Marriage is serious business. Wedding planners and caterers know this. So do couples who have been married for many years. It’s a multi-billion dollar industry, fueled by the need for spectacle and celebration, the search for the “perfect” wedding, the “perfect” spouse, the “perfect” venue. In short, the start to the “perfect” life with your “perfect” soul-mate.
Unfortunately, this search for perfection can lead to disappointment, heartbreak and devastation if the proper groundwork hasn’t been laid before the actual day of the marriage. The life-long commitment only begins with the wedding: after that point, it’s hard — but worthwhile — work. Soul mates aren’t found, they are created through effort and life experience together. In order to have a successful, fulfilling marriage, preparations have to begin well before the wedding day.
Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it. —Matthew 7:24-27, KJV
Jesus was speaking about listening to His words and following His teachings, but could this not also apply to marriage? The foundations of marriage are honesty, love, commitment and faith. A couple must not only believe in God but also in each other; each person must have faith in each other’s honesty and history, if they are to have a lasting relationship. If a couple isn’t honest with each other, if they keep secrets and don’t divulge their full backgrounds and experiences, they run the risk of these secrets ruining their marriage in the future when their house built upon sand collapses beneath them.
Richard Needham equates this with marrying not one person but three: the person you think they are, the person they are and the person they will become as a result of being married to you. If you do the hard work of discussing your life prior to your relationship, there will be no boundary to a life-long commitment. The person you want to marry can decide whether or not they can live with your acts, and, by sharing their own history, they also open themselves up to you.
You have to truly know your partner’s character, and this can start even before you begin dating. When you are first attracted to someone, you watch them: how they react to others, what they wear, how they behave, whether they are a loner or a shining star. The small things may impress you or turn you off: how they eat, how they get along with your friends and their own, the people they choose as their close friends, how they handle frustration or disappointment, how they treat their parents, how they react to children, whether or not they can handle stress and anger. Do they respect you and your boundaries? Most couples try to impress each other when they first start going out, but it’s the small things that are the greatest indicators of a person’s character.
But I would have you without carefulness. He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord: But he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife. There is difference also between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit: but she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please her husband. —1 Corinthians 7:32-34 KJV
Falling in love and getting married are totally different experiences. When you fall in love, you have that heady feeling, that euphoria caused by chemicals, leading to passion and attraction. This is a natural precursor to actual love and commitment. It’s one of the stages in any relationship. Making the decision to marry is the mature consequence of this feeling, if the couple is truly willing to take further steps to a life-long commitment. But it’s just the beginning of the process, not the end. Do you really know the person with whom you are forming this bond?
Weddings are fun parties, with families and friends joining you in a celebration of life and love. They are fantastic, exciting, whirl-wind affairs of planning, making choices and deciding what you want. But it’s just one day out of your life, not the end of the process.
After the wedding begins the real serious work, the day-to-day living with each other and each other’s foibles, quirks and habits. The sacrifices and enduring caring for each other, in sickness and in health, through tough times and good times. Do you know your partner well enough to put up with all their faults and habits, and do they love you well enough to put up with yours? Make sure it’s a marriage you want and not just a wedding. When you get married, you leave your prior life behind you and embark upon a new life created with your partner. Be sure that you are ready for the hard work and commitment: the covenant of marriage.