Marriage was designed by God to be a relationship where we make a commitment for a lifetime. When we are making a lifetime commitment, we will invest ourselves more in each other and we will avoid saying and doing things that will cause damage to our relationship. (Read Nurture and Cherish)
God said “It is not good that man should be alone, I will make him a helper comparable Gen 2:18. Marriage is designed to be a helping relationship where the husband helps his wife and a wife helps her husband. When we are looking for a spouse, we are attracted to a mate who has strengths where we have weaknesses, and weaknesses where we have strengths. By helping one another and by learning to depend on each other, we build a quality marriage.
Making a Life
Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother, and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. Gen 2:23
Choosing a marriage partner, should be done with great care because you will be merging your life with the life of your spouse.
We live in Modesto and there are two rivers, the Stanislaus and the Tuolumne, that flow down from the high Sierra and pass on either side of the city. But an interesting thing happens about half way through my commute every morning. After I leave Modesto I cross the San Joaquin River on my way to Livermore. At a certain point, both the Stanislaus and the Tuolumne Rivers lose their own previous identities and take on a new identity: The San Joaquin. This River has elements and attributes of the Stanislaus and the Tuolumne, but from that point on, it makes its trip to the sea with a new identity.
The day we get married we must change our pronouns.
I becomes we.
My becomes our.
Mine becomes ours.
Please don’t marry anyone with whom you are not willing and ready to merge your money, your reputation, your name and your future.
We are no longer single individuals but a married couple. As single individuals, we put ourselves first in our decision-making. As a married couple we will find the most success and the most joy in marriage when we put our spouse before ourselves.
Speaking of leaving father and mother, all your life you have been told to obey your father and mother. When you get married, your relationship with your father and mother changes. When we leave father and mother, they no longer have authority over our life. It is important for the new married couple to understand that by getting married you are creating a new household and a new authority structure. No longer do you give your parents the place of authority over your lives. However, mother and father don’t always get the memo. They sometimes put pressure or expectations on their married adult children such as spending holidays together or expecting financial support.
A word of advice: Love and honor your parents but you should no longer feel any pressure to obey them. Your new marriage has created a new authority structure. Decide with your husband or wife what you want your life together to look like. Then be as gracious as you can, and tell your parents how you have decided to live your life together. Learn to value your extended family and be healthy, active members as you are able. But don’t allow them to manipulate or pressure you with guilt.
Healthy communication makes a healthy marriage. (See : Communication: The Lifeblood of Marriage).
There are only three things you can do with money: Spend it, Save it and Give it.
Healthy people learn to do all three.
It is important that married couples be in agreement on how you will obtain money and how your collective money will be spent, saved and given. It is the responsibility of both of you to decide together on your plan and to fulfill your part in carrying out your plan. Often in marriage, one or the other of the spouses is more gifted in administration. That spouse will often write the checks and balance the check book. But both spouses must be fully engaged in making the decisions on how the money gets spent. Here is a simple way to accomplish that.
1. Whichever spouse is administratively gifted, make a list of all the things you want/need to do with your money. i.e. rent, electricity, car payment, vacations, savings, spending money, etc.…
2. Both spouses sit down and review the list and the other spouse should add any additional items. Both spouses have an equal say in what goes on the list.
3. Decide together and agree on how much to spend on each item. Give every dollar a mission, even if it is extra money that is going into savings.
4. Now each spouse does what you’ve agreed to do with your money.
5. Make sure you budget a few dollars for each of you to have some pocket money to blow, even if it is only a few dollars per week.
6. If an unexpected financial expense comes up, talk to your spouse and decide together where the money will come from to pay for it.
You now have a budget that both of you agree on, and both of you carry the financial responsibility in your marriage.
Early in your dating relationship, it is important that you discuss your financial practices and philosophy on spending, saving, investing and debt, with your prospective spouse. Later, as your relationship progresses and you are moving closer towards marriage, it is important that you both disclose your complete financial status to your prospective spouse: Income, net worth, debts, taxes, foreclosures and bankruptcies. You wouldn’t want to find out after the wedding that you are now a million dollars in debt and neither would your spouse. Wait until you are married to merge your money.
Nobody’s perfect. That means that even if you are marrying Mr. Right or Miss Right, they will eventually do something wrong, and so will you. That is why learning to forgive is so crucial to a healthy marriage. It is also important to recognize when we are wrong and to apologize to our spouse. Don’t be too proud to admit when you are wrong. We all make mistakes. Sometimes we do something that is inconsiderate or selfish. The sooner we recognize it, and apologize, the healthier our marriage will be. (Read Taking Out the Trash)
Sex in marriage is one of the greatest benefits of a healthy marriage. Every couple enters into marriage with the expectation that their spouse will fulfill this crucial element of marriage. But many couples fail to discuss sex, or communicate their expectations to one another before marriage. They simply assume their fiancé will share their ideals.
Engaged couples need to have appropriate, meaningful conversations to make sure they are on the same page. The closer you get to your wedding date, the deeper these conversations should become. Be careful to have these discussions in places that protect you from temptation. Try to find a public place where you can have a private conversation.
When both husband and wife make their first priority to serve each other rather than serving themselves, they will do well. When considering a prospective spouse, observe how they act in the other areas of your relationship. Are they self absorbed or are they others centered? Do they have integrity or do they fudge on boundaries? Do they protect you from sexual temptation or do they try every ploy to get you into the sack? Whatever you are before marriage, will typically be magnified in marriage.
In order to have a thriving sexual relationship in marriage, we need to maintain a healthy relationship in all of the other areas. They are all connected. (Read: The Chapter on Sex)
An important note: If you have any sexually transmitted diseases, it is very important that you disclose them to your fiance before you get married. That way if you spouse becomes infected with them, there will not be any question of unfaithfulness associated with them. If they are incurable, disclose them. If they are curable, get them cured completely before you get married. If there is any chance they will reoccur, disclose them.
Choose your spouse carefully. You are entrusting them to be the only person in the world who will be authorized to meet your sexual needs. (Read Whose Body is it Anyway?)
Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. Gen 1:28
First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes… you guessed it. Married couples often look forward to raising their own family. So before you marry, it is important to discuss whether or not you plan to have children, generally how many you plan to have and to have a general agreement on how they will be raised. Husbands and wives often come from families who differ in their approach to raising children. Don’t assume your spouse knows or agrees with your philosophy. Talk about it together in depth. Read books, study, take classes and learn to be an excellent parent.
Yours, Mine and Ours.
Almost half of the marriages today result in blended families. That means that each spouse brings children with them into the marriage. Then sometimes, to complicate matters, the couple has a child together. If you’re not careful, your natural parental instincts will lead you to show favoritism to your children that are related to you by blood. A married couple must make a herculean effort to never let this happen. It is important that couples view all of their children as OUR children and to love them and carry the responsibility of raising them together. Children will often exploit the fact of their blended family to “divide and conquer”. Husband and wife must always maintain a united front and raise all of their children equally as OUR children. The children may not acknowledge or fully understand this concept, but it is crucial to their wellbeing and the health of your marriage.
This last item really should be first. Statistically marriages have a substantially higher rate of success when a couple agrees upon these four major areas of life: Money, Children, In-laws and Religion.
The bible says: Can two walk together, unless they are agreed? Amos 3:3 and of course the answer is No, not very far, and not for very long. Marriage is a lifetime commitment. If you marry someone with a different religion, they will have a different value system. That means with each passing day, you are bound to grow farther apart rather that growing closer together. If you marry someone with the same value system, you are much more likely to grow closer and closer together in a relationship that will last a lifetime. This is such an important subject that the bible tells Christians: Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? 2 Corinthians 6:14
Choosing a spouse is one of the most important decisions you will make in your entire life. Time spent preparing for your marriage is some of the most worthwhile use of your time. Do not hurry through this important preparation. Be prayerful and careful. Is it easy to discuss each of these topics? Do you find that you and your future spouse generally agree on most all of them? If your answer is yes, then you can proceed with confidence as you prepare for your marriage and as you make a life together.