Here’s how the story goes – You’re dating a special someone. Love abounds. You begin to feel they’re the person you want to spend the rest of your life with.
The next steps seem pretty clear… proposal, engagement, planning, invitations, the big day, honeymoon and happily ever after. Cue Disney music and release the doves.
Ninety percent of couples who get engaged end up getting married – most of them because they truly believe it’s the right thing.
But many wear huge “marriage goggles” in which they get so caught up in the excitement of getting married that they simply can’t see whether they’re doing the right thing with the right person.
What people usually don’t tell you is that after the wedding planning has begun it’s really difficult to turn back. Even when serious doubts come along it often seems easier to simply go through with the wedding and hope for the best. As a pastor, I’ve counseled many of those couples as they are considering or recovering from a divorce.
The time to be sure the person you’re thinking about marrying is the right person is before you get engaged. Before the church has been booked and the flowers have been ordered.
If you’re considering engagement now, or are hoping to get engaged and married sometime in the future, I’d urge you to consider this life changing decision in light of the following ten questions.
1. Would You Marry You?
A dating or engagement relationship, and ultimately a marriage, is only as healthy as the individuals in it. It begins with you. That’s why you need to first ask yourself “Would I marry me?” before you ask someone else “Will you marry me?”
According to Jesus, your personal health is vitally connected to your relationship with God, others, and yourself (Mark 12:30-31). How are you doing in those three areas?
Healthy marriages are built on healthy individuals. Not perfect individuals (we all have issues) but individuals who are moving in a healthy direction.
If you’ve got some rough edges that need work, then you need to start getting your life together before you get engaged.
2. Are You All Dated Out?
If you get married before you’re done dating, you could fall into the Trisha trap. Three months after Trisha married, she told her mother, “I wish I wasn’t married.
I miss hanging out with my friends and meeting new guys. I feel like I made a big mistake and now I’m bored and stuck.”
If you, like Trish, are a person who still enjoys the whole meeting…flirting…dating scene, you’re not ready for marriage. You need to be done with that before you’re ready to get engaged.
3. How Does “Till Death Do Us Part” Sound?
If you’re serious about getting married, you need to be seriously committed, in every good sense of the word. A good marriage demands an unconditional commitment where you totally give yourself to another person for life. No matter what. “For better or worse…till death do us part.”
That level of commitment is almost foreign to people’s thinking today, in any area of life. Most people find it hard to even stick with a two year cell phone contract, let alone a marriage.
When a new phone comes out or a better plan comes along, we’ll often break the contract even though it’s going to cost us.
When you think you’ve found the person you want to marry, make sure you’re prepared to say “no” to whoever else may come along in the future before you get engaged.
4. Are You “In Love”?
Love often begins with feelings of infatuation, which science has shown actually involves a bio-chemical reaction in the body. When those chemicals wear off, the true test of love begins.
Remember Andrew and Jen who “fell in love” on The Bachelor? After the show was over, they eventually came to see that “falling in love” and “staying in love” are two very different things.
Love that lasts requires more than simply falling in love. I tell couples to look for three kinds of love in their relationship — the love of physical attraction, the love of emotional connection, and the love of sacrificial action. The Bible calls these three types of love eros, phileo, and agape and they’re all essential in lasting relationships.
5. Do You Communicate Effectively?
Is your relationship like an Arrogant Boss/Employee where one person barks orders and makes all the decisions while the other complies?
Or do you fit a Patient/Professional Counselor profile where one of you pours out their feelings and needs, while the other is the caretaker who patiently listens and offers advice without expressing their own feelings?
Healthy communication functions more like Indispensable Teammates. Each has something to contribute and give and both are able to express their true innermost beliefs and feelings.
And when differences come along, you process them in healthy ways that put a relational win-win on the board.
6. Are You Spiritually Connected?
“I shouldn’t have married him,” Stephanie blurted out. “I knew what the Bible said about marrying an unbeliever, but I ignored it. We loved each other and I just figured it would all work out.
Well it hasn’t. I’m so frustrated. It’s gotten to the point in our marriage now where he doesn’t want me to go to church on Sunday.
He says it’s the only day we can have together as a family. But I want our children to grow up in the church. What should I do?”
There’s no easy answer to that question after you’re already married. Make sure you have a strong spiritual connection before you get engaged.
I’d urge you first to consider if you both have a relationship with Christ, then also take into account each other’s spiritual beliefs, practices, and commitments. Even if you’re both professing Christians, each of these vital areas will have a huge impact on your marriage.
7. Are You Better Together Than Apart?
I encourage couples who are considering marriage to think about the ways their similarities and differences make their relationship either better or worse.
The idea of a couple marrying because they complement each other isn’t an insignificant issue. It’s at the heart of why God created a man and woman.
From the beginning of time, God said, “It’s not good for man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him” (Gen. 2:18). God knew the two of them together could do more and be more than they would if they lived life alone.
8. What Does Your Heart Say?
If you’re considering getting engaged and your heart feels heavy, tense, confused, uneasy, or pressured, you need to find out what’s wrong.
I could hear the pain in Mark’s voice when he said, “Not going through with my plan to ask Kim to marry me was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done.”
After 18 months of dating, it looked like Mark was going to get engaged. Everyone was expecting it. But instead, Mark broke up with Kim.
When I asked Mark what his final determining reason was for ending the relationship he said, “It really all boiled down to one thing. I didn’t have peace about asking Kim to marry me.”
Mark’s lack of peace was more than just last minute wedding day butterflies, but something that had been building over time. If something isn’t right, and you know it, it’s in your best interest not to ignore those feelings.
9. Are You Sure This Is God’s Will?
It would be nice if knowing God’s will were as simple as going to a web site and typing in a question, knowing that God would reply with a clear answer.
Since God doesn’t work that way, people often struggle to sort out God’s will. Like this email I received from Jeremy. “Lindsey and I have been dating for a while now. We’re both committed to following God’s leadership and seeking His direction before we move further in our commitment to each other. But how do we know if it’s God’s will for us to get married?”
Unfortunately, you can’t find a verse in the Bible that will tell you if Jeremy should marry Lindsey. But Psalm 37:4 gives us some help. If you’re walking with God, then your desires will be His desires, and He will give you what your heart desires.
In other words, the best way to know God’s unrevealed will (Should Jeremy and Lindsey get married?), is by doing God’s revealed will.
If you want to be sure of God’s will, your obedience in the areas that Scripture is clear about, will help you know God’s will in other areas of your life.
10. Are Your Friends and Family Supportive?
We all have blind spots. Things we don’t see that others can. Sometimes these issues are small—like a nervous habit. Other times the blind spots are huge and potentially detrimental, especially when they connect with a lifelong decision like marriage.
We need trusted people in our lives who will give us constructive, honest, and loving feedback. Before you get engaged, I’d strongly suggest you consult with those who know you and your dating relationship best. Usually this means your family and friends.
Find an appropriate time to sit down with them and share what you’re thinking. Ask them if they think the two of you should get married. Then listen and carefully consider what they have to say.
Though there is no formula to getting engaged, I hope that careful consideration of these ten questions will give you a better idea of your readiness for engagement and marriage.
For more help check out Before You Get Engaged by David Gudgel and Brent Gudgel with Danielle Fitch. Dave can be reached through his web site at www.davidgudgel.com or by email at dave.gudgel [at] gmail.com (replace [at] with @).
About the author
Born and raised in California, Dr. Dave Gudgel has called Fresno, Sacramento, Bakersfield, Santa Barbara, Agoura Hills, Phoenix, and now Sunnyvale “home.”
Dave currently serves as the Lead Pastor of Bridges Community Church in Los Altos, CA. Prior to Bridges, Dave was the Senior Pastor of Agoura Bible Fellowship, a church in the northwest Los Angeles area for twenty-one years, and then the Senior Pastor of Bethany Bible Church in Phoenix, AZ for seven years.
Over the past twenty-five years, Dave has taught a variety of seminars for Walk Thru the Bible Ministries. As an author Dave has written three books titled: Owner’s Guide to Using Your Bible, Before You Live Together, and Before You Get Engaged.
Dave loves to play golf and to travel. He and his wife Bernice have three children, two daughter-in-laws, and three adorable grandchildren.
To know more about Dave, visit his website www.davidgudgel.com.