Thinking about getting engaged?
While ring shopping is certainly a key part of the big day, there is a much more important part to your preparation. What follows are 12 topics couples should consider before taking things to the next relational level.
As you read through these, I want to pass on a wise word someone shared with me before I was married: As now, so then. Meaning, as someone is now, so you can expect them to be in marriage.
Don’t marry someone on potential. These questions will help you evaluate, not if someone is perfect (only Jesus is), but if they are the kind of person who will make your life-long journey with Jesus both fruitful and enjoyable.
If you’re going to spend the rest of your life in a relationship, you need to enjoy spending time together. A person may be godly, but if you get bored or don’t enjoy spending time together, its not a good sign.
Do I enjoy being with this person? Do we laugh together?
If you don’t, then it may be time to pull the plug.
If you get married, your spouse will be your best friend. That means your boyfriend or girlfriend needs to be a good friend long before he or she becomes your spouse.
Can you see yourself spending the rest of your time growing as friends? Will he or she be a good partner and teammate in life and ministry?
What do you enjoy about your friendship? In what ways does your friendship need to grow?
Few things are more important in a relationship than what you believe about God, life, and eternity.
Do you share the same fundamental beliefs? Do you share the same view on Scripture (authoritative and sufficient)?
Do you agree on your understanding of the Trinity, the gospel, salvation, sin, and Christ?
Look at the person’s life and start asking some questions about how he or she lives out his or her faith.
Does he or she deliberately live out a life of faith? Is there noticeable fruit and godliness?
Does he or she have a servant’s heart? What do other people say about his faith?
What does your pastor or pastor’s wife think about him or her?
If you don’t see clear evidence of faith, then you need to ask yourself (and the other person) some hard questions:
Do they have a steady devotional life? If not, why not?
Do they show a desire to obey Jesus in all things? If not, why not?
Are they faithfully serving in their local church? If not, why not?
Do you agree what type of church you should go to? If not, what are your theological differences?
A person who is marked by faithfulness will be steady and reliable. They will follow through on what they say they will do, and they ask for forgiveness when they don’t. Few things make marriage more miserable than constantly having to guess if your spouse will do what they say.
Is your boyfriend or girlfriend emotionally and spiritually mature? Are they steady, stable and reliable?
Do they consistently honor their promises? Do you trust what they say?
Have you ever challenged his or her inconsistent words and if so, how have they responded?
Are you guarding each other’s sexual purity? (read this article about Satan’s schemes in pre-martial sexual sin)
While you want to guard each other’s hearts as you wade into these waters, it is important to talk through how you think about marriage, roles of husband and wife, children, and the relationship with potential in-laws.
Does your boyfriend/girlfriend value marriage and hold it in high regard?
Is his or her understanding of marriage shaped by the world or God’s Word?
How would you both describe the biblical role of a husband and a wife?
How would you both describe the biblical role of fatherhood and motherhood?
If you got married sometime soon, what would you be giving up that would be hard to let go? (i.e., a good career? Educational goals? Your independence?)
What hopes and fears do you have about future in-laws? What challenges might you face with them?
Though there is no biblical responsibility for non-married couples to lead or submit, you should be trying to discern if you think they will faithfully serve in their role once they get married.
Would he be the kind of man you would want to submit to if you got married?
Is she the kind of woman who would willing follow if you got married?
Is he or she a servant or selfish?
Is he or she quick to respond to your needs or the needs of others?
Is he or she teachable and willing to be influenced by you?
In Genesis 2:24, Moses describes the husband as “holding fast” to his wife. It’s a description of the nature of the marital bond—permanent and meant to last, not temporary and flimsy.
Is your boyfriend or girlfriend someone who is loyal and committed in his or her relationships?
When things get tough, does she exit quickly, or does she tend to endure through the difficulty?
If they are not characterized by faithfulness and commitment in relationships before marriage, what gives you confidence they will be in marriage?
Counselors often talk about the “Big 3” that cause marital conflict—parenting, sex, and money.
Does your boyfriend or girlfriend have a good job and make a decent income? Does the guy make enough to support a family?
Do either of you have a lot of debt? Do either of you have a budget and do you try to stick to it?
Do both of you tithe or give to other Christian causes? Are you both generous with what God has given you?
An important part of marriage is being a team. It is important to make sure your hopes and dreams for the future line up. If you are headed down different paths then beware.
What do you both want to do with your lives?
What plans or dreams do you have for the future (e.g., career, family, home-life, ministry goals, church involvement, plans for where you want to live, etc.)?
If your future goals differ, how are you going to reconcile these things?
The difference between good and bad marriages is not that good marriages don’t struggle. The difference between good and bad marriages is that the good ones know how to handle conflict in a Christ-like, respectful, and humble way.
How do the two of you handle conflict? Do you tend to leave things lingering?
Are you likely to build up grudges and frustrations? If either of you struggles with anger, how do you head it off before it explodes?
Are you quick to forgive the other person and keep short accounts? Do you both initiate reconciliation or is it usually one person?
Whether you’ve struggled with difficult sins from the past, or you are still struggling with significant sins right now, it’s important to talk to your future spouse about these things. This is important because your spouse needs to know who they are marrying. Mold grows in the darkness, not in the light.
While having this conversation can be potentially terrifying, it is an important pattern to set in marriage. You need to be able to speak openly and honestly about your sins in marriage and learn how to forgive and encourage each other in the Gospel. If God has already forgiven us, we hope that with time (or hopefully immediately) your future spouse will forgive you for your sins.
What sins have been a significant part of your life before now? (sexual sin, poor financial stewardship, drug or alcohol addiction, eating disorders, etc.) How have you seen God help you fight against them?
Are there lingering sins that you need to be honest about? What are you doing to actively put sin to death? (if porn is an on-going problem, listen to this.)
We encourage you to seek counsel about how much you should share (be more general than specific, except with serious and scandalous sins) and at what point it is appropriate to share these things in your relationship (definitely not first date, definitely before engagement).
Marriage is a big deal. It’s a permanent commitment, and it lasts a life-time. It is perfectly normal to be nervous and scared about taking such a big step.
What fears do either of you have about getting married? Do you have fears about committing to this specific person?
In what ways do you not trust him or her? Are they reasonable or irrational fears?
12. Feedback (i.e., Accountability)
In our culture, independence is a virtue and dependence a weakness. God says the opposite is true (2 Cor. 12:9). We gain wisdom from knowing our need and asking God to supply the wisdom we lack (James 1:5). One quick way to grow in this wisdom is to consistently seek out counsel from the godly men and women in your life (Proverbs 15:22; 18:1; 24:6). The Bible says the person who resists wisdom from others is a fool (Proverbs 12:15).
Is your boyfriend or girlfriend teachable and accountable to others, especially those in his or her church?
Does they often make decisions on their own, or do they seek the counsel of others?
Do they pursue and seek out assistance or do they want to keep parts of your relationship secret?
Dating / courting as a Christian is to always be done in the context of your church community. The potential for self-deceit is too large, and the life-long commitment so significant, that you need to be humble enough to recognize that you need help. “Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety” (Proverbs 11:14). Wise advice from godly friends can be a safety-net for your life.
From very early on in the relationship, you should actively pursue having married couples involved in the relationship. Guys, take the responsibility to initiate with another godly couple in the church and set up time for you and your girlfriend to hang out and open up. Ask them to walk with you through the relationship and allow them to give you godly wisdom.
Do you have married friends holding you accountable? Are they asking you tough enough questions?
Marriage is a wonderful gift from the Lord and is “to be held in high honor among all” (Hebrews 13:4). One of the ways we do this is by preparing well. May God give you much grace!
This is an edited excerpt from “So You Want to Get Engaged?” by Deepak Reju and Scott Croft. The full-length article (highly recommended) contains tons of excellent information for couples heading toward marriage and those who are shepherding them along.