April 22, 2016

Singles: Here’s Who You’re “Supposed” To Marry

Gary Thomas — 

Singles- Here’s Who You’re “Supposed” To Marry

“Taylor” met her boyfriend her freshman year in college. They started dating that fall and never broke up, so when Christmas break of her senior year rolled around and graduation was looming, she was hoping for and kind of expecting an engagement ring for Christmas.

When she didn’t get one, and her boyfriend didn’t even mention the possibility and in fact seemed to hastily turn the conversation if it got within five miles of the topic, she finally began to realize they might be in two different places.

It took her a couple more months to get up the courage to ask, “What are you thinking about next year?”

Her boyfriend was silent for long enough to tell Taylor this wouldn’t be a pleasant conversation. He then finally said, “We’ve really only dated each other and we’re still kind of young to make a lifetime commitment. I think we should be open to seeing other people while we start our new lives. We can always get back together again if we’re really the ones for each other.”

It broke Taylor’s heart, but what could she do?

Eighteen months later, her boyfriend called her up. He said it wasn’t until he got out there and started dating that he realized how good they had it and what a solid relationship they enjoyed. Would Taylor ever consider getting back together again?

Yes, she would, on one condition: she wanted to get married sooner rather than later. She wasn’t interested in being a girlfriend for another several years while he made up his mind. They knew each other well enough and if it wasn’t going to work out between the two of them, she didn’t want to invest another four years. It hurt a lot to let him go and she didn’t want to have to go through that again.

No problem, her boyfriend said. That’s exactly where he was at.

The marriage discussion came up about every six months: first it was income, then savings, then a possible job change, then wanting to have enough money for a ring worthy of her. It had already been two years since they got back together, and then three.

That’s when Taylor asked me what I thought.

“You’re positive he knew you wanted to get married sooner rather than later as a condition of getting back together?”Proposal

“Yes.”

“And you’re always the one trying to force the decision?”

“Always.”

There were other details, too many to include in a blog post. What it came down to, however, was my wondering why Taylor was interested in him. The way he had treated her, the way he had been stringing her along, why would she put up with this kind of inconsiderate treatment for the rest of her life?

Here’s why, she said. “The entire eighteen months we were broken up nobody else asked me on a date. No one. And so I thought maybe God was protecting our relationship because Austin is the one I’m supposed to marry.”

This notion that there’s someone you’re “supposed” to marry has done as much harm to singles as just about any other myth I can think of, because it’s almost always used to explain away bad behavior. I dealt with the notion that there’s only one person we’re supposed to marry in a post entitled “God Didn’t (or Won’t) Tell You to Marry Your Spouse” which you can read here.   It was and is controversial, but I don’t want to rehash those arguments here.

For the sake of this blog post, let me ask singles why they so often think the person they are “supposed to” marry is almost always an excuse for marrying someone who mistreats them or is of low character rather than someone who is on fire for God, drips with kindness and integrity, and would be a superlative spouse?

What does this say about their view of God? Why do so many singles assume their “supposed to” spouse is a compromise rather than a blessing?

You want to know who you’re supposed to marry? The Bible answers that. Here are solid biblical passages telling you who you’re “supposed” to marry:

Guys: You’re urged by the Bible to marry a woman of faith (Prov. 31:30) with a noble character (Prov. 31:10). She’s a hard worker (31:15) with good business sense (vv. 16-17). She’s kind and generous (v. 20), filled with integrity and known for her strength (v. 25), and able to speak about the truths of God to others (v. 26).

If you want to have influence in any church you’re a part of, your wife is “supposed to” be worthy of respect, not a malicious talker, temperate and trustworthy in everything (1 Tim. 3:11); you might also peek at what women are called to be in Titus 2:3ff: reverent, not slanderers, not addicted to a lot of alcohol, woman who know how to love others and who will make their family a priority, are self-controlled and pure, willing to work hard, and kind.

That is a summary of the Bible’s clearest instruction about the kind of woman you’re supposed to marry, and it should trump any subjective feelings or creative second-guessing that tries to figure out some wild divine destiny that doesn’t make sense.

Women: if you read the book of Proverbs correctly, you’ll look for a man who pursues wisdom even more than he pursues wealth or fun or video game excellence (Prov. 1:1-7). He’ll be a guy who learned to listen to his mom and dad and thus developed a heart that will listen to God as he’s older (1:8-9).  He’s the kind of guy who is able to resist peer pressure (1:10ff) and isn’t driven by his lust (2:16ff.). Look at how many times the book of Proverbs pleads with young men to avoid sexual temptation and ask, will your future husband take sexual integrity this seriously? Do you have any idea how many wives’ have had their lives turned upside down by their husband’s failure to avoid sexual immorality?

You want a man who isn’t lazy (6:6-11), doesn’t lie (6:17, 19) and who is humble (11:2).  He should be “full of the Spirt and wisdom” (Acts 6:3) and most definitely a believer (1 Cor. 7:39).

It’s inconceivable to me that God would say you’re “supposed to” marry a guy who isn’t commended in the New Testament as capable of being a deacon. If he’s going to be your children’s father he should be at least on a trajectory to meet the qualifications of an overseer and deacon, which means he must be above reproach, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, not violent but gentle, able to handle himself with alcohol, not a recent convert, worthy of respect, sincere, honest in business, with a good reputation (1 Timothy 3:1-10).

Now, those are direct Scriptural applications of people of character. If you want someone you are “supposed” to marry, this is your list. This, not your feelings, is your guide. This, not a curious view of a God who wants you to settle for second best, should direct your choice. Why would a “feeling” that you’re supposed to marry a liar and a guy who has cheated on you be more persuasive than the direct teachings of Scripture that says to avoid being yoked to such people for the rest of your life?

Singles, you’ve got to figure out what is going to drive your marital decision: A warped view of God who wants you to settle for someone of low character, or the very revealed words of God that tells you exactly who to admire, honor, and become?

Are you “supposed” to marry someone who wouldn’t be a very good parent? Why would you think that? Are you supposed to marry someone who would never be considered a leader in the church, or someone who, if you marry them, would disqualify you from becoming a leader?

Are you “supposed” to marry a guy who would string you along for 8 and ½ years? Is that kind? Is that an act of integrity? Is that a mark of humility? Doesn’t that seem silly on the face of it?The Sacred Search Book Cover

Don’t allow a warped view of God to lead you into a warped marriage. Taylor finally broke off her relationship with Austin, but it left her single and hurting in her late twenties, which still seems very young to me, but to Taylor it feels like she’s way behind.

If you want to avoid Taylor’s common trap, rely on the biblical truth about the kind of people we should have as close intimates and leaders in the church as you determine who you’re “supposed to” marry.

If you want more on this topic, consider picking up a copy of The Sacred Search. 

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8 responses to Singles: Here’s Who You’re “Supposed” To Marry

  1. Oh Gary and Edith… words fail to express my gratefulness for your words of wisdom and exhortations from your experience. Hearing your words buoys me on to stand fast in Christ, refusing to give into what pleasures the world – and at times, even those under the banner of Christianity – offer to placate loneliness. As dearly as I would love to be married, God often places reminders and cautions like these in my path at the times my heart is most prone to wander. Thankyou for holding the Light high to be a lamp to the feet of those who would hear your wisdom. Thankyou from my heart.

  2. mokeira nyaingo April 22, 2016 at 1:14 pm

    Gary how long should we date before marriage. kindly adress.
    Good read though.

    • I hate to give out calendars when the Bible doesn’t. So what I’m about to say is trying to understand the science, but it doesn’t even come close to being a biblical directive. Neurologically, we know infatuation lasts about 12 to 18 months. Since you’re making a LIFELONG decision, I think waiting at least that long to get engaged (not married, but engaged) makes a lot of sense. Otherwise, you may be agreeing to marry someone you don’t truly know (and in one sense, aren’t even capable of evaluating with objective discernment).

      • Hi Gary,
        thank you for addressing the importance of knowing a person’s character prior to entering marriage. Aside from praying for wisdom for discernment, I was wondering is there anything a person could do/ask/observe to discern the true character of a potential spouse? My question arose due to the fact that I have been noticing a downward character change in some of my friends’ spouses. For example, a guy who used to be eager to help in the kitchen when visiting the girl’s house later on expressed to his wife that doing dishes should only be her responsibility and not the husband’s; a guy who told his wife to remind him of garbage collection days would get irritated at her for giving the reminder; a guy who promises to share and help with chores only kept his promise a handful of times. If the above scenario only occurred a couple of time then it wouldn’t be such a huge issue. Now my friends (and myself as well) are left puzzling wondering whether it was their failure to discern and recognize the husbands’ true character or the fact that the guys have been putting up some sort of disguise to intentionally hide their true selves. Please share your thoughts and thank you in advance.

  3. Gary, you are so good to offer this advice to young people over and over again. They need to hear it!

    For any singles reading this, pay close attention to what Gary is saying! You can save yourself a lifetime of pain. Trust me. I married a guy who I knew was a liar, lazy, and addicted to drugs, pornography and video games. But I loved him, I didn’t want to go through the pain of breaking up, and most foolishly, I believed all his lies that he would change as soon as we were married. Now, like the guy in the article above, he has been stringing me along for nearly 20 years with false promises. He DID change after we got married – he became physically abusive, and took up drinking…and like a fool, I took it. Most of our marriage has been a downright nightmare.

    Now we have 4 children together and it is more painful than I can describe to think that my precious children have an immoral, dishonest man for their father. It’s torture. I love my kids so much and I want better for them. I should have waited for a godly man, but I was lonely and I just took the first one that came along. Don’t make the same mistake I did! Marriage does NOT improve an immature person’s character, it only gives them more opportunities to take advantage of you.

    • So true! May God bless you!

    • Edith, your response could be a blog post in itself. I pray single readers will take it to heart. A good marriage is so good; a difficult marriage to a person of low character can be so hard. God can still do good things through it (your four kids for example), but it’s not a path many would willingly choose when there are other paths they can obediently walk.

      Singles: God wants to BLESS you with His wisdom, not take away excitement. Listen to His word and benefit. Let this woman’s first person story help you see that God always has your best interests in mind. His words of wisdom in Scripture aren’t arbitrary; they’re expressions of His love.

      Edith, I pray God will hold you especially close to His heart so that you can feel His passion for you. I pray you will be so on fire in your love for Him that your children will be drawn to the flame of His grace. Thank you for taking the time to reach out on behalf of others.

    • This message is for EVERYONE, not just “young” people (whatever that actually means), especially WOMEN.