Never Too Early to Prepare for Marriage

Premarital Counseling

Marriage Preparation

By Grantley Morris

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Vast numbers of passionately-in-love Christians marry with high hopes
that come crashing down until they deeply regret ever marrying.
What can be done to lessen the danger?
















Choosing a Partner










Premarital Help










Preparing to Marry










Choosing a Husband










Marriage Preparation Begins at Birth







Choosing a Wife










Like it or not, the direction your sexuality takes and the success of your relationships and marriage begin at birth. The sooner you start consciously influencing the process, the better – even if you are certain you will never marry.

Regardless of whether you ever marry, the matters discussed here are critically important to your well-being because they will help you:

    * Become a better person

    * Understand God better and delight him.

    * Stop your sexuality from spiraling out of control

The many links in this webpage are of great importance because they explain far better and provide more support than can be achieved in the few words I devote to each matter raised below. However, I beg you to resist the urge to explore any links until completing this webpage.

If you click on any of the links, this website is so vast that you might never again find this page. The banquet prepared for you below will be of little benefit to you if you slip outside and cannot find your way back in again before partaking of all it offers. So I plead with you:

    * Immediately record the web address of this webpage

    * Do not visit any of the links below until first reading this entire webpage.

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Never Too Young to Prepare for Marriage?

Though worthwhile, premarital counseling is like frantically giving a last-minute polish to a sculpture that has taken your entire past to create. From infancy, your upbringing and life experiences have been influencing how good you will be at relationships and what sort of marriage you will have. As a little child you had little say in the process but as you grow you have more and more control over it, even though you might be unaware of the impact it will have on future relationships.

No one can undo in a few months things that for all your life you have been continually, though haphazardly and unthinkingly, shaping. Until your dying day some things will remain as they are now. This is why it is so vital to start as young as possible getting right the vast array of factors that will affect your entire married life.

Don’t be like a fool who thinks he can suddenly win Olympic gold without investing years of sacrifice into preparing himself. Don’t imagine that repentance and divine forgiveness will suddenly reward you for having been slack. Neither think that getting right with God now will entirely eliminate all the damage done by past godless choices. For example, anyone who has let himself become addicted might break that addiction but for years afterward he will at least occasionally be hit by cravings generated by his former addiction.

    Galatians 6:7-9 Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

It is too late to lament the past but let’s not waste another minute. If you were permanently damaging your health by your lifestyle, the sooner you work on whatever you can do to turn the tide, the better. So it is with every aspect of your lifestyle that has marital implications.

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The Surprising Importance of Self-Esteem

Large numbers of deeply hurting people in bad relationships have written to me. Over and over I keep seeing in their heart-wrenching stories the devastating impact of low self-esteem on the disastrous relationships or marital choices that people make. Many settle for partners who are not suited to them or are even abusive, simply because their shattered self-esteem drives them to the mistaken belief that they don’t deserve respect and gentleness and that no one nicer would want them. Alarmingly, predators usually realize how vulnerable low self-esteem makes people and they are skilled at detecting, seducing, deceiving and exploiting such people. Some people are so riddled with guilt that they actually believe they deserve to be treated badly and some even subconsciously seek out potential abusers.

Even those with low self-esteem who manage to choose wisely are often so riddled with feelings of being unlovable that they expect to be rejected. Often this builds to the point where they break their own hearts and that of their partners by actually terminating a healthy relationship or marriage with a wonderful person who loves them. They end good relationships simply because they mistakenly think rejection is inevitable and they imagine that, by leaving, they are just protecting themselves from prolonging the agony. Some even think they are doing their partner a favor by breaking up.

Another danger with low self-esteem is that one can feel the need to boost it by trying to choose a partner that that makes you the envy of other men or women. This can dangerously intensify the longing to “trade up” after marriage, as your partner ages and/or when someone else becomes available who might impress casual observers even more.

Tolerating low self-esteem is a luxury no one can afford. It is vital that it be resolved. For thoroughly biblical, Christian help with this, see How to Change Your Self-Image & Raise Self-Esteem but please wait until you have completed the current webpage.

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Can You be Transparently Honest with Each Other?

I cannot squeeze into this webpage all the benefits of reading the above link about self-esteem but let me share a couple of snippets from it:

    Because self-image is so critical and is affected by other people’s opinion:

      Your entire life ends up limited by how you suppose other people think about you.

    Let’s refine this still further:

      How you live is limited by how you suppose other people would think about you if they knew everything about you.

    This addition is critical. It explains why many people can receive an abundance of heart-felt praise and encouragement and it doesn’t do a thing for them. Even if literally millions of people were to think the world of them, they would still feel lonely and unloved and be haunted by an abysmally low self-esteem. Praise is wasted on them because they have no idea whether anyone would praise the person they really are. They have concealed a secret about themselves precisely because they think – usually wrongly – that the truth would completely alter everyone’s view of them.

    We can go one step further in our maxim about what determines our self-image and the life we end up living:

      How you live is limited by how you think others whose opinions you respect would think of you if they knew everything about you.

    Some people respect their own opinions so strongly that they are little influenced by the views of others. As Christians, the opinion we most respect should be God’s. In theory, no other opinion should matter to us. In practice, we are greatly affected by our guess about how the people who are closest to us would view us if they knew all there is to know about us.

    Of course, even the refined maxim does not define exactly who you are, but it determines your self-image. It is what, deep down, you end up genuinely believing about yourself. And it is as difficult as trying to act out of character to avoid acting in complete conformity with your self-image.

    The Twelve Steps Programs have a powerful saying:

      “You are only as sick as your secrets”

    One of the most astounding tragedies is that many of those who feel the loneliest, most unloved people on the planet actually have wonderfully loving friends, families and marriage partners. Their lives seem flooded with love and yet to them it feels like a sham because they are living a lie.

    You are doomed never to know you are capable of being loved if you shrink from letting anyone know the real you. You can never feel loved while hiding in the bleak, scary, lonely hole of secrecy. Holding on to a guilty secret is the loneliest place in the universe. It is locking yourself up in a dungeon haunted with ghosts from the past. It is sentencing yourself to being constantly on edge, afraid of shadows.

    Yes, keeping from a loved one a secret about ourselves will keep us from ever feeling truly loved by that person. The other person might not realize it, but the lack of trust that maintains the secret ruins the relationship. Being too scared to reveal shameful secrets robs us of the assurance of acceptance that we need and it also robs the other person of the opportunity to prove how much he/she loves us.

    The time will come when every secret will be exposed (Ecclesiastes 12:14; Matthew 12:36; Luke 12:2; Romans 2:16; 1 Corinthians 4:5; Hebrews 4:13). Get it over with now so that you can start living. Leave it much longer and it could be too late. To freely confess will be your glory. To have it exposed against your wishes will be to your eternal shame.

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Practical Help in Sharing Secrets

Here’s something that will make openness far easier: getting an accurate feel for how your friend would respond if you were to confess to him/her. Tell the person, “I’ve heard of a game to improve friends’ understanding of each other. Could I play it with you? It simply involves dreaming up weird, largely out-of-character scenarios and taking turns asking how the other thinks he/she would respond to that situation. It takes us beyond what we have experienced with each other and so gives us new insights into each other’s attitudes.”

Use your imagination to list every shameful and embarrassing possibility you can think of. Fill in the dots below and add any other situations you can think of. If you feel the response you receive is too shallow, question your friend deeper about how he/she would react if the situation were true. Ask your friend, “How would you feel and what you would do if I told you that:

    * I had lied to you all my life about . . .

    * I am addicted to . . .

    * I have told others that you . . .

    * I have secretly thought . . . about you

    * I have these spiritual doubts . . .

    * I have these daydreams and longings . . .

    * I have cheated you out of . . .”

Don’t restrict yourself to just one possibility per statement. You might like to make it even harder for your friend to guess why you are doing this by adding some scenarios that are not confessions, such as, “What if in the future I . . .”

If you find your friend’s responses favorable, slip in your confession toward the end, but treat it just like the others, not letting on that it is genuine. Then later decide if you can trust the person sufficiently to confess.

Warning: You will find yourself powerfully bonded to the person with whom you first share your secret and find acceptance. The danger of this bonding is that it can be confused for romantic love, plus if you later discover this person is not God’s choice for you, this bonding will make a breakup extra painful. So pray about who and when you should first share a secret that deeply affects you. It might be wisest to first confess to someone you are not in danger of falling for romantically, such as a counselor or same-sex friend.

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The Sexual Minefield

There’s an even more compelling reason for transparent honesty.

As bonding as sex can be, it has the bewildering potential to slowly transmute from exquisite pleasure to a source of torment that tears a marriage apart. I’m not even referring to affairs, but to marriages in which sex starts off satisfying – for at least one partner – but ends up sheer torture for both. Since this unforeseen decline usually takes months or years, sexual experimentation prior to marriage – which is unwise and ungodly anyhow – is rarely an indicator of the catastrophe one could be headed for.

Women with the highest intentions can gradually move from tolerating sex to loathing it until it eventually becomes so awful that, to their husbands’ horror, these women end up unable to force themselves to ever again have sex.

The most common reason for this most unexpected turn is a wife’s reluctance to be totally honest with her husband about how she feels. That something so seemingly minor as keeping quiet could have such disastrous consequences and that it could happen in your marriage will probably seem beyond belief to you until you read “I Hate Sex!” When Wives Want a Sexless Marriage.

Every woman needs to realize that when she marries she will have to feel secure enough and uninhibited enough to be able to tell her husband (lovingly and gently but clearly) when he is not satisfying her sexually and to give moment-by-moment feedback during lovemaking and also give direction as to what might feel better for her. Any woman likely to feel too insecure to do this should not marry until this matter is resolved. With even the most gentle and caring husband, some women clam up. Often, however, a contributing factor is the man’s attitude. In addition to creating an emotionally warm environment where a woman feels safe to bare her heart, a husband must be sufficiently strong to be able to graciously receive such information – even when it disappoints him – and be motivated to change.

Note: When married, whilst it can be damaging to one’s sex life to engage in any activity one currently finds unpleasant, one should not go to the other extreme of waiting until one moves from feeling neutral to actually desiring it before giving it a go.

After conducting an extensive, in-depth survey of women willing to keep sex diaries, Bettina Arndt has concluded that for women to maximize their personal marital fulfillment they should not wait until they want sex before engaging in foreplay. It applies to men, too. Some of my most intense sexual feelings have begun with me having little or no desire to even bother. I simply decided to push myself – often out of a vague hope of maintaining the bond I feel with my wife. At times, I’ve wondered whether sexual arousal were even possible. Despite my desire being buried somewhere in a deep hole sound asleep, foreplay slowly awakened it and coaxed it out of hiding. Eventually, what I had doubted would be worth the effort and thought would turn into a fizzler, ended up as good as sex can get. This has happened often and yet I still find myself amazed at the gradual transformation of no interest into passionate desire.

Singles have no need to be envious, however. Given the opportunity, I – and anyone who truly knows Christ – would trade it all for the privilege of glorifying God.

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Sex: Far More Complex than Most People Think

At least by his early teens, the average boy knows from what is churning within him how fundamental and critically important sex is to marriage. More women than one might expect, however, just don’t get it. Survivors of even minor sexual abuse account for many of those who don’t understand. Since being love-starved makes innocent children exceptionally vulnerable, sexual predators seek out such children. So it turns out that a high proportion of sex abuse survivors had, during their critical, most formative years been denied the unconditional love that each child desperately needs. This leaves them – along with some other men and women – scarred with an abnormally immense craving for love and for acceptance and for being regarded as normal.

For many people, the internal pressure to marry builds to enormous levels, but for these women the pressure is almost overwhelming. The alarming tragedy is that these dear women who are desperate to marry are the very ones who are not yet ready for marriage because, through no fault of their own, their past has left them with serious hang-ups about sex.

Most sex abuse survivors feel sure their abuse was only minor and that they can get away with ignoring the fall-out (See Why Minor Sex Abuse Hurts So Much). They usually have no idea of the extent of the problem that marriage will create for them and their partner. Even those with a vague idea, wrongly suppose they can endure endless years of forcing themselves to have sex. It is a time bomb set to devastate their marriage.

Healing is possible (See Healing for Abuse Survivors) but it takes far longer than most people realize. It is typical to suppose one is healed when one has merely made progress and then stopped before completing the full journey. Furthermore, one has to take seriously Jesus’ warning that not everyone is cut out for marriage (Scriptures). Moreover, once one is married, healing becomes much more complicated and the process sends not just the woman but the man reeling in prolonged pain, and the pressure on a marriage reaches explosive levels.

As a side-note: although many women have no idea of the full extent and ramifications of their sex abuse, it is even more common for boys to have suffered sex abuse that they don’t even recognize as abuse and men often feel even more pressured to bury hurts that end up causing serious marital problems (See Exploding Myths About Sexually Abused Boys).

You might not have been sexually abused but have significant reservations about full-blooded marital passion. If so, have a look at How Holy Wives Express Marital Love.

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How Most People Permanently Harm their Sexuality

Our Maker – the Creator of sex – reveals that sex affects us so profoundly that sexual sin is in a completely different category to all other sin. There are other sins that affect our God-given bodies, but not to the extent that sexual sin damages us:

    1 Corinthians 6:18 Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body.

Any deliberate sexual stimulation outside of marriage is spiritually and emotionally dangerous and even impacts us physically.

Our sexuality begins as a tender, vulnerable sapling. From our infancy, it keeps on growing and becomes increasingly rigid; ending up beautiful or grotesque – permanently bent, twisted or misshaped – depending on how it was treated.

Sex is meant to be powerful and highly addictive. After all, it is divinely intended to superglue two people together; making a husband and wife addicted to each other for life. Any form of sexual pleasure outside of the sanctity of marriage therefore has the potential to be fiercely addictive.

A yearning for sex can easily rage out of control. We were born to rule, and born again to reach our enormous potential, but we so easily become enslaved by things that should be our slaves. Almost all of us have had some form of sex other than marital relations sink its claws into us. Thankfully, this is not the end of the road. On the contrary, it is the beginning of a thrilling adventure as we take Christ’s hand and with him fight the monsters that have enslaved us. The battle can seem endless but even a mere willingness to keep on fighting brings us glory and eventually we will win because of Christ. So I beg you not to become discouraged as you read this section. Great things are ahead!

For reasons I will not expound here, it is not unusual for sex abuse survivors to try to ease their immense inner pain by regularly masturbating while fantasying about being molested. Every time they do this they are reinforcing a strong connection in their mind/responses between sexual pleasure and something distasteful.

One does not have to go to anything like this extreme, however, to damage one’s sexuality.

I was once shocked to hear of a musician who was so perverted that he used to have sex with his guitar. That sounded gross – until I realized that there is no way that having sex with a vibrator or pillow or running water or one’s hand or whatever can be regarded as any less perverse.

I don’t claim infallibility, but after opening myself up to God and devoting intense and prolonged thought to the matter, I find myself unable to see how having sex with a machine or some other inanimate object or with oneself can be any less perverted than having sex with an animal. Both the New and Old Testaments refer to sex as being so bonding and affecting people so profoundly as to make two people one. If becoming one with a living animal is dehumanizing; how can becoming one with some object that does not even have a primitive brain be any less dehumanizing?

There is no question that adultery is atrociously immoral, and lusting after someone you are not married to is just as immoral in God’s eyes (Matthew 5:28). Nevertheless, in terms of sheer perversion – deviating from the divinely intended function –solo sex seems even more deviant. Do-it-yourself sex is a habit that cements one’s sexual response to associate intense sexual feelings not with a real person but with objects; not with the height of human intimacy but with being alone, cut off from humans.

In its original language, both the Hebrew and the Greek parts of Scripture refer to sexual intercourse as knowing a person (e.g. Genesis 4:1,17,25; Numbers 31:17). The original literally says, for example, that Mary had not known a man when she fell pregnant (Luke 1:34) and that Joseph did not know Mary (Matthew 1:25) until after she had given birth to Jesus. Sex is divinely intended to be about deeply knowing someone – the height of interpersonal relations.

To treat a person as a sexual object is deviant and an abuse of God’s gift of sex, but it is at least focused on a person. Nevertheless, to treat an object as something sexually arousing, or something to mate with, surely deviates even further from the divine plan of permanent and intimate human connection. And what could more deeply ingrain the habit of treating a sexual partner as little more than an object – as being without feelings and easily thrown away – than treating objects as sexual partners? (And this applies without even considering the possibility of someone becoming so addicted/bonded to objects as to actually end up preferring sex with objects.)

Another disturbing complication is that by making sex self-focused, solo sex increases the likelihood of finding one’s own naked body or the sight of one’s own aroused genitals sexually arousing. This might seem harmless – until one realizes that it is same-sex attraction. It is a tiny step from there to finding other same-sex bodies sexually arousing.

For more about how solo sex – even without fantasy or porn – powerfully and potentially permanently twists our sexuality, see How Masturbation Shapes One’s Sexuality and the pages it leads to.

Porn is another obvious way in which one’s sexuality can be permanently bent out of shape. As carefully explained in An Eye for Beauty and the pages it leads to, one of the disturbing things about even the mildest porn is that it sets people up for marital disappointment by fostering unrealistic expectations and a dissatisfaction with normal bodies. As a society, we seem to be hurtling toward the point where most men cannot even be sexually attracted to normal women. Unless women are rendered abnormal by makeup, plastic surgery, airbrushing, and so on, and never age, the average man will be more drawn to other women or objects/images/fantasies than to his wife. Even more disturbing, soft porn trains men to be bored in a few seconds by one nude. They quickly need another nude and another and another to maintain the excitement. Porn users become so pathetically addicted to variety that one woman could never satisfy them – not even a never-aging product of plastic surgery.

Even the habit of savoring the sight of attractive people you happen to see in the street will most likely end up hard-wiring into your brain desires for physical features that your future marriage partner either does not have – or won’t have for very long.

The Hidden Dangers of Romantic Fiction reveals surprising ways in which romantic fiction can be as damaging to marriage as porn. And even without fiction, or do-it-yourself-sex or using multiple human bodies as a source of sexual titillation, our own imagination has the potential to ruin us. If left to run wild, our own unchecked fantasies can become the enemy of future marital contentment; causing us to become hooked on expecting a relationship to focus on ourselves and on us receiving, instead of giving.

Whereas the enemy of our souls longs to discourage us, filling us with feelings of hopelessness, guilt and failure, God longs to lift us high. His heart is never to condemn but to cleanse and forgive; not to discourage but to empower you to rule. Keep reading this webpage for now but for the encouragement you need to break free, you should afterward go to where this link takes you: Toward an Answer and keep reading the rest of that page and explore all the links at the end of it.

For help with gaining realistic marital expectations, see Marital Love: A Reality Check for Singles

Another strongly recommended webpage is Insights into Both God’s Heart & Marriage.

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Using People as God-Substitutes

A disturbingly common trap that sends vast numbers of people hurtling to devastating heartbreak is to expect a human relationship to meet needs that are so deep that only God can meet them. It is vital that you discover that your desires for perfection in a partner are actually not cravings for marriage but a deep craving for God himself and that you need to have these yearnings met by him before you are ready for marriage. Otherwise, you will be like a parasite sucking the life out of your marriage by trying to leech from your partner self-esteem, emotional fulfillment, security and other intense needs that can only be fully met by daily intimacy with Almighty God, the Perfect One. For vital help with this, see Finding the Perfect Partner: What Your Fantasies Reveal. Here is an extract from it:

    Deep within us there seems an empty chasm that not even a hundred lovers could fill, yet still there is hope. Your dream can come true. Lasting love has eluded many of the most envied and lusted-after people in the world. For you, however, it can be different.

    How beautiful must a woman be before she no longer needs love? How many pole dancers does the average man need to see to block the pain of rejection?

    No matter how we try to suppress it, our need for love is inescapable. Psychologists have discovered that even people who focus almost exclusively on impersonal sex – porn, phone sex, fetishism, solitary sex, exhibitionism, etc. – are usually driven to their obsession by a need for love (Source).

    Being in love, however, is a risky, potentially agonizing experience. We might kiss with our eyes closed, but relationships are frighteningly fragile. Beauty sags. People change. Death or disagreement can so easily rob us of the one we love. The deeper our love, the deeper our insecurity.

    But if reality is cold, dreams are too hot to hold. Our passions seem so insatiable that we shrink from them, yet still they haunt us. Just for a moment, release the iron grip that keeps your longings suppressed in the dungeons of your mind. Let your longings waft free before your gaze, no matter how unattainable they seem. Dare to see what they reveal.

    You burn for unwaning intimacy; a companion who will never fail you; a friend who can always be with you, no matter what the hour or place, the instant you want this special person.

    Too often you are misunderstood. You crave a lover who can slip inside your mind; ideally, someone who has not only heard of your every trauma and triumph from birth, but experienced them with you. You need to unburden yourself with an admirer who knows your blackest secrets, yet delights in you with unswerving devotion.

    When life’s blows send you reeling, you ache for someone who not only passionately longs to meet your deepest needs, but is always able to. You need a partner so capable that when crisis swallows crisis you can trust your friend to comfort, protect and power you to success. Yet you don’t want to be smothered. On the contrary, you want someone who will nerve you to reach the heights you were born for.

    You pine for someone changeless, yet someone you will never tire of; someone who fits your needs so exactly it feels you were made for each other; someone you will be forever proud of; someone whose love for you is so vast that it always satisfies; someone faithful, genuine, open and warm, yet so resistant to the ravages of aging, sickness and tragedy as to seem immortal. You don’t want death to rob you of the one you love, plunging you back into icy loneliness.

    Not a person on earth fits the bill, yet the ache remains. A few dreamers keep chasing the elusive high of starry-eyed love, forever groping for the perfect relationship. The rest of us give up. A person would have to be God to meet our criteria! And how could he help? We’re flesh and blood; God, if he exists, is some nebulous, unapproachable Spirit. The notion of a friendship with God is preposterous.

    Or is it? Within the realms of the unknown almost anything could dwell – even a God poised to shatter our insensibility to him. If there is an Intelligence behind creation, why were we made with cravings that could never be satisfied? Is God a sadist, or were those yearnings for the ideal companion planted within because he longs to fulfill them by being your most intimate friend? Could it be that God seems impersonal only because you’re not on close terms with him? If God were impersonal, that would make us superior to our Creator. That’s absurd. If we can speak, feel and love, our Maker can do all that and more. God is warm.

    But God is a killjoy! Or is it sin that ultimately kills joy – promising so much yet delivering the hangover, the downer, the unwanted pregnancy, the disease, the cancer, the rejection, the hurt, the shame? Ask sin’s victims – the victims of theft, violence, addiction, divorce, hate, selfishness and slander – whether God’s ways kill joy or make joy.

    But God is dull! Really? The God whose power and creativity defy imagination; whose wonders are inexhaustible? Wouldn’t it be a never-ending adventure to be in love with the one Person who is continually able to exceed your wildest dreams?

    This exciting Person, whose never-ending companionship and limitless power are able to fill the unfillable hole within us, is the perfect partner you ache for.

(For further help in realizing there is more to life than sex and marriage, see No Marriage in Heaven? Encouragement for Singles but please complete the current webpage first.)

If, while you are single, you let yourself have a roving eye, a lust for variety, a habit of self-stimulation, or daydreaming, or a yearning for continual romantic excitement, the addiction will have become as strong as heroin by the time you marry, Using such things to tide you over until you find someone is like taking drugs to dull the pain of loneliness: when you finally find someone, the crippling need for artificial highs will not magically disappear. Whatever you become addicted to will haunt you and render you less than the good catch you would otherwise have been.

Another concern is that these practices get us focused on, and then hooked on, shallow things that fade away and do not contribute to lasting and fulfilling relationships but are as enticingly deceptive as bait on a hook.

    Proverbs 31:30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.

As already mentioned, low self-esteem is another weakness that tempts us to focus on the superficial – things in a person that everyone instantly notices, even though what’s underneath could be undesirable. This comes about because people with low self-esteem are often so desperate to exalt themselves in the eyes of other people (in the vain hope that it will help them feel better about themselves) that they are tempted to tread on someone who loves them, as one would use a step ladder to get higher. It pressures a woman to resort to using a man as a fashion accessory – little more than a new handbag – to make other women envious. And it makes men do the male equivalent.

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The Mysterious Power of Contentment

Someone wisely said, “New love is exciting but old love is comfortable.”

Whether it be measured in terms of romantic love, visual attraction or sex, the initial excitement fades with any relationship. This is perfectly normal and nothing negative – except to hollowed-out junkies ensnared by an addiction to the excitement of the new. This devastating addiction not only steals one’s peace and contentment; it gnaws away at the soul and white-ants one’s ability to have a lasting marriage.

If we understood, we would flee such an addiction with the terror of someone fleeing a bomb set to explode and rip one’s life apart. This addiction reduces its hapless victims to jackasses exhausting themselves chasing a plastic carrot dangled in front of them; to someone dying of thirst in a desert pathetically stumbling after a mirage.

We can commence such an addiction at any time but, as hinted earlier, we are particularly vulnerable when single. Our desperate need is to learn to be content with our lot in life. And this begins when we have nothing but cravings (consider 1 Corinthians 7:17-27). This contentment is a matter, not of circumstances, but of strength of character. It is a hard-won virtue more precious than all the gold in every mine.

“I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances,” declared the great Apostle Paul (Philippians 4:11, emphasis mine), who knew the loneliness of being single. The priceless ability to remain content no matter what life hurls at us is not something we are born with. It is not a gift. Like mountain climbing, it is something we must learn. It comes from intense, in-your-face experience. And we must start this steep learning curve right now.

A key to this state of being is found here:

    1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

We should have a continual party by praising God and being thankful regardless of what hits us. How we can do this is crystalized here:

    Hebrews 13:5  . . . be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”

You can be content because you already have the ultimate: God himself. Your contentment must be in God, whom you can never lose; not in things or feelings.

Both of the above references to contentment zero in on material things. The Ten Commandments show that the same forces are at work, whether the temptation to be discontented focuses on relationships or materialism:

    Exodus 20:17 You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor. (Emphasis mine)

I see another connection between the two sources of discontentment. You should read the entire series of webpages beginning at Peace, Contentment, Fulfillment: A Radical Call to the Christianity that Most Christians have Missed but permit me to restrict myself here to the most pertinent parts. It’s still a long quote. I’ll return to things you are more likely to have been expecting in this webpage but I am too passionate about your well-being to leave the following unsaid:

    “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst,” Jesus told the woman who had five husbands and was now living with yet another man (John 4:13-14). The woman at the well was driven by a craving that was clearly not being satisfied. At an exorbitant emotional cost, her restless searching had taken her from man to man to man to man to man to man, with her heart being repeatedly shattered into smaller and smaller pieces.

    Sadly, this is disconcertingly close to what most modern Christians, even those with high morals, suffer today. They call it dating and vainly hope the habit they have concreted into their lives will somehow magically disappear after signing a marriage license. The mentally dangerous habit commonly nurtured by modern Christian singles is that of going from heartbreak to heartbreak in a blind search for a drug-like euphoria known as being “in love”. Those who seem to succeed in this quest usually find themselves hooked on romantic highs that scientists insist can only last with one partner for a probable maximum of thirty months (See The Chemical Cocktail of Love). Like the woman at the well, hoping for lasting happiness through romantic highs just keeps its victims aching for more.

    Other societies have dealt with matters of the heart quite differently to the mess our society has made of things. I Kissed Dating Goodbye is a Christian book by Joshua Harris that challenges current worldly wisdom on this matter. I’ve not read the book but you might like to check it out.

    When talking with the woman who kept finding herself thirsting for more, Jesus claimed to be able to do what years and years of frantic searching and countless men had failed to do – to totally satisfy her.

    I must hit you between the eyes with something so obvious that most of us miss it: Jesus did not offer this desperately lonely woman with a divine matchmaking service. The frightening thing about most Christians is that we hope to use God as our Fairy Godmother. Don’t ever expect to find the Lord of creation in drag, waving a magic wand. Expect a God-sized solution that is so radically different to what you thought you needed that you probably won’t even recognize it as the answer.

    The stupendous intellect of the infinite Lord moves in ways that soar as far beyond the powers of human imagination as the stars are distant from this planet’s dirt. God’s ways are shatteringly different to what any politician or scientist or fashion expert or overpaid entertainer can dream up.

    Let’s delve a little deeper into this Scripture:

      Hebrews 13:5-6 Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?”

    Here again, God’s Word speaks of finding contentment in situations where few of today’s Christians could find contentment. What this Scripture highlights, however, is that the basis of true contentment is not ease or possessions or even human relationships, but you enjoying never-ending companionship with God himself. The above Scripture culminates with the staggering claim that with God as your companion, you’ve got it made, even if all of humanity is against you.

    To me, the following is one of the saddest verses in the Bible:

      Jeremiah 2:13 My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.

    The Bible does not say seek God in order to find happiness and contentment. It says seek God. It does not say God is your ticket to getting what you really need, it says God himself is what you really need. To dare put in your life anything else in God’s place is dumber than substituting dust for everything you eat, or substituting pure laughing gas for the air that keeps you alive.

    Consider this Scripture:

      James 4:2  . . . You do not have, because you do not ask God.

    Taken out of context – something we tend to be experts at – we can think, “Wow! Forget a genie in a magic lamp, I’ve found the secret to getting everything my greedy heart lusts after!” The context, however, reveals something very different:

      James 4:2-3  . . . You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

    God, in his Word, is saying, “You miss out on what you really need, because instead of seeking God for eternal things, you think you can use him as a means of getting what non-Christians foolishly crave.”

    If a heroin addict should not claim, “My God shall supply all my heroin according to his riches in Christ Jesus,” neither should an addict to worldliness expect God to provide us with what seems to shine with excitement and gleam with the promise of fulfillment but is actually the bait on a deadly trap laid by the sinister spiritual forces that manipulate the world system. God tells us to forsake the things we crave, not because he is a killjoy, but because they kill joy.

    Each of us is capable of being so mesmerized by the illusion of worldly happiness that we suppose it must be the way to true happiness and therefore must be of God. So we start building it into our theology and even our salvation message, just as the New Testament warns. 2 Peter 2:1 promises “there will be false teachers among you.” It goes on to say of those who had once “escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord”:

      2 Peter 2:18-21 For they mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of sinful human nature, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error. They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity – for a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him. If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them.

    Likewise another apostle warns against a way of church growth:

      2 Timothy 4:3,5 For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. . . . But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, . . .

    Christians like me do not realize the enormity of the gulf between God’s ways and our ways because we are so drugged by worldly presumptions that we cannot think straight.

    Wrong thinking permeates every part of us, corrupting us far more extensively and profoundly than we would ever have guessed. Worldly thinking hits us all. It is not like a wound that hurts only part of us, it’s like an infection spreading throughout our entire being. Tolerating just one aspect of worldliness – perhaps selfish ambition or pride or lust– and hoping it will not contaminate completely unrelated parts of us, is as dangerous as tolerating cancer in part of our body, hoping it will not spread.

    As a consequence, sins are more interconnected than we imagine. For example, when describing the sins of Sodom, Ezekiel didn’t even mention sexuality. Instead, he zeroed in on arrogance, affluence, and selfish disregard for the needy (Ezekiel 16:49). Today’s sexual decadence is but a symptom of a much more extensive moral sickness. It is frighteningly easy for us to point the finger at others when we are as infected by the same basic corruption as those we feel superior to.

    Let’s briefly explore an example of this interconnectedness.

    Almost all of us have been bitten by the deadly, disease-carrying “bigger, brighter, better” bug. This spiritually crippling disease affects us far more extensively than we realize. Why is it that Christian marriages are falling apart almost as rapidly as non-Christian marriages? Because we think in some areas of life we can get away with ignoring God’s directive to be content with what we have, without it corrupting other areas of life.

      Proverbs 5:18-19  . . . rejoice in the wife of your youth. . . . may her breasts satisfy you always, may you ever be captivated by her love.

    If today’s Christians can’t stay content with their income and status, what makes us suppose they could stay content with their marriage partner?

    We live in a society where anyone who does not keep trading up and up, is seen as a failure. Do you expect people to feel good about themselves if they still have the same car, house, furniture and appliances that they had when they married, twenty years ago? If not, can you really expect those same people to feel good about having the same old spouse they had twenty years ago?

    A man is almost considered a loser if he remains faithful to his employer for life (and if he does remain with the one company he is seen as a failure unless he keeps “advancing” to position after position in his career). If this is so, who can expect him to feel good about himself if he keeps the same old wife, year after year after year?

    For today’s man to be regarded as a success he is expected to trash last year’s gear and surround himself with things that are sparklingly new, look good and are the latest fad. Just as he “needs” the car that people drool over, he must have the wife that men lust after. The woman on his arm is his latest fashion statement and status symbol. Do you seriously expect him to keep trading up to the latest model in everything except his wife? If he must have the latest model car, his wife must also be the latest model. Unless she is sleek and new and beautiful, his claim to success looks decidedly drab.

      Ecclesiastes 4:4 And I saw that all labor and all achievement spring from man’s envy of his neighbor. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.

    We are immersed in a world that exalts competitiveness – secretly hoping others will fail; trampling on other people in one’s rush to the top – and ambition – never happy; always clawing for more. The world presses in on us from every side and is highly contagious. Have we escaped the corruption of the world, only to become re-infected by its deadly restlessness; a continual striving for what never satisfies?

      Ecclesiastes 1:8 . . . The eye never has enough of seeing, nor the ear its fill of hearing.

      Ecclesiastes 5:10 Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income. This too is meaningless.

      Ecclesiastes 6:7 All man’s efforts are for his mouth, yet his appetite is never satisfied.

    I worry that we are drunk on worldliness. We don’t want to give it up, yet we want to keep our marriage and the spiritual things we value. Does that make us like drunks who don’t want a hangover but want to keep drinking? Could we be hooked on one of the world’s mirages of fulfillment – a soul-destroying emptiness that first entices, then ensnares and finally depraves?

* * *

Now is the Time for Building Strength of Character

As hard labor builds muscles, so, when committed to God, hard times build strength of character. Both physically and spiritually, a soft life makes us flabby. When handled God’s way, hard times harden our resolve.

Stubborn perseverance is what separates quitters from winners. In fact, a dogged resolve to tough it out is so valuable that both James and Paul say we have reason to rejoice when trials hit because difficult times bring us glory by building up our levels of perseverance (Romans 5:3-4; James 1:2-3). Every time we refuse to quit builds strength into our character, making us better people and more endowed with what it takes to have a triumphant, till-death-us-do-part marriage.

Moreover, having the confidence in God that even adversity ends up doing us good – and in that sense is a friend not a foe – gives us the peace not to fall apart when things get tough, such as a marriage under strain. When something threatens one’s marriage, for example, we can have the spiritual insight to see it in a positive light and use it to inspire greater unity. To see how this works, I will need to explain another character trait we must build into our lives: the ability to play the blame game in a healthy way.

When adversity, or even tragedy, hits, do we blame ourselves or strangers or loved ones or God? Resorting to any of these will end up intensifying our problems. The only healthy response is to let Jesus do what he longs to – allow the Innocent One to bear all the blame. Let the horror of what you are suffering be one of the appalling burdens Christ took upon himself on the cross when he bore in his body the full punishment for the sins of the world. Instead of letting Jesus suffer needlessly, let him pay the full price that justice demands so that whoever originally was at fault for the suffering inflicted on you can get off scot-free and you can finally end the blame game in a way that cripples neither you nor your relationships. To fully understand this concept you will need to read Do-It-Yourself Healing.

When a marriage is under pressure there are two options: join forces with your partner and fight the pressure as a common enemy, or turn on each other, blaming and fighting one another.

Joining forces significantly multiplies one’s power to overcome adversity, as indicated in Deuteronomy 32:30. It says that one person shall put a thousand enemies to flight and yet two shall send fleeing not just two thousand but ten thousand.

In the confusion of an ambush, one seldom has the presence of mind to devise the correct strategy. One needs to develop the habit well ahead of time of closing ranks and together fighting a common enemy when even the tiniest issues assail a relationship. The tragedy of not developing this habit is demonstrated several times in Israel’s history, when the nation’s enemies turned on each other in the heat of battle; slaughtering each other instead of attacking Israel (Judges 7:22; 1 Samuel 14:20: 2 Chronicles 20:23). In the words of Jesus, a household divided against itself cannot stand (Mark 3:25).

From as early in life as possible, we must build into our lives the ability to avoid needless strife and maintain peace and unity. This so vital that the following are just some of the times Scripture emphasizes its importance:

    Romans 12:18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

    Romans 14:19 Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification [i.e. building each other up, rather than criticizing or nit-picking].

    Ephesians 4:3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.

    Hebrews 12:14 Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy . . .

    Psalms 34:14 Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.

    Psalms 133:1,3  . . . How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity! . . . For there the LORD bestows his blessing . . .

Here are examples of Scripture combining this with other virtues that we also need:

    Colossians 3:12-15 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.

    Philippians 2:2-4 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

At the very beginning of our marriage, my wife and I made a pact that whenever we were tempted to fight each other we would see this not as each other’s fault but as a satanically-inspired assault on our marriage, and rather than attack each other we would unite with even greater resolve and together attack our common enemy. One way we do this is to assume that each of us had good intentions and to see if we had simply misunderstood each other. Love does not blame. Instead, it continually thinks the best of a person. What has made this approach second nature for us is that for years before we had ever met we had learned to handle blame and had built into our lives the ability to live in peace with people.

* * *

The Power of Love

There is an enormous difference between being in love and being loving. In fact, they are polar opposites.

Unfortunately, what I’m about to expound might sound like a hard-heart saying there is no Santa Claus. What I am actually saying, however, is that as wonderful as the fleeting euphoria of falling in love is, there is something infinity superior. I’m not a skeptic, a cynic, nor a wet blanket; I’m just affirming a fact of life that we all must understand if we are to side-step heartbreak and tragedy and soar to the pinnacle of human experience.

To be in love is a fluke: by a freak of nature someone just happens to stimulate chemical reactions within you that, according to experts, might last thirty months if you are exceptionally lucky. To be loving, however, is another world. It is to be Christlike. It is not a fluke; it is a virtue, an achievement, a deliberate, praiseworthy act. Being in love is fleeting; being loving is eternal.

Being in love is like having a baby. Babies are adorable. We can enjoy them and praise God for them but babies do not last. They grow. Likewise, being in love does not last and if that is all that is holding two people together they will grow apart. Just look around you and you will see it over and over and over. The younger you are, the less time you have had to observe the cycle. Being in love feels as if it will last forever, just as to a little child spring seems to last forever, but it will pass.

Falling in love is like being given a shiny new car: you did not do a thing to make it shiny or run well, but if you continue not doing a thing to maintain it and just let nature take its course, it will gradually fade and eventually grind to a halt.

Permit me to provide a short quote from one of my webpages for marrieds: Insights into God’s Heart & Marriage

    Romantic love – better called self-centered infatuation – is the short-lived exhilaration of vainly supposing you have at last found someone who will make you happy. If “all is fair in love and war” then that type of “love” is as dangerous as war. It is cruel and intoxicatingly deceptive. Its pillows are perfumed to hide the stench of death.

    Real love is not a whim that spurts and splutters at the fickle mercy of hormones and circumstances. It does not fizzle when hot-blooded leaps of imagination hit cold reality. It is unfazed by sagging beauty, declining abilities and changes of fortune. This unstoppable force powers on regardless. It is fueled not by the beloved but by daily dying to self and coming alive to the God of gods who sacrificed everything and became the highest by becoming the lowest. Yes, for love that never dies you must die daily. To find such love you must lose self.

    This love is noble, making you worthy of never-ending honor. Like an exquisite garden, it does not magically arrive; it is carefully nurtured. It is a virtue; a perpetual choice; a way of life for which you will literally be eternally grateful.

    Love thinks the highest of a person; forever viewing the beloved in the best possible light; always giving the beloved the benefit of the doubt. It sees beauties and finds treasures in the beloved that others miss.

    Love longs to know and understand everything about the beloved so that it can best serve the person.

    This love is forever grateful. It keeps on appreciating; never taking the beloved for granted; continually singing the beloved’s praises. It always treasures and values the beloved. It keeps no count of wrongs nor of cost. It is hopeless at remembering pain but never forgets when the beloved brought joy.

    Love seeks not to get but to give and give; not to be served but to serve. It craves not its own but the achievement and fulfillment of the beloved. It longs to exalt the beloved; not to put down but to lift high; not to control but to empower; not to manipulate but to liberate. In the eyes of love, to win at the expense of the beloved is to lose. It seeks not to win arguments but for the beloved to be proved right. Its happiness rests in the happiness of the beloved. It rejoices in the other’s success more than its own. When the beloved is honored, it feels honored; when the beloved is hurt, it feels pain. It willingly sacrifices everything for the beloved.

    Love keeps opening its heart. It is gentle but strong; soft but enduring; pliable but rock-solid. It is faithful and loyal, steadfast and true. It is dependable and pure. It stays as reliable in secret as when it is seen. It never stagnates but grows stronger by the year.

    This love is as eternal as God; as selfless as Christ. Empowered by the Spirit, it lets earth glimpse heaven. This love is sacred, its source is divine. It delights in God and is God’s delight.

    We are called to be like Jesus, who kept on loving Judas, knowing from the beginning that he would betray him (John 6:70-71; 13:1,5,34; 1 John 3:16). We are to love like the one who did not wait until his heathen torturers showed any remorse but forgave them while they were in the very act of killing him (Luke 23:33-34). What chance have we of doing this if we cannot even show our marriage partners such love?

    People today claim to be horrified about anyone not marrying for love, but marrying for one’s own happiness is marrying for selfishness, not love. If marriage is all about selfishness it is doomed to fail. Or was marriage instituted by the God of selfless love?

    Despite the importance of love, however, the motive for marrying should soar even higher than sacrificial love for a human. If the goal of marriage is anything less than the glory of God it is spiritually corrupt and as unhealthy as a life-threatening flesh-eating disease.

* * *

Husband, Head of a Submissive Wife?

A husband should act in a markedly different way to what many Christians suppose. They should not dominate but seek to empower their wives.

My webpage explaining this could prove disastrous for wives to read. Since they are already married, it is devastatingly too late for wives to ensure they choose a husband who fulfills his role in a truly biblical way. And once they marry they have virtually no hope of changing their husband’s behavior.

If you are single, however, you can spare yourself immense pain by understanding how Christian husbands should act and ensuring that you avoid marrying anyone not committed to this ideal. Make the most of being single by seizing the opportunity to read my plea to husbands that they not join the ranks of the tragically many Christian men who misunderstand their divinely appointed role. (See Husband, Head of a Submissive Wife?)

An adequate page for women would need to hit wives as hard as my page for men hits men. They really should be submissive and seek to exalt their husbands. Unfortunately, I have not, as yet, written such a webpage for wives, but near the beginning of the page about husbands is a helpful link: Note for Women.

* * *

Handling the Impossibilities

My goal is to reveal how much we can do, and should do, to improve our prospects of having a great marriage. Nevertheless, the full task is too enormous and our ability to foresee all the implications of our every act is too small, for any of us to cover everything that will impact our future married life. The mind-boggling array of things continually shaping our sexuality, our likes and dislikes, our strengths and weaknesses, our abilities and life-experiences, our expectations, and so on, is too vast for any human to even keep track of, much less control.

So, like it or not, we desperately need to involve God. By that, I do not mean insulting God by relegating him to a back seat and hoping for a divine miracle. If we try to treat God as a supernatural vending machine, an emergency kit, an eternal fire insurance policy, a status symbol or a spiritual fashion statement, we do not merely offend and depersonalize God; we damage and depersonalize ourselves.

God is highly personal, with passions and feelings so deep that alongside him we are hard and cold. He is the most beautiful and sensitive person in the universe. If we are so callous as to try to use Almighty God for our selfish purposes, rather than as someone to please and delight in, we are unsuited even to superficial friendships, let alone marriage.

Since every little thing we do helps shape our lives and our future, we need to be fully submitted to God in every area of our lives; doing every little thing his way.

I fully understand if you recoil from submitting to God to this extreme. You have very legitimate concerns that I am about to address. Nevertheless, if you have yet to realize that the biggest single factor determining the nature and success of future relationships is the nature of your relationship with God, then you, more than anyone, need to be reading this section.

Let’s not camouflage the truth: most believers know so little about God that, relative to the heart-meltingly beautiful, trustworthy friend he really is, many suppose him to be a killjoy; an arrogant, self-serving bigot; an impractical, out-of-touch egomaniac quite unworthy of our adoration. Of course, we are too respectful to ever express it this way. We try hard to force ourselves to like God but beneath the religious niceties, the way many of us think of him is much closer to the above than we dare admit.

I am not for a moment suggesting that you serve such a monstrous perversion of the real God. Like getting to know anyone, discovering the real God is a thrilling, never-ending journey, but as you keep pushing yourself forward on this journey of discovery, you won’t be able to stop yourself falling in love with him and longing for him to be in charge of your life. For much help in discovering how wonderful God really is, see Receiving a Personal Revelation of God’s Love for You and the pages it leads to.

With the sharpest mind in the universe, the Lord of the universe is intensely personal and infatuated with your well-being. Obeying God on every little point is not just the smartest thing we could ever do; it is actually the most exciting and ultimately safest thing we could ever do –even if we were to die in the process. For insight into how safe and beautiful God’s will for you is, see Enjoying God’s Will for You.

Let’s continue to attack all pretense with ferocious honesty: many people who call themselves Christians are not nice people. You would be a fool to marry them. To be judgmental or look down on anyone is an atrociously unchristian delusion that is such a terrifyingly seductive temptation that it snares vast numbers of us. Each of us must run from this trap in horror. Otherwise we will end up like Jesus’ highly devout enemies who honored God with their mouths but dishonored him with their lives. Their snobbish arrogance might have fooled few others but it blinded them so appallingly that they ended up crucifying their Lord. In contrast to those who use religion as a mask, anything that truly makes you a better Christian makes you a better, more gracious, more forgiving person. And anything that makes you a better person will make you a better husband or wife. To be critical, judgmental, moody, self-centered, controlling, manipulative or lazy is to be unsuited for any relationship.

So both in terms of accessing infinite knowledge and understanding, and in correctly nurturing your development as a person and becoming more Christlike, your relationship with God is of critical importance to choosing the best partner and having the best marriage. Whether we live stunted lives or reach our full potential hinges on what we put highest in our affections. God holds everything together. Unless he is pre-eminent in our lives, sooner or later, everything else will collapse.

Let’s use some probing questions to see if we are on track.

Throughout your life, how devoted have you been to seeking deep intimacy with God and hearing from him and obeying him on every little point? He alone truly knows what is best and what ultimately is in your best interest, and rarely does that line up with what we find easiest. Too often things turn sour and we blame God for what is simply the result of our willfulness – us being content to do things our way rather than diligently seeking God’s way.

How much are you yearning to give God pleasure, rather than wanting your own pleasure? Are you God’s servant or do you often treat him as your servant? How much have you died to self and let Christ rule in your thought-life and your circumstances? How much do you seek to glorify God in your daydreams and fantasies, in your choice of music and reading, in your television viewing and Internet usage, in your conversations and where your eyes wander? (As you are beginning to realize, these things end up powerfully influencing and shaping our self-image, our likes and dislikes and our relationship/marital expectations.) How much are you cultivating the fruit of the Spirit – selfless love, rejoicing in all circumstances, being peaceable, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control? Each of these is critical to healthy, fulfilling relationships. (For help with this, see Cultivating the Fruit of the Spirit.)

Either God is first in our lives and affections, or he is not our God.

    Romans 6:16,22 Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey – whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? . . . But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.

    James 4:4  . . . don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.

    1 John 2:15-16  . . . If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world – the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does – comes not from the Father but from the world.

    1 Timothy 5:6 But she who gives herself to pleasure is dead while she lives. (World English Bible)

    2 Timothy 3:1-5 But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money . . . conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God – having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.

    (Emphasis mine.)

(For still more Scriptures proving that unless God is first in our lives and affections, he is not our God, see More.)

Life is not about self-indulgence, nor our comfort; it is about loving and delighting in God and glorifying him by giving our utmost to the one who gave his all for us.

If we are unwilling to sacrifice for God everything else – romance, children, reputation, career, every material thing, financial security, our pet sins, our country, our lives, and everything else you can think of – then we worship not God but whatever we hold dearest. Unless we are like Abraham willing to sacrifice the son who meant more than life to him; unless we deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow our crucified Lord who sweated blood agonizing over what he was about to suffer for God; unless we are like the apostles preferring to be tortured rather than back off from total commitment to God; we delude ourselves if we consider ourselves Christian.

Of course, we must love even our enemies but the intensity of our love for God – our fierce determination to make him our Master – must be as far above our love for anything else as love is far above hate. God must be without rival in our lives, whether it be material things, pleasure, ease, status, or someone’s love.

    Luke 14:25-26 Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters – yes, even his own life – he cannot be my disciple. . . .” (Emphasis mine)

This was addressed to large crowds. This teaching is not just for the spiritual elite but for the masses.

    Luke 18:25,29-30 “ . . . Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. . . . “I tell you the truth,” Jesus said to them, “no one who has left home or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age and, in the age to come, eternal life.” (Emphasis mine.)

* * *


Marrying a non-Christian is not just maritally, it is spiritually dangerous because, like Solomon (Nehemiah 13:26), you could end up enticed away from God. It is even more serious than that, however. It is actually the spiritual equivalent of the perversion of bestiality. I hate putting it that way. I respect non-Christians. You and I are from their very ranks. It is only the holy Son of God and no virtue of our own that has made us a new creation – virtually, a new species (2 Corinthians 5:17). Nevertheless, people either belong to Christ or to the devil. There is no spiritual middle ground. We were “bought at a price” (1 Corinthians 6:20) – the highest price in the universe.

As expounded in Dating a Non-Christian, God’s Word reveals that to become one flesh (have sex) with a non-Christian is to take what is Christ’s and make it one with the devil (1 Corinthians 6:15-20; 2 Corinthians 6:14-18). It is to defile the Perfect One, who was tortured to death to purify us.

The more in love you are with a person you believe is a Christian, the more haunted you should be by Jesus’ warning about wolves in sheep’s clothing. It is frightfully easy to mistake a disguised wolf for a genuine Christian. In fact, the possibility of committed Christians being deceived by fake Christians on critical spiritual issues is so immense that the Bible is crammed with an alarmingly large number of warnings about it (see New Testament Warnings About Deception). What is particularly disturbing is that these warnings about mistaking false Christians for real ones are given to sober-minded believers. For anyone deliriously in love, the danger must surely sky-rocket.

Piled on top of this are all the warnings mentioned elsewhere in this webpage about people who start their spiritual journey well and later fall away.

So this is yet another grave reason for being extremely cautious and prayerful about who and how soon we marry. And since falling in love makes us dangerously vulnerable to deception, we need to be prayerfully cautious even about casual relationships, lest we suddenly get swept off our feet by unexpected emotions. The experience, by the way, can be natural and yet so powerful and surprising as to be mistaken for an act of God.

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Have you Found The One?

Other than making Jesus Lord of your entire life, no decision is likely to impact the rest of your life as profoundly and irreversibly than whom you marry. The financial risks alone are mind-boggling but there is so much more.

In so many ways your spouse will shape your character. Consider the marital implications of:

    Proverbs 27:17 As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.

    Proverbs 13:20 He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.

    Proverbs 16:24 Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.

    Proverbs 22:24-25 Do not make friends with a hot-tempered man, do not associate with one easily angered, or you may learn his ways and get yourself ensnared.

    Proverbs 27:9  . . . the pleasantness of one’s friend springs from his earnest counsel.

    1 Corinthians 15:33 Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.”

    Hebrews 10:24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.

Both positively and negatively, the emotional and sexual implications of marriage are stupendous. Your choice of marriage partner will open and close all sorts of doors. It will determine not just who your in-laws are but the genetic makeup of your children and their upbringing. And don’t imagine that God treats divorce lightly (see Divorce & Remarriage).

For an enormous range of heart-wrenchingly important reasons, it is vital that the person you marry is God’s choice. For example, only God has all the facts and the infinite intellect to know what is truly in your best interest. Only he has the ability to know all the chain reactions set off for eternity by every tiny event. He alone knows your full potential and every detail of his thrilling plans for your life. He knows your past far better than you do; to say nothing of your future. And of course the same applies to the person you are considering marrying. No-one but the Almighty knows exactly how you and your would-be partner will change, who will die first and when, how faithful your partner will be, and on and on we could go.

Falling head over heels in love is not proof that the person is the one God has for you. Most people fell madly in love with the person they end up divorcing. I very deliberately wrote madly in love. It is no coincidence that fond originally meant foolish or gullible, and that we all know the saying love is blind. Terrifyingly many people, for example, have been convinced they were marrying a Christian, only to afterward discover that the person was either faking it or sincerely misunderstood spiritual things.

Being insanely in love not only does not mean the person is God’s choice; it profoundly interferes with one’s ability to hear from God on this critically important matter. At the very time when you could be teetering on making the most horrific mistake of your life, your own passions will scream far louder than God’s still voice.

If ever being willing to sacrifice everything for God makes sense it is in what we are discussing. If God reveals that it is not his will for you to proceed with marrying the person you are burning for, will you sacrifice this relationship for God? If not, you have just rejected divine wisdom and sentenced yourself to untold misery. Why would God even bother to share his wisdom with someone stubbornly determined to follow his/her own passions no matter what God says?

Many apparent Christians are so dangerously devoted to their own selfishness as to put God in a no-win situation. They would get angry with God, thinking him heartless, if he told them not to marry the person they lust after, and then, if they disregard God’s guidance and the relationship turns sour they will blame God, thinking him heartless for letting them make such an appalling mistake.

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Each of us has certain ways of communicating love that we deeply crave and without which we feel deprived and unfulfilled – things that when done to us make us feel loved and that we enjoy doing to show love. You need to understand, however, that despite trying our hardest to express our love the way we would find meaningful, it might barely register with the other person because what makes him/her feel loved is something quite different.

For example, although the recognition of anniversaries, birthdays and so on can assume huge emotional importance to some people, they are meaningless to me. In fact, along with the giving and receiving of gifts, it upsets me. So had I married someone for whom gift giving and celebrating special days were important, both of us would end up having many needlessly painful times compared with what I enjoy with my wife. Long before we married I verified that she shares my peculiar attitude to these things.

I have not studied Gary Chapman in depth but he calls what I am referring to love languages. I think he has made a valuable contribution to marital harmony by identifying the concept but according to my superficial understanding of his approach I think his list of love languages could use some refinements. Let’s start with the five he identifies:

    * Physical Touch

      Unlike Gary, I don’t consider it valid to lump all touch into one category. One just has to consider little children’s need for touch to realize what a vastly different “love language” non-sexual touch is from sex. Some married people with little or no desire for sex have an enormous need for hugs, hand holding, and so on. On the other hand, some people with a huge need for sex have little or no interest in non-sexual touch.

    * Words of Affirmation

      By this Chapman means verbally expressing love, thanks and appreciation, encouraging and complimenting each other, and so on.

    * Quality Time

      Spending one-on-one time together, giving undivided attention to each other.

    * Acts of Service

      Doing things such as household chores as an expression of love.

    * Gift Giving

Here are some important things that, to my way of thinking, do not fit neatly into the above categories – and there are most likely still more:

    * Baring One’s Soul

      Some people find it very difficult to open up and talk about how they are really feeling and yet this difficulty would cause some partners to feel slighted and cut off. Some people have a need to unwind by talking to their marriage partner about their work, whereas others want a total break and cannot bear talking about it. Some feel a need to keep talking about past hurts in a conscious or unconscious attempt to resolve the issue, whereas others insist that the only way to “move on” is to clam up.

    * Sharing the Same Interests/Pastimes

      One professional sportsman had a wife who had little interest in the sport. He liked this about his wife because he was one of those who wanted his marriage to be a vacation from work. For some people, however, it can feel very lonely to be passionate about something that one’s partner thinks nothing of. Some people even have quite a fan club for achievements that their marriage partner poo-poos. Some do not mind but for others all the acclaim in the world cannot compensate for the hurt of having a partner who does not value his/her achievements or interests.

    * Simply Being Together

      Some people draw immense comfort just from being in the same room together, such as both partners reading in bed, even though their minds are absorbed on totally different things. Some, however, find this insulting because they feel the need for more intense interaction – what Chapman calls quality time.

      Some people feel the need to spend every spare moment with a loved one. Others have no such need and feel fulfilled with far less time together. In fact, some feel it enhances their marriage to spend less time together. “Seldom set foot in your neighbor’s house – too much of you, and he will hate you” (Proverbs 25:17) is a principle that rings true to them.

    * Remembering Anniversaries, etc

      To me this seems childish and a way that some wives manipulate their husbands but it really is important to some people.

    * The Wedding

      Obviously this happens only once in a marriage – although there is no reason why there cannot be a second celebration of one’s marriage. It can have far-reaching consequences, however, when one partner has very different needs to the other in this regard.

    * Exclusive Friendship

      Some feel the need to maintain a same-sex friend as their closest friend, whereas others consider it insulting for their partner not to regard them as their best friend and confidante. Some introverts want a marriage that is focused almost entirely on each other, whereas to others that would feel claustrophobic and unhealthy.

    * Romance

      Candlelit dinners, romantic music, surprises, love notes and so on can be very important to some people and almost insulting and demeaning to others.

    * Sharing the Same Sense of Humor

      Your friend’s jokes might have been funny the first few times you heard them but what happens after you have heard them too many times?

Once you are married, you have to do your best to force yourself to express love the way that your partner desires, even if you feel uncomfortable with it. It is much easier – and possibly more fulfilling – if you choose to marry someone whose favorite ways of demonstrating love are highly compatible with yours.

To ensure one feels loved and fulfilled, however, it is not enough to have the same “love language.” You might both enjoy gift-giving, for example, but might have very different ideas about appropriate gifts. Here’s another example: a passionate sex life, could be critically important to both partners but for one, a particular sex possibility might turn his/her stomach or be regarded as ungodly, whereas for the other partner it is a vital aspect of feeling loved. For instance, it might be vitally important for one partner’s self-esteem and feeling loved and accepted that the other finds his/her private parts visually attractive. Nevertheless, the other person could have some hang-up that causes him/her to find those parts of the opposite sex repulsive. I expect you to be too moral to find out before marriage exactly how the other would feel but it is appropriate that engaged couples make each other aware of known hang-ups and that each question the other about views on things that are important to him/her. Take nothing for granted.

Surely we would all prefer to be married to someone who delights in every aspect of us, rather than merely tolerates some parts of us. Our self-esteem, however, might be such that we think that toleration is the best we can hope for. Nevertheless, somewhere in this wide world is a person who will actually like things about you that you despise about yourself. For example, I’m ashamed of my arms and deliberately cover them up. They are skinny, hairy and freckly but for some reason my wife finds them sexy.

Here’s another example: I once had a girlfriend who was repulsed by my body odor. If we were together and I had access to soap, she often insisted I wash my face to reduce its smell and she wanted me to wear deodorant to mask my natural odor. I assumed every woman not fitted with a gasmask found me repulsive. For about twenty years I seriously believed the best I could hope for was to find a woman with a poor sense of smell. To my astonishment, the wife the Lord has given me finds my B.O. a real turn on – even on rare occasions when I have not showered for days (let’s just say I’m into water conservation).

There are many other important areas concerning compatibility. For example, one might be an extrovert and the other an introvert. That is likely to mean one likes lots of change and meeting lots of people and having lots of background noise or music, whereas the other finds these are a source not of relaxation but of stress.

I’m not saying that God’s choice for you will necessarily be totally compatible with you in every possible way but you need to realize that despite you currently thinking it highly unlikely, one day you could meet someone who adores things about you that your marriage partner dislikes. How would you cope with knowing that you are committed for life to someone who finds you less desirable than someone else finds you?

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Let Reality Slap You

It is my plea that you ensure you marry only God’s choice for you and only in his timing. Do not rely on the assurance of the person who wants to marry you that he/she has heard from God, nor rely on anyone else’s claim to have heard from God. You must hear from him on this critical matter.

What matters most is not whether you are in love with the person you marry but whether you are in love with the Person who created marriage.

When your choice is truly of God, and you are totally surrendered to him, marriage is a bed of roses. You will discover, however, that roses have thorns.

Church wedding vows are traditionally grim:

    for better, for worse,
    for richer, for poorer,
    in sickness and in health
    . . .  till death us do part.

Such vows are not the product of giddy fantasy but pounded out on the anvil of intense experience. And, as we shall see, they are backed by God himself.

In the inspired Word of God, the apostle Paul, pointing out the advantages of never marrying, wrote, “But those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this,” (1 Corinthians 7:28).

“Better to live in a desert than with a quarrelsome and ill-tempered wife,” warns Proverbs 21:19. Another Scripture is similar and it is so important that it is repeated a second time (Proverbs 21:9; 25:24), and the theme is taken up yet a fourth time:

    Proverbs 27:15-16 A quarrelsome wife is like a constant dripping on a rainy day; restraining her is like restraining the wind or grasping oil with the hand.

And of course it would be equally torturous to live with a man who is like that. And then there is this warning:

    Proverbs 22:24-25 Do not make friends with a hot-tempered man, do not associate with one easily angered, or you may learn his ways and get yourself ensnared.

Consider this inspired advice:

    2 Timothy 2:3-4 Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs – he wants to please his commanding officer.

We have already mentioned the importance of taking seriously Jesus’ warning that not everyone is cut out for marriage:

    Matthew 19:10-12 The disciples said to him, “If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.” Jesus replied, “Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. For some are eunuchs because they were born that way; others were made that way by men; and others have renounced marriage because of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.”

A eunuch is someone rendered incapable of marital relations.

Nevertheless, “those who marry will face many troubles” (1 Corinthians 7:28) is a promise for even the best marriage. We need to take to heart Scriptural promises like these and steel ourselves for life’s realities.

Marriage is not heaven. Like everything else in this life, the stakes are high and the risks enormous. There will be hurts, disappointments, frustrations, annoying habits. Your partner will sin, grow old, get sick and die.

King David, God’s chosen, a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14), devoted to obeying God (Acts 13:22), eventually committed adultery (2 Samuel 12:7-9). What this God’s fault? Of course not. If such an anointed man of God could be adulterous, however, so might your beloved.

If ever there were a marriage made in heaven, it was Adam and Eve’s. They were a perfect match, like no other couple. Not only were they both sinless, Eve was literally made for Adam. Despite having everything going for them, Eve ended up ruining her life and dragging Adam down with her.

Spirit-filled apostles, Paul and Barnabas, were called of God to minister together (Acts 13:2) but they ended up having a bitter argument and splitting up (Acts 15:39).

After much prayer (Luke 6:12-13), Jesus hand-picked his twelve apostles. One betrayed him, turning him in to be crucified. They all deserted him. Peter, just hours after vowing he would be faithful to Jesus no matter what (Luke 22:31-34) denied him.

Almighty God, of course, is absolutely perfect in love. He is not only filled with all the fruit of the Spirit, he is the very source of all those graces. No human comes even close to being as good as him. Nevertheless, billions keep on breaking his heart. Every day, people who had sincerely promised to be faithful to him to their dying day, get so mad at him, or fall in love with someone or something else, that they divorce themselves from him. If, in all his power and perfection, not even God is immune to such treatment, none of us are.

If you are too moral to imprison someone for life, physically forcing him/her to stay with you; don’t expect the God of perfection to have lower morals and do your dirty work for you. If the Almighty enslaves no one and does not force anyone to be faithful to him, neither will he abuse his power by forcing your darling to be faithful to you.

“In this world you will have trouble,” promised Jesus (John 16:33). “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you,” wrote Peter under the inspiration of God (1 Peter 4:12). “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” Paul and Barnabas instructed believers (Acts 14:22). “I know your afflictions and your poverty,” the risen Lord told the faithful in Smyrna, one of only two of the seven churches to receive nothing but praise (Revelation 2:9).

Over and over, Jesus warned of those who start off well but crash. Consider:

    * The parable of the sower
    * the foolish virgins
    * the man who built on the sand
    * one son who refused to obey the father and later obeyed and the other who said he would obey but did not
    * the man delivered of a demon, only to end up worse than before.
    * the foolishness of commencing a building project without calculating whether you have the finances to complete it
    * and the stupidity of a king going to war without considering whether his army has a chance of winning.

No one is immune from falling:

    1 Corinthians 10:12 So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!

Remember how often Jesus discouraged would-be followers by saying such things as, “Foxes have holes . . . but the Son of man has no place to lay his head” (Luke 9:57-62). Then there are such warnings as, “he who stands firm to the end [emphasis mine] will be saved” (Matthew 10:22; 24:13) and “many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other” (Matthew 24:10).

Few of us come anywhere near realizing how utterly unimportant our short-term ease or happiness is, relative to our stupendous need to become more Christlike and to harden our resolve to persevere no matter how oppressive life gets. We serve the one who said, “If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also” (John 15:20). We serve our crucified Lord not for protection from hardship but for the joy of delighting God and achieving things of eternal worth. Unless we toughen up and develop a stubborn determination to endure hard times, we will not last the distance – neither spiritually nor maritally.

Despite having an exceptionally happy marriage I take nothing for granted. The only thing you and I deserve is an eternity in hell from the moment of our first sin. I’m thankful for every day my wife loves me. I’m thankful for every day she is not bed-ridden or dead. I could lose everything at any moment.

I am so grateful that for much of my agonizing time being single I did not fantasize about having a perfect wife. I kept imagining having to cope – like so many Christians – with a marriage that is far from ideal. This attitude has beautifully enhanced my marriage because it makes me thankful for the smallest positive – and there are many.

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Don’t Presume Anything About Your Friend

Simply because your friend is a Christian it is so easy to slip into the trap of assuming he or she has the same views as you on issues that are critically important to you or will become important in your marriage.

There are a multitude of things you need to thoroughly discuss with each other. If you wish, they can be casually introduced as topics of conversation without implying that you are considering marrying the person you are talking to; just as you would with a same-sex friend. Here are just a few examples of topics that need discussing:

    Children – How soon after marriage should the first child be born? What about contraception? How would each of you respond to an unplanned pregnancy or failure to conceive? What if it is the husband who is infertile? What if it is the wife? How many children are ideal? How should they be disciplined, raised and schooled?

    Respective roles – What do you expect of a marriage partner re household chores? What hours and type of employment should each of you have? How important is each other’s career? What if one’s career advancement requires a permanent move interstate? How soon after a child is born should the wife re-enter the work force?

    Finances – How important are material things to you? What should money be spent on? Should you live off your credit card? Should you tithe? Are there significant economic reasons for delaying marriage? Should you have separate bank accounts or your own spending money?(Consider the implications of Proverbs 24:27.)

    Responsibility to Parents – What if a parent can no longer look after himself/herself? Should the parent move in? If a family member becomes sick, should you move to be closer to the sick relative?

    Tidiness – Do you have the same views on how clean, tidy and orderly your living space should be?

    Pets – How compatible is your attitude toward pets?

    When you cannot meet the needs of both, who comes first? – Your partner or God? Your partner or your ministry? Your partner or your job? Your partner or your child? Your partner or your friends? Your partner or needy relatives?

Then there are things that are worthy of close observation. How, for example, does the person treat relatives and former and existing friends? How respectful of other people and how forgiving is he/she? If the way you are being treated is not consistent with how the person treats others, the person is probably faking it and will be unable to maintain the pretense after marriage.

For more, see Quiz for Engaged Couples

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Wrap Up

Being head-over-heels in love is no more proof that you should continue that relationship than being irresistibly drawn to drugs means that God wants you to be a junkie. One of life’s greatest challenges is that marriage ranks among the most critical decisions anyone ever faces and yet the delirium of romantic love is the enemy of sober thought. Likewise, a gnawing ache for things marriage seems to offer can so easily escalate to fever pitch; drowning out both the voice of reason and the voice of God.

If falling in love were sufficient reason for marrying, then falling out of love would be a valid reason for adultery. For our own good – to say nothing of more noble reasons – we must enter into, and maintain, close relationships solely for the glory of God; not to satisfy our passions.

God says in his Word that as intense heat refines precious metal, so intense trials beautify us (e.g. Psalm 66:8-10; Zechariah 13:9; Malachi 3:3; 1 Peter 1:6-7; 4:12). Just as metal cannot reach its full glory without heat, neither can we reach our full glory without trials.

Marital stress – incompatibilities and so on – can refine us and end up making us better people. The critical question, however, is whether in your case this means of refinement is God’s preferred way (which it might be) or would it simply be God making the most of you having made an atrocious choice or the result of your failure to grow more Christlike prior to marriage?

Being in love is like being on drugs; it fogs our judgment and is so addictive that we don’t want to give it up even when it is harmful. Being in love does not mean you have found the right person. On the contrary, its drug-like haze increases the chance of a catastrophic mistake. You will definitely come down from the high but will you sober up too late to avoid marrying the wrong person? If we are a slave of our passions, rather than a slave of Christ, we have no protection.

The topic addressed in this webpage is enormous. For more help, you need to read all the links provided. If you have additional suggestions for this webpage or wish to discuss anything, please e-mail me on






















Marriage Preparation Begins at Birth








Premarital Help









Choosing a Wife












Preparing to Marry










Choosing a Partner










Choosing a Husband













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Additional Important Links

God’s Heart & Marriage (A significant webpage)

The Simpler Sex? Understanding Your Husband

Improving Communication in Marriage: Understanding Your Partner’s Different Attitude to Talking

Webpages for Singles

Webpages for Marrieds

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Not to be sold. © Copyright, Grantley Morris, 2013. For much more by the same author, see   No part of these writings may be copied without citing this entire paragraph.