When a couple tells me they’re getting married, I don’t automatically offer congratulations and blessings. That may sound harsh, but years of experience have taught me that marriage plans can either be good or bad, depending on the couple’s reasons for getting married. My initial conversations with engaged couples are full of questions designed to help me understand why they have decided to say “I do.”
Here are 4 BAD reasons I’ve heard for getting married:
1) “We’re in love!”
When Sheri and I were young parents, I once went to a car dealership to pick out a new family vehicle. Sitting on the lot was a beautiful Chevy Camaro. I was instantly smitten with a powerful case of the “La-La-Las.” Never mind that we needed a car with more than two seats to fit our growing family—I had to have that car, and drove it off the lot that same day. Within days, however, I discovered that it was full of problems. Expensive problems. After dumping a huge amount of money into the car, I faced reality and traded it in for the kind of car I should have bought in the first place.
I’m not opposed to being in love—it’s just a bad reason to get married. Funny enough, it’s the number-one reason people give for getting married these days. And what do you know? Many people today act like spouses are cars they should “test drive” before marriage and trade in when they’re tired of them—choices they justify with the excuse of falling in and out of love. Bottom line: being in love is not a good foundation for a lasting marriage.
2) “I’m getting older and I don’t want to be alone.”
A friend of mine was once asked how she was dealing with her desire for marriage as a woman in her late thirties. At one point in her reply she said, “I’d rather be single than wish I was.” I thought, That is a woman who is paying attention.
Waiting for a spouse can be tough—I get it. But it breaks my heart to see people who have been waiting faithfully for years suddenly decide to throw in the towel and settle for a marriage with whoever’s willing and available, simply because the biological clock is ticking or they are lonely. Some of the loneliest people in the world are those living in a marriage they entered with the goal of healing their loneliness. It doesn’t work, and that’s a painful lesson to learn.
3) “He/she picked me!”
I talk about this in the first chapter of Keep Your Love On:
I can see disaster coming from miles away when I meet with couples for pre-marriage counseling, ask the man to describe his bride-to-be, and hear something like this:
“Uh, she’s hot. She loves me. I really love that she loves me. That is my favorite thing about her. She could have had any guy, but she chose me. I am so lucky.”
I wish I could say such a response isn’t common, but I can’t. When nothing I hear tells me that a man is choosing a bride for her own sake, because she is the one he wants, I can say with a great deal of certainty that the relationship is fragile. What will happen when his wife stops showing him the same degree of affection she did when he was engaged? What happens if someone “hotter” comes along and decides to choose him?
Building your marriage on someone else’s choice is building your marriage on irresponsibility. Not smart.
4) “We’re sleeping and/or living together.”
Having sex and/or living together before marriage may be the standard in modern culture, but it will never be God’s design for marriage. If you’re already choosing not to honor that design in your dating relationship, getting married won’t automatically fix that problem—or the real problems that have led you to make that choice.
The only real solution to any issue in our lives where we’re not honoring God’s design is repentance. We must allow God to shine His light into the broken places of mistrust and false beliefs that have led us into sin and receive a changed heart from Him. Only through the grace of repentance can a couple clean up the mess of their broken sexual choices and joyfully choose to build a relationship, and then a marriage, within God’s good boundaries for a healthy, lifelong covenant.
So, what are GOOD reasons for marriage? Here are 4:
1) “We are deeply impressed with each other’s character.”
Marriage is a commitment that comes with responsibilities. What convinces you that a person is going to be able to make that commitment and honor those responsibilities? Character. When two people demonstrate to one another that they can consistently be who they say they are, keep their commitments to God and others, communicate respectfully, and make powerful and honoring choices even when they are scared or hurt, then they will be believable when they make their marriage vows.
2) “We both live in a culture of healthy relationships.”
One of the most critical parts of the dating process is learning about each person’s network of relationships and how healthy it is. Does the person have a good connection with his/her parents (especially with their opposite sex parent)? Does he or she have a circle of close, long-time friends who are a positive influence and can vouch for their character? Does he or she have leaders or mentors who they seek out for wisdom? All of these relationships are pillars of a healthy culture. The stronger they are, the more strength, support, and accountability a couple has for building a healthy marriage.
3) “We are aligned in our understanding of what the covenant of marriage looks like.”
According to Ephesians 5, the relationship between a husband and wife is supposed look like the love between Christ and the church. This version of marriage isn’t about self-fulfillment, but about self-giving, sacrificial love, and mutual submission. A man and woman who agree that they are signing up to lay down their lives for one another and love each other like Jesus are heading into marriage with the right expectation.
4) “Our visions for our lives are aligned.”
A healthy marriage is one in which both spouses champion and support the dreams, calling, and purpose of each person, and accept that a certain amount of sacrifice, adjustment, and compromise is necessary to make that happen. But to make that work, a couple’s vision for the kind of life they want to build together needs to harmonize well. If one person feels called to the African bush and the other to Wall Street, it’s going to be tough to build a life together. If one wants a couple of kids and the other wants to adopt a houseful, they’re probably going to be pulling in different directions. Healthy couples have asked all of these important questions and know they are on the same page.
If you’re considering marriage, then please make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons. It’s so worth it!
P.S. Defining the Relationship, our new eCourse, launches next Tuesday, February 6! This 10-step journey is designed for anyone who wants to build a marriage that will thrive and last “till death do us part.” Take advantage of our 25% off launch sale—available for three days only, February 6-8!
P.S.S. Tickets are still available for our upcoming LOP Summit in Dallas, TX! Please join us for 3 days of learning to bring the relational culture of heaven into our families, relationships, and leadership!