On our second date, Jarrett told me that he wanted to marry me. We were 24. He had just cut off all of his dreadlocks and was in his second week of his professional career. I was still in school. Still selfish, still longing to move to New York to pursue modeling. We were a mess.
Although completely sincere, Jarrett's pre-mature marital statement scared me. I had only dated one person prior to Jarrett, and at the time, he and I weren't even in an official relationship. We were new friends, eating ice cream before church, hoping to get to know each other more. So what did I say in response? I said nothing. And the dates that followed, I said nothing. I watched him and I examined his life. I took mental notes and offered up hopeful prayers. I sought advice from my parents and I inquired of their opinions. I watched his decisions, I listened to my friends' perspectives and I waited.
Choosing “The One” is quite a euphoric ideal.
We get swept away with lyrics and memorized movie phrases, but in reality, love doesn't come easy. If it did, we'd all be married. The truth is, not everyone is meant for marriage, and although we hope we will find "the one", we've all experienced breakups and pain. Where once was excitement and happiness, we question the person we are dating and find ourselves wondering... is it me? Am I the one with the problem?
The decision to fall in love and get married is not one that should be made out of vain interests.
And yes, I said decision. Love, according to scripture, is an action, not a feeling
(1 Corinthians 13). The ripple effect of your decision for a spouse is far more complicated than just your mere happiness or self gratification. It requires our careful attention to their lives, not just their words, because our union will have lasting effects and legacy on others- family, friends, children and community.
Our spouse will be the only family member we get to choose. All others are appointed, so it is vitally imporanat that we do not rush in. Trust me, a few exciting months is not adequate time to get to know someone's heart and soul. Let's be honest, there are moments when you don't even know yourself! So, when dating and seeking marriage, Christ must be in the midst. He alone knows hearts and His Spirit will reveal to you who is your best match and who isn't (Jeremiah 17:10).
With all the millions of men out there, who all seem nice and sweet and successful, how are we to know what to look for? How do we know who is God's best for us? I'll tell you what my mother told me when I asked her this very same question about Jarrett. She said, "Trina, do you see Jesus in him?"
A man in Christ is called to love his wife ferociously, just as Jesus does.
"Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her" Ephesians 5:25 25
Does he give himself up for you? His benefit, his agenda, his time, his schedule? Does he put you first even when it's inconvenient? Does he go without so that you won't have to? His feelings, his pride, his basketball game? What about you? Are your actions personifying Jesus towards your significant other?
Listen, marriage doesn't change a person's character. If anything, the real person
emerges after the vows are said. This is why over 30% of break ups occur after couples co-habitate. According to the New York magazine report, 14% of couples break up within a year of moving in together and one-third of co-habitating couples head to splitsville by year three. Why? Well, as my dad explained to Jarrett and I during our pre-marital counseling... you won't know the real person until you live with them.
Because we desire to please the Lord, we know that co-habitation is not the answer. Yet, even in the institution of marriage, we know people who are miserable. The couple who seemed so solid while dating are now falling apart after the marriage. We have friends who feel trapped in a relationship that started off so loving and so promising. What happened? Maybe, just maybe, there were some things that weren't honestly revealed or considered during the dating years. Maybe, just maybe, you can save yourself some frustration if you just stop and ask yourself these questions:
1. Is There Joy or Just Toleration?
Deep in your heart, is there joy when you consider the potential of marrying this person? Keep in mind that joy, not happiness, is a product of God's presence (Galations 5:22). I am not talking about butterfly emotions or jokes shared over hamburgers. I'm talking about in your spirit, on your good days and your worst ones... do you feel joy in this person's presence? Does he feel joy in yours? Have you even had an argument? If not, this is an area that needs to be experienced. The heart of a person always emerges through when they are mad. Are his words hurtful and belittling or are they constructive and solution driven? What about your words and your actions? When he said something stupid or forgot to meet you for coffee, or when you took too long to get ready or you insisted that he accompany you to your best friends themed birthday party... is there still joy or are there selfish arguments and attitudes? When choosing a spouse, you are choosing a friend and partner for life, so you better really enjoy that person’s company, in the good and in the ugly! No, you won't agree on everything. You will have your personal interests that won't always align with eachtoher and that's ok. You're two different people. But in the grand scheme of things, do the two of you have joy to