When God made man He said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet [a helper suitable] for him.” (Genesis 2:18) God knows how deeply a man longs to have companionship, so He created a woman to help share in the burdens and responsibilities of life, someone to talk with, dream with, and share intimate experiences with.
A loving, harmonious marriage is beautiful to behold but, sadly, these are few and far between. A spouse can be one of the greatest blessings in a person’s life, or he/she can be one the biggest curses. When a young couple decides to get married they often have little understanding of how a good marriage ought to be, nor do they know much about the qualities to look for in a spouse that will help ensure a long, loving marriage. Almost without exception, a young couple will have many surprises shortly after marriage. They think they know the person to whom they have dedicated the rest of their lives, but in reality they have barely just begun getting to know each other. On my wedding day my father-in-law gave a little speech at our reception, in which he said something like this: “Lynnford, you are not marrying the woman you think you are marrying. Only after you are married and live together for awhile will you begin to know the woman you are marrying.” I have to say that he was right. Even though my wife and I had spent a lot of time together and gone through several pre-marriage books together, we both had many surprises after marriage.
Some couples, after the glitter of new love wears off and the hard realities of trying to make two very different lives blend together as one set in, decide that they are incompatible and quickly seek to get a divorce. This always leaves many scars, and is especially damaging when children are involved. The divorce rate in the United States is one of the highest in the world, and the rate has increased around the world in recent years. The divorce rate for second and third marriages is even higher. Even among Christians the divorce rate is far too high. God never intended it to be this way. He said, “The LORD, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away [divorce].” (Malachi 2:16) God hates divorce because He knows how devastating and damaging it is to everyone involved. My parents got divorced when I was ten, so I know somewhat of the heartache that divorce brings.
Since I became a Christian, I have traveled extensively and visited many homes. I have seen many marriages, both good and bad. Some of the bad marriages I saw made me a little apprehensive about getting married, but it also gave me the desire to study and to be cautious regarding choosing a wife. I developed fairly strict guidelines and criteria that I knew were necessary in a woman before I would consent to spend the rest of my life with her. This, of course, narrowed my choices but, after seven years, the Lord blessed me with a wonderful wife, for whom I am very thankful. I certainly found “a good thing.”
I would like to share a few things that I have learned that should be helpful to any young couple or any singles who are contemplating marriage.
Children learn what they live
“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6)
A young lady will learn how to treat a man by the way her mother treats her father. If her mother treats her father with love and respect, constantly showing affection and care, then she will tend to treat her father in the same way. This father-daughter relationship will form the groundwork for how she treats her husband. If a young lady has a close bond with her father, then she will have the tendency to form a close bond with her husband. When I was looking for a wife, I watched this closely. My wife has a very close relationship with her father, and treats him with love and respect. When I saw this, I had a good idea of what to expect from her as a wife, and I was right. While I was searching for a wife, I noticed other young ladies who were very attractive and had a lot of good qualities, but who treated their parents harshly and disrespectfully. That was a red flag to me, because I knew that they would treat their husbands in a very similar way, so I avoided them.
If a young lady’s mother speaks harshly or disrespectfully to her husband, then the daughter will often treat her father in the same way. The relationship that she builds with her father will then carry over into her married life. If she has the tendency to speak harshly and disrespectfully to her father, or if she has a distant, broken relationship with him, then any young man can expect that she will treat him in a very similar way. Of course she would not do this during the courting time, but you can be quite sure that she will take up this attitude after she is married, for that is what she learned as a child. The same is true with a young man. He learns how to treat a woman by the way his father treats his mother. If his father disrespects his mother, and is abusive towards her, then he will likely disrespect his mother also, and carry this attitude into his married life, and become an abusive husband like his father.
One thing that is very important to look for in a spouse is whether or not he/she has a good parent-child relationship. If it is good, then the marriage relationship will be good. If it is bad, then the marriage relationship will be bad. It is true that there are exceptions to this rule, but not very often. “He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed.” (Proverbs 13:20)
For those who are already married and did not know this information, take courage, because with God all things are possible. When God and His Son make their abode in a person’s heart, wonderful things can happen. Rough attitudes can be subdued, hard exteriors can be polished, rude and obnoxious people can become calm and kind by the transforming power of God’s Spirit working upon the heart. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22, 23)
A genuine Christian is imperative
(I will write this from a man’s perspective, but it is equally true from a woman’s perspective.)
For any young Christian man it is imperative to find a genuine Christian wife. “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14) A Christian has certain goals and aspirations that are extremely important, and absolutely contrary to the goals of unbelievers. Christians will want to raise their children to love God and serve Him. They will want to devote much time to establishing their own relationship with God and in training their children about the things of God. An unbeliever sees no value in this, and will become jealous of the time spent in pursuit of this matter. She will also exert an unholy, degrading influence upon her husband and their children. There will be a constant battle between the believer and the unbeliever on almost all aspects of life. It is easy for a young Christian man to become infatuated with an unbelieving woman, by spending time with her and being overtaken with her wittiness, her charms, and the care she shows towards him. In this early stage of building a relationship, the Christian sometimes becomes blinded by what he thinks is love. He gives his affection to an unbeliever, oblivious of how completely incompatible he is with an unbeliever. Because the Christian knows better than to expect his parents and loved ones to approve of him selecting an unbeliever for a spouse, the young Christian will take up the duty of “converting” the unbelieving woman. This endeavor often ends in disappointment and, even if the unbeliever professes to give her life to Christ, it is often just a mockery and, shortly after marriage, she will return to her old ways. The young Christian will then be stuck in a relationship that he really wishes he had never gotten involved in.
Another scenario happens all too often as well. Some young Christian men form a close relationship with an unbelieving companion, and the pull is so strong that they abandon their Christianity to pursue an unholy alliance with an unbeliever. When this takes place, the ex-Christian will live a life of regret and shame, and will very likely regret that he had ever pursued an unbelieving wife. It is much better to avoid trying to form a marriage with an unbeliever.
Like beliefs is a must
“Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” (Amos 3:3)
Much of what was said in the previous section can be applied here with equal force. Some young Christian men find a charming companion of another faith. They would like to pursue the relationship, so they take it upon themselves to convert the young lady because they know that like-faith is important. They invite their friend to attend their church, and wish for her to believe the doctrines which they hold. The problem with this scenario is that there are ulterior motives involved. The young lady could openly profess to believe the same as her companion, but in reality she does not believe the same way and just wishes to appease the family and church who sees the necessity of married couples believing the same way. All too often this ends up in a marriage relationship where two very different belief systems are competing for the supremacy. The Sabbath can become a very serious and noticeable difference among Christian couples, and one which is very difficult to resolve. One parent wants to teach their children one belief system, while the other is seeking to teach a conflicting belief system. This constant battle is very difficult to deal with, and often ends in divorce. It is much better to find a spouse who already believes the truths that you have come to cherish, and who shares the same desires for raising godly Christian children. “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” (Psalms 133:1)
Do not seek a spouse whom you hope to change to suit your ideals
Some young men find certain good qualities in a potential wife, but notice certain unacceptable traits that need changing. Then they take it upon themselves to make these changes in their companion so that they will be compatible. There are a few reactions that the potential wife may have.
1) She may rebel and openly reject any attempt by her companion to change her.
2) The desire for a husband may be strong enough for her to make genuine changes.
3) She may have a strong desire for a husband and decide to pretend that she has changed just long enough to get married.
Usually the former or the latter is true, so beware of these things. It is much better to seek a wife who is already the type of person you would be happy to live with for the rest of your life, rather than seeking to change something about her. Chances are that you will never succeed in making these changes and, if they are very important changes, then you will be miserable if you decide to enter into marriage with that person.
Marriage can be a very beautiful thing, given the right circumstances. If both partners are committed Christians who share the same beliefs and, who have both learned the right way to treat each other, then the marriage will likely be a wonderful thing.
Marriage was designed to be a life-long commitment. “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24) When my wife and I got married we decided to stick together no matter what. Divorce and failure were not an option to us. When difficult times came, we both were committed to “make this thing work.” We have really had very few difficult times, and our marriage has been wonderful for both of us. True, we both have our faults, but we know that with God all things are possible. When you commit yourself to a marriage relationship, keep in mind that it is a life-long decision, so you better get it right the first time. There are many difficulties that face a young married couple even when all things have been considered. Do not add to those difficulties by choosing a spouse that you know will give you heartache in the long run. They say, “Love is blind,” and sometimes it is blinding. Do not let what you think to be love blind you from planning ahead for your future, to ensure a lasting and loving marriage relationship.
“A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself: but the simple pass on, and are punished.” (Proverbs 22:3)