“How can I be better prepared for marriage should God eventually bring someone into my life?”
As someone who serves in single adult ministry, I get this question often. Those who ask it are often surprised by my response: “Find a roommate!”
After community college, I moved from home to attend a university that required first-year students to live in the dormitories. This was my first experience living with anyone not an immediate family member — definitely out of my comfort zone.
Before classes started and my assigned roommate arrived, I partitioned the small room into two separate areas through the strategic arrangement of furniture. It was my feeble attempt to have some sort of privacy. As the semester went on, I began to see that I actually enjoyed spending time with this person (partially evidenced by my rearrangement of the furniture). In fact, he would eventually become a life-long friend.
Fast forward to after college. I purchased a property and invited a few men from church to move in with me. Living in this “testosterhome” would be an incredible season of my life, one that helped form me into who I am today. After all, sharing a bathroom with three other guys certainly has its way of sanctifying even the worst of sinners (I will spare you the details).
I didn’t expect it to be, but living with roommates was a training ground for my eventual marriage. Here are a few examples of how God used roommates to prepare me for the relationship I now have with my wife.
Serve, Then Speak
One of my roommates managed to enter adulthood without ever washing a dirty dish (note the sarcasm). I’d find a bowl containing leftover cereal milk on the couch or a plate caked with moldy spaghetti sauce on the floor in his bedroom (I had to venture through there to do laundry).
One day, after failing to find a clean spoon in the drawer (yet again), all I wanted to do was explode in anger, telling my roommate how selfish he was. Then God convicted me.
If Jesus could humble himself by entering this sin-torn world and pay a debt I owed by dying on a cross (Phil. 2:3-8), why couldn’t I simply serve my roommate by cleaning his dishes? Knowing there was no sense in fighting the Holy Spirit, I got my dish gloves and went to work.
Anger and resentment turned into peace and joy with each glass that I cleaned. When we serve others willingly out of love, the Lord can mold our hearts while rewarding us with a deeper sense of His presence. I was eventually able to have a much-needed conversation with my roommate. He appreciated my honesty because he could tell it was coming from the desire to help him see how his actions were affecting others in the house.
Learning to put others above ourselves is a great exercise in how to have a healthy relationship with a life partner. Ultimately, when we acknowledge the grace that has been given to us, we can then extend that grace to others through acts of service or loving confrontation.
Learn to Lean
For most of us, it can be easier to serve than to be served. Allowing others to meet a need is basically admitting that we can’t do it on our own.
Back when I had roommates, I remember going through a difficult breakup where the girl I had been dating was secretly spending time with another guy. Just when I thought things were going well, she told me it was over. Ouch.
That night I couldn’t sleep. I found myself sitting in the living room, hurting. One of my roommates noticed that the light was on and came to check on me. We ended up talking for hours in the middle of the night as I poured out my heart.
Letting people in is a valuable character trait for any healthy relationship. Learning to lean on others when I was single helped prepare me to lean on my wife when I need her today.
I’ve had the tendency to think that the only “productive” type of relationship is the one that involves a lot of work. However, by having roommates who loved to have fun, I learned that simply enjoying one another is an important dynamic in healthy relationships.
My roommates and I planned epic Rock Band parties. We cut down Christmas trees. We hosted cooking nights where we would attempt to cook exotic ethnic cuisine.
Looking back, this season taught me the importance of simply having fun. I discovered that the fun times we had together helped us be more open and transparent during the challenging times. Today, married with children, I can easily get so caught up in changing diapers, paying bills or mowing the lawn that I fail to take time to simply enjoy life. It’s important, and actually productive, to have fun with others.
Living alone isn’t a sin. I lived by myself for a time when I was single, and it was great. And God can certainly grow us in many ways without having roommates. But for many singles I know, living alone is often motivated by not wanting to be inconvenienced.
Failing to step outside our comfort zones carries over into our relationships. It can lead to befriending only those who are just like us, not being social, or being overly picky about who we’ll date based on preferences rather than character.
If we are to have healthy relationships, with family or friends or even a future spouse, it’s important to allow ourselves to be stretched beyond what’s comfortable. Just maybe, getting a roommate or two might be what God would have you do to accomplish this.