Author: Phylicia Masonheimer
Marriage is serious. God takes it seriously, and so should we. But in an age where weddings take up more conversation time than marriage itself, it’s easy to jump into an engagement on a wave of infatuation without asking some hard questions.
In the church, marriage is sometimes used as a “solution” for sexually immoral couples – even though marriage won’t fix a struggle with lust. Other times engagement happens as the natural next step for a couple who’ve been together for years, but haven’t evaluated the true state of their relationship. Christian marriage is a picture of the gospel and as such, should not be taken lightly. God wants the best for His children, and He gives us guidance in order to find His will. Sometimes that guidance comes in the form of warning signs: signs we shouldn’t say “I do” after all. Here are ten things that should make you pause before getting engaged or married.
1. You don’t share the same faith.
For followers of Christ, it’s not just suggested that we marry a fellow believer; it’s commanded! This isn’t because God is cruel or unfair. Rather, it is because of God’s incredible love and protective nature that He issues this command. In the Old Testament He forbade intermarrying with people who served other gods for the precise reason that those gods would lead His children astray ( ). In the New Testament, we’re commanded not to form intimate relationships with unbelievers for the same reason: doing so pulls us away from our foundation.
Paul did give instructions to those already married to unbelievers, but he did so understanding how difficult that road would be. When we unite ourselves to someone who doesn’t share our faith, we’re putting a human relationship ABOVE our relationship with God. We’re also uniting ourselves to someone who has nothing in common with us spiritually or eternally, and who does not possess the Holy Spirit to guide thoughts and actions. It’s a dangerous game, and it grieves God.
2. You have different life callings.
If one person in a relationship is called to overseas missions and the other does not share this call, something has to be resolved. Whose calling will the couple follow? This isn’t something that can be “figured out” after the vows!
God places individual passions and skills within each of us. We get to steward those gifts for His glory! But if we partner with someone who refuses to go along with the use of those gifts, we’ll forever be in conflict over honoring our marriage or honoring our call. Have the discussion before engagement, and be honest with each other regarding your dreams.
3. Your partner is financially irresponsible.
Finances might not seem like a major issue pre-marriage, but they become one as soon as those vows are said. A unified couple is completely honest about their financial status and habits – even sharing a joint bank account. But when one partner is financially irresponsible, it doesn’t just affect them as a person; it affects the marriage and the future of that family.
That’s why it’s so important to discuss finances BEFORE getting engaged. Take a financial class together. Make a mock budget. Go over your spending habits. Once married, your spending habits affect the other person and vice versa. An irresponsible partner can destroy the future of a family. Don’t get engaged until you’ve found accountability and agreed on a financial path.
4. You think marriage will stop sexual sin.
The church has perpetuated an idea that is neither biblical nor healthy: that getting married is the solution to sexual lust. If a couple is failing to stay pure, well-meaning believers tell them to “just get married” so the problem will be solved.
Except it won’t be.
Sexual sin and lust are spiritual issues. They begin in the heart and mind. As such, they are not conquered when a couple is able to have sex. Instead, those heart attitudes remain dormant until another temptation comes along. When this sin is not dealt with spiritually, it causes further sexual sin IN marriage: pornography addiction, mental infidelity, and even actual infidelity. Don’t get married to stop an urge. Learn how to walk by the Spirit and control your impulses. Your spouse is not just meant to serve your sexual needs; you’re meant to serve theirs. Getting married won’t stop sexual sin. Only Christ can do that.
5. You disagree about children.
If you can’t agree about children, it’s time to take a step back from the relationship and evaluate your values. Couples who marry without coming to an agreement about kids find that ignoring the issue is not effective. When one partner wants several children and the other wants few to none, there is great opportunity for bitterness to grow.
This also applies to agreement over how to raise children. Where will they attend school? Will both spouses work? These questions should be discussed before engagement. A great way to have this discussion is to spend time around kids. Babysit together. Volunteer at VBS together. Learn what you want your family culture to look like before you get there.
6. “Privacy” is an excuse for secrecy.
A partner who claims to be “private” and doesn’t want to share information, communication, or time, may have bigger issues at play. Relationships are built on honesty and trust. Without that, love is hampered.
Get to the root of this need for privacy; what is it about? Why can’t the other party be involved? You need absolute openness in a relationship headed to marriage. Secrets before marriage become secrets after marriage – not a healthy way to begin a lifelong commitment.
7. You have unresolved conflicts.
Do you continually argue without reaching a compromise? Is there something bugging you that you don’t want to bring up because you’re afraid of conflict? These issues can cause a major rift in a marriage. It’s extremely unhealthy to head toward engagement without confronting any grudges you’ve held.
It’s also worth noting that confrontation is not a bad thing. It’s a good thing – if your heart is resolution! Learn to accept conflict. Learn to work through it with your partner. A person who avoids conflict, holds grudges, and wants their partner to “figure out” what’s bothering them is setting their marriage up for difficulty from the start.
8. You have drastically different theological views.
Subtle denominational differences can be overcome by talking through your beliefs, attending different churches together, and deciding together which church you’ll attend. But even among Christians, drastically different theological beliefs can cause a rift in a marriage. This often becomes an issue when the couple is deciding what will be taught to their children. Having parents who believe very different things about God, the Bible, and the authority of Scripture causes confusion for young minds.
Before getting engaged, discuss your view of God, Jesus, the Bible, and how the Christian life should be lived. This will naturally overflow into a discussion of Christian life issues: parenting and discipline, alcohol use, male/female friendships post marriage, and finances. Our worldview dictates how we make decisions, and it’s important that a couple be on the same page as much as possible.
9. One or both of you has jealousy, anger, or control issues.
It might seem cute when he’s jealous as you’re dating – but what’s the extent of that jealousy? How angry does it he get about insignificant things? Does she lash out frequently and blame it on her emotions? In his series Gospel Treason, Brad Bigny points out that strong emotional reactions to circumstances are often a sign of idolatry. When a person reacts with rage, jealousy, or passive aggression, the idol is often control. This can escalate into a very dangerous situation.
Until your partner gets counseling and acknowledges this problem area in his or her character, it’s better to wait on the wedding vows.
10. You think marriage will complete you.
Marriage is not designed to completely satisfy. God has not designed “the One” for each of us to discover in this life; nowhere in Scripture do we see the concept of a soulmate articulated - it’s rooted in Greek mythology. Marriage, while a beautiful picture of God’s love for the church and a powerful way to make disciples, is not an end-all-be-all. And it certainly will not solve the spiritual issues of loneliness, purposelessness, fear, or depression.
If you’re looking for marriage and a spouse to complete you, don’t get married! Marriage is an altar of sacrifice above all else. It is where we commit to love 100% just as Christ loved the church. There are many personal benefits we receive when we do marriage God’s way, but entering it with a selfish mindset destroys the foundation right from the beginning.
Don’t say “I do” until you’ve put your hope in the only One who can complete you: Jesus Christ.