Pre Marriage Considerations

Many people ask about whether they should marry a certain person or not. With a few exceptions I can never advise on this subject. I am not standing in your shoes. Nor do I know the couple, except perhaps a brief conversation with one of them.

Of course there are times when the other person is a drug addict, a repeat criminal, is still married to someone else, or is promiscuous. In such cases the answer to the question "should I date or marry this person?" is an obvious "not a good idea."

But when it comes to two good people, all I can do is give some general principles. You will have to search your heart and pray.

Generally I advise a young lady to look for a man who has a fire in his belly for justice. A man who loves principle and is willing to stand for something. There is an unmistakable spark of fire there--character, principle, a love of what is right. It's also nice if he is already or in the process of establishing himself in a trade, profession or business.

I tell guys not to look for the perfect woman. Look for a lady who will take correction. Some people just will not admit they are wrong and want to be right all the time. Some women want to be in charge and will not take kindly to having some fault or naughtiness pointed out. Life with such a woman would be a living hell. But if she will good naturedly admit it when you point something out - it might be time to get your engagement rings.

Don't misunderstand--I am not saying that a woman has to be submissive or be dominated by a man. In fact, if you are out of order, she should speak up and point it out. My wife never hesitates to point out when I am wrong and she is not afraid of speaking up to me.

I'm just saying that some people are clever at acting meek and mild, but are resentful underneath. Not good.

Some women let him be in charge. She lets him be in charge--even though she is really the one in charge. This type of sneakiness will make life unpleasant; and if she is incorrigible, then there will be nothing but suffering ahead for her spouse.

What I mean is look for someone who is good natured and who respects what is right more than her own ego. She will defer to her man (if he is right).

I am not in favor of causal dating.

It is a terrible idea and leads to promiscuity, sexually transmitted diseases and a loss of character. A man who plays the field loses his character. His future wife will know it and will probably secretly judge him for it and hold it against him.

Instead of playing the field, he should be becoming established in business.

A woman who casually dates is putting herself in situations (being alone in a car with a man, for example) that can only lead to a loss of innocence, and even danger.

I am in favor of young people doing wholesome activities in groups (like 2 or 3 guys and 2 or 3 gals going out together in a group). Bowling, skiing, church activities, picnics, bike riding, studying, going to a nice concert or a nice move and so on as a group are fun activities and much safer.

After lots of getting to know the person in these safe group settings, if you think this is the guy then courtship may begin.

I do believe in courtship.

This means that when a man and a woman go out to lunch or to a movie--just the two of them--it is with the intention of definitely considering this particular person for marriage and definitely wanting to know if she or he is right. The purpose of the courtship date is to set the stage for marriage.

I also believe that it is best to wait until marriage. I do see many advantages in sexual purity. Most good Christian and Catholic churches, Christian radio advice programs (such as Focus on the Family, Dr. James Dobson, FamilyLifeToday and many others) all advise purity before marriage. They are right.

Knowing what I know about the psychology of men and women, after 25 years of advising and writing 6 books about marriage, I see how important it is for the man to be honorable in every respect. If he takes advantage before marriage, she will not forget it and she not likely to trust him 100%.  

I am not saying that people who have made mistakes in some way are condemned. I'm just saying that it is wise to start off on the right foot.

I am often asked about marrying someone from another religion or a completely different background. I am not rigid on this matter, because the person himself or herself is most important, not what cultural background or organized religion their family belonged to.

Character and what is in the person's heart are most important--such as honesty and a love of truth. Does the person love children? Is the person kind? There must be no drinking, gambling, or use of drugs (such as marijuana). Also watch out for the man who walks around on egg shells, never corrects anything, and is worshipful of her--he wants something. He is weak and lacks character.

There should be no criminality, no sleaziness, not shirking of responsibility. No fanaticism. A fanatic sports junkie, a fanatic religionist, or a fanatic of any" ism" is already wedded to fixed beliefs. Life with them would be awful.

How about someone who is just not religious at all or who doesn't know about God or even care about religion? Well, at least they are not a fanatic. It may work out. In fact I have always said I would rather have a person who is decent and has a good heart, but was raised in a home where religion was not even talked about than someone who has been brainwashed with churchianity.

You see, there is a type of Christian who is really hypnotized. There have always been people who mindlessly follow leaders, personalities, causes and cult leaders. As hypnotized zombies they just do what they are told, and they view anyone who did not go along as a threat.

So it is not surprising that some of these psychotic people might also become zombie Christians. They simply memorize things and conform to a shallow (but usually rigid) knowledge. These people are not true Christians at all even though they say and do all the right things. They give real Christians a bad name.

There is a type of person who follows some leader, cause or group and is a hypnotic zombie. This is the type of person who will also mindlessly join a church. It's not the church's fault. It is hard to tell the sincere from the false. But the false ones do a lot of damage to Christianity through their rigidity, their emotionality, or their hypocrisy. This type of person is not a true Christian at all, but is rather a psychotic follower--the kind that can be found in any organized cause.

Marriage to such a psychotic person for anyone who is at all enlightened would be difficult. That person will constantly pursue you and try to convert and change you. They will seek to turn the children into zombies just like themselves. The results will be conformity or rebellion.

Many a man marries a woman who "gets saved" and then she lords it over him with smug superiority and is always trying to change him and convert him.

A woman might marry a "religious" man who rigid and hateful underneath. He eventually reveals his cruelty and violence in laying down the law in the name of religion. Run from such types.

Don't misunderstand me. There is a true Christianity, not based on emotion or brainwashing, but which is a seeking soul's gradually finding an inner bond with its Creator. This true Christian would never try to impose himself or herself on anyone. He or she will never manipulate or use pressure. This true Christian realizes what a delicate thing it is to introduce a person to an inner rapport with God.

Bottom line: avoid weak womanizing men. Avoid zealots of all kinds, whether religious, atheists, or political.

Of course, there is the situation where two people marry and neither really thinks much about religion at all. Time passes and gradually and gently, through searching and finding, one makes a commitment to what they know in their heart and discover that their love of truth is really a love of God. This person, in essence, wakes up from their hypnotic slumber in culture and tradition and lies, and begins to see reality (because they now love reality) and love their conscience. This waking up person now finds himself or herself wedded to someone who is not awake and aware.

There is a passage in the Bible where Paul says that if a lady becomes a follower of Christ and finds herself wedded to an unbeliever, perhaps her goodness and noble demeanor may yet awaken her spouse to truth. Perhaps he will wake up and maybe he won't. If he does not, it is hard; but it gives her a chance to practice patience.

But this is a far cry from chasing her husband around the house with a Bible, trying to convert him (which will only turn him in her zombie or drive him off to another woman or the bottle).

Since it is the man who is supposed to be the head of household, it is easier if it is he who gradually comes to his Creator first. Then his nobility, his principled nature, and gentle lordship may win the respect of his wife for himself and his God.

It is more difficult for the woman who wakes up and is married to a husband who is not awake. If she tries to convert him, he would only be falling for the temptation she represents. About all she can do is do her duty, be gracious, kind, patient and noble--and her light may wake him up. If it does, he will either hate that light and probably leave her, or he will love the light and then they can be very good friends.

Perhaps now you can see why I cannot advise from the distance about any particular person. I know in my life the people I have been drawn to and felt comfortable around are seemingly the opposite of what you would expect. There are arranged marriages that work out just fine. There are marriages that fall apart and years later, when both have matured, there is a happy reconciliation.

It is not my job to figure things out. Where I am most helpful is for issues in marriage. People get married, the honeymoon is over, and then issues arise. That is where Pastor Roland can come to the rescue!

But when it comes to finding the right mate, I can't play match maker. All I can do is mention some principles to consider. That's all.

Besides, it all depends on the will of God and what He might have in mind for us.

A man can get married, and like most men, be selfish and immature. He is weak and not there for his wife or kids. He makes a mess out of things and a divorce happens. But he starts to wake up. He realizes he was wrong and selfish and now is ready to be a good husband. Reconciliation is not possible and then he meets a lady and starts a second family. This time he is a good, noble, thoughtful man, but in order to build character, the Lord gives him a family that does not appreciate him and does nothing but give him a hard time. So now instead of suffering for his wrongs, he suffers for righteousness sake. It's no fun, but he learns to be a man and his character grows.

Most of us, if not all of us, get married for the wrong reasons. Once married, often seemingly to the wrong person, we have to get back to basics and learn how to be unselfish. Marriage is not a picnic. It was not meant to be. It is a framework ordained by God in which to work out our differences and learn to be unselfish.

When all is said and done, it is a mystery to me how people find each other and then end up married. In absolute terms it is good to marry someone who you think is the right person. It is nice to be with someone you have a lot in common with and who you feel comfortable with.

Just be aware that the nice person may not be the best for you. It is a woman's job to give a man a hard time. Her hard time is a chance for him to demonstrate patience and understanding. The more unreasonable she is, the more reasonable he must be. It can have a happy ending, but only if the man quickly matures and demonstrates the patience of Job and the wisdom of Solomon.

A wise man once said there can be no courage without danger. Similarly, there can be no character without a test of that character.

Marriage is not to get our needs met. It is to bring children into the world.

So I must say that for the man, it almost doesn't matter who he marries as far as character growth is concerned. It is his job to be a man and to have patience, courage, longsuffering, kindness, nobility and honor. The worse she is, the more he will suffer. But if he suffers rightly, he will grow in character and shine.

For the lady, it is good if she can find a man who is principled and honorable. Definitely she should stay away from the weak ladies man. She should also stay away from the violent type. It helps if she has a good father, because then she will look for a man like her father.

There are some practical concerns. A guy might be nice, but if he does not want kids and you do--there is not much hope in such an arrangement. If he is too close to a mother who rules him emotionally and mentally, and who views you (the wife) as a threat to her power--it will be rough sledding.

If he comes from a strange cultural background, or comes from a gang or violent background, I am sorry to say that he may be so corrupted that the traumas of his past will dictate the course of his life. Watch out for feeling sorry for a man and thinking you can change him. It never works out.

If you want the kids to be Christian and she doesn't or he doesn't--it could be nothing but misery. If you want to home school the kids, because you see the problems with some public schools, but he does not. Again, caution.

I have put a lot on the table. Some of what I say are hard teachings. But do not do something just because I say so or anyone else says so. Hear I say and what others say, but then pray and trust your God given intuition. It is okay to read what I write, but just don't put me (or anyone else on a pedestal).

There are some really excellent values questionnaires, programs, and seminars put out by Christian organizations. And many local pastors offer couples classes for courtship and for newly weds. I'm in favor of attending and benefiting from these programs and classes. Just don't get too caught up in analyzing, over planning and endlessly second guessing yourself. Have faith. Trust what you know in your heart.

My wife and I met and had ice cream at an ice cream parlor near college and within 6 months we were married. I didn't know then what I know now. Back then I was just as starry eyed as any other young person.

But I've grown and learned a lot. Marriage is good for us. Before marriage, we can be self centered and get away with it. Marriage is a framework within which to grow and learn to be unselfish.

People get married and enjoy each other during the honeymoon and the spring of their marriage. But it isn't long before issues arise. When they do, it's time for some basic training about life, marriage and the nature of men and women. So when it is time, get married and enjoy each other.

Then when issues arise, get my book for the instructions.


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