Should We Get Married? Five Pre-engagement Questions to Ask Yourselves
We are convinced that the time to ask yourselves some important questions is before you ask – or answer – that most serious question, “Will you marry me?”
Are you Both Christians?
If two people have God first in their lives, they are able to answer with confidence, “Yes, we both know Jesus as our Savior and Lord.”
Under Christ's lordship they will be able to face with confidence whatever comes their way. In practice this will mean that they love and rely on Jesus more than on a spouse.
The Bible clearly teaches that Christians should not be “unequally yoked” (2 Corinthians 6:14-16). The black-and-white contrast in the biblical passage above – God or idolatry – is rather hard to miss! If one chooses to marry contrary to the instruction of Christ, desire for marriage has taken control of his life. And that is idolatry.
A subtle version of this problem occurs when one wants to marry someone whose profession of faith is suspect. For example, we have often encountered the situation of a man who wants to marry a woman who is a Christian. But his ulterior motive is to win the girl, not to give his life to the Lord.
Consider how the lordship of Jesus affects two other areas relating to Christian marriage:
Marriage is a Gift of God; so is Singleness.
The Bible makes clear that God sometimes calls people to a fruitful life of ministry as a single person. So before the Lord you should assess how strong your sexual drive is and how well you have it under control. It may be that your ministry gifts and opportunities are indications that your Lord wants you to remain single.
On the other hand, you may thrive better by seeking to establish a family. But, like singleness, marriage has its costs. You will have responsibilities to your spouse and children which will rightly have an impact upon your service to your Lord. A Christian shows his commitment to Christ by seeking the Lord's will in this basic question of whether or not to marry.
Marriage is a Commitment to Give Yourself to Another.
Marriage must first be a place where you are committed to learn how to give blessing, even when the going is tough. Your model will be Jesus, who did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life for you (Mark 10:45).
So don't consider marriage as a way to satisfy your deepest needs and desires. That would be to expect marriage to do what only Jesus can do. For in him a Christian finds security, meaning and hope. He or she then comes with something to give to a marriage and not only with expectations of receiving.
Are you Heading in the Same Direction in Life?
When the Bible speaks of marriage, it speaks four times of “leaving and cleaving” (e.g. Genesis 2:24). Leaving means you are tied no longer to the direction set by your parents and your single life. Cleaving means you choose to move in the same direction as your spouse.
You should be willing to make a break emotionally with your parents. Failure to do this leads to such problems as the man who visits his mother every day before returning home to his wife, the man who won't defend his wife against criticism by his parents, the woman who insists that all vacations be taken with her parents and the woman who “goes home to mother” – by phone or visit – at the first sign of difficulty. Leaving your parents means you build a new family unit.
Leaving will also involve your taking financial responsibility for yourselves. On the other hand, if you are employed already, you may have to break with your job in some way. In our career-oriented world you must understand that your spouse comes before your job. You cannot neglect your spouse for the sake of work or study.
A married couple does not ignore their friends. But the man can't go out three nights a week with the guys. And the woman cannot make her best friends the source of all her emotional and spiritual satisfaction.
A married couple will want to spend a lot of time together. So your work schedules should not clash – nor your bedtimes. Of course you will want to talk about the level and kinds of church involvement you both desire and if you can do them together.
Leisure and recreational time is also important. Two hours of TV might be your idea of relaxation in the evening but not that of your potential spouse's. Note that spending vacations with relatives could be different from relaxing on the beach. And talk about the Lord's Day; it will be 1/7 of your life together.
Financial and material expectations need to be discussed: How will money be handled? What percentage of your income will you give to the Lord's work? What kind of neighborhood do you anticipate living in?
Vows of marriage can be made with great joy when you are confident that you both are leaving and are ready to cleave in order to walk together for the rest of your lives.
Do You have a Track Record of Solving Problems Biblically?
Because we are all sinners with problems, none of us has a perfect track record here. The key is not perfection but your maturity. Do you act like godly adults or like spoiled children when facing problems, disagreements, misunderstandings, disappointments, decisions or trials? Marriage is not for children.
- First, do you know how to solve problems biblically? A mature person is able to think about life and its problems in relation to the Lord and his word.
- Second, do you do what the Bible says? Failure to solve problems biblically shows up in lots of ways: bullying, manipulation, avoidance, procrastination, whitewashing, resentment, sulking, blameshifting.
- Third, where do you need to change and grow to become a wiser person? If you do not have a track record of solving problems biblically, it does not mean you should immediately end the friendship. But it does mean the caution flag is out, and you must work – together and in pre-engagement counseling – on your problem areas.
If you have prior entanglements (e.g. a prior marriage or children out of wedlock), you should think through the implications of what the Lord says and seek pastoral counsel from others who will take the biblical passages seriously.
The confidence that you and your potential spouse will be able to face and solve your problems brings a freedom into your commitment to each other that is joyous beyond words.
What do Others Who Know you Well Think of Your Relationship?
While we don't let others make our decisions for us, the Bible makes clear that “plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisors they succeed” (Proverbs 15:22).
Choose your counselors well.
- First, ask people who have seen you and your potential mate in action together.
- Second, ask people who show that they know what makes a marriage work.
- Third, ask people who will help you look at marriage from a Christian point of view.
- Fourth, ask your parents. They know you and care about what happens to you.
A lot of the best counsel you will receive does not come in the form of direct advice, but rather helps you clarify your motives, reservations and goals. You should be able to answer, to your own satisfaction, the issues raised even by people with whom you end up disagreeing.
Do You Want to Marry this Person?
A biblical passage that explicitly speaks of how people decide to get married is 1 Corinthians 7:25-40. It is filled with phrases such as “he should do as he wants” and “she is free to marry anyone she wishes, but he must belong to the Lord.” Others can give you advice, but God expects you to make the decision. And he will bless you and work out his will in your life through your decision.
Remember, your yes is to a person, not to a fantasy woman or to “the man I hope he will become.” Make sure that you are not coming to marriage with a hidden agenda, expecting to change the other person once you are married. You are saying yes to a real person with weaknesses as well as strengths, sins as well as gifts. It is liberating to say yes and mean it.
You should grasp that there is someone you are to love even more than your own husband or wife. Jesus said, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters – yes, even his own life – he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26).
Jesus loved his bride, the church, with an intensity and depth that is unequaled. A disciple of Jesus is someone learning how to love in the same way. If you love and want your spouse more than anything, you will end up selfish, fearful, bitter or disillusioned. If you love Jesus more than anything else, you will really love and enjoy your spouse. You will be a source of gladness to another. You will be someone worth marrying!