Happy New Year to all readers of this blog! I’m kinda hoping to keep to a more systematic schedule myself for writing on this blog! Recently, as usual, busyness, as well as business, have prevailed. However, my mind has been working away as usual, thinking thoughts, seeing things. In this post I’d like to share with you a revised understanding of the way a potential relationship might progress till marriage. As I write this, as with many things I write, once again it feels so obvious, however, it has taken me many years of thinking and reflecting – hard – to come up with this. I might yet revise it further but for now I’m happy with this, I’m thinking this would work.
The reason why this is an important subject for me is because I feel that there are so many potential elements to a relationship, which would all combine to give you your marriage, be it good, bad, or phenomenal. I also believe that the time before marriage could be used to deliberately build excellent foundations for your marriage together. So the question then has been how to identify all the different potential elements of marriage/relationship and schedule the path of a relationship to account for these things in a simple and uncomplicated way. Every relationship is of course different, and I am not suggesting that this is a one-size-fits-all approach. Rather, it is a useful guideline, at least for myself, in thinking how to simply approach a relationship for the greatest chances of success – not just in getting to the point of getting married, but even in thriving within the marriage.
From observing other people’s marriages, many times I have seen issues crop up which might have been avoided altogether if either spouse, or both of them, had been more deliberate in thinking towards and planning for an excellent marriage before marriage. Possibly the most obvious example of this is when someone is married to a dreadful spouse – rude, inconsiderate, self-centred, lazy, immature, irresponsible – possibly all of the above, possibly even worse. And I think to myself:
“What were you looking at? Why were you not more careful to observe their character before actually marrying them?” And then again, you get instances where the spouses’ lives seem to be going in totally opposite directions to one another. And I think to myself: “Did you guys not actually discuss this before getting married?!”
So anyway, I hope that this guideline is a simple way to iron out many of these issues. As I say, I’m not instructing that everyone needs to follow my guideline. However, if you are fortunate enough not to have already tied yourself up in marriage, then I encourage you to at least find and follow some guideline! This could be the difference between having an amazing marriage…or enduring one another. If you have or can think of a better schedule or approach than mine, then please let me know, so that I can integrate it into my own approach!
Step 1. Get to know the other person for at least two years before embarking on a romantic relationship with them –
Point of this – To identify people with truly excellent character
How this helps: People commonly say that it takes at least two years to get to know someone fully, to get to know their character. I have spoken about this at great length on my blog already. It has certainly happened in my own life that I have met people, and been completely blown away by them…at first. And then, as I get to know them further, I suddenly start finding them…distinctly less appealing.
On the other hand, it has also happened the other way, that with some people, at first I don’t think myself inclined to be impressed. But then, as time goes on….
The great thing about this is that you can get to know a very large number of people within that same two years. Because there is nothing going on with anyone it is not like you’re deceiving anyone.
And then, here’s the thing, you have to be honest with yourself about what you truly think of these people once you have known them for at least two years. Sometimes I think that, especially with us women, our desire to get married might be so strong that we allow it to override our common sense. Whenever Mr “Could-he-be-The-One?” is speaking, deep down, do you think “You are such an idiot”, or “You’re lying”, or “Whom are you trying to kid?!!!”, or do you rather identify with what he is saying, and the heart from which he is saying it? It might sound a little strong to refer to someone as an idiot. However, believe it or not, there have been situations in my own life when I have come across men of whom I thought very unflattering things, in interacting with them, and yet I still pursued the possibility of romantic relationships with them! Looking back, I ask myself what I was thinking. I was thinking that I would pray within marriage. I also did not know all these things then which I am sharing with you now on this blog. I was still stumbling in the dark to get to an understanding of how to approach these things, I had not yet
authorised strictly instructed myself to accept only excellence from a spouse.
So then, if you are distinctly unimpressed with someone, don’t even go there. Seriously – if this needs to be stated! And then there is also the fact that some people use big words to hide the fact that there is not an ounce of sense – not even a single ounce – in their heads. What I am talking about is when, for instance, people use elaborate words to justify their self-centred motives, or actions which are the complete opposite of what the Bible teaches, hiding their poor character behind these big words. These are the kind of things that you should be looking out for, to avoid. These are the kind of things that will make for disastrous relationships. These are the kinds of people you should pursue romantically if you like to cry, or if you are excited about the thought of having a heart that is constantly full of anger. (The crying also includes men, because I know that men also cry in relationships.)
On the other hand, there are some people who speak more simply and yet are full of common sense. There are some people whose actions shine with honesty and integrity or kindness or compassion.
More realistic however, I believe, is that, if you do not take care to look very, very carefully, you might find yourself neither with a saint nor an outright ogre but rather with someone who is generally a good, decent person – but not striving. And yet I personally believe that the big challenges of life consistently demand utter excellence of character and perseverance and determination, at least for the life I’m living. For that reason I believe that a marriage between two “good” people, or even between one outstanding person and one merely good person, will often fall short. So then my prescription is to do your utmost to be outstanding yourself, and to look out for someone similarly outstanding to marry.
These are the kinds of things you should be looking out for when you get to know someone. These are the kinds of questions I will be asking myself:
Does he tell himself the truth? Do I listen to him, when he is speaking? That is, do I really listen, with my ears and my heart open, expecting to learn something or do I just pretend to be listening out of politeness, while yawning internally? Would I seek out his opinion? Is there any admiration in my heart towards him? Do I smile whenever I think of him? Are there aspects of his character that deeply impress me, that make me wonder “How does he do that?!”? Are there things that I am learning from him? Is he genuinely pursuing excellent character, and striving always to grow as deep as he can, to become more rooted in Christ, to know God’s word, to live God’s word, investing everything into his pursuit of Christlikeness? Does he plan to keep growing in this, or does he behave as if he has already attained a god-like status of holiness and all-round excellence, with no need to grow any further?
An issue with all of this is that as a Christian, it is so easy to pretend that you are desperate for Christ, that you are pursuing Him and His word and His truth and His character with every drop of strength in your body. Please. This is the point of waiting for two years. You will be able to sift out those people who are truly striving…from that far greater majority of people who are simply “saying the right things”.
7 Go from the presence of a foolish man,
When you do not perceive in him the lips of knowledge.