Marriage is a hot topic among my friends these days. Many of my friends are currently in serious relationships, and beginning to ask the Big Questions about moving forward toward marriage.
I haven’t been married for a long time, but marriage has been so surprising, and so deeply educational, I can’t help but have a few thoughts for those of you contemplating making this great leap. I went through several relationships and a broken engagement before marrying my incredible husband, and I feel acutely the vast relief of “just missing” the very damaging decisions I almost made, as well as the tremendous blessing of marrying well.
So, Ladies (and I suppose this applies pretty well in the reverse for you, too, Gents), if you’ll take a moment to listen, here are the questions I hope you will ask, and think deeply on, before you say Yes.
1. Does he love to learn from others and pursue new ideas?
I’m gonna say something. You might need to gasp, and I’m okay with that.
This question is even more important than asking whether or not the two of you agree on anything, including the Big Three- Faith, Family, and Finances.
Before I got married, I heard countless times how necessary it was for my boyfriend/fiance to agree on those three Big Ones (in a variety of words and presentations).
But “Do we agree?” is really the wrong question.
Because life is learning. And we all, very often, change our minds on big things throughout life, and not always in the same direction as our spouse.
You might find a man who agrees with every last point of your personal doctrinal statement, but the truth is, we all express those beliefs in various, and sometimes shockingly incongruent ways. Not to mention- What about faith crises, depression, or soul-changing grief? Rarely do two people go through these experiences and come out on exactly the same side.
You say you want 3 kids and he says “Wow. Me, too!”?
Because, What if… Infertility? What if…..Twins? What if having one child completely changes your world and you think totally different thoughts about parenting and family than you did before? (That last one always happens, I think, by the way.)
And Finances….I mean, can we just skip this one? No two dollars will be spent the same.
The bottom line is this: There is no way you can pound out every last possible scenario and belief and response before getting married, so you are guaranteed not to agree on some things inside marriage. You’re nodding because you know this already.
So the more important thing, then, is: Is he humble? Teachable? Will he keep learning from other people?
If the answer is yes…There are very few things that you won’t be able to overcome.
No disagreement is a dead end when you both seek out new ways to think, new ideas, and new people to learn from.
But listen to me….
EVERY disagreement can be a dead end if your marriage has it’s lifeblood totally wound up in agreement. In “sharing your faith” or “having the same family values.” Those sound really, really good, but they truly are not what actually matters when life happens.
2. (I borrowed this one from here because it’s so darn good….) Do I want to be like him?
Because you will be. Or else, you’ll spend your marriage pulling away and resenting him because he has not changed, and he is not someone you want to be like.
Choose someone you wouldn’t mind if he rubbed off on you in every area of his life. Because he will.
3. Does he see me as an equal?
I’m not asking if he pampers you, or treats you like a princess. He might shower you with gifts, affection, and chivalry, and there’s nothing inherently wrong with that.
But truthfully, you probably don’t actually want him to treat you like a princess for the rest of your lives together.
You want him to honor you. To respect you deeply and value your personhood. To be your friend and want your friendship in return.
And while we’re at it, sometimes pampering can be a really deadly cover up for the exact opposite of honor. It can actually show you that he does not value you as an equal, but more sees you as a hobby. A pretty face, a cute and fun person to spend time with, or maybe even as a weak and dependent person. Someone who serves only to need his protection, need his resources, which he will happily give for the time. But recognize there is nothing in this that needs YOU for your thoughts, for your heart, for your passions, for anything other than your ability to build his ego.
(This is not a blanket statement of all men by ANY means. More like just a few. But it is still a valid warning, because it is insidious and true for those few.)
4. Does he do his own laundry?
So this is kind of a joke….But kind of not.
And it’s not just about laundry….it’s more about whether or not he can take care of himself.
Whether or not he will.
I stay home with our daughter and care for our home. I do the great majority of the cooking and the laundry and the cleaning. I don’t mind this, so I’m not saying you should either.
What I am saying is this: If your man has only ever leaned on his mother (or anyone else) to take care of him and his things, it is exceedingly likely you will be stepping into the role of mother/caretaker, instead of the one you want: His WIFE. If your man lives with his parents still, I am strongly arguing that he live on his own before you contemplate living with him. He will not even know how to appreciate all that you do in the home without the grown-up manhood experience of being his own caretaker. Your help as his partner, then, is almost guaranteed to be an expectation instead of a gift you can freely give.
It is Biblical for you to want to be his helpmeet, and him to want that, too. What is also Biblical is a man leaving his father and mother, working hard to prepare a home for his bride, and seeking a woman to reign with and together subdue this earthly domain.
5. Do I admire him?
“Yes, yes he’s great! “You say.
Not so fast. I asked if you admire him.
Do you look at him living his life and say “Wow. I wish I knew how to live like that”?
Do you hear him talk and think, “Holy cow, that is really deep. How did he learn that”?
Do his decisions make you say, “I want to ask his advice about my own issues! I bet he could really help me figure this out!”
Do you see his friendships and say, “Wow….He has chosen incredibly good people as friends. And he cares so much and so well for them. What a good man he is!”
Because you should.
You really, really should.
Marriage is a long, LONG road. Make darn sure you pick a companion for more than a handsome nose or agreement on some deeply held convictions. Make sure you pick a companion who will cheer you on in the valleys, who will show you the way through some rough patches, and thank you for holding him up through some others. Pick someone you will want to keep talking with for years, when all the “new things” have been covered, and all you’ve got to discuss is the scenery you’re passing.
Pick someone you think is truly amazing.
So that’s it.
Marriage can be so super, incredibly, surprisingly, phenomenally wonderful.
I am still surprised, daily, how amazing it can be. I had no idea it could be THIS GOOD. And the reasons it’s this good are largely wrapped up in these ideas.
But the deepest truth of all is this: We need God’s help. I didn’t have this list to ask myself before I got married. Some of these things happened consciously in me. Some of them I didn’t even realize, until I saw how SO SO LUCKY God made me on this side of marriage.
All of them, I hope, will help you think and come out more confident about which direction to move with the man you’ve got.