Guide for Christians Contemplating Marriage
Obviously you will know people in successful marriages that started with conflicts but they worked out the issues as they went along. So as you look at the issues below that should be avoided, bear in mind that in God’s hands, the marriage of any husband and wife can be successful. No relationship is beyond God’s healing, redemptive power.
While no marriage is perfect, it is important to be aware of some of the issues that tend to cause the most serious kinds of conflicts that typically lead to separation or divorce. Your prospective spouse may have been involved in grievous sin before he or she accepted Jesus as Savior. Or perhaps he or she has confessed the sin and fully repented. You need not hold these ‘forgiven sins’ against him or her but you need to realize that although forgiven, sin can have lasting consequences. These consequences could show up in health and financial problems that might persist. For example the woman might have had an abortion that damaged her ability to have children. (Adoption might be an option to explore.) Another example could be one who might have a huge financial debt or obligation that is continuing.
As an overall check list of basic considerations you should include Culture, Attitude, Values, Beliefs, Expectations, Intentions and Language.
First, there must be LOVE AND RESPECT- this is basic. There is no need to go further if this is not present.
FINANCIAL STATUS- The wife especially needs to know what to expect in order to have a feeling of security. Will she need to work to make ends meet, and does she desire to do so? If so, how will childcare be handled when the children arrive? If the earning capacity of the woman exceeds her husband’s, consider and discuss whether this will put a strain on the relationship. Some men choose to become the primary caretaker under these circumstances, staying home to care for the children while the mother serves as the ‘breadwinner’. If this happens, would it be a problem for you or your prospective spouse?
HEALTH STATUS- Consider and discuss the impact of any sicknesses, deformities or disabilities—particularly any STDs? Has the woman ever had an abortion, and if so, how has it affected her physically and emotionally? Has the man ever been involved in a girlfriend’s decision to undergo an abortion? How has that experience affected him?
MARITAL STATUS- Has either individual been married previously? If so, it is critical to take the time to have the difficult conversations about how and why that marriage failed. If adultery was involved, what steps will be taken to protect the new marriage? If there are children from a prior marriage, discuss how they will be incorporated into the new family unit.
LEGAL PROBLEMS-Discuss any history of involvement with courts, jail, judgments and previous spousal/child support payments. If either person has a continuing pattern of violating the law, consider the implications of this for marriage. The concept of respecting and submitting to authority figures prominently into marriage, because when times are hard, the success of the marriage will depend largely on the degree of each spouse’s submission to the ultimate authority of God.
FAMILIES OF EACH SPOUSE- Strive to understand the familial background of a potential mate. No matter how strongly each of you may hope to be independent of the attitudes, behaviors, and relational patterns of your families, such patterns are rooted deeply within us and are not easily abandoned altogether. How involved will the respective families be in the life of your marriage and children? How will their geographical proximity affect you? Take the time, as a couple, to discuss mutual expectations with both sets of families.
RELATIONSHIP WITH THE LORD- If you are a born-again Christian, you should not consider marrying anyone who is not. As long as both individuals are submitted to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, He will be faithful to grow you to a mature relationship with Him and with one another. Of course, there are many couples who are unequally yoked in the beginning, and change may sometimes come, but not without great hardship. The Lord has given instructions in these cases in 1 Corinthians 7: 12-16.
It is God who has ordained the family and marriage and He has given specific directions on responsibilities. The wife is responsible to her husband as the husband is responsible to Christ as Christ is responsible to God the Father. In light of this design for marriage, women would be wise to avoid macho, dictatorial, and self-centered men.
1. Every marriage will have conflict and tension on various issues. Be aware that if you choose a mate who is very different from you culturally, educationally, financially, ethnically, religiously and/or socially, you may face additional struggles as a couple because of these differences. Certainly, such differences are not insurmountable when both parties are committed Christians—that is the single most important factor. But be aware of and discuss potential hardships in advance.
2. Where there has been promiscuity or sexual immorality (including exposure to pornography), there will be brokenness. God’s commands for sexual purity were given for our good, and while He offers redemption and forgiveness for sin through Jesus Christ, we cannot break these commands without experiencing and causing suffering. Any couple contemplating marriage should be open with one another about any sexual history and consider seeking counseling about this issue.
3. No drugs- period.
4. While alcohol is not prohibited in Scripture, it presents many dangers that can lead to broken marriages and families. If the potential spouse is an alcoholic or drunkard, marriage should be postponed until he or she is truly free from bondage to this addiction. One study has concluded that alcohol is more dangerous than heroin and crack cocaine.
5. Avoid smokers if you value your health and that of your future children.
6. Avoid prospective partners who are prone to using coarse speech, vulgarity, and cursing. The book of Proverbs has plenty to say about the power and dangers of the tongue, and marital communication has enough pitfalls already without introducing the additional problems of harsh language.
7. Avoid a ‘macho’ or a ‘feminist,’ in favor of a person who strives to conform to God’s view of what it means to be male or female. Each gender has a unique role to play, and each is of equal value, worth and dignity.
8. The two main reasons for marriage failure are infidelity and irresponsible financial management. Thus, be on guard against any early indications that these could become problems with the prospective mate you are considering.
9. God gives special instructions to husbands in Malachi 2:13-16. God is deeply concerned with marriage, and He will hold husbands, especially, accountable for how they treat their wives.
After going through this you might ask “Who is left, can anyone pass these test?” There are fewer and fewer suitable Christian spouses today because of the collapse of morality in our culture. But God has a loving and perfect plan for your future, and you can trust Him to give you wisdom and discernment in this matter as in every other.