My girlfriend and I have been together for almost four years. At first, we didn’t have God in our lives; now we do. We have the intention of getting married in the future.
But we have some hesitations. Is it possible that we remained together this long simply because we are very familiar with each other? How can you differentiate between being with someone because you truly love them vs. being with them because of the familiarity, comfort and convenience of sticking with someone you’ve known for a long time?
Thanks for your question. Unfortunately, it’s obviously not one that I can answer specifically for the two of you based solely on the information you’ve provided. What I can do is offer some larger principles about what should inform your decision about finding a spouse and then some practical suggestions that might help you glorify God in your relationship and also figure out whether the two of you should be married. Full disclosure up front – my answer presumes that when you say you and your girlfriend now “have God in your lives,” it means that you understand and believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and that you are seeking actively to follow Jesus and therefore to live according to the Bible. If that’s not the case, what follows will make less sense – but I still stand by the advice!
First, a quick thought about your word, “convenience.” Reading your brief description of your relationship (together four years, not Christians when you started dating, still intend to get married at some point) raises several things in my mind. My guess – and admittedly, it is speculation, so forgive me to the extent it’s off here – is that you and your girlfriend were at least at one point regularly sexually active with each other (and may still be). I would also guess that you spend tons of time together, are each other’s primary emotional confidantes, see each other most every day, know each other’s families, etc.
Although the word “convenience” certainly sells marriage short – it’s much better than that! – the companionship, familiarity, intimacy, and security that you feel with one another are some of the primary benefits of marriage. In fact, if you’ve bonded in the ways that I’ve described, you’re basically already living like you’re married in biblical terms, rather than maintaining the appropriate boundaries that characterize a relationship merely of brother and sister in Christ. (See, among other passages, Ephesians 5:25-33; Song of Songs; 1 Timothy 5:2.) If my speculation is accurate, then I must, in love, warn you that to relate in such a way outside of marriage is clearly sin and is spiritually harmful to you both. (1 Corinthians 6:12-20; 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8). More on that below. But my main point here is that if you are living in such a way, it’s probably part of what is providing the natural, forward momentum to stay together that you call “convenience.”
Your question also mentioned the attempt to discern whether you “truly love” someone before you marry that person. Make sure you are not defining “love” in the secular, Hollywood sense of constant, self-focused, overwhelming romantic attraction. In the Bible, love certainly involves emotions and feelings, but it is also – even primarily – an act of the will. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7; John 15:13 – “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”). A decision to marry someone – especially as the potential husband – is a decision to minister to, care for, disciple, and self-sacrificially love a woman until one of you dies or Christ returns. Certainly attraction and affection should be a part of that decision, but a decision to marry someone is a decision to serve that person and to serve Christ together with that person. It should not be a fundamentally self-centered decision.
More practically, given the amount of time you’ve been together and the way (again, I’m guessing here) you have conducted your relationship, I would say that for your spiritual good and hers, you should both start thinking really deliberately about whether you should be married, and you should have an eye toward making a decision to either marry or break up fairly soon. Your question didn’t say much about the logistics of your situation (school, job, finances, etc.), but assuming you’re both at least of college age or older, logistical issues should generally be a lower priority than decisions about marriage to a godly spouse and about conducting yourselves in your relationship in a way that glorifies God.
Even more practically, I would suggest two more things. First, if you haven’t joined a solid, biblical church, you should both do so as soon as possible. Preferably, you can join the same one, where you can grow in Christ together and get some biblically sound teaching about (among other things) what it means to be husband and wife. Second, I would encourage you to enlist the aid of a more mature Christian couple who knows one or both of you well to help you think through your relationship and potential marriage. One of God’s kindnesses to us as his people is that he does not call us to live the Christian life alone but gives us the church and other brothers and sisters in Christ to counsel one another and to “stir up one another to love and good works” (Hebrews 10:24) to the glory of God.
I will pray for the Lord to give you both joy and wisdom in your new walks with Christ and in your relationship.
For His glory,
Copyright Scott Croft 2015. All rights reserved.