This week Mark and I celebrated our 18th wedding anniversary, so I thought I’d write a blog to those of you who aren’t married about some tips to help choose well in the most important decision of your life. If you’re struggling in your current marriage, you should not read any further as we are prone to being consumed with discontentment and the need to compare. The reality is that the marriage you are in is the one you should be working on! There is no sense in looking back on what you “should have done”.
Also, good to note….marriage is from God for a man and a woman according to Scripture. My lens is through the eyes of a Jesus centered marriage…the basics of a commitment to faith, prayer, and the Word of God are foundational and implied. So, here’s my thoughts on some good things to watch out for in a potential spouse:
1. Purity first.
Sexual sins harm and destroy marriages with violent force. After so many years in ministry, I can tell you this: many warning signs of those prone to sexual deviancy were very visible during dating relationships. Look for a person who wants to wait for sex until married, has high standards for their computer use, speaks appropriately of the opposite gender, has a history of purity, and who treats your body with respect. I’m not mincing words here: if you have a concern over some of the sexual comments, activities, or habits of someone, don’t enter into a dating relationship or marriage under any circumstances. Pornography addictions, affairs, and illicit activities are areas we dive into as pastors all too frequently with people and it is a pain that you will be wise to avoid if at all possible. If you are honestly evaluating your own life right now and seeing these tendencies, it is time to get help! It is possible to rely on Jesus, be surrounded with the right counseling/accountability and find victory in these areas. Until then (which will be a long process), you aren’t in a place to date and get married.
2. Financially disciplined.
The most argued about topic in marriage is money. Marry a person who tithes 10% of their income to Jesus or expect there to be issues. Malachi 3:6-12 talks about how God will take care of you if you are faithful:
6 “I the Lord do not change. So you, the descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed. 7 Ever since the time of your ancestors you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the Lord Almighty.
“But you ask, ‘How are we to return?’
8 “Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me.
“But you ask, ‘How are we robbing you?’
“In tithes and offerings. 9 You are under a curse—your whole nation—because you are robbing me. 10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it. 11 I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not drop their fruit before it is ripe,” says the Lord Almighty. 12 “Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,” says the Lord Almighty.
Mark and I have never made a lot of money with both of us in full time ministry and church planting, but in 18 years we have paid every bill and never argued about finances. If your spouse doesn’t have the foundational belief of giving and the discipline to follow that up with sacrificial action, you are setting yourself up to be outside of the blessings of God. That statement should make you shudder. You will be wise to make generosity a standard for who you marry…and for yourself.
Also there are a multitude of other financial questions to address: does the person you’re interested in pay bills on time? Do you hide financial information from you? Do they have the history of interviewing well, keeping jobs, and getting good reports? Do they save money or spend it with little regard for responsibility? How much debt do they have and why? If they have nice things, but have a mountain of debt, you’re headed for a problem. Be wise in whom you connect your financial future to!
3. Stability is sexy. OK, maybe not when you’re 20, but when you have kids, jobs, bills, and mortgages…someone who does what they say they are going to do, shows up, and is emotionally level is VERY sexy. There’s a saying that the good guys always finish last. It’s true…their marriages finish last…when you’re old. So look for a person who is faithful, dependable, loyal, secure in who they are, prone to joy, not controlling, and not addicted to substances. (Again, if you’re struggling in these areas, get help!)
We often buy into the fairy tale idea of being emotionally swept off our feet with love. I definitely think that’s a part of the equation! However, we do have control over our decisions and if there was ever a decision to weigh out pragmatically…it’s marriage. I used WAY more of my head to date Mark than my heart. In fact our first date was like an interview between the both of us about how and why we believed about a TON of issues. It was almost embarrassing to discuss some pretty intimate topics, but we had no time to waste. I was not going to let my heart take me somewhere that I knew wasn’t going to lead me to the right place. I also relied on Godly people around Mark and I to have input. We went to church together, did ministry together, and allowed people into our world publically and privately.
If I had red flags on my key issues, I would have walked away (and Mark as well). I know this because I did it with several men that my heart pushed me towards. And I was right.
Marriage is a risky business even when you have high standards. Many of my friends over the years have realized secrets, discovered lies, and been blindsided by some awful realities. It happens in life, but the key is to avoid what you can avoid and allow Jesus to redeem the rest. He’s given you Biblical standards, offered you wisdom, and provided you with counsel. It is your responsibility to use that to make the best decision you can with the precious life you’ve been given!