In most cases, we date each other, before we marry each other. Dating is usually the prelude to marriage, and so is “falling in love.” But just because we enjoy dating each other, it doesn’t mean that we would be good marriage partners. A great date, doesn’t necessarily mean that he or she would be a good mate.
And just because we “fall” in love, it doesn’t mean that we should fall into marriage. We could have a great jump start, with a bad ending if we choose the wrong person to marry.
We hear it all the time… “follow your heart.” But here’s some great advice written by Josh McDowell on this issue:
“Many will instruct you to ‘follow your heart.’ This advice can lead to a heartbreaking situation. One emotional student was heard to exclaim, ‘I know I’ve met the right girl …I can’t sleep, I can’t eat, and I’m flunking all my tests!’ Sounds like a case of the flu to me. Let me suggest, instead of asking, ‘Am I in love?’ ask, ‘Is my love mature enough to produce a fulfilled love, marriage, and sex relationship?’ I prefer to evaluate love in terms of maturity because I believe we are always ‘in love.’
“…The issue isn’t whether or not you are in love. The real question remains, ‘Is my love mature enough to lead to a commitment and a lasting relationship?’” (From the book, “The Secret of Loving”)
I want to put some dating cautions out there. Sure, go out and enjoy yourself (within biblical boundaries). But make sure that you guard your heart not to let it get too entangled before you know if you should marry this person.
My husband Steve and I loved dating each other. And we were sure we’d have a great marriage. But unfortunately, our great start went in a very bad direction. Our marriage almost became a divorce statistic. Thank God (literally) we were able to rebuild a good life together with His guidance. We now have a great marriage. But it isn’t because we did what we should have before we married. We certainly weren’t ready to marry. And we certainly had a multitude of unrealistic expectations, and bad communication skills. It’s too bad we didn’t have the info I am going to share with you.
That’s why we are passionate in helping those who are marrying, and are married. We hope to prevent couples from making some of the dumb mistakes we made.
So, to help in this pre-marriage mission, I would like to share some of what Gary Thomas said on the Focus on the Family program, “A Fresh Look at Dating.” It’s a two-day radio program aired October 30 and 31, 2017. In it, Gary shared some things that I know can help you if you are looking to marry.
Before I go on, the program that was recently aired is a repeat from a few years back. But it is timeless! And it’s very informative and useful to hear over and over again. We highly recommend you try to listen to it. Their web site is Focusonthefamily.com. Also, this program deals with info that Gary Thomas wrote about in his book, The Sacred Search: What If It’s Not about Who You Marry, But Why? It’s an outstanding book that I highly recommend you read.
For the rest of this blog, I am just going to share with you several of the quotes I was able to grab that I believe are important to know. You will want to read the book, and/or listen to the broadcasts to fill in more of the details. It would be well worth your effort to do so. But here are several quotes from both days’ interviews. Point-by-point, please prayerfully read:
A FRESH LOOK AT DATING
“Most Christian singles today, I believe, value the same things about marriage as non-Christian singles. They haven’t connected their faith with their romance and their view of marriage. So, for them, the ‘why’ of marriage is sharing an infatuation. They’re sharing sexual chemistry, and are enjoying each other’s company on a date. Those are the things that most people are drawn to. And if those three things are present, they think this is a great match. And if they’re a Christian, then what’s the problem? Well, there’s no other question.
“But those things have been proven not to hold a marriage together. You have to understand the ‘why’ of marriage. Infatuation we’ll get into, neurologically is proven to always fade rather quickly. Sexual chemistry, though it’s an important part of marriage, it doesn’t hold a marriage together.”
Gary went on to say:
“The fact that you get along well on a date, that you like the same movies and the same kind of pizza, doesn’t matter much. It just doesn’t factor in when you’re going through raising kids together, suffering cancer, unemployment, and building a life together. Those things that our culture values. That’s not the ‘why’ of marriage. Those things are passing. If we don’t know the ‘why,’ we can’t know whether somebody qualifies as a good ‘who.’”
Infatuation Can Mislead
“Christian singles don’t understand how transcendent infatuation feels. It carries you away. And yet, neurologists now, because we know so much more about the brain in this generation than any previous age, that it literally makes us blind. That statement, ‘Love is blind’ is true. We literally start to relate to somebody who doesn’t exist. The term neurologists use is ‘idealization.’
“We see strengths that others wouldn’t pick up. You know, somebody does something innocuous, a guy and a gal are in a college cafe. She drops a fork. And he picks it up instead of just leaving it there. And she’s overcome. Look, he picked up the fork! He’s so kind and thoughtful. He doesn’t leave it for other people. You know, next to Jesus Christ, I don’t know anyone with this character that has ever walked the earth. And everybody else is like he just picked up the fork. What’s the big deal?
“This is just as destructive. They miss the negative clues. He’s an angry person and she redefines it as passionate. Every pastor and counselor has heard so often when somebody’s been carried away by infatuation into a long-term commitment (five, six years later), he’s not who I thought he was. And that’s a true statement. They related to somebody who didn’t exist. They created somebody else in their mind, and that’s what singles have to watch out for. There has to be sufficient time till you get through that brain fog and you can have an accurate picture of who I really am relating to.”
The Study of Infatuation
“Dr. Helen Fisher is a biological anthropologist and she’s actually studied this. And here’s some key markers for somebody who’s head over heels in an infatuation. Part of what I just said, that you tend to focus on your beloved’s better traits and you minimize their flaws. You can have extreme energy, even hyperactivity and sleeplessness. One or both partners develops a goal-oriented fixation on winning the beloved. In vernacular language, what I would say, is you’re so focused on getting and keeping the person, you don’t have any neurological energy left over to think, are they worth getting? Are they worth keeping? It’s just, I want to get the goal.
“Relational passion is heightened by adversity; it’s not weakened. If people challenge you, that tends to draw you closer together. You become emotionally dependent on the relationship. You reorder daily priorities so that you can always be together. Plus, you think about this person to an obsessive degree. You might have known them for only a few weeks, but you can’t get them out of your mind. You want to be with them the entire time.
“And so, it really just basically, takes over your neurological processing. It takes over your mental thoughts and you become obsessed with this person. And really what I think, another way to describe [it] is, it makes you feel desperate, fearful and clingy.
“God designed infatuation. He designed our brains. It has a good creational purpose. It’s just we have to know it’s not a good enough reason to marry someone. If you know it can’t last more than 12 to 18 months, why would you connect yourself to someone for five or six decades?”
Soul Mate VS Sole Mate
Gary goes on to talk about soul mates. He doesn’t believe there is such a thing. Here is part of his reasoning:
“The reason I debunk the soul mate, S-O-U-L is that it comes from Plato, not Scripture. He really is the one who surmised that. It’s what he says in his book, Symposium. He has a character names Aristophanes, who said there’s this ancient prototype human that was male and female together. They called them ’round people.’ The problem is, that they were becoming too powerful and threatening the gods.
“So, Zeus came up with the plan, I’m gonna cut ‘em in two, and separate the two halves. They’ll be so desperate to find their missing half that they won’t have anything left over to challenge the gods. Then once they find each other, they’ll be so clingy and desperate to stay together that they’ll leave us alone. So that’s what Zeus did and thus, the gods were saved.
“Nobody believes that worldview now. But we still have this sense that there’s this one lost person that will connect us. The biblical worldview couldn’t be more different. The biblical worldview is not that I’m incomplete because I’ve been separated from an ancient half-human. It’s that I’ve been separated from God by my sin.
“And so, I’m not finding someone to complete me. I’m finding someone with whom I can share my love with God,. It’s someone with whom I can share the journey toward learning to love other people, and with whom I can share Matthew 6:33, seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. And so, SOLE MATE, S-O-L-E is just walking out the biblical commands of loving, walking out the biblical command of serving God in His kingdom.”
The Richest and Most Fulfilled Marriages
“The richest marriages I have seen, the most intimate, fulfilled marriages I’ve ever witnessed are marriages that exist for something bigger than themselves. They’re passionate about the kingdom. They worship God together, and serve God together. That staves off the boredom that affects so many relationships that are self-centered.”
Gary talks about our choices in marrying:
“Here’s what God says. I’m gonna let you choose who you face those challenges with. I’m gonna let you choose who you walk through those trials with. And what will matter most is faith and character, being filled with the Spirit, having the wisdom of Scripture, invested in your family. In the end, that’s what creates the most rewarding life. Jesus knew what He was talking about with Matthew 6:33. If we seek first His kingdom and His righteous[ness], all these other things that we desire, those will be taken are of, if we keep our priorities first. The ‘why’ really does matter to answer the ‘who.'”
DAY 2 of the Broadcast:
In Day 2 of this important Focus on the Family broadcast, Gary Thomas makes the following important points:
“James 3:2 gives a promise to every married person, that we are going to marry someone who hurts us, who disappoints us, who sins against us. James 3:2 says, ‘We all stumble in many ways.‘ You can get the top person of character in the world and James 3:2 says, that person still will stumble, not just occasionally, but in many ways. We bring our struggle with sin. We bring our sin nature into the relationship. And so, marriage is going to be difficult.
“But here’s the thing, if you marry a person of character, it helps you deal with those difficulties. For instance, if you marry a humble person, they’re going to grow out of some of those character problems. If you marry a very arrogant person who’s just more concerned with changing you than changing him or herself, that’s never really gonna change.
“Every marriage is difficult. Character gives you the promise at least, that you can have that shared joy of being brother and sister in Christ, day by day, walking more toward Christ-likeness and God’s purpose for your life.”
Ask and Then Listen
“An exercise that I really encourage singles to do is, go to married people that you know. Say, ‘Has marriage been easier or more difficult than you thought it would be?’ Then just listen and say, ‘What made it more difficult?’ Or ‘What have the challenges been?’ Do some field research.
“All my kids are looking for jobs. They’re going to people in that field and if it’s medicine, if it’s science, if it’s sales, if it’s business, they ask, what do I need to know that I don’t know? Do some research. Figure out what you’re looking for.
“Then go into the ‘why’ of marriage. What makes for a successful marriage? And you’re gonna come up with some common things. Communication is essential once infatuation fades. If this isn’t a person who can communicate, your relationship is gonna hit a plateau. Can you resolve conflict? Conflict is guaranteed in a marriage. Now that can be a good thing, because conflict can help you understand someone. It can help you grow as an individual. But if they respond with stonewalling or even worse, violence, conflict will be disastrous in your relationship.”
Approaching a Potential Spouse
The question was asked: “How would a person approach a potential spouse?”
“There are two steps I’d suggest. The first step is a LISTENING step. The second step is an ASKING step. So, for the listening step, just listen to what this man says. If I have a very close friend, it would be bizarre if my wife never heard me talk about him. I mean, just in normal conversation it would come up. I was talking to Chuck, or Chuck and I did this, or Chuck was telling me this. It just would be a natural part of my conversation that, that would happen.
“Women, if he never brings up God, if he’s never talking about God, he’s not talking to God. If God is a daily presence, if God’s challenging him, if God’s inspiring him, he’s going to bring it up. If God is truly his friend, it would be bizarre if it never came up in a conversation. So, listen without bringing it up. Does God seem to be an active presence in this man’s life?
“And then second, here’s what I love to ask. What is God challenging you with now? What is God laying on your heart today? That tells you if he’s listening to God. God is so concerned about this world. I’m just overwhelmed when I see God inspire people to address sexual trafficking, things like abortion and injustice and evangelism and poverty and there’s so many issues where God is inspiring people to build His kingdom, to reach in the fields of education and in business and in so many areas.”
Growth and Inspiration
“To believe that somebody is interacting with God and He isn’t laying a mission of some kind on their heart, I just can’t believe they’re listening. So, where’s God telling you, you need to grow today? What is God inspiring you to do today? And if you get this, ‘Uh … well, uh … you know, I thought I might start a popsicle stand sometime.’ You pretty much can clue in that they’re giving lip service to God. They’re not seeking first the kingdom of God. There should be something that comes to my mind. If somebody says, what is God laying on your heart, if I’m seeking first God’s kingdom, I know what I’m seeking.
“I tell guys, you want to find a woman who is so into God, she will offend you before she’ll offend God. And that means, if you’re trying to push the envelope, she’ll say, not a chance. And I said, here’s why. The same God who commands single women not to be sexually active with their boyfriends, is the God who commands wives to be sexually active with their husbands after marriage.”
There’s good and important stuff here, isn’t there? I believe it’s invaluable. Please take it seriously. Marriage is serious business. This is nothing to fool around with, believing that everything will just work out by jumping into it with your eyes partially open. God takes marriage seriously, and so should we. Please listen to the rest of the broadcasts that we can’t share here. And read the book—Gary’s book and the Bible. You will be wise in your approach to marriage, if you do.
Cindy Wright of Marriage Missions International wrote this blog.
I’d love to hear your feedback and read additional pre-marriage dating tips you can share below.
More from Marriage Missions
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