As I approach my wedding day this Saturday, I thought it might be helpful to our single readers, those who have never married, and those who may be divorced, if I noted some of the things I’ve learned this time around.
I was married the first time for 25 years, and I’ve looked back many, many times and wondered, where did I go wrong when choosing my first husband? What could I have done differently? What did I not see? What did I do wrong in the marriage? And while I am not even married yet, and don’t have experience living with my husband-to-be yet, there are some clear differences this time. Perhaps some of these can help some of our readers:
1. Look first at the heart of the man, not his looks, job, car, home, education, etc. Granted, we all need to be somewhat physically attracted to our future mates. And I was attracted to him, but there were other factors I wasn’t sure about, and the Lord had to speak to my heart repeatedly so that I didn’t turn away. I have a tendency to be arrogant about my educational level, (I try not to be) and therefore my “list” of desirable qualities previous to meeting my fiance definitely included a college education. However, my fiance does not have a college education, and, in fact, is very much a country boy with a country manner of speech. He uses a lot of “ain’ts” and other country-isms. We are very different, and once I made the decision not to try to correct him, I began to be charmed by his country ways.
He is also a new Christian. That was NOT what I expected God to give me. And I remember looking up into heaven after I met him, and thought, “What? How is he to be my spiritual leader?” But God in His great wisdom gave me a man who leads by example. He is the most loving, self-sacrificing man I’ve ever known, except for my dad. He may not know the Bible as I do–I’ve got about 40 years of study on him–but he has the love thing down pat. Love oozes out of his pores. And that is precisely what I need. He is now studying the Word at every opportunity, and I am helping him to learn.
2. Know that your man loves you for your heart as well. Sure, you want to look great for him–and you should strive for that. But does he think you’re beautiful without makeup? Does he still adore you even when he sees your cellulite? Your morning just-out-of-bed look? Do you know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that he thinks you’re far more beautiful, inside and out, than you do? If he makes little comments about getting your makeup on, tell him to get on a fast train out of your life.
3. Tune in to the tenor of your relationship. Prior to my first marriage, my husband and I had a lot of tiffs, but I figured that relationships took a lot of work. I was attracted to him physically and the fact that he had a good job and a good future. I wanted security. However, I didn’t scrutinize the little things in the relationship. Did he honor and respect me? Did he put me first? Did I feel loved by him? Protected? And what about his basic personality? Did he get angry easily? Could we talk about anything easily without being afraid to upset the other?
Take note of the subtleties in your relationship. If there is tension, if you feel as though you can’t talk about anything and everything, if he is moody–or you are–beware. If you feel that you love him more than he loves you, this is a danger sign. If you don’t feel utterly relaxed, calm and completely adored when you’re with him, think twice and go to God about whether this is the right man for you.
4. It is absolutely essential that you are best friends. And I mean that in the truest sense of the word. If you cannot talk to your boyfriend about absolutely everything you can talk to your girlfriends about, then he is not right for you. Do you love being together, even when you’re running errands? Is he the first one you want to talk to when something upsetting or painful happens in your life? Are you playful with each other? Do you laugh together, tease each other (kindly, not in a mean-spirited way), surprise each other? Does he really listen to you, or do you have to pull his attention away from his phone, the TV, etc.?
My fiance and I talk on the phone every morning when he’s on his way to work, and if we’re not together in the evening, we talk on the phone. We share everything.
5. Pray together from the beginning. If he’s not comfortable praying with you, this is another warning sign. Although I met my ex-husband in a singles group at church, I found out after we were married that his Christianity was skin deep. We never prayed together. And I never saw him open his Bible in 25 years of marriage, even though he did attend church with me and the girls for many years. My fiance and I pray together regularly. We read the Bible together and discuss it. He’s not completely comfortable praying out loud yet, but he does do so.
6. Tune in to his relationships with his family and friends. I have watched how my fiance deals with his mother, who struggles with health issues. He is very tender toward her. He makes a point of helping her out with her home maintenance, etc. I’ve also listened to what others say about him. I’ve tuned into the subtle nuances, trying to see if there was anything awry. Is he consistent across the board with how he treats people? Is he honest? Does he have a lot of good, long-term friendships and family relationships?
7. Realize that if he’s been married before, he’ll have baggage and so will you. Somehow, other peoples’ baggage seems so much worse than your own. One of the biggest fears I had about my fiance were his children. They’re grown adults and have their issues. I wasn’t sure I wanted to deal with those issues, especially since I’m still raising one of my own, and of course, my kids have issues as well. Watch how your man handles his kids. If he handles them in a mature way that doesn’t severely impact your relationship, then realize you should both be OK. Just be sure you’re both putting your relationship first, not your kids or your exes.
8. Ensure you have the same money management habits. Is he generous with you? Or is he nitpicking as to who pays for what? Are you generous? Do you offer to pay for things so that he doesn’t feel as though he’s always pulling out his debit card? Do you both strive to pay cash for things, or is one of you more of a credit card junky? Being on the same page financially is utterly important, right up there with being best friends and praying together. Be sure you talk about your financial goals as well, and ask God to give you a man who wants to live within your means–and be sure that’s your goal, too.
9. Give him space for “me” time and to pursue his interests, and be sure he will do the same for you. We all need to refuel our souls occasionally, whether it’s through quiet time, or pursuing our hobbies. I’ve talked to my fiance a lot about how I need to be alone at times to refuel, whether I’m in the garden or in the Word. He gets that, and won’t take it personally. Neither should you.
10. Most importantly, put God at the head of your relationship right from the start. Build your house on the Rock. Ask God to show you, every step of the way, that this is the right man for you. Ask God to clearly reveal if he is not. Then be willing to move on. One thing I’ve learned from the beginning of this relationship is that I had no idea how wonderful it could be until God brought me this man–and believe me, I continued to ask Him if, indeed, this was the man He was giving to me. In my courtship with my previous husband, even though we argued off and on, I figured that relationships took work, not realizing I was settling for the wrong guy. But now, after dating my fiance for nearly 8 months, I’ve been astounded at how easy our relationship has been, how we fit hand-in-glove. We’ve had only one minor argument in 8 months. I attribute this to God and God alone who has led us together, and continues to build our love for each other. When God is at the head of your relationship, everything falls into place, everything feels right, and your relationship is blessed.
And, when God is at the head of your relationship, your relationship becomes an example to others, and a ministry. Just since we’ve been dating, his mother has returned to church after several years away. He has other family members who have begun to attend church occasionally.
Blessings to all of you who are in relationships now, or are seeking the man God has for you. I pray that He blesses you richly, as He has blessed me.