No single decision will impact your spiritual life more than your choice of a spouse, so dating is an opportunity to get really, really honest because marriage commits you to working it out.
You must know them, who they really are (and vice versa). But there is so much to unpack about a person. How can you get to know them as best as possible?
Don’t marry someone until you’ve…
#4 — Known them for three years
Psychology says that it takes three years to fully get to know a person. While this is relative based on how often you see a person and what those interactions include, three years is still a good number to stand by.
The point is for enough time to pass so you can recognize patterns, habits, and the big picture of who a person is. Let them develop a new past. Power through a hectic season, lag along during a slow season. Learn how they handle each.
See them in multiple contexts: formal, muddy, and casual. Learn how they feel about rented bowling shoes and how they handle slow internet. If you grabbed their hand to dance in a public space, would they crumble with embarrassment or go with the flow?
Learn who they are as a wholistic being, their overall reputation versus just how one group thinks of them. What were they like as children? Who are they today? Where do they want to go in the future? A person is so much more than the chapter you walk in on.
#3 — Had a mutually painful argument
There is not a single marriage in the past, present, or future that is free from trouble. Relationships are guaranteed to have struggles (1 Corinthians 7:28b), so relationships are—in large part—about problem-solving.
You need a partner whose problem-solving abilities complement yours. But how will you know if this is the case if you don’t encounter any problems before getting married?
This is a branch of the benefits of knowing someone a while before getting married. If you are consistently interacting with the other, you will inevitably come across a less-than-ideal situation that challenges one or both of your cool heads.
Handling external situations is certainly one regard, but having a mutually painful argument between the two of you will shed much-needed light on how each handles conflict resolution. Are they one to spaz out or internally brood? Should your role be to confront or let them reflect?
Regardless, you both need to have a determination to resolve a situation rather than push it under the rug or throw the entire relationship away. That’s what soulmates are, anyway: just two ordinary people who refuse to let the world tear them apart.
#2 — Trust them
Marriage is raw. Walls come down. Things get real. It is the closest, most intimate relationship you will ever have with another human, so you shouldn’t marry someone unless you know without a shadow of a doubt that you can trust them.
They will come to know more about you than anyone else and have far more influence on where you go in life. They will be your Jiminy Cricket and your devil’s advocate, the dream crusher who keeps your reality in check. Do you value their perspective?
Do you admire their morals and values? Would you entrust them with your life or with shaping those of your children? To love is vulnerable— in the present but also where that journey could take you. Vulnerable, but oh so beautiful.
“The most intimate thing we can do is to allow people we love most see us at our worst. At our lowest. At our weakest. True intimacy happens when nothing is perfect.”-Amy Harmon
You cannot be close to anyone without them eventually hurting you. Things will go down, and you need to know without a shadow of a doubt that—beneath the human you are privileged to call a husband or wife—you have a best friend you trust with your life.
#1 — God is first
A marriage is only as strong as the reason for getting married, so that reason needs to be outside of two fallible human beings. Your why has to be God-centered and God-focussed. You have to commit to God before you commit to him or her.
We are not capable of loving an imperfect person perfectly, merely exporting what we have received from Love Himself. So you have to be in tune with your heavenly Father for any chance of being a blessing to your spouse.
“Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.”-Psalm 73:25
Finding your sufficiency in Christ alone will also free you of “needing” your spouse. If you “don’t need” them, you will be free of the fear that cripples brutally honest love. You will be free to say what they need to hear instead of what they may want to hear— all because Christ is all you need, not a positive standing in another’s eyes.
Your reason for marrying someone should capture that ultimate purpose: loving God and loving others for the sake of advancing His kingdom. A potential spouse should make you stronger in these areas, set you on fire for the mission God has placed on your heart, and draw you closer to Christ.
They are not meant to be someone who makes you happy as the world measures comfort but an instrument of righteousness, a jagged rock, a spiritual irritant who bumps and nudges you closer to Christlikeness— for the sake of the world.