This week I’m answering this question submitted by a reader via Facebook:
In the Today’s Christian Woman article “When Your World Collapses,” you indicate that every woman should answer three questions before getting married:
Why am I getting married?
Why am I marrying this man?
Why am I marrying this man now?
What specifically should a woman be looking for in her answers and if you do not mind, what were your answers to these questions? How about from a man’s perspective? Perhaps your husband could answer this question.
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In Work, Love Pray, and in the article referenced, I encourage people to get beyond the simple, “because I love them” answer to those “why” questions. Love is a wonderful thing, but in a healthy relationship, you should be able to get more specific than just that one word.
Here’s the bad news: I can’t offer you a list of “correct” answers.
But oh, I wish I could! Because I’ll tell you, getting it wrong just plain hurts. I’ve been there, feeling my heart and my family and my world crumbling, and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, ever. But as painful as it was, I can see clearly now how God used that darkness for good. That trial deepened my relationship with God and my understanding and experience of grace, and it taught me a lot about love and relationships.
When, years later, I met and dated my now-husband Chris, I did so with a deeper understanding of what I was looking for. In short, it came down to faith, commitment, and camaraderie.
I married Chris because I love him! And because:
1. He has a relationship with and fears God. Okay, I know I said that there were no “correct” answers, but this one is really non-negotiable. It forms the foundation for trust and commitment. It’s not about looking like the “perfect Christian,” or having the most scriptures memorized. Chris is human and he makes mistakes, but he consistently demonstrates a desire to know God and to love Him and to do His will. If the person you’re dating doesn’t share your faith or doesn’t seem interested in spiritual growth, I really can’t recommend moving toward marriage.
If you’re reading this and you’re already married to someone who doesn’t share your faith priority, don’t despair. Don’t give up. Keep praying everyday that your spouse will see a love in you that is different from what the world offers. Focus more on actions than words, and remember that God’s grace is endless and His plans are good.
2. He is committed to our marriage through good times and tough times. Chris partners with me spiritually (serving God together), financially (economically supporting the family), physically (sexually, keeping healthy, and in sickness), and emotionally (sharing joy and offering support in tough times). He is committed to being a father and step father of our children and will partner with me to raise all four of them.
3. We share common interests and priorities, including faith, family, physical exercise (especially running & snow skiing) and travel. Chris and I certainly don’t share all of our hobbies or interests, but there’s enough common ground that we can enjoy each other and build experiences together. Our priorities are aligned enough that we’re able to make decisions together even when we disagree.
When I ran this question by Chris his answers were essentially the same as mine (maybe that’s part of the reason we work so well!). Some people complain about marriage feeling “empty” when their kids have grown and moved out, but Chris and I feel quite the opposite. We loved raising our kids and look forward to every interaction today, but we would both tell you we are loving life together as empty nesters!
It’s okay if your answers aren’t the same as ours are. I have friends with strong marriages who might certainly answer differently, but you do need to have thought through answers that go beyond love. If this is something you’re thinking about and struggling with, I highly recommend Tim and Kathy Keller’s book, The Meaning of Marriage.
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What’s your perspective? What, beyond love, should marriage be based on?