maybe you want a woman who is beautiful, smart, intelligent and so on. Thing is, having this type of woman can also expose you for the insecure man that you really are.

Unintended Consequences.

Want a man who is patient with you? Get ready. Having this man may expose you for being the impatient, and self-preserving woman you are.

4) Asking for qualities that take time (in the relationship/marriage) to manifest
This is one of the fastest ways to be frustrated in marriage.
Its when we ask God for qualities that are great, but take time to create, AND require our participation to create!
Oh boy oh boy!

So you say you want a woman who really honors you….but then you forget that this is mostly a process that takes time. Time when she lives under your umbrella as a man of honor. Honor comes from experience.
Single men out there will be wise to realize that respect can come because of their title as husband…but honor comes when she has experienced him as a man of honor.


Single men: If you want a woman to truly honor you right from your wedding day, start being a man of honor right from “Hello”
(Click to Tweet That)

5) Asking for qualities that make us damage the person we get
I think this might be one of the worst ones.
Its when God gives us what we ask for, but then we use our own hands to abuse and damage that thing.

The Bible says in Proverbs 14:1 that “The wise woman builds her house, But the foolish pulls it down with her hands.”

You ask God for certain qualities but because of your pride, your attitude, your tongue and your inability to maintain those maintain an environment where those qualities can flourish, you frustrate that quality out of the person.

You beat them away and the person begins to change.
You ask God for a person you don’t know how to keep and you abuse the person till they either leave or change to adapt to your behavior.

Only the mercy of God can resolve this unintended consequence. This is more like a backfire actually.

Why do you have these unintended consequences though? What are the causes?

I think Wikipedia had a revelation about this one because the reasons given in the article are actually spiritual as well. Let’s analyze it together shall we:

Here are the causes Wiki gives. (Full Wiki article HERE) I will support with the spiritual implications:
a) Ignorance, making it impossible to anticipate everything, thereby leading to incomplete analysis:
The spiritual implication of this is that we think we know everything we want and we don’t. We think we have a pretty good picture of what will make us happy but we really don’t, and there are too many variables and too many moving parts for us to pinpoint what will work for us. Therefore, our prayers are limited in scope.

b) Errors in analysis of the problem or following habits that worked in the past but may not apply to the current situation:
The spiritual implication is that we use our past experiences, and OTHER PEOPLE’S past experiences (the gender bashing blogs we read, our parents’ marriage) to create a profile of what we want or don’t want and forget that what was relevant in those stories may not be relevant to us.

c) Immediate interests overriding long-term interests:
Nuff said? Thinking in the now.

We UNCONSCIOUSLY think about “who would be great to be married TO instead of thinking about who would be great to have a marriage WITH”
Tobi Atte

Many people want to solve what they perceive as a problem of singleness, instead of thinking of it as enlisting for servanthood.

d) Basic values which may require or prohibit certain actions even if the long-term result might be unfavorable (these long-term consequences may eventually cause changes in basic values):
Spiritually speaking, you can’t escape YOU. You value money more than love? Money will take love’s place. (I recently watched an interview of some women recently who said they would rather be with a somewhat abusive man who is rich, than with an excellent man who is not. No comment)
Value a woman’s looks more than her heart? She will soon disrespect humiliate, and embarrass you all while looking pretty. For people like this, it is usually when the consequences unfold, that those misplaced values change.

e) Self-defeating prophecy, or, the fear of some consequence which drives people to find solutions before the problem occurs, thus the non-occurrence of the problem is not anticipated:
Here is the spiritual angle of this: You can’t base your list on your fears.
Why, because even if you get those qualities you ask for, fear can’t maintain them. Fear can’t grow them. Fear can’t nurture them. Fear can’t add to them (Because fear is self-preserving)

Here is the good news though…
Not all Uncomfortable Unintentional Consequences are bad. They may just be temporarily uncomfortable as God realigns your life or retrains your mind to handle what he is giving you.

Even though the consequences of our prayers can be unintended and uncomfortable, I believe God has desire to balance out the equation for us.

In fact, this should be your prayer: To be realigned, changed, rebuilt, healed while you are single, to be able to handle what he wants to give you in a spouse so that you have what it takes to maintain and sustain the Eden he gives you.

So…what do you think? Have you ever experienced this before or know people who have? How did it play out? Feel free to comment below and share :o)


  • Namdi

    Apart from having a knowledge of what your core values are, should Christians even have a “list”? I feel having a list is like telling God: “I am not sure you know what’s best for me and I sure can see farther than you into my future, so here is a list of the qualities I want in a mate – go get her/him”.
    If what we want presently isn’t exactly what is best for us in the long run, then how can we know what is best for us when we do not know what our future is? So why have a list based on limited knowledge?
    Most times we want the finished product but not the process. God is dealing with me on that issue presently. See a person you admire, invest time and resources in building that into your spouse with prayers and patience. Don’t wish you had married that person. Be happy to work on your relationship.
    This article rocks!!

    • Great point Nnamdi! We have to be super careful about that list. Many people have not spent enough time even becoming capable of deserving the list they want. Glad you enjoyed it!

  • Ayanna

    Great read!

  • DelightsomeSarah Jedidah-Annie

    ‘Having a knowledge of core values’ is having a list too if you ask me.
    what then? should we not have any standards at all because we don’t want to be seen as having a list?
    I actually think we all do have lists whether written or unwritten, conscious or unconscious, the important thing is knowing where to bend and understanding that , like the person you want to meet, even you are ‘work in progress’
    Thanks for writing Tobi. I’m still learning.

  • Deborah Reece

    I think you are really over analyzing this. Bottom line is we all need guidelines about what good qualities are but it is best to give your list to God and ask Him to Bri g the right person and orat for wisdom to know.

  • Mez

    Love this, had a conversation less than a year ago about “the list”. We were with a group of friends, all single at the time, and the conversation about relationships, what we look for, hard to find etc. came up. One man said he hated how women have “lists”. I told him I have one so he asked for examples, I pointed out simple things like certain conversations we should have, that he demonstrates kindness towards children/animals etc. (I had an ex who threw my puppy off the couch, that should have been a dropkickable moment right there but he was my first bf and he had taken me by shock so I let the first time go). When I mentioned some of these things, he responded “but that’s a given” and both my gal-pal and I said not necessarily: we both had men who behaved badly with little/medium red flags that we ignored till we were in love and then the big red flags came out and it took us longer to leave toxic relationships than it should have. My list, I pointed out, served to remind me to look for his behavior in different scenarios, some of them were ones to look for growth rather than that he had everything at once (eg. willingness to watch certain favorite movies like Fireproof, Courageous and WarRoom. I had an ex who was ‘on the side’ of the husbands when they were acting badly in both Fireproof and WarRoom. Needless to say, his own abusive behavior to me became increasingly apparent. It truly showed me that his reaction to those men, not knowing I was looking for how he responded to these films, was indicative of the kind of man he really was and I am so glad I had them on my list because I had been in denial that his behavior was bad)

    Throughout that afternoon, the same guy who said he hated “women having lists” and that women’s lists were “unrealistic” blah blah (except for mine, the few people I have shared my list with have uniformly stated that mine was phrased in such a way that it was completely realistic and thoughtprovoking rather than prescriptive) talked about the things he MUST have. She could be taller than him, but not older, she had to be a brunette, she had to be fit etc. Everything he listed? Was physical. No virtues, mutual interests nothing. I pointed out gently that he indeed had his own list, which when he thought about it he agreed that yes, in a sense he did have one. I also then pointed out not a single one of the things on my mandatory part of my list were physical/external nor were they superficially based (I do not require for a man to earn any certain amount of money for example, I just want a man with a good work ethic)