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Courtship and Marriage

Things You Must Consider Before You Marry

By Ken Raggio

Starting Out Alone

We all begin as a solo act. We stand alone in the social scheme of things. We have birth relationships - father, mother, sisters, brothers. But in the course of maturing, we generally desire the companionship of additional people. We develop casual relationships through contacts we have in the various segments of society - our neighborhood, our school, our workplace, our church - to name a few. We often carry our casual relationships further as we experience positive and desirable interactions with others. Acquaintances become friendships. We endear ourselves to others with whom we find meaningful compatibilities.

Courtship "Qualifying" Friendships

Every person faces a vastly different challenge when it comes to forming meaningful relationships with others. Some people are extroverted, which means they are socially interactive. They are able to express themselves to others, or make conversation easily, which, over a period of time, creates a large pool of acquaintances from which friendships can be formed. As a rule, an extrovert is likely to have a larger number of prospects from which to choose a friend.

On the other hand, an introvert generally lives a more isolated lifestyle, communicating with fewer people. It would stand to reason that the introvert might have fewer choices when it comes to selecting a friend.

These personality differences do not necessarily indicate that the introvert is less interested in having friends, but only that friendships are not as easily cultivated. Many people do not have a thorough "Screening Process," but merely accept whatever friendships "happen" to them. Often, the quest for a true friend can be quite discouraging, and ultimately a person will either withdraw into isolation, or compromise their standard for whatever friend can be found.

Most of us have met or known of "loners," people who seldom interact fluently on the social level. Loneliness can be a way of life. Some loners are that way by choice. Others are loners because they are socially underdeveloped. Still others are loners because they simply do not have the social contacts necessary to develop a desirable friendship. There is always the possibility that a person can be TOO selective, but that is probably rare.

Friendship: An Asset or a Liability?

The number of acquaintances and friendships we form can be limitless. Some people have hundreds of acquaintances, but only a few true friends. Sometimes, the person who seems the most outgoing is actually the loneliest. Others have very few friends, but they have experienced strong and meaningful bonds with perhaps only one or two people. Yet they are very happy.

One need not have a large number of friends to live a meaningful and fulfilled life. The Bible actually discourages friendships of the wrong kind.

God sorely disapproves of our having friendships with the world. He distinctly requires that we not be "unequally yoked" with unbelievers.

"Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?" 2 Corinthians 6:14.

There are many people who are pleasant to be with, they hold stimulating conversations, and can show a genuine interest in being a friend. However, a person's internal values will eventually manifest themselves in one form or another. If you have strong beliefs about God and the Bible, especially if you have strong doctrinal beliefs, or strong beliefs about godliness and holy living, you had better make absolutely CERTAIN that your friend is going to go the distance with you on those beliefs. If not, you should IMMEDIATELY BAIL OUT. To fail to do so is truly asking for disaster.

Often, we do not realize the potentially devastating hazards of a friendship in its early stages. It is natural for two people to seek to have rapport with each other - that is, to first find the common denominators in the relationship. Any person who is mentally and emotionally well-balanced will attempt to bring out the best in another person, and seek to relate to them as much as is possible.

Some of the most harmful relationships are, at first, very exciting, very comfortable, even very desirable. It is not until commitments have been made that deep divisions begin to manifest themselves. As a rule, the more committed you are to a person, the more they expect you to go along with everything they say or do. That is when serious trouble can develop. It is like being caught with a hook in your jaw. There is no escape without injury. Somebody will have to be hurt just to prevent further, permanent damage.

Intentionally Tentative Relationships Help Avoid Premature Commitments

Just as a doctor sometimes has to perform exploratory surgery, our approach to a new-found acquaintance should be "exploratory." That means we should carefully look into the overall character, personality and value system of the person with which we are about to become involved. It is unimaginable to a sound mind how some people rush into lifelong vows with someone they hardly know. It is difficult to comprehend WHY anyone would want to be PERMANENTLY YOKED together with another person if that person is fundamentally different in critical areas of morals, ethic and spiritual beliefs.

For this reason, we should be cautious when beginning relationships. It can be very difficult to get rid of an undesirable person after the relationship has turned into a mature friendship, and that difficulty alone is often the very reason why people end up becoming the victim of betrayal by a perceived friend.

A Matter of Love

By definition, LOVE is a choice to do the highest good you can for another person. If you love a person, you will always do the highest good you can for them. On the flip side, if a person truly loves you, they will do the highest good they can for you. It is with this in mind that we can begin to see exactly why we should not entertain delusional thoughts about what the future will hold if we try to bond with someone who does not love the same basic things we love. If their value system is essentially different, then their version of what is best for you is going to be diametrically opposed to what is TRULY good for you.

If I want someone's love, let it be the love of a kindred spirit. Let it be the love of someone who has the same basic desires, values and beliefs. Please do not sentence me to a lifetime of enduring the heartbreak of a partner who cannot or will not see and believe the things I see and believe. LOVE IS A DYING PROCESS. God so loved...(that He died for us). Die - sacrifice yourself - for the one you love.

Courtship is the Ritual of Wooing Another's Love

The Apostle Paul taught that LOVE is the BOND OF PERFECTNESS (Colossians 3:14). Love is the perfect glue. [See my Essay About Love.] To desire another person's love is to desire to be BONDED with them for the rest of your life. Of course, we all seek to be loved by all our friends, but when it comes to the act of making a WEDDING VOW, we must reckon with that awesome promise to "forsake all others." How many na´ve people have gone to a matrimonial altar and made lifetime commitments to a friend who would later fight and resist everything they held to be sacred and meaningful in their life?

Incompatibilities can be insignificant or they can be life-threatening. While no two people are exactly alike, there is no reason to give away your heart and soul to a person who can never appreciate the things that are important to you. Before any two people "tie the knot," (that may be a more significant phrase than we realize), each partner should have a clear understanding about what their mate is going to be and do in all the critical areas of life.

Worthwhile Questions
  • Are you prepared to leave family and live separate, independent lives?

  • Are you ready to support yourselves financially, including limiting your standard of living to your true financial abilities?

  • Will you be able to agree on each other's intentions regarding continuing education, work schedules, and career goals?

  • Where will you live? What city, neighborhood, etc.? Will you rent or buy a home?

  • Will you buy a car(s)? How soon? What kind?

  • Borrow money? Purchase things on credit or credit cards?

  • How will you manage your money? Who will write the checks, and how will financial decisions be made?

  • Are children planned? How many? How soon? How far apart? What if you have unplanned children?

  • How will you discipline and educate your children?

  • How will you respond to each set of in-laws?

  • How will your roles be different? What will you expect from your spouse?

  • Do you share similar values about sexuality and fidelity?

  • What are your greatest apprehensions about your fiancÚ?

  • What church will we attend? Are there theological decisions to be reckoned with?
There are actually many, many important questions that could be asked. Are you willing and able to call the whole thing off if you discover a genuinely major problem? Are you so heart-set on making this relationship permanent that you are willfully ignoring critical reasons why it should not continue? Someone has said, "The key to a happy marriage is to keep your eyes wide open before you wed, and half closed thereafter."

Stop the Car, and Get Out!

If you see danger signs in this relationship, there is only one resolution. Put the relationship on absolute probation. Cease and desist from any further emotional and spiritual attachments until you can say unequivocally that you want this relationship to continue. If you are uneasy about what you see, you have to not only throw on the brakes. You have to stop the car and get out. Get out of a relationship now that has danger signs. It is infinitely better to remain single, than to commit to a relationship that will self-destruct in a little while. The damages and injuries that occur in such situations leave scars and hurts that often last for a lifetime. The pain of breaking up is NOTHING to compare to the pain of a failed marriage. Ask God for courage and strength to know what is right and wrong in your relationship. WHATEVER you have to do to get out of a bad relationship, DO IT!

If your relationship is meant to be, Commit to it before God

If, after a careful and prayerful analysis of a well-seasoned relationship, you finally determine that you have found the love of your life, then and only then, you should follow through with the marriage vows. What God hath joined together, let not man put asunder (Mark 10:9).

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See also: "Male and Female: God's Gender-specific Commandments

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Ken Raggio

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