part 1. 7 Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Marry
Most people would agree that the decision to marry is one of the bigger decisions a person makes in life. The potential upside or downside of this decision could have major implications for your quality of life, direction in life, and length of your life!! I say that only half joking, not because I think your spouse might snuff out your life as you sleep, but because research supports the idea that those who are happily married live longer on average than those who remain unmarried. You’re welcome for that little tidbit of research revelation. I believe that your choice of who to marry is the second most important decision a person makes next to a relationship with Jesus Christ, yet many individuals seem to run head first into marriage without pausing long enough to ask themselves the hard questions.
If you’ve found someone that you believe might just be “the one” for you, I want to encourage you to ask yourself seven questions before you move any further in the relationship. The answers to these questions just might help you to confirm or rethink your decision to pursue relationship with them beyond this point.
Why are you getting married?
I know, this may seem like an elementary question, but have you ever really stopped to ask and answer this question? And when you answer it, be honest no matter how deep or shallow your answer might be. Let me help you by confessing how little thought I put into my decision. I thought my wife was hot and really cool. There, I said it. She had become my best friend and I also was attracted to her. Seemed like the perfect combination to me, so let’s do this!! For the record, I’m not recommending this approach since it’s a bit like rolling the dice. We got lucky and twenty-five years later still kind of like each other. Yes, you can clap for that.
People get married for a lot of different reasons and honestly most of those reasons are selfish or even unhealthy. If you’re a follower of Christ then marriage should be the way you model the gospel of Christ for others and the environment in which you love another the person the way Christ loved you. I have yet to meet a couple who got married for those reasons. Instead couples get married for reasons more like….
-starting a family
-fulfill their loneliness
-pressure from family members or friends
-you “complete me” (insert eye roll)
Here’s the problem with those and a host of other reasons like them. Those are all secondary reasons for getting married. (the primary reason is the Jesus stuff mentioned above in case you forgot) The problem with getting married for a secondary reason is if that secondary reason ever ceases to exist, you will want to leave the marriage. If you married for the financial gain of dual incomes and shared expenses and your spouse loses their job or decides they don’t like working, you may want out of the marriage. If you married in order to have children and endure fertility struggles or difficulties it could deeply harm the marriage. If you got married to fulfill your feelings of loneliness, I can tell you that the loneliness in times of conflict in your marriage will feel much worse than the loneliness you experienced in not having a spouse. There is no lonelier place to be than in a house with a spouse who has decided to give you the silent treatment for three straight days. Before you go any further in your relationship, honestly answer the question of why you are getting married. What is your primary motivation?
Do you know AND trust your partner’s past?
Let me cut you off in case you are already headed where many people go on this one. You may say, “I have a past that I’m not proud of too, so who am I to judge them?” You also may say, “People change and I know they are not like they used to be. They’ve come a long way.” Listen, I do believe that people can grow and change, and that future decisions are not always dictated by past decisions. That said, more often than not, I have found that past performance tends to be a pretty good indicator of future performance.
I counsel couples every week and for most of them, the issues they are struggling with now are issues they saw during the dating process rather than new struggles. Sometimes I’ll even ask them if this was something they saw while dating that caused concern for the future of the relationship. The answer is usually yes, but….Yes, but I thought they had changed. Yes, but I thought that things would change once we got married. Yes, but I thought maybe I could help them to change. Yes, but I assumed those bad habits would go away.
“Yes, but” is not a good strategy for marriage preparation. You need to know your partner’s past and you need to be able to have difficult conversations around their past decisions, the beliefs that drove those decisions and what they are doing differently in life now that would give you reason to believe they will continue with better patterns in the future. If a person is not committed to people and environments that will help them to grow and change, with real accountability, then your belief that they will change in the future is really just a wish. Don’t just run by these last few sentences. In fact, go back and read them again so I can be sure that you have fully grasped the message I’m attempting to communicate. Let me say it another way. A verbal commitment from your partner that they will “do better, work on their anger, make a different decision next time, behave differently or quit doing _____________” is not likely to happen long term if they are not putting themselves consistently in environments with other people who will help them and hold them accountable! PERIOD!!
“He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.” According to Proverbs 13:20, the people your partner is spending the majority of their time with now will determine if they are likely to repeat the patterns and behaviors of the past or if there is potential the future will look different.
Are you planning for a marriage or just a wedding?
Luke 14:28 says, “For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it?” I think it’s safe to say that most couples spend more time and money planning for the wedding day celebrations than they do planning for the future of their relationship as a married couple. I bet if you were to put one of your wedding magazines next to a marriage preparation book (if you have purchased one), the magazine might be thicker.
A survey of 3,000 married couples discovered that the more a couple spent on the engagement ring and wedding, the higher the likelihood they would divorce. Research also shows that couples who engage in some type of premarital preparation have lower divorce rates than those who don’t. So, I’m not saying you shouldn’t plan well for your wedding, I’m simply suggesting that you put some intentional time and effort into working on your relationship, since time and money invested there seems to have a better return than what you put into the wedding. You need to dig into the difficult conversations, address the areas of conflict, and get outside counsel and wisdom to make sure you are properly prepared to make a life-long commitment to another person. You and your future spouse have limited knowledge, experiences and skills so don’t expect to know everything you will need to address and discuss. Prepare for your marriage with other people in either a counseling setting or a class setting with other couples. It will be worth the time and money spent.
Next week we’ll look at four more questions to ask before you get married.