Who Will Be My Partner ?
Unquestionably, the second most important decision anyone can make is that of choosing a life-time mate. It follows only the decision to become one of God’s children by committing himself to Christ for salvation and for a new abundant life (John 10:9-10).
In choosing a partner, not only is the happiness of the couple at stake but also that of the families of each of the partners. Who has not seen the anguish of the parents of mis-matched children, or the distress of youngsters of an unstable marriage? For the Christian, marriage is not an arrangement for living together only to be broken at the whim of either bored partner, nor is it an experiment in serial monogamy. It is used by our Lord as a picture of Christ and His Church (Eph. 5:25) and so it should be characterized, as much as human limitations will permit, by the love, permanency and consistency which mark that divine fellowship. Marriage is meant to be a holy, abiding relationship, and to be broken only when one or both partners sees the Lord in death or at the Rapture.
While in our society, it is usually the man who takes the initiative in proposing this relationship, it is equally the woman who makes a choice. Their choice should be based on a considerable amount of knowledge about many facets of the other partner learned through observation and experience during an adequately long courtship. There are five major aspects of marriage to be considered carefully by each partner before making a final decision. These considerations are quite apart from that fundamental but indefinable quality of truly loving each other. This must be considerably deeper than a feeling based on physical attraction or a compatable personality, for without love, no computer-perfect marriage can be successful.
The spiritual factor out-weighs all others combined. How can two people live happily together unless each has had a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ? The injunction against the unequal yolk (2 Cor. 6:14) was given, among other reasons, to ensure stability and harmony in a marriage built on a mutual love, not only for each other but also for the Lord.
In addition to sharing a common salvation, you need also to agree where you will make your spiritual home. Those of us who follow the simple New Testament pattern of the local church are not likely to be happy in an organization characterized by liturgical services or dominated by one individual, no matter how godly he may be. Agreement in selecting a spiritual home in which each of you has an opportunity to exercise his priestly office in worship and service is a necessity in a successful Christian marriage.
It would also be wise if each partner made a critical evaluation of the other’s spiritual condition, both now and in the past, not to harp or to criticize but rather to determine a trend in his spiritual maturation and development. If he has had a history of indifference and backsliding, punctuated only by transient periods of interest in spiritual values, it is unlikely that he will be a good Christian husband giving you succour, support and leadership, or that he will train your children in the way they should go (Prov. 22:6). Conversely, if she would rather watch television than go to Bible study, or if she spends more time primping than praying, she isn’t likely to be much of a help-meet when you have your inevitable difficulties and trials. She can give you neither solace nor encouragement unless she has the background from which to draw; nor is she likely to impart to your children in their critical formative years the right attitude to the values and principles you cherish.
Since most of the adjustments required in marriage involve personality differences, the more you know about your own, and about your intended mate’s personality, the happier and easier this transition will be. Is she demanding, aggressive and over-powering? Is she withdrawn, introspective and frequently disinterested in life? Is he moody when events don’t happen the way he planned, or is he unrealistically optimistic in view of obvious facts to the contrary? You cannot be a mature and stable person until your personality defects are corrected, often with the help of your spouse. However, each of you can measure objectively the qualities of your personality so that you have a clearer picture of yourself and of your mate’s strong and weak points. Personality evaluation tests are available at minimal cost through university book stores.
A word of caution should be given against marrying too young. While emotional maturity doesn’t necessarily follow physical maturity, it usually does. I have seen too many people in their early teens to mid twenties with hopelessly wrecked marriages that they entered into when neither of the partners were mature enough to choose a suitable lifetime mate. Marriage is an adult relationship; it should not be entered by the emotionally adolescent.
These deal with the personal habits and interests of your proposed mate. Here, too, awareness of his living patterns is helpful. If he never hangs up his clothes, usually leaves everything where he drops it, never replaces the top of a container and never leaves the bathroom clean, while she is fastidiously neat, always leaving things better than when she found them and sets great store on tidiness and cleanliness, then beware. Marked readjustments or significant conflicts are inevitable.
What are your hobbies? Do you both enjoy the same recreational and enriching interests? Try to develop activities that are sharable with each other; these may be new to both of you, but they will certainly add to the joy of your marriage. However, this does not mean that you should leave behind your own proven methods of recreation which you enjoyed before marriage. We must remember, in speaking about having so much in common, that even the best of partners needs some time to be alone with his private thoughts and personal interests. Respect each other’s privacy.
These aspects are a natural combination of emotional and personal factors, and have a large bearing on your conjoint happiness.
The level of education can be a unifying or a divisive force, since most people associate with others of the same educational stratum. A marked difference in the education of the partners may not be meaningful in their own relationships because of other plus factors in their marriage, but it can make a significant difference in your choice of friends, for one of you will likely be uncomfortable associating with people whose educational level pleases his partner.
The degree of social graces and tastes that one possesses can also make a difference when with friends. A boorish or inconsiderate mate can ruin an evening and eventually a friendship. Some young people who were denied training in this area during childhood may wish to acquire these graces together in their new life. Good instruction can be found in appropriate books and the couple can practise these new skills alone at home. An initial disparity in social levels is not in itself a barrier to happy marriage when there is a willingness to learn.
A more serious factor is found in proposed marriages of mixed races. If there are enough positive factors in the marriage it may be a happy one. However, the genetic component is a prime consideration because children of such marriages often have serious problems outside the security of the family circle. While job discrimination is not as prevalent now, the social, and eventually marital difficulties to be experienced by these children should not be ignored or dismissed because of a selfish love on the parents’ part.
Speaking as a physician, I rarely see couples whose marriage is inadvisable because of physical liabilities. It is advisable, however, for each partner to have a complete physical examination before marrying, to uncover any unsuspected conditions or to get a clearer prognosis about any existing disease. This is a good time to discuss family planning and to ask your doctor about any problems relating to the physical aspects of marriage.
If there is a significant incidence of familial diseases, such as diabetes, allergy, hypertension or other conditions, it is only fair to make your intended mate aware of this and to discuss the implications of this problem as it may relate to your role as a spouse and a parent.
Occasionally, one will see an individual who wishes to marry someone with a severe disability such as blindness or a chronic illness. Such marriages are not necessarily to be discouraged, but much more than the usual amount of sober reflection on the implications of such a union is required. Love alone is not enough, and pity will surely fail. Seek the counsel of several competent advisors and be very sure of the Lord’s definite leading in this decision.
While each of the preceding factors must be considered before making the final choice of a partner, the Christian is not left only to his innate skill and wisdom. I believe that, as a child of God, he has the right to ask his Father for guidance in this important decision (James 1:5). But he also has the responsibility of obedience.
Most of you who marry will choose a suitable partner, but whether your marriage will be mundane or not will depend very largely upon the intensity and scope of your love. Love for Christ and for each other.