My guide to marriage… (for those who are single and wanting to mingle)

It’s funny that I would being writing this guide. From all outside perspectives, I was pretty much a failure in the “dating game”. Of course I talked a good game, but the bottom line was that I rarely had any second dates in my life, and most often I never even got a first date. I finally got married when I was 35 years old, and in retrospect, I am very grateful that it took me that long to get married. I don’t think my wife, Jena, is the “one and only” perfect spouse for me. I can’t imagine anyone better, but throughout my bachelorhood, there were plenty of great women I befriended that I could have married. I think God just knew I wasn’t ready for it, and had a lot of refining he needed to do in my life. I’m sure Jena would say the same thing about herself. Fortunately, it all worked out and now I am very happily married.

Anyway, I read some verses today in my devotional that really got me thinking (Much of this is stolen from the devotional “You Make Me Crazy by Rick Warren). So I thought I would create a checklist that I would suggest all single people think through before even dating someone, and especially before you marry them. Some will be easier to see than others, but through friendship and dating, I believe these things could save you from disaster and/or affirm your choice of marriage partner. Also, it really isn’t my checklist, as all of these things come straight from the Bible. (as a side note, I believe this guide can work for non Christians, but if you are a Christian, you should never date or marry someone who is not, or has very different views of Christianity than you do)

The first thing that I see that needs to be on this checklist when determining a marriage partner would be to NEVER marry or date someone with uncontrolled anger. This doesn’t mean they are angry all the time, but you can see a pattern of uncontrolled explosiveness when they finally reach a boiling point in their anger. Proverbs 23:20 says “Do not make friends with a hot-tempered person; do not associate with one easily angered”. These individuals often have a deep insecurity and low self-worth that will not be solved outside of a big transformation from God himself. If you see them lose control, it is time to evaluate and discuss that problem with them.

Second, whoever you marry should not be stuck in an addiction. Proverbs 23:20 says, “Don’t associate with people who drink too much wine or stuff themselves with food”. These are just two examples of addictions, but when deciding on who to befriend, and obviously WAY before you get even close to marriage talks, you should be searching for addictions both hidden and open. I dated a girl that I was really fond of. She was beautiful, and came from a great family. I started to notice the handbags she carried, the clothes she wore, the jewelry on her body, and the car she drove. As I began talking to her about debt, she did not want to talk about it. After some poking and prodding, she let me know that she was nearly drowning in debt. She lived at home, I believe rent and utility free, and still could barely pay her bills. She had no college bills, and was working a full time job. She just loved to buy things, and I would consider it an addiction when you are drowning in debt because of it. When it was time to call off the relationship, I simply told her, “You are a great girl, but I’m probably going to be in the ministry my entire life.” Her father was a pastor at one time when she was younger. I continued, “You know what kind of money a pastor is likely to make. I can’t give you the things you may want, and there is no way I’m going to go into debt buying things. You need to find yourself a great Christian lawyer, doctor, or some other wealthier person, because I don’t think you would like the lifestyle I am likely to provide. I definitely wouldn’t like being in debt.” She got married, and seems to be doing well. I don’t know if it was an addiction in her life, but I could see it being a problem for me. Also, especially with women, digging deep into the secret sins of the person you are dating is a MUST. Seek out, ask questions, and do everything you can to uncover a porn addiction before it is too late.

Third, whoever you are dating must not be harboring bitterness. Hebrews 12:15 says, “Guard against turning back from the grace of God. Let no one become like a bitter plant that grows up and causes many troubles with its poison.” There are a lot of legitimate things to be bitter about, but God instructs us to grab a hold of the grace of God when dealing with our wounds. So many people have been innocently wounded, but bitterness will simply poison that person and bring about more trouble. When you see bitterness in someone’s heart, and they don’t want to give it to God and let it go, it is time to get out of the way of future trouble.

Fourth, pump the brakes on a relationship where you see selfishness. I remember the movie “The Wedding Singer”. It’s a comedy, that has some edgy things in it, but the movie is about two people, who are engaged to two different people, whose lives intersect and they begin to realize how toxic the person they want to marry is. Adam Sandler’s character (The Wedding Singer) said he realized how selfish his fiancé was when they were in an airplane, and he wanted to sit in the window seat to see something (I believe it was the Grand Canyon). His fiancé had already seen it before in an airplane, and he asked if she would switch seats with him. She refused. Well at the end of the movie, the same situation happens with Drew Barrymore’s character and her fiancé in an airplane. He refuses as well. Proverbs 28:25 says, “Selfishness only causes trouble.” When you notice selfish tendencies in the person you are dating, realize that it “only causes trouble”. It may be time to have the difficult talk, and perhaps break up with it  before you marry “trouble”.

Fifth, don’t marry someone who is greedy. Proverbs 15:27 says, “Greed brings grief to the whole family.” Greed just doesn’t disappear, just like a big waistline or huge debt doesn’t simply disappear. It is something that takes a lot of time and discipline. It takes accountability and a lot of prayer. When you see a greedy person, put a distance on them. If you marry them, you are likely to have a lot of grief in your family.

Sixth, find someone generous and kind. Proverbs 11:25 says, “A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.” Proverbs 11:17 says, “Those who are kind benefit themselves, but the cruel bring ruin on themselves.” You should be able to see this yourself, and hear it from others.

Seventh, don’t just ignore deceit and lies, no matter how insignificant they can appear. I had a friend from childhood that attended college with me. I stayed on campus for several years, while this friend lived off campus. His apartment didn’t have much food, and I was feeling generous one day (I think my grandfather sent me a $50 check in the mail). So I took him to the local food mart (probably in a gas station), and told him to get some snacks and I’d pay for them. He got some drinks, chips, etc. He came across individually wrapped Reese’ cups. They were $.25 a piece. He grabbed a handful and as we were acquiring the other items, he began eating them. Every time we passed them, he would grab more. I told him, “Keep track of how many you are eating so we can pay for them.” He must have eaten 8-10 of them, as we walked around (they were the mini ones and he was popping them like M&M’s). As we go to pay, I ask him how many he ate, and he says “3 or 4 of them”. I was frustrated. Here I am, willing to pay for all of it, and he still didn’t care about being honest. This was one of a few things I personally noticed in his life where he was dishonest, but later in life he had many, many financial and relationship problems. He just wasn’t a man of integrity and it brought trouble into his life, and really hurt his family. If you see integrity issues, it’s a good sign to run away. Even if they are just small things.

It seems like a long list, but it really isn’t. I believe there are a lot of people in this world who could easily check all the boxes, but it takes time and patience to find them. It also takes a lot of prayer, and spiritual self-discipline to be a person who could themselves check all those boxes. I’m glad God instilled in me the patience to search for someone who had these traits, and surrounded me with people who would call me out when I didn’t live up to those traits in my life. It was worth the wait.

Don’t compromise due to the burning desire to be married. I’ve seen compromise that brought great pain to families, especially as children are involved. God can give you something that you never dreamed possible. He did it with me, even if it happened a decade or more after many of my friends were married.