There are many out there that usually skip the marital vows and go straight to the sexually and emotionally appealing part of a marriage, but when this happens they lose sight of what a relationship is really all about. Known as modern day dating or “friends with benefits,” this structure for relationships removes the covenant of marriage because a couple may want to immediately jump right into the “good stuff.” These so called relationships should really be referred to as, “children pretending to be adults who allow their senses to guide their every decision.”
In reality, that is what most people do when it comes to relationships. We have thrown marriage out the window because marriage is the hardest thing anyone will participate in for the very fact that it lasts years, decades, and even entire lifetimes. Marriage seriously takes a lot of work from both in the relationship.
What you find in the Western World is a lack of doing anything God’s way among most in society. This way of pursuing a relationship is similar in the way people go shopping for clothes. They try on a bunch of t-shirts, pants, socks, and so on before eventually finding “the one” outfit. This ideology for relationships is flawed because if you truly wanted to know who “the one” was, then you would have no need to try everyone else, but could just wait for God to reveal them to you. You would save time, money, and a lot of unnecessary complications. As Pastor Chuck Smith once said, “keep it simple stupid.”
In Psychology, Dr. Jean Piaget has this theory that there are four main stages of cognitive development in humans. They include the sensori-motor stage (birth to 2yrs.), the pre-operational stage (2yrs. to 7yrs.), the concrete operational stage (7yrs. to 11yrs.), and the formal operational stage (11yrs. to death). Now when observing a typical relationship in the Western World, both individuals may very well cognitively be in the formal operational stage, but in their relationship together, the couple lives like they are stuck in the sensori-motor stage which consists of “exploring the environment and acquiring knowledge through sensing and manipulating objects” the way a child figures the world out (1).
Most couples display this type of thinking in a way when interacting together by manipulating each other for either sexual pleasure or emotional highs. This way of manipulation can only lead to disappointment because both are temporary solutions to a constant problem: unquenchable satisfaction and purpose. This is why God created marriage and the ability to interact with Him on a relational basis. Humanity strives to be surrounded by others that fulfill their needs.
Today, the covenant and institution of marriage is changing so rapidly to fulfill the demands of everyone in society that eventually the original intentions for marriage will vanish. Where marriage once was about the sacred union between one man and one woman that was God ordained, today you could marry anyone for any reason. Humanity has forgotten why marriage exists in the first place: to reflect “the union of one man and one woman for life” that started with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden (2). God realized this predicament of Adam having no spouse and in that moment said “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him” (3). This is the origin of marriage and this is where anyone needs to start before thinking about beginning a marital relationship with someone else. But before someone should enter a marital relationship, here are five factors to consider.
The Biological Factor
This one is kind of easy to figure out. If you like someone, they will know. If someone likes you, you will know. Not to hard to figure out whether or not you like someone from a physical standpoint. This is also the first factor of the five that you may find out about one of your friends that you would like to pursue in a marital relationship, but nevertheless is still an essential factor to consider.
The Moral Factor
Does this person have morals? Are they morally upright? Marry someone who shares the worldview that you do. Where do morals come from? God. So marry a godly person and not someone ungodly. If you are a Christian, then by golly do not marry an Atheist! Go and marry someone with your worldview, not someone with views that collide with your own concerning the important stuff like “Who is Jesus?” or “What is the purpose of life?” Anyways, find someone aligned with what you believe.
King David once sang about the godly man in Psalm 1 where he said “Blessed is the man who walks not in the council of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the Law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night” (4). In life, your friends influence you and you influence your friends. So make sure that the friend that you pursue is a godly influence as you both walk together towards marriage. Whoever you begin to pursue, make sure they are someone who lives a life like the man from this psalm.
The Integrity Factor
Take into consideration who this person is on the inside, behind the masquerade that they may project when others are present. Who are they really when nobody is watching? These are questions you must contemplate to truly know what you are getting yourself into when you enter this marital relationship. Studies show that as couples grow old together they tend to become more and more like each other whether physically, emotionally, psychologically, etc. Is the person you pursue worth turning into as time goes on?
Several weeks ago, I was listening to a sermon from the pastor in my church’s high school youth group. While taking notes I suddenly heard a thought in my head that said, “when two trees grow next to each other, they either die or grow together.” Now this little thought had nothing to do with the teaching which really perplexed me and this thought suddenly pulled me right out of the sermon.
After the sermon was over I went to bed hours later still dwelling on this thought because it really did come from nowhere (i.e. it was Holy Spirit speaking internally to me). A day or two later after still thinking on this phrase, I finally went online, Googled the phrase, and came upon the scientific term called inosculation. In studies such as botany, bionomics, and dendrology, inosculation is a natural phenomenon where when two trees grow in a close proximity, they grow into each other either becoming one tree or killing each other.
Let me explain why this relates to marriage. This natural phenomenon is a great real life parallel of what happens over time when “two become one flesh” through marriage (5). A couple either becomes stronger together as “iron sharpens iron” or a couple ruins each other (6). With divorce rates always on the rise, the need to find someone of integrity should be a priority for things to look for in a future spouse.
The Spiritual Factor
This one is quite simple and does need much explanation. Find someone who is led by the Holy Spirit and knows the one true, triune God. Pursue someone who knows Jesus and has a relationship with Him. That person is worth the effort needed for a fulfilling marital relationship. I would rather marry a woman of character than the caricature of a woman. Sadly, most people settle for the caricature of a man or a woman because they either lack patience or the discernment to detect what a true man or a true woman really is in this world.
In order to find that special someone of interest, look for the directions found in the Bible and the breadcrumb clues that God leaves in the experiences within your friendships. When you find someone of interest, ask questions like: “Are they a passive believer or an active believer?” What may also help is setting up a standard as to what you want in a good partner. This may be anything like if a certain denomination is important to you or if no denomination is important to you, for example. One standard you may hold is that they have to be actively in the ministry and not just a CEO Christian (Christmas, Easter, & Other Holidays). The point is that you need to find the friend that will point you back to God and not themselves, which can be one of the highest expressions of love.
The Social Factor
What are they like in social settings when they are interacting in society? What are they like at church, work, school, and so on? Are they the same or do they change into someone else to hide who they really are because they fear scrutiny or judgment from others? These are the types of questions that should cross your mind as you seek the person you will one day wed in the future.
If you do not plan to marry the person you want to pursue then go home, turn off all the lights, light a candle, sit in a corner, and rethink your life. If the end goal of the relationship is not for marriage, then why the pineapple are you in a relationship?! Sex? Companionship? Social status? These things are temporary and do not sustain a long lasting relationship which are also not the point of one either.
The point of a marital relationship is becoming one flesh (the fun part) and to reflect the love that God has for the church (the serious part). Plus there is the part where you may want to raise children. Is the person you want to pursue the same person you want to raise a family with in the future after you get married? Society thrives because of the lessons from a previous generation passed onto the children of a new generation. Raising godly children is the key to sustaining culture, family heritage, and society as a whole. Just another thing to think about before getting into a relationship.
Once these five factors have been acknowledged and a consistent amount of prayer has been given by both people in the potential marital relationship, only then should someone move forward into a marital relationship because they have the necessary foundation to begin pursuing a marital relationship. Prayer is key because if God says no, then for goodness sake do not go! Since God is the necessary being that keeps everything going and created everything, His say in who you marry matters. If God tells you yes to pursue someone, then pursue them. The point is just listen to what God has to say to you first.
Another necessity needed before pursuing a marital relationship with someone is to be friends beforehand. This is probably the easiest thing to understand and something that I have already mentioned at least a few times, but is constantly underutilized. I have seen many people get into a relationship that does not work out simply because there was no friendship to start. Put simply, be friends then become “best friends with benefits” within the context of marriage.
Remember, this is your relationship with your special someone whoever it may be in the future. There is no outline on how to do this crazy thing called marriage. Some of the greatest couples learn the good stuff from going through the really bad stuff, only to find it was all worth it because the journey brought them closer to each other. The best advice I can give is twofold: a) start from the Bible; branch outwards from there concerning truth on relationships and b) go talk to old people that have been married for decades. Old married people know their stuff on how to have a fulfilling marriage. So when in doubt on how to enter a relationship, just remember: the Bible and old people. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless!