Advice to Christian Brides to Be: Getting Ready for Your Marriage
Are you Planning to Get Married?
You may wonder who I am to be advising a bride-to-be. I'm a bride whose been there. I've been married to the same man for 52 years as I update this. We married in 1964. We had stars in our eyes and high ideals. We'd read the books on how to have the perfect Christian marriage. We were in love. We had common goals. We had lived in the same dorm at UCLA, Dykstra Hall, for two years, eaten our meals together, studied together, and been very good friends before we ever had a date. In fact, we only had two actual dates before the wedding. They didn't seem necessary. We were together most of the time we weren't in class or sleeping. We thought we knew each other as well as two people could before they lived together.
Since our wedding day, I've learned a lot it might have been helpful to learn much sooner. I had the head knowledge -- the theory of how to be happily married -- down pat. What I didn't have was the realization of how it all worked out in human nature. Those stars in your eyes can act as blinders, and when the hormones have kicked in, they can make your brain explain away red flags that may pop up before you tie the knot.
We're still together.
Why Do You Want to Get Married?
Even if the right man hasn't come along yet or proposed, there are some things to think about long before the wedding day -- things other than getting a dress and choosing the attendants, the cake, the flowers, and the rest. It always amazes me that people will spend thousands of dollars to have the perfect wedding, planning everything to the last detail, but may not take the time to get even the most basic premarital counseling.
Have you thought about why you want to get married? Or have you just assumed it's what you do if you are in love and you want to do more than just live together? It's a good idea to start thinking about the reasons you want to marry long before you get to the wedding planning stage. When you even think marriage might be on the horizon, start a relationship journal. If you have a specific man in mind, talk to your parents and allow them to get to know him. They will see things you won't.
An Ideal Relationship Journal
Having a dedicated place to write your thoughts as they come to you will encourage you to keep track of them. This lovely journal reminds you each day that His grace is sufficient to help you handle whatever happens in your relationship -- even if you should discover that he may not be the one after all. There is a verse at the bottom of each lined page to remind you that He is in this relationship with you.
Trust the Holy Spirit to help you see what is significant in your relationship to the man in your life and who both of you really are. Write these insights as they come. It's easy to forget what we don't record.
Answer These Questions Before You Get Married.
It takes more than a wedding to make a marriage. Start your relationship journal as soon as you think you may have met "the one." You might want to write in this journal after each date or interaction where you saw something really wonderful in your man, or when he did something you didn't like or anything that seems significant in your relationship.
You should also answer these questions in that journal. Write the answers down. You will need to use them a few years down the road. If you're really smart, you will show them to your mother or grandmother, your spiritual adviser or pastor, and someone you know who has been happily married for at least 25 years. Get their input on how things may be different than you expect them to be.
1. Why do I want to get married?
2. Why do I want to marry this particular man?
3. What are his three greatest strengths?
4. What are his three greatest weaknesses?
5. How do your own strengths and weaknesses complement or compensate for his?
6. What things really bug you about him? Does he know they annoy you but he still keeps doing them?
7. Would you still want to marry him if you knew those things would never change and you might discover even more things that bug you about him?
8. What do you do that really seems to bug him? Do you plan to change those things about yourself? How successful have you been in changing them so far? Have you asked him what things you do that annoy him if you don't know of any?
9. Do you see divorce as an option if those stars in your eyes disappear?
10. Has he ever verbally or physically abused you?
If you answered either of these last two questions "yes," put your marriage plans on hold and see a counselor before proceeding. It will spare you and any future children a lot of grief. Trust me. Your heart is deceiving you if you think you will change this man. If you marry him, things will only get worse. A counselor will help you see why you are attracted to a man who is already starting to abuse you, and help you deal with that so that you won't keep being attracted to abusive men.
If you answered "no" to both those last two questions, go on to the next section.
The Blessing of Your Parents Is Important.
What do I do with my answered questions?
Let's assume you actually followed my advice about writing down the answers to the questions I asked above. The one you believe is Mr. Right has proposed and you have accepted. You have taken your answered questions to at least one older person who has had a successful marriage and discussed your answers and gotten a blessing on your future plans. You have your parents' blessing, or at least you have listened to any warnings they may have given you with an open mind. Now, take your journal or whatever you wrote your your answers on and put it in your safe deposit box or another safe and confidential place.
When you get to the place in your marriage -- and you will someday --when you are tempted to bail out or have an affair, go get that piece of paper. It will remind you why you wanted to marry this particular man. It will remind you of the good qualities you saw in him. Do you want to leave him because of one of his weaknesses you already knew about before you married him? Did you say you would still want to marry him even if he would never change the things you don't like? Did you see divorce as an option back then? What has changed? Could it be your heart?
Spend More Time Preparing for Marriage than Planning a Wedding.
Your heart and emotions can act as your enemies.
Our hearts tend toward evil and are very deceptive. Combined with our emotions, they can lead us astray. They can convince us our husband doesn't love us and that we no longer love him, when neither is really true. They can convince us another man would be better for us -- especially if you already have already met someone who seems more understanding than your husband.. You will probably discover later that it isn't really true. It would be a shame if you divorced someone who really does love you, only to discover the real bond between you and the other man is mere lust -- not love -- and that it can go almost as quickly as it came.
Meanwhile, if you have children, if you divorce, they will suffer not being able to live together with both parents. You will suffer the pain and anguish of knowing you were deceived by Satan, who is always trying to destroy anything good God has created. Even if your bond with the other man formed over a long period of time and you had been very close friends before the affair developed, even if you would rather die than live without him, remember that you used to feel this way about your husband.
It follows that you may also feel about this man someday what you now feel about your husband. If you break this emotional attachment to this other man, it will hurt in proportion to the time you have had feelings for him, but you will get over it. If you both have children, staying with your husband and rebuilding your relationship and marriage will spare all those children from losing their stable families.
it's time to see a wise woman again who has had a long and, as far as you know, a happy marriage. Make a new list before you go on which you write the reasons why you want out of the marriage. Take both lists with you when you visit this woman you trust. Get her advice.
A Wise Woman From My Church
Why a Wise Woman Instead of Your Pastor
If you wonder why I suggested seeing a wise woman instead of your pastor, it's because your pastor only has head knowledge of what it's like to be a woman having marital problems. He may even have hidden, but unsolved, marriage problems of his own. Or maybe he hasn't even been married.
I once had a pastor who was counseling a member of our congregation about her marriage. He himself was separated from his wife in a very difficult situation. She was mentally ill and in an institution and didn't even recognize him. She was also in a different country. By the time the counseling was over, this pastor had advised the woman to get a divorce and he got one himself and they got married. In this case, a vulnerable man was spending a lot of time with a vulnerable woman. Our pastor could not be an impartial counselor in this situation. When men and women who are vulnerable spend time alone together, it often creates a new problem. Your pastor might not even be aware of how vulnerable he is until it's too late.
Another reason I suggested a wise woman who has been married for at least 25 years is that she is much better able to understand the kind of problems you are having. To look at her, you might never suspect she once felt as you do now. There may have been times she held to her marriage commitment even when she didn't feel she was "in love" anymore. She probably wouldn't share that unless she felt it would really help someone to know. I know this because I once had a wise woman who was my friend when I went through a very difficult situation. To look at her, you would never suspect the battles she had fought in her own heart. Through them she was able to draw closer to the heart of God, and as she did, she gained the strength to keep her marriage commitment and bring glory to God. She was much better equipped to advise me in a similar situation than a male pastor,who had never had to face what she did.
In Titus 2, Paul instructs older women to teach the younger women and train them to love their husbands and children, to be sensible, chaste, domestic, kind, and submissive to their husbands so that the word of God might not be discredited. And that is what a truly Christian woman needs to keep in mind as her emotions and her heart try to deceive her. What is most important? To give in to those emotions and let the word of God be discredited? Or to look to God for the love you need to keep your marriage together and keep the commitment you made before God and those who witnessed your marriage vows.
I have learned through my long life and marriage that emotions can lie, and if we focus on them, instead of on God's promises to us and the commitment we have made, we will have regrets. That is why it's better to base a marriage on more than emotion and to think through the reasons for the marriage before we enter into it. Nothing is worse than a miserable marriage that feels like a life sentence, but I can tell you that God can change hearts -- even yours -- and bring the joy back into your marriage. I will save that part for another hub, since this one is for those who are only thinking of entering into marriage.