Don't Get Swept Into a Bad Marriage

Jan 01, 2018 |Joshua Rogers
Man drowning in stormy sea with only hand and arm sticking out of water

Falling in love can make it hard to see obvious dangers that lie ahead.

I know a woman whose whirlwind romance ended up wreaking all kinds of havoc in her life.

She was an eligible bachelorette who hadn't had much luck with dating until a handsome guy from church swept her off her feet. Their chemistry was instant and real, which was no surprise. He was a committed Christian whose charismatic charm, interests and passion for Jesus made him seem like he was everything she had been praying for. She had some concerns, though.

He had a high-paying job, yet he never had any money. He lived with his parents, dressed unfashionably and didn't seem to have any real friends. All he did was work and go home. But in her mind, all of that was fixable. She could help him manage his money better, introduce him to new people and help him out with his wardrobe.

Without seeking counsel, the happy couple rushed through engagement and tied the knot. Soon after, the woman discovered that the problem areas she had noticed during dating were a bigger deal than she had realized. They reflected an overall pattern of instability in her now-husband's life. He struggled to hold a job, was unpredictably moody, and frequently wanted to move to another state for no good reason. Ultimately, he was too unstable to adjust to the steadiness required for marriage, and he left her.

In the years that followed, the woman received quite a bit of judgment from her family. They wondered how in the world she could've missed something that was so obvious to everyone else. If you ask her, she'll tell you it was far easier than you'd think.

Check Your "Peace"

Stories like my friend's are frightening. And yet they are all too common. How can you know the person you're marrying won't turn into a different person the moment you tie the knot? How can you be certain your future spouse truly loves the Lord?

Looking back, my friend admits that she didn't spend much time seeking God's will about her budding relationship with her ex-husband. But in the throes of early attraction, when her feelings were so strong, it was hard to focus on anything but the euphoria of being admired by someone she really liked.

If you've ever been infatuated with someone (and there's nothing inherently wrong with that), maybe you can relate. The emotions (and hormones) can be so strong and convincing that the relationship is "right," you may even feel as if God is giving you peace.

While God can and does give believers peace as confirmation of His will (Isaiah 26:3), that peace should always align with the wisdom and truth found in Scripture. Here's an example — if we're evaluating someone's character, prayerfully reading through the book of Proverbs can lead us to ask questions such as:

  • Is this person thoughtful or impulsive in decision-making? (Proverbs 19:2)
  • Is this person easily offended? (Proverbs 19:11)
  • Does this person only seem to have superficial friendships? (Proverbs 18:24)
  • Is this person lazy or motivated to work hard? (Proverbs 26:14-16)
  • Does this person have a history of repeating the same foolish mistakes? (Proverbs 26:11)
  • Does this person seek to understand others or does he mostly enjoy hearing himself talk? (Proverbs 18:2)
  • Does this person have a habit of venting her feelings and opinions? (Proverbs 29:11)
  • Does this person constantly get caught up in conflict? (Proverbs 20:3)
  • Does this person have a quick temper? (Proverbs 14:29)

Most importantly — and this one comes from Proverbs 1:7 — does this person actually fear the Lord? Does he or she follow Jesus and yield to Him in all things?

As we read Scripture, the Holy Spirit can help us see things about the other person — positive or negative — that God is trying to show us. The truth of God's Word is an important step in discerning whether a relationship is on the right track.

It Matters What Other People Think

After I started dating my wife, Raquel, I began feeling uneasy with how serious we were getting, and found myself wrestling with anxious thoughts. What if she isn't who I think she is? What if she finds out I have character flaws that would make any reasonable woman run away? Can I live with some of her weaknesses? Can she live with mine?

It was too much to figure out on my own, so I began processing my feelings with believers who knew me well. I invited them into our relationship to meet Raquel and watch us interact. And as the weeks went by, all of these wise counselors came to the same conclusion: Marrying Raquel was a wise move.

Scripture says, "In the multitude of counselors there is safety" (Proverbs 11:14, KJV). My "multitude of counselors" helped me see the obvious and overwhelming positives of being with Raquel, just as they had helped me see the obvious negatives of dating other women in the past. Scripture is clear that we all need such people when we're making consequential choices such as choosing a life's mate.

Wise counselors provide the accountability and encouragement we need to make the next step, whether forward or backward. They serve as our guardrails when we emotionally hydroplane, our cheerleaders when we want to give up on a good thing, and our consciences when we're tempted to compromise. When we combine their wisdom with the power of prayer and Scripture, we'll be in a much better position to make a good decision about a serious relationship.

Breaking (Bad) Momentum

The other day, I asked my friend whose marriage ended in divorce what she would now tell her younger self back when she was dating the man who would be her ex-husband.

She replied: "I would say, 'You're in too much of a rush to get married. Give yourself time to figure out who you're really dealing with and don't assume that he's going to make a good husband just because you met him at church.'"

Then she added, "And be careful about wanting something so badly that you overlook things that are obvious to others."

That younger woman may have bristled at that advice. The promise of new love is so intoxicating that any perceived critics can seem like a threat to the momentum of something incredible. But that momentum may be the very thing that prematurely pushes some couples into bad marriages.

In those moments, we need wisdom — not necessarily to stop us — but to slow us down and help us evaluate whether we're being driven by emotions or fear of losing the love we've waited for for so long. But when it comes to a decision with long-term consequences such as whether we should marry this person, we can't afford to go it alone.

James 1:5 says, "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him." That's a promise that God fulfills with His presence, in His Scriptures and through the insight and perspective we receive from the godly people in our lives. Wisdom is not a killjoy; it's a gift —one that can help us avoid a bad marriage, or better yet, help us build a great one.

Copyright 2018 Joshua Rogers. All rights reserved. 

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