Last week I considered the subject of how to be confident, even from before marriage, that a future spouse will keep getting better in terms of character and pursuit of God. There can never be a full guarantee about this of course, but for me I need that reassurance of even this basic understanding, as one of my big fears regarding marriage is that Mr Wonderful and Excellent will gradually start becoming less wonderful and less excellent as the years go by.
OK, let’s assume then that I have come across someone who is striving after God as much as he can, with his whole heart. Even if I could see into the future and confirm that he will keep getting better and better, improving his character, loving both his God and his wife more and more passionately, the fact is that as a person he will still certainly change. Not necessarily for the worse, and not necessarily in terms of character. Something else I ask myself is this: “If everyone changes, how do I know what fundamental aspect of their personality it is that I am subscribing to, that will never change?” And then there is the fact that I too myself will change as a person – perhaps in ways that I cannot predict or control.
So then I think: if we appear to be compatible now, because I am like this and he is like that, then how do I know that twenty years from now we are still going to be compatible, when those twenty years have made their changes to both of us? You know how you hear of couples who “grow apart” over time?
The sincere answer to this is that I don’t know. Perhaps as time goes on I will feel better able to answer that question. Perhaps once again it is the reassurance that I need more than anything, to help me feel confident before entering into marriage.
These are the few thoughts that I have had regarding this:
1. The importance of prayer when we are choosing a spouse.
When we are praying to God, He knows who our spouses will be or become over time. This is why He will be able to choose for us the people who will be best compatible for us over time, even as He God continues to work in our hearts and unfurl new aspects to our personalities and characters.
2. The ongoing importance of prayer in our marriages
Even when we choose an appropriate spouse that God would wish for us, and we adequately ground the decision in prayer, we are to continue praying on an ongoing basis. This is so that our personalities and characters might be unfurled according to God’s own will and schedule, and so that satanic attempts to introduce destructive dimensions to our relationships might be foiled.
3. Commit to commitment
When I marry someone, I honestly cannot say what he may or may not become. And he will equally not be able to say what I will or will not become. So it will be as if we are telling one another that no matter who we each become, we will remain committed to one another. I guess in a way you have to embrace the adventure that this represents. It might be an exaggeration to say that you wake up each day not knowing who you are going to be married to, because after all change does tend to happen quite gradually. However I can see the potential for excitement, exploring new, possibly unexpected aspects to one another’s character; even discovering unexpected aspects to my own character that I myself have been totally unaware of, and wondering what my husband might make of them. It’s like you commit to a lifelong positive attitude regarding change in your spouse. It’s not about looking back at the things that your spouse used to do that you loved, or wishing that things could always remain the same. Rather maybe it is about making the most of who they are at any present moment, delighting in their talents and personalities as expressed in that moment.
So before marriage I think that something to look out for is someone who is aware that marriages will need ongoing work, and who understands that both he and his spouse will change, and someone who is committed to finding positivity in his marriage even through the different changes that occur in both himself and his wife.
4. Growing together
I think that something else to do is to commit to growing together as a couple. This involves trusting communication, acknowledging together the fact that each spouse within the marriage will change, together committing to be positive about the changes that might happen in each other, and in the marriage itself. I also think that this would involve seeking out activities to enjoy together, possibly chosen to deliberately take advantage of new talents or personality features as expressed by one spouse or the other. For this, I am thinking that one big aim would be to just enjoy time with one another, laughing together, and not in a forced way, but in a way that is as natural and spontaneous as possible for both parties, so that you can find joy and excitement at any stage of your marriage. Now this makes me think that you may actually have to go looking for this; such activities might not openly suggest themselves; you may have to spend time thinking or brainstorming together to think of appropriate things to do.
I think that being able to have fun and find laughter in one another’s presence no matter what will make it easier to accept the changes in one another’s personality, and to find these changes exciting.
If one particular activity is not as successful as you might have wished you might have to persevere in it, or you might have to try to find another; I’m thinking that you might have to give one another space to just “be”. So in this way you could plan into your marriage the understanding that each of you will certainly change, and also the commitment to positively embrace those changes and find delight in them. (As I am writing this, I am so aware that this is coming from my imagination rather than experience; people who are actually married might be able to tell me how practicable any of this is in reality!)
Finally then, most of these things can be addressed only from within a marriage or a relationship after it has actually started. So I think that once again the most important thing to do before the marriage is to pray to get the right spouse, and to get the marriage started off on excellent foundation. And then after that, you can both build on that excellent foundation, and move on to higher heights and deeper depths, by God’s unfailing grace! 😉
2 Corinthians 3:18:
But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.
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