This is the second part to this post. The first is available here
This is possibly the biggest potential problem with this: the possibility that you meet someone, who is single, and appears to be excellent, and they start making romantic overtures to you before you’ve known them for as much as two months, let alone two years! Or you meet someone who is not ready to wait for two years, who is looking for a relationship right away, thank you very much! What do you do? Well obviously, if you are met with that situation, it is up to you what you should do. However, for me, from all I have seen and experienced from “Christians”, trust me, I would wait. The overwhelming majority of “Christians” might pretend, however they neither have phenomenal, Christlike character, nor do they even genuinely pursue phenomenal, Christlike character. And yet the kind of marriage that I dream of definitely depends on us both, both he and I, striving after Christ, after excellence, after holiness, after prayer, with everything that we’ve got, with absolutely all the strength that we have, never being satisfied with the level that we have attained, but pressing on, knowing that there is always so much more of God available, so much more growth we could achieve. If Mr “Could-he-be-the-One?” wants to move on off to take his “joy and happiness” to another woman, then I would gladly release him. Not to be blowing my own trumpet or anything, but if he had any Spirit of God in him whatsoever, then he would know that what I am, and what I have, are worth sticking around for.
Step 2: Start talking, asking questions
The point of this: to confirm true compatibility between the two of you
This part has been a little awkward for me to write about because to be honest it is a little unclear in my mind. The point though, is that there are certain questions you need to ask of one another, certain discussions that you need to have. This is the part that is unclear: whether you will need to be in a relationship before you start asking these questions, or whether you could discuss these things in a lighthearted way “as friends”. Perhaps you could start off talking/asking/joking in a lighthearted way “as friends”, and then when you have found a basic compatibility between the two of you, you could proceed into a relationship, and then discuss these issues in more serious detail.
So then these are some of those very obvious questions that you need to be asking one another: “What are your dreams for the future? What are your plans, where do you see yourself?” This is what I would ask him, with my arms folded and my face set into a glare: “Do you expect your wife to stay at home looking after the house/kids?!” “What do you think about kids? How many children do you dream of? What for you is the meaning of marriage?” And then there will be times when the two of you just talk, he pours out his heart about X, while you listen, or ask intelligent questions, and vice versa. In this way, you could really get to know one another, and think “Yeah, this could work”. Once again, as always, the point is to be honest. What is the point of deceiving someone and saying you only want one child, when you are secretly dreaming of a football team?! I guess that when you are attracted to someone, it can be easy to say what you think they want to hear, rather than the actual truth. However, this will only turn out to be self-defeating within the marriage. If God is in it, then honesty is your only option – and that honesty will ultimately pay off. (It might mean that that actual relationship dies away…to be replaced by something better.)
Step 3: Let’s do this! – Decide to get married
Once you have decided that there is true compatibility between the two of you, and your lives are heading in the same direction, then you can decide to get married! Once you are engaged, there are two main steps to deal with within this:
Step A is the most important part, that everyone overlooks, and Step B is the single least important and most negligible part of planning for your future together – that everyone focuses on.
Step A is deliberately building a foundation together for your marriage, and Step B is planning for your wedding. Seriously, if you had the smallest, quietest wedding, arranged with the minimal notice, attended by only a handful of people, wearing inexpensive clothes – as long as those other steps had been followed, that would not make the slightest tangible difference to your actual marriage. Let me quickly make it clear that I do not plan to have a small wedding. I am not a Nigerian for nothing, much less a Yoruba. We simply don’t know how to party small – least of all when it comes to our weddings! (If you don’t believe me, just “google” the phrase “Nigerian weddings” – Look, I’ve done it for you! Seriously! The most brashly colourful, ostentatious, loud, flamboyant, noisy extravaganzas you could ever imagine – even as Christians…. especially as Christians! When it comes to our weddings, we are neither sensible nor practical but each bride pulls out absolutely all the stops, each in her shameless bid to outdo all her friends. (So that would be just like every other woman in the world then…) And let’s not even start talking about the parents or family. By the grace of God, I’m totally looking forward to it!)
All that said though, it remains true that looking ahead into the future, the wedding itself, and the preparation for it, are the least significant parts of planning for the marriage.
So then, let’s look at Step A, which is “deliberately building an excellent foundation for your marriage”. The point of this is to learn how to do different things together that will make a tangible and crucial difference to your marriage. Thinking on it, I guess you could actually postpone this until you are actually married. The only reason I would prefer to have this before marriage is because it might throw up things that might indicate that it would be better not to get married after all. Also, very importantly, I know that after I have just gotten married, (after waiting this long!) no-one is going to be able to get me to think of anything beyond all things lovey-dovey, holdy-handy, huggie-wuggie, kissie-wissie for a very long time. I’m sure that that would be the same for many people. So it would make sense to deal with serious business before the actual wedding.
These are some of the different elements I would put in Step 3A:
1. Learn how to be best friends.
So many people say that marriages are best built on a foundation of friendship. I would take at least a month, but ideally 3 full months, deliberately building a foundation of friendship between me and my spouse. No matter how close we might be already. It’s about telling one another “Let’s learn how to be friends. Let’s learn how to talk. Let’s learn how to be there for one another. Let’s practise being best friends.” And it is about doing this with no romantic overtones at all (as far as that is possible!)
2. Learn how to start praying together and for one another
Now would be a good time to start meeting together for prayer dates, and to start practising accountability towards one another. Now is the time to start sharing serious prayer requests and praying for one another individually. Even after we are married, I hope that we will still be able to go on prayer dates to special places, even though we could obviously just pray from within the same house. It would probably also be a good idea to identify possible or common problems in marriage, and pre-empt them in prayer.
There are probably a few more things that I cannot think of just now, but I hope to add to this list as I think of further ways to deliberately build an excellent foundation for an excellent marriage. You could also incorporate reading the Bible into your prayer date. I recently had a cute idea about praying the Bible for one another – this does not need to be a date, and it does not need to be exclusive to a romantic relationship. You could each find a Bible verse to share with one another every day, and you could email it or text it to one another – but before you send it to them, spend 5 minutes praying that Bible verse into their life, that is, praying that God would make that verse become true and remain true in their life. (In theory, 5 minutes sounds doable, in practice it will probably be whittled down to 1 minute, if that… It would be good however to do even something small, consistently!)
Once all those are in place, then you can plan your wedding, and go ahead to get married. Writing this, it feels so simple. However, I feel confident that if most couples would stick to a plan like this, then they would set themselves on track for an excellent marriage from the outset. The most surprising thing for me in this is that once you have reliably identified excellent character, the actual foundation-building for your marriage need not take a very long time at all. From the time that you start talking to the point of getting married could take you as little as 6 months, even with a full three months for practising friendship.
The wise woman builds her house,
But the foolish pulls it down with her hands.
Photo of Digital Clock by Hans on Pixabay