I've been married for almost 17 years to a girl I met in high school and who quickly became my best friend. And while I clearly married up (just ask her), it's been an incredible opportunity to understand how to really love and be loved. As a married couple we've experienced a lot, and together we've worked on building a Jesus centered marriage, family, and home.
I often speak with young people who are making huge life decisions and marriage is always at the top of their list. I had no marriage advice before I got married and it would have been helpful. Over time, I've developed 10 important questions for people to answer before they make that lifetime commitment. Oh, and if you're married, now is a great time to plan a date night and ask each other some of these questions…just in case you missed them before you tied the knot. Let’s go.
1. Do we each believe in God and have similar beliefs about who Jesus is and His central place in our future marriage?
Do you have a relationship with Jesus? Then your spouse should as well. The details here don't matter as much as you both are committed to Jesus first. Being a Christian is not the same as being a Republican or Democrat, especially when it comes to marriage. You need to talk about Jesus openly, pray together, go to church together and do ministry together. God will handle the rest. (2 Corinthians 6:14) (1 Corinthians 7:16) (Deuteronomy 7:3-6)
2. Are we getting married to become happy?
In my opinion, marriage can make you holy, indifferent, or miserable. If you're looking for someone to point out and amplify all of your weaknesses, then you're in the right place. If you're looking for that special soul mate to "complete" you, you're in for a rocky road. When marriage is done right, your spouse will know all of your junk and still love you. That's why marriage is a miracle. Despite what the world tells us, it can and does happen. Many of my closest friends are happily married because their first priority is holiness. (Ephesians 4:26)
3. Do we have unity in the church/worship experience we want?
I have a friend who's a Christian and married a Mormon. While their differences in beliefs didn't seem to impact their marriage much, their extended families were always at odds over it. Holidays were tense. When they had children, how to raise them became an issue. They got divorced after having two kids and 10 years together. If you’re going to marry someone who has a radically different view of who and/or how to worship, you need to reconcile that first. (Philippians 2:1-3)
4. Are we looking for a fixer-upper?
Your spouse is not a ministry or a business opportunity. You can't fix your spouse and sell him or her to the highest bidder when he/she is cleaned up (although at some point in your marriage you might want to). If you're looking to fix or train your spouse, buy a dog. The only "fixes" in people come from the Holy Spirit and that is especially true in marriage. (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)
5. Are we physically attracted to the person we're going to spend the rest of our lives with?
Okay, I know what some of you are saying...this is a typical guy thing to say. Well yes, you're right. When I met my wife, I was floored with her beauty and I'm even more so today. But we were friends first. Here's the deal, when you're married, you will argue. Sometimes, I've been so mad at my wife and the guy in me says, "Dude, she's really cute, maybe you should let this go." Just saying. We all know that attraction only goes so far. But if you're not physically attracted to your spouse, you may want to give it more time. Also, this is a different deal for the ladies. They do care about attraction, but they care most about how they are treated and cared for. I'm not saying physical attraction has to be central to the relationship, but it can be a very helpful ingredient. (Proverbs 5:18-19)
6. To have kids or not to have kids, that is the question?
Children are amazing. They are also a game changer in your marriage. I remember feeling a little neglected shortly after we had our first child. My wife didn't seem quite as interested in me after that. The realities of being a parent had dramatically sunk in. If your marriage is solid, kids can reinforce it. If your marriage is stumbling, children will make it harder. If you both want kids, then discuss how many, how often, and prepare for the best and worst. People sometimes intentionally have kids as an antidote to a failing relationship. Statistically speaking, that rarely works. Children are like the cherry on top of a marriage that's already working. (Psalm 127:3-5)
7. What role do finances play in our priorities?
Life is expensive and marriage is a great way to share the expenses. One word of caution...is the person you want to marry a poor money manager? If they are, marriage will not improve that problem. I'm not a fan of separate bank accounts and co-habitation agreements. You're married so live like it. Figure out your budget and work together to follow it. Financial matters are mentioned more often in the Bible than prayer, healing, and mercy. God knows that our money is important and that it can be a blessing or a stumbling block. Don't neglect talking about money and continuing to talk about it. (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)
8. What are your no-noes?
If you’ve been in a relationship for any length of time, you find out pretty quickly what behaviors don’t work; what I call no-noes. My wife and I have a few really simple no-noes. No name-calling, no contradicting your spouse in front of others, and no crazy big purchases without a meeting. Oh, and she gets her way 99% of the time. But when it's the 1%, she knows to let it go. Decide your no-noes before you plan the wedding. (Colossians 3:18-19)
9. Do we have a plan?
Everything important you want to accomplish in life should have a plan. Where do you want to live, what do you want to accomplish, when are your date nights? Do you care if the other person travels all the time? How much guy time or gal time is appropriate? Talk about it and write up a plan for your success. I have friends that still stay up all night playing poker once a week. I used to do that. Before I got married, my wife told me she didn't like me out all night. Done. (Proverbs 16:3)
10. Do we know how to fight?
I don't mean MMA, but if you don't have ground rules when it comes to arguments, things can get heated quickly. A few of our ground rules...no going to bed angry, no name calling, and it's okay to leave and take a break if you're going to say something you'll probably regret. Lastly, if you get mad, just get naked. Trying to argue in the nude is almost impossible. Note: This method of arguing requires a marriage license. (Ephesians 5:25-29)
Now, by the power vested in me by the state of California, go forth and be happily married.