Commitment, Dating Your Spouse, Pre-Marriage

5 Important Considerations When Dating To Marry

Dating is a funny thing. It’s not overtly discussed in scripture, and those living somewhere between single and married often ask us for advice. So, I figured it was time to write a post specifically for those who are in serious dating relationships, or want to learn principles for dating when they meet that special someone.

If that’s not you, I’m guessing you’ll know someone who might want to know. This post won’t be exhaustive by any means, but I do hope to hit on some of the big topics “daters” should consider.

Dating is like buying a house…

Selena and I are happy to share that we just purchased a home! After 18 months in transit, we’ve settled. To say it’s a relief would be an understatement. The home buying process is intense… and that’s partly why we’ve not blogged as consistently the past two months (thanks for your patience).

Like marriage, buying a home is a BIG decision with huge consequences. Oddly, I see quite a few parallels between the two. After all, both require serious commitment, investment, time, and energy.

Surely marriage is a much bigger commitment than buying a house, but I’m hoping that our experience will prove insightful…so here we go! (Note, they’re in no particular order.)

5 things to consider when dating toward marriage

1: Share a vision and a dream

For the past year, long before we started looking for a house, we started keeping a list of non-negotiables. Our list included a garage (we’ve never had one), location (close to family/friends, strong community), budget/price, and many other things. This was HUGE for us. When it came time to start searching, we knew what we were looking for, so eliminating options was very straightforward.

While dating, you must both understand the non-negotiables in your relationship and agree on them. The list is actually quite short in my opinion: faith. In your marriage, no one thing will impact your relationship more than your belief in who Christ is, what he’s done, and who you are as a result. If you disagree on faith, you will disagree on most important things. That’s why it’s the one topic we’d discuss if we had the chance to talk with every young couple who’s reading this. (Check out Habakkuk 2)

2: Take personal inventory

I’m self-employed, which comes a long with a mixed bag of good and bad implications. One bad one is that it’s much harder to buy a house. Banks require TONS of paperwork to convince them that you’re loan-worthy. We had to take a hard look at our finances in a way we hadn’t before. We learned our financial limits and shortcomings very quickly as the bankers ran the numbers… and numbers don’t lie.

Perfect love is that which endures in the presence of imperfection.When you’re dating and considering marriage, a good introspective look will only help prepare you. Will you ever be perfect? No. But that’s not the goal. The goal is count the cost of marriage and make sure you understand the weight of covenant. Marriage is wonderful, but it’s not all sunshine and rainbows! Like all relationships, it’s messy. Do you understand what lifetime commitment really means? And do you understand the true definition of love?

Of course, there’s abundant grace when you’re in Christ. You will never be fully ready for marriage – no amount of how-tos or tips will prepare you – but you can count the cost.

3: Surround yourself with good advisors

We could have never found the right house without a team of advisors: our realtor, our mortgage broker, the title specialists, the inspectors, underwriters, and an appraiser. Each person assisting us (and thank God they were all honest, hard working people!) helped us see problems we would’ve missed. They poked and prodded at the home and paperwork with a common goal in mind: getting us into a solid home within our means. This guarded us from getting fixated on the external qualities of the home whilst missing bigger underlying problems.

When dating, it’s VITAL that you surround yourself with honest, godly counsel. Godly advisors will have your best interest in mind according to God’s design. Then (this is just as crucial), listen! If you’re in a relationship and everyone around you – your pastors, mentors, friends, and family – is throwing up red flags, it’s time to listen up. What are they seeing that you can’t? (See Proverbs 12:15 and 11:14)

Conversely, if people around you give you their blessing, you can move forward with knowing you’ve received godly counsel. (Note: the source of your counsel is just as important as the counsel itself. Make sure to get Bible-based advice.)

4: Inspect your foundation

Once we found a home we liked, we had to look closer. Surface attributes (bedrooms, baths, price, layout, etc) can be quickly confirmed, but we had to check the structure of the house before pursuing further. The most costly issues in home purchases involve its foundation, wiring, and structure.Thus, we got a home inspection. Nobody wants a house that will collapse or burn down!

Your marriage must have a strong foundation, and the only strong foundation is Christ. He is our only true standard of love and only he provides guidance for loving and being loved when one side of the relationship is unloveable. Why else would we hear so many times, “I love my spouse, but I’m not IN love with them”? Folks who buy into that ideology don’t understand what love is. They don’t see that love is an action and a choice long before it includes feelings of romance or attraction.

Attraction may bring you and your future spouse together, but only love will keep you together. Christ is the only foundation for love.A marriage built on Christ is a marriage built to last.

5: Focus on the important, flex everywhere else

You know what wasn’t on our non-negotiables list? The paint. Is color important? Perhaps, but it is purely external. In fact, our house looks like a smurf…no joke. It’s bright royal blue and stark white. We decided to view the home because it met our non-negotiable requirements. As it turned out, it’s perfect for our needs! We would have never found it if we were overly concerned with external qualities.

When dating and considering a marriage, emphasize what matters most and be flexible everywhere else. When Selena and I were dating, I fell in love with her personality, her love for Christ, and her ability to see beauty in almost anything. If I had loved her only for her external qualities like attractiveness, hair color, physique, and so on, my “love” would have faded as soon as she changed. In fact, as we grow older I find that I love however Selena changes (think: pregnancy), because she’s still her. She is not a body with a soul, but a soul with a body. Your spouse’s appearance will change, but their soul is eternal.

Don’t over-emphasize surface qualities in your significant other. Those things can and will change. But the deeper qualities – faith, personality, sense of humor, etc – will endure for a lifetime.Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.

A final word on dating

Selena and I dated for 4 years before getting married, but the day I asked her out I told her that I wouldn’t be dating her if I didn’t think I could marry her some day. That single statement cemented the entire culture of our relationship. We both knew the end game was a lifelong commitment to each other. Everything we did was within this context.

I think “casual dating” is ridiculous. Love, by definition, is enduring. Love has no condition or expiration date. When you date casually, knowing it’s temporary, you’re basically saying to each other, “I’m just using you for my pleasure now, and as soon as that stops, we’re done.” That’s not love. That’s selfishness.

If you do date or are dating, let it be with their soul in mind and marriage in view.  And may you seek out all understanding and wisdom through reading God’s word and seeking counsel on how to pursue them.

Then, if/when you do marry, may you find immense joy with one you’ll spend the rest of your life with!

Further reading:

If you want more, there’s a good book by Matt Chandler called “The Mingling of Souls“. Definitely check it out if you’re engaged, dating, or seeking wisdom for when you are.

Questions:

Married person: what’s the one piece of advice you’d give to a single person?
If you’re dating, what’s one question you have regarding healthy dating?

Feel free to leave questions and comments below!

 

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  • Renee

    Single person here – is it okay for the woman to pursue/ make the first move? Or is that generally a turn off?
    What is the best way(s) to communicate respectfully when there is conflict? And when one is hurt by the other person?

    • Elizabeth

      In my opinion, if the woman is the one who takes the lead or “makes the first move”, she should be prepared to continue that role/responsibility if a relationship results. If a man isn’t willing to pursue right from the get-go, why do we women think he will suddenly become this godly, strong leader once we get the “ball rolling? Like he needs a jump start. In my experience as a past “ball roller”, I wound up time after time disappointed and frustrated that I had settled and gotten myself into a relationship I probably wouldn’t have ended up in otherwise. I know the wait is hard, I felt like I had to practically sit on my hands at times. Now that I am married to an amazing man loves Christ first and foremost, leads me strongly yet humbly, and loves & accepts me without reservation, I am so glad I chose to wait and trust God’s timing. There is no safer place we can put our trust than in Him.

    • Lily Belle

      In my personal opinion, I feel like a confident guy would love a woman confident enough to make the first move. Only if he is too protective of his ego would this be a turn off. When my husband and I dated, sure he made the first move, but I was the one who reached for his hand first when we started dating. I feel like in a healthy Christian relationship, there should definitely be a balance. Pursue the guy, and the guy will pursue you. Don’t leave him hanging to do all the work! It’s fun when you are both making the moves together :)

  • Melody

    I believe casual dating isn’t for everybody, but it has a good and God-honoring purpose, with guidelines of course. Within those guidelines the same “this is intended for marriage, but let’s first see if we even truly like each other, and it is okay to keep it light since we don’t know if we will truly end up together” gives room for dating multiple people, enjoying a good and positive “get to know you season”, until one rises above the others. It eventually leads to serious dating with that one person. Casual dating leaves room for the possibility that the person you will marry isn’t always in your current circle of people, it opens you up to new experiences, new types of people, and it leaves room to live outside of the box who we think our mate should be (because, goodness knows, that idea can be shaped by so much hurt, pain, or good things, but it isn’t easy to always tell that in moments of adoration of another), and it gives room for God to say “hey I know you think this type of person is going to be your spouse, but have you considered this person – try hanging out a bit, I think you might like them.” It can allow you to guard your heart when meeting new people (no need to jump into exclusivity with a perfect stranger so you don’t have to lay it all out there just yet), and then the serious relationship will eventually be clearly defined and earned. If they are all serious, but it never works out than it just seems it could be a more intense form of casual dating with more of your heart on the line. Just my two cents

    • Melody

      You know, another thought is that it takes that ambiguity out of “hanging out” or “talking”. What is that anyway? It’s casually dating. I think because people put so much pressure on themselves to find the one, to be the one, that dating means “I want to marry you” and it just doesn’t have to. When it is casual it means “yeah, I think so but I need to get to know you better,” and when you are pretty sure, you can become exclusive along the lines of “this is definitely headed that way”, and when you are sure, you’re getting engaged or just got engaged.

  • ToniB

    I love these posts and find them so helpful. I guess I am in the seriously dating category, though in reality we are closer to engaged, but my boyfriend and I have had many struggles throughout our relationship. Having been together for 3 years, we know each other fairly well and are similar in many ways. We have prayed together about the future God has for us, both individually and together, and many friends and family on both sides are supportive of our relationship. The only ones who aren’t are my parents – however they, and my dad in particular, take it to the extreme. Daniel is not allowed on my parents property, not even allowed on the drive to drop me off. My dad refuses to meet Daniel for himself, and won’t even mention Daniel’s name. He is very derogatory about Daniel and his family. I have spoken to my mum about their reasons for their disapproval and they are not things I hold to: he is not as clever as I am, and his family are from the wrong side of the tracks etc. They also believe there are “ungodly” spiritual stuff between Daniel and myself however, having prayed it through many times, I don’t agree with their belief on this point. I am getting to a place of despairing it will ever change, and if it doesn’t, what that will mean for me, Daniel and my parents. I’ve prayed about it over all these years, alone, with Daniel and with my mum but nothing has changed. Unfortunately we don’t attend church together, living most of the time a couple of hours apart and sometimes more, so we don’t have a pastor we can go to together. I have sought counsel from others who have known me many years who I respect and know as godly people, however they also cannot understand many of my parents concerns. I don’t know what else to do – are there any suggestions you can make?

  • Cheryl Bell

    I’ve read your post a couple of times already and I love it. I’ve been single and celibate going on thirteen years this November 2017. It is only the Lord Who has kept me.
    Dating had been crazy and I’ve not been back on one in over a year. Each one was nuts and one didn’t happen because the man thought I wanted to hurt him. Lol
    But since then, the desire to even talk to anyone is zilch. I think it’s because my focus has been completely wrong. I don’t think I’ve given up but I just don’t have much tolerance for ignorance. Talks would turn sexual just because of my decision to abstain. The disrespect would then come out due to the utter shock that I may have a “problem”.
    So reading your post has given me hope that I’ve not given up. But I do think I’ve grown weary in well doing. Just asking for prayer. I’ve waited this long…I can continue to wait. I just want to make sure my focus is on the Lord and not so much in people who won’t matter in a moment.