02 03 Gallimaufry Grove: An Unromantic Look at Dating & Marriage (part 3) 04 05 15 16 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 31 32 33

An Unromantic Look at Dating & Marriage (part 3)


In case you missed it:  Intro
                                    Part One
                                    Part Two 

7 Things to Think About Before You Say "I Do"

Most people spend at least 12 years (not including college) getting an education that will prepare them for their future, but almost no one spends any real time getting ready to be married.  At our church, we insist on at least some pre-marital counseling before we will perform a wedding.  Some couples resist that short bit of training.  They spend weeks and months planning the wedding day, but they don't want to give us a few hours of their time to help them prepare to live together for a lifetime.  They are absolutely sure they are so in love that things will be different for them than it is for other couples.  Sadly, in the very near future, when the new wears off, they find out they are very much like all the couples that went before them.  If they come to us at that point, we endeavor to give them the marriage tools they didn't want before the marriage.

When we see a couple who comes in wanting to learn all they can to have the best marriage possible, our hearts rejoice.   We know that they will do what it takes when they encounter difficulty -- and they aren't in denial that difficulties will come.  Anyone that is going to stay married for 50 or more years is going to have good times and bad.  They want to prepare for both.  Those weddings are a joy to perform.

Below are a few things to think about before you say "I do":

1.  Go into the marriage with your eyes wide open.  Stay in the marriage with your eyes shut tight.  Find out as much about your partner's faults as you possibly can before the wedding, so that you know exactly what you are getting into.  Know all the good, bad and ugly before you say "I do".  That is what dating is supposed to be about.  It is a time to learn what you are really getting, and know what they are really getting in you.  Once you are married, become a master at ignoring your partner's faults and focusing on their positive attributes.  Most people get this backwards.  Before the wedding, when asked to list their fiance's positive points, they wax eloquent.  When asked to name their partner's faults, the stammer and struggle.  If you ask the same questions two years into the marriage, they stammer at the positive points and wax eloquent on the faults.  This is no way to build a strong marriage, folks.

2.  Guys: What you are actually saying when you propose:  When you ask a girl to marry you, you are asking her to give you the responsibility for her life -- her well-being, her happiness, her safety, her provision.  You are saying you will step up.  You will be a leader and guide through the rough spots.  You are telling her you will lay down your life for her needs and the needs of any future children.  You are committing to do what it takes to make wise decisions that will affect her and your future children.  Asking a girl to marry you isn't for the faint of heart.

3.  Girls:  What you are actually saying when you say yes:
(Hint:  It's not about the ring and the dress.)
When a woman agrees to marry a man, whether she realizes it or not, she is saying "I trust you enough to give you the reigns of my life.  I willingly give you the power and position to make decisions that will alter the course of my life -- for the rest of my life."    She is telling him that she will follow him and help him accomplish what the Lord lays on his heart.  She is committing to be a help to him and not a hinderance.  Saying "yes" to a marriage proposal is saying a great deal.

4.  Why living together doesn't help prepare you for marriage:  You would think that living together before marriage would be the optimal way learn about each other -- sort of a "try before you buy."  Statistics show the opposite is true.  Living together does not help prepare you for a strong marriage.  Numerous researchers have found that those who live together prior to marriage actually have a higher rate of divorce than those who do not, and that they have a lower rate of marital satisfaction prior to divorce.  Why is there such a "co-habitation curse?" One reason may be that the decision to marry is not a decision about commitment.  They are already getting all the benefits with none of the commitment.  Often, they sort of slide into marriage, not because of a commitment to each other and the institution of marriage, but because they already share the house, the bills, and the toaster -- it's just easier to go ahead and get married.  They often decide to live together because it's easier and decide to get married because it's easier.  There is a very real lack of respect and honor for the other person and for marriage itself in this "do what's easy" lifestyle.  Statistics reveal that this lack of respect for commitment and marriage translates into a significantly higher divorce rate.

5.  Discuss Roles:  If the girl thinks a husband should help equally around the house and the guy thinks that women were made for cooking and cleaning, you are going to have issues.  If the guy wants the girl to work outside the home and help with the bills, but the girl has always dreamed of staying home with the kids, you are not on the same page.  You will have trouble when kids come into the picture.  If your idea of the perfect holiday is spending time with your parents and 8 siblings, and his idea is a quiet island getaway -- you need to get in agreement.  Small wars are fought over who's family you will spend Christmas with, how money will be spent, how kids will be disciplined and differences of opinions over intimacy issues (how often and in what ways).  If you are old enough to talk about getting married, you are old enough to talk about these things, too.  The more you can get in agreement about things before you are married, the easier time you will have when you marry.

6.  You cannot change your partner.
Nope.  Not even a little bit.  The only person that can change your mate is your mate, so you need to know what you are getting into.  If there are things you don't think you can live with forever as they are, then don't get married!  You heard me.  Not only can you NOT CHANGE THEM, the things that bug you are most likely going to get worse, not better.  Once the new wears off and you stop trying to impress each other, most people tend to "let it all hang out."  What was once "a little bit messy" becomes a pig sty.  What was once "a little bit rude" becomes obnoxious.  What was once "a little bit late" becomes an annoying habit that makes you both look unreliable.  You need to know you can live with it.

Spend enough time around each other that you see each other in all kinds of situations.  Ask yourself, "How do they handle it when they're mad, frustrated, or don't get their way? How do they treat their younger siblings?  How do they treat their parents?  Do they keep their word? How do they handle money? Can they hold down a job? What kind of parent will they make?  Do they help around the house, or expect everything to be done for them?"  There are lots more questions like this to ask, but these will get you started.  The point of all these questions is to discern what kind of person they really are, not just what kind of person do you want them to be.

You want to identify potential areas of conflict before the wedding, so you can work them out ahead of time.  The more you work out prior to marriage, the stronger start your marriage will have.

7.  Understand something about submission and authority:  God's order in the home puts the husband as the leader in the home.  Often we think only the wife needs to understand submission, but really, you are not qualified to lead until you know how to be led.  Honey, if he has trouble submitting to his boss at work, you are going to have a hard time with him at home.  (You will know he has trouble submitting if he regularly tells you everything his boss is doing wrong.  If he is regularly finding fault with his boss, and unable to flow with his boss's plan, he does not understand submission.)  If he doesn't understand what it takes to submit himself, he will tend to be very demanding of you.  He will lack the gentle touch of someone who really knows what it takes to follow.  Ladies, it is much easier to submit to someone if you know he has your best interests at heart, not just his own agenda.  If he has learned to submit, he will instinctively know this and act accordingly.

So what is submission?  Submission is not agreement.  In fact, you cannot submit unless you don't agree.  If you agree, what exactly is it that you are submitting?  Submission, at it's heart, is laying down (or submitting) your will and picking up someone else's plan as though it were your own.  Not only do wives need to do this with their husbands, but employees need to submit to their bosses, volunteers need to submit to their team leaders, congregations need to submit to church leadership, citizens need to submit to governmental authorities.  Why?  Because that is the way to have order and direction in our lives.  If you have ever observed an organization in which everyone wanted to lead, but no one wanted to follow, you have witnessed one of the most chaotic and argumentative entities that exists.  Everyone has a opinion and they all think theirs is the best.  No one is willing to get on board with anyone else's idea.  Ultimately, the organization just spins in circles.  It can't really move forward without a leader.  On the other hand, if you have seen an organization with a strong and kind leader who has earned the trust and loyalty of his/her followers, you have witnessed an organization that has virtually no limits.  Its reach and potential are only limited by the number of people who are willing to get on board to make it happen.

The Bible likens marriage to Christ and the Church.  It is a beautiful picture of what a marriage can become -- it is to have a loving, strong and kind leader at the head, and a vibrant, joyous bride leading a tribe of healthy, strong, growing children full of character and life.  Marriage the way God intended is well able to weather the storms of life and leave the world a better place for having been a part of it.  The rewards of this kind of marriage are well worth the effort it takes to achieve it.

Next week, we will take a look at being married.  Grab your popcorn.


Next in the series:  Part Four


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