Friends of ours love to tell the story of how they got married just two weeks after they met and actually survived to tell about it. By Gods grace, theyve stayed married over 50 years, but my friend says, I wouldnt recommend it to anyone. It was a nightmare, with plenty of fireworks the first months. Obviously, a two-week courtship will not start anyone on the path to a great marriage. What will?
As my husband and I celebrate our 25th anniversary this year, we remember the motto we have for our marriage: No return policy. It started out as a joke during our engagement, but repeating it often engraved it into our minds. It reminds us that even when we have problems, we want to honor the lifelong commitment we made to each other. However, we want to do more than just stick it out with gritted teeth. We want to have a great marriage.
My lovestruck friend married someone he barely knew without much time to prepare, but if you are reading this article, you have the opportunity to consider what you can do now to set yourself up for a better marriage in the future. These principles will help:
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1. Make Jesus the Most Important Person in Your Life
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If we approach marriage expecting our partner to make us happy and meet our needs, were setting ourselves up for heartache. In contrast, two people who seek to love Jesus and look to Him to meet their needs will set themselves up for a healthier relationship. When we seek God first, He supplies what we lack so that we can give to the other person.
Use the time before you marry to deepen your relationship with Christ. 1 Corinthians 7:34 offers encouragement, An unmarried woman [or man] is concerned about the Lords affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. Set your heart on Jesus. Take time to read His Word each day and spend a few minutes in prayer asking Him to help and guide you. Take time now to develop habits of seeking God that will build a foundation for a lifetime of following Him and blessing your spouse.
2. Take Your Time
Just because youve been dating someone for a few months doesnt mean you have to feel pressured to take your relationship to the next level and get serious. Enjoy the dating phase as a time to really get to know each other, and dont let others expectations pressure you.
Back when my friends and I were single, I remember thinking that a friend who only saw her boyfriend once a week was moving way too slow. Apparently, I was wrong. They moved at their own pace, set a two-year foundation for a solid marriage, and are still married today.
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3. Keep Your Eyes Wide Open
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Keep your eyes wide open before marriage, half shut afterwards, said Benjamin Franklin. This is a great reminder to focus on getting to know the other person objectively, without letting infatuation blind us to their faults. Try to get a realistic view of the other persons strengths and weaknesses. Are those weaknesses something you think you can live with forever? Dont assume you can change the other person after marriage. Most likely, youll often need to overlook shortcomings.
I remember the red flag that went off in my mind when a friend told me her boyfriend suddenly stopped the car in the middle of the road and started shouting during an argument. I didnt say it to her, but I imagined an obvious anger management problem during dating could possibly get worse after the starry honeymoon phase of a relationship. Apparently, she had the same thoughts I did. She ended their relationship, and a year later married a wonderful man she still loves today.
4. Get Pre-Marital Counselling
Although we often think of counselling as a step needed to fix something broken, its also an important proactive step to improve a relationship. Studies show that couples who receive pre-marital counselling have an increased likelihood of staying married.
Talk to your pastor or church leader for recommendations. Many churches offer marriage preparation courses, and even if yours doesnt, your pastor can give you a suggestion. Good pre-marital counselling will cover the Biblical basis of marriage, Biblical roles, expectations, conflict resolution, finances, and sex.
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5. Look at Conflict as an Opportunity for Growth
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Preparing marriage can be a stressful period as couples make plans not only for their wedding, but also for the beginning stages of their lives together. Planning a wedding can be fun, but also overwhelming. Many brides-to-be are surprised to discover their guys actually have strong opinions about things like wedding music. Tempers can fly over small details. (Ask me how I know.) As a couple plans where to live or what kind of living room couch to get, disagreements are bound to happen.
Developing healthy ways to solve conflict now sets the foundation for a healthier relationship later. These principles can help:
Listen carefully to understand the other person.
Stay calm and avoid overreaction.
Commit to watch your words.
Be willing to forgive and let it go.
Focus on improving your relationship rather than proving your point.
6. Honor God as the Center of Your Relationship
Couples can honor God as they pray together, read Scripture together, and encourage each other to follow Him wholeheartedly. Make church attendance part of your weekly routine and consider participating in a service project or ministry together. Couples who commit to live out their faith together set a foundation for a future family that honors God and will receive His blessing.
Following Gods design to save sex for after marriage is another important way to honor Him and each other. God intended sex to be an expression of oneness between a man and wife who have entered the covenant of marriage. This design protects single people from the damaging effects of forging physical intimacy and strong emotional bonds with another person without a secure foundation of commitment. Honoring Gods plans will open doors of blessing in your relationship.
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7. Remember Marriage Is a Promise You Are Making to God and Each Other
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Do all you can to cultivate a promise keeper mindset. Ask God to give you the grace you will need to honor your covenant with each other.
As you embark on a life-long journey together, remember the person you marry now will most likely change over time, but your commitment cannot. You will encounter difficulties you cant even imagine today, but if you persevere, you will reap the sweet fruit of a lifelong marriage marked by love and commitment. Married life is both a blessing from God and hard work, but you can be proactive now to set yourself up for a great marriage later.
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Betsy de Cruz writes and speaks to help overwhelmed women take small steps to invite more of Gods presence and power into their lives. Connect with Betsy and get a free Quiet Time Renewal Guide at FaithSpillingOver.com. Her book More of God is a distracted womans guide to more meaningful quiet times. Betsy and her husband Jos live in Arlington, Texas and love hanging with their two young adult children.