I have a Christian friend who met a Christian guy two and a half months ago. They met through mutual Christian friends. They are both in their mid-20s. They hung out the weekend that they met but haven't seen each other since. They do, however, talk for long hours each day and are building emotional intimacy.
They are talking about plans to marry and possibly get engaged soon. I could be wrong, but it feels a bit rushed to me. With infatuation at its peak and no real-time life experience happening, is it possible that one could get engaged and marry too soon? Please shed some light on this.
Good question. So, bottom line, when you put your question the way that you have ("Is it possible to get engaged too soon?"), the answer has to be "yes, it's possible." That said, there's no magic formula (i.e., one month is always too short and six months is always fine), and people can (and often should) get married based on less information than many people think they need. A really common misconception among even evangelical Christian singles these days is that before a couple commits to engagement, much less marriage, they have to either "play married" for a time in the form of a really emotionally and physically intimate relationship, or they have to know every little thing about one another's personalities, or both. As I've written before, such "faux-marriages" are not only unnecessary, but sinful (especially in the premature physical and emotional intimacy that is almost always involved).
It's also true, as a practical matter, that no matter how long a couple dates or how much they know about each other, they will undoubtedly discover things about one another once they get married — both good and bad — that they did not know before. Such is the wonderful adventure of marriage in God's kind providence to men and women.
All that said, it's clearly not wise to make a life-long commitment based on no information, so where's the line? What should a wise, responsible, biblically-minded couple be thinking, evaluating and doing before they get married after knowing each other for a short period of time? Here's some advice for couples who are considering marriage in a compressed time-frame:
Make sure, to the very best of your ability, that the person you are considering marrying is a believer in Christ. This is the threshold issue, and no question is more important than this one – not attraction, "chemistry," finances, maturity or anything else. Believers are to marry only believers (see, for example, 1 Corinthians 7:39). For a believer in Christ to forget or disobey this command of God is not only sin, but will set that person up for a marriage full of discouragement and heartache.
Make sure you are basing a decision to marry on the right things. In the context of a very short runway to marriage, it is even more important than normal that each person look to more than attraction, chemistry and connection — all of which are probably very high or we wouldn't be talking about a very short runway to marriage — in making a decision. Look at Scripture to see what God values in biblical manhood and womanhood — and in husbands and wives in particular — as you make your decision.
Ladies, look at Ephesians 5, 1 Timothy 3, Titus 1 and other passages to evaluate your potential husband. Guys, look to Ephesians 5, Proverbs 31, Titus 2, 1 Peter 3 and other passages as you think about a particular woman as a potential wife.
Make sure you have basic agreement on major theological issues. The fact that a dating relationship lasts a short time does not change the fact that the two members of a marriage will need to be comfortable being married to each other and attending the same church for a very long time. At a minimum, a couple should talk through the doctrines of grace (are both or neither of you "reformed" in your theology), baptism, and your respective notions of marriage and biblical manhood and womanhood (are both or neither of you "complementarian" or "egalitarian" regarding family and church roles). Putting in this work now will mean a more harmonious and God-glorifying marriage later.
Seek counsel and accountability from other believers. This is crucial to making a wise choice in a short time that is based on more than one-on-one interactions and infatuation. What do older, wiser Christians you trust think of your potential spouse or the match between the two of you? What do his or her mentors think of you? How does he or she speak and act around others? How do the two of you interact when it's not just the two of you? How does he or she minister in the church? What's his or her reputation? Get the thoughtful, more detached view of other Christians, and make sure older, married people are in the mix rather than just your single friends. Especially in this context, defensiveness and isolated decisions are a recipe for sin, regret and strife.
Live in the same city for at least a short time. This one is more practical than biblical. Basically, living in the same area (and hopefully attending the same church) is a good idea because it facilitates everything else on this list. To be clear, there's nothing inherently unbiblical about the combination of a short- and long-distance relationship (that's actually better in terms of premature intimacy than a very long dating relationship from any distance), but it can also be unwise and dangerous in that it makes gaining necessary knowledge about a potential spouse more difficult and makes a couple more vulnerable to a decision based only on their one-on-one interactions and attraction.
There's a lot more to be said on this, but the above list should provide a basic framework to work with. As you can see, all this advice is interrelated and involves steps every couple should be taking; they're just a little harder and more important when the time of the relationship is compressed.
I leave it to you and others to counsel your friend in her particular situation in light of all this. I will pray for the Lord to give you wisdom.
Copyright 2013 Scott Croft. All rights reserved.