Loving with your eyes wide open
by Dr. Dave Currie
Love is not only blind; sometimes it is plain stupid. Whether naïve to real issues and in relentless pursuit to get married, too many people forge ahead in blissful euphoria. They not only turn a blind eye and avoid asking the hard questions but they ignore sure-fire indicators of a questionable future. Sometimes your head has to tell your heart to “SHUT UP!” It’s okay to slow down and think about – to be perceptive about – your future primary relationship. That’s where these pre-engagement questions should come in.
Before we go there, let me say this. When building a long-term relationship, it is wise to date at least through the four seasons of one year. You need time to get to know a person, because time enhances discernment. A variety of circumstances reveal character and tendencies. And if it’s Gods will that you should marry this person, then for sure you don’t have to be in a hurry. God’s will does not change. Time and different circumstances will only confirm whether or not stepping into marriage with this person is a decision that the Lord could bless.
It is through my experience in doing premarital counselling, with over 740 couples, in performing 265 weddings, and in counselling countless couples in crisis (often because they didn’t ask the hard questions early) that I bring the deep and discerning questions to you. I believe the stronger the relationship and the more secure the person, the more welcoming they will be about going through the questions thoroughly and honestly. It’s good for both of you. You either have nothing to hide or you are willing to own up to your shortcomings and share how you have handled them. Either way – it’s about being honest. Lying about who you are will always come back to bite you. While it is natural to want to put your best foot forward in hopes that you might land this catch, sharing your history honestly is so critical. Your future spouse has to love you for who you are – warts and all. Honesty is not the best policy; it’s the ONLY policy. Commit to it.
To help you go into marriage with your eyes wide open – fully aware of what you’re getting yourself into – I recommend that you be intentional about working through the following questions for greater discernment and increasing relational security. It would be wise to ASK GOD through prayer to guide you through this process.
FAMILY OF ORIGIN: What is the nature of your relationships within your family today? Are any of these relationships fractured? Parents? Siblings? Grandparents? Why? What have you done to overcome any brokenness? Did you grow up with love, affirmation and affection from one or both parents? Was there any physical or emotional abuse or harshness within your home? Do you value your family roots or would you rather distance yourself from your family of origin? What three words – positive or negative – would best describe your home life?
FAITH: What is your faith journey? When did you accept Jesus Christ into your life? What is the nature of your family’s faith? What have been other times of significant decision or recommitment? Who has been the most influential person in the development of your spiritual life? What has caused the greatest growth in your walk with the Lord? What is the nature and consistency of your personal devotional life of Bible study and prayer? What is the regularity of your church involvement? How have you served in the church or in the community? Are you committed to live and walk as a surrendered follower of Jesus Christ in your life and future marriage?
FINANCES: What are your views on money? How much debt are you currently in? What are you in debt for? Who do you owe money to? If you have debt, what are your plans for paying it off? Are you a spender or a saver? Are you given to impulsive buying or have a shopping addiction? What values have governed your current spending? What is good debt? Do you have any savings? What are your views on giving? Have you been tithing regularly? Have you ever been without work? Why? Do you lean more toward being casual about work or taking initiative regarding your opportunities to work? What are your financial goals regarding debt, savings and giving?
SEXUAL EXPERIENCE: Are you willing to disclose all sexual experiences to date? What sexual abuse or trauma did you go through at the hands of others? What was the nature and level of your sexual activities in Junior High and High School? What was the nature of your dating relationships and how involved sexually were you with each one? Did you have any one-night stands or merely sexual hook-ups? Were you ever involved in a rape or had a part in an abortion? Did you have any same-sex experiences? Did one or more of your parents have extramarital affairs that you are aware of? All these experiences shape your sexual love map.
BOUNDARIES: What are your friendship limits with the opposite sex once in a committed relationship? What about relational and physical parameters with regard to time alone, affection and private conversations? What digital boundaries are wise and appropriate regarding texting, phone calls, emails or any other form of private messaging? Are you willing to give all your passwords to all devices and accounts? Are you willing and will you now make your phone or iPad available for scrutiny? Are you willing and will you now make your schedule, your whereabouts and your activities open to see?
CHARACTER: This is a big one. Many aspects reveal character. It’s not about what people say about themselves and how they operate that counts. It’s what they actually do! In this section, these questions are for you to ask yourself about the one you have been dating. Is there consistency in their words? Are they good with follow-through on their commitments? Do they make excuses justifying their oversight? Are they responsible? Do they do what they say they will? Have you caught them in a lie? Do you find them defensive? Do they ever apologize? Do they tend to blame you for most problems? Have they asked you to do something that you know is wrong? Have they taken something that doesn’t belong to them? What do their priorities seem to be? What is important to them? Do they have values that are clearly different than yours? Do you feel you can trust what they say? Do you feel safe and encouraged when around them?
PORN: What has been the level of your pornographic involvement? When did you start watching porn? When was the last time you viewed any porn from any source? In between, how regular was your viewing? Was masturbation frequent with your viewing? What have you done to overcome it? Would you be willing to put Covenant Eyes on all your electronics to filter any questionable content and to report your viewing habits to me?
ADDICTIONS: What habits have mastered you? What has been your emotional drug of choice in facing hard times? Have you had a problem with recreational drugs? What has been your experience with hard drugs? Have you ever over-used or been addicted to prescription drugs? What is your view and practice toward alcohol? Do you have or have you had any eating disorders – anorexia or bulimia and what have you done to overcome them? What has been your level of activity with gaming or gambling online and in person?
ODDS AND ENDS: For these, it may be as simple as a yes or no. And if yes, just get them to explain further. Have you ever been involved in criminal activity? Ever been arrested? Hospitalized? Medicated? Any gang activity? Have you ever been fired from a job? Have you done any illegal activity? Been in any vehicle accidents? Any court cases outstanding? Any serious health issues? Have you had any operations? Have there been times of significant stress, anxiety or depression? Is there anything else that if it came out later would in any way hurt me, break trust with me or cause me to regret a decision to proceed with this relationship?
CHILDREN: What are your desires with regard to having children once married? How many? How soon? What will be important for you in raising your kids? What values do you want to teach them? What place will faith and church involvement play in the building of your family? Will one parent stay home for a season beyond the maternity or paternity leaves? Who will be allowed to babysit the kids? What do you feel about grandparent involvement especially if there are complicated families of origin?
This line of questioning for discerning a long-term commitment in marriage is designed to be thorough. You know it will be intimidating to your date but turn them loose to ask you the same. It’s only fair. You will never regret taking time and effort to do your due diligence in your most primary human relationship. Let me know your thoughts and how your talk goes. Be sure to pass this on to a friend who could use this.