By the Numbers

Friday, March 18, 2011

Questions in Choosing a Mate

                               Questions in Choosing a Mate

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John and Judy fell in love. They thought about each other throughout the day; fantasized about good times together, felt excited and intimate in each other’s presence. They were a nice looking young couple, energetic, and fun loving. Everybody said, “They’re made for each other.” They flirt, and tease and laugh together. Yes, its love and love is all that matters. They could get married and live happily ever after. It’s a beautiful dream come true, or is it?
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This idea of falling in love is popular, but is it what makes for a fulfilling and lasting marriage? Many who felt so become disillusioned and wind up later in divorce courts. In Bible times and in some Eastern cultures today, parents or a matchmaker arrange their children’s marriage; they have little say about it. In Western cultures, people have the right to choose whom to marry and they live in a much more complex world. With an alarmingly high divorce rate, marital choices today don’t seem very wise. For this reason, many persons are choosing to live together without marriage to see if it works. 
Let’s ask some serious questions and honestly face the facts regarding this issue crucial to us all.

What Does the Bible say about Perspective Marriage Partners?

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The Bible doesn’t give a list of rules about a perspective marriage partner, just one. Christians are to marry within the faith (2 Cor. 6:14-16). But, that one rule includes all that the Bible teaches about how we are to live the faith to please God, be our best selves, and be the best marriage partner. Biblical Christian standards are mountains above what sinful human nature desires. People say, “I love ice cream, or I love my dog, or I love my spouse”. Love, in their thinking, is all about I, I, I, big ME, all about what gives me pleasure. Christian godly love is about self-giving or SELFLESS SERVICE TO OTHERS. God so loved the world that he gave. The New Century Version better conveys the idea of godly self-giving love.
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“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous. It does not brag, and it is not proud. Love is not rude, is not selfish, and does not get upset with others. Love does not count up wrongs that have been done. Love takes no pleasure in evil but rejoices over the truth. Love patiently accepts all things. It always trusts, always hopes, and always endures.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-7.
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The popular belief about love can easily grow cold when the reality of human nature sets in. We all have our faults, limitations and make mistakes. Married couples get divorced with a 20% disapproval rating of their spouse only to find their new partner is 20% at fault as well. The grass looks smooth and green from a distance—seen up close it has weeds and bare spots. Love that is the real thing may not be a sudden “falling in love” but “a growing to love” over time. When we sacrifice ourselves and put others first, they usually tend to respond in kind. Even when we don’t feel loving, doing loving things leads to love.  
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The Bible says that if our spouse dies or is an unbeliever, it’s all right if divorced to marry again. Although God hates divorce and a hard heart, divine love both permits and forgives divorce (Mal. 2:16; Matt. 19:6-9; 1 Cor. 7:15). Christians can and do commit worse sins. I’m divorced and my second wife, also divorced, is a loving godly lady, friend, and one in a million. Thank God.
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There’s no rule that everyone has to marry. Some have the gift of singleness and are free to devote more time to God’s service. But if it’s difficult to be self-controlled, it’s better to marry than be overwhelmed with sexual tension and temptation (1 Cor. 7:7-9). Society blows sex way out of proportion since coitus usually constitutes less than 2% of a young couple’s relationship.

 .                 Where Can I Meet Perspective Marriage Partners?

As in everything, the Christian should seek God’s will regarding a mate. And God promises to guide us when we earnestly trust him and seek to do his will (Ps. 37:4, 23; Prov. 3:5-6; Rom. 12:1-2). So-called fun parties and activities that destroy our minds, bodies, character and get us in trouble such as tobacco, alcohol, drug, and sex parties are taboo for those who want to please the Lord. Never mind being called prudes, unsociable, or extremists, godly living won’t be regretted in later life and at the judgment. Parties among friends we can trust and activities such as bowling, swimming, boating, athletic games, concerts, school seminars, shopping centers, grocery stores, and bookstores can be places to meet others. And the local church where God’s people meet to worship is the most likely place to find persons with Christian faith. Dating services that require listing character traits and interests might work well but are no guarantees.

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To me the idea that there’s only one Mr. /Miss Right for me to marry seems na├»ve and creates unnecessary tension and fear. A lady told me she had three husbands who all died. But they all were good husbands and all were different. Don’t different persons bring out different qualities in us? Don’t we all change somewhat throughout life? Don’t we all have different friends that we like?

.                What Potential Problems Require My Serious Attention

I’m not saying that it can’t or won’t work out well. But some persons are risky, raise red flags, and a relationship with them may not be wise. I advise open careful consideration and honest discussions with them and with others who know their background. A prison record, bad temper,  big debt, a homosexual past, child abuse, alcoholism, drug abuse, multiple marriages, and so on are red flags. Such persons may require long-term psychological counseling and a recent proven track record or lifestyle.
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Wisdom heeds statistical data from decades of research. Persons from similar social classes, economic and social levels, occupations, age groups, race, religious backgrounds, and areas of residence have marriages that are more apt to be happy and lasting,

                                   What Characteristics Suggest a Good Partner

It’s said, opposites attract meaning one partner compensates for weaknesses in the other. This may be true initially but can later frustrate and smother the weaker spouse. For example, a big talker may drown a shy one and make them feel more insecure. Instead, the stronger should “cool it”, support, encourage, and praise the weaker for their efforts. 
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The Bible is clear that God instituted marriage for a man and woman (Gen. 2:24; Matt. 19:6). They are to be “one flesh.” That of course is compatibility, being designed for each other physically and emotionally. While the Bible patriarchs and kings had many wives that was not God’s ideal and it resulted in serious problems. Although laws of that time didn’t prohibit it, the New Testament makes it clear God’s servants are to set an example in having one wife (1 Tim. 3:2, 12). It is to be a covenant relationship like Christ with his church.   
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Compatibility is just good common sense. Our spouse can teach us new and exciting things and we can adjust to differences within limits. But radical divergences can be irritating and make for a bad relationship. Consider some examples: hot natured verses cold natured, outdoorsman v. homebody, free spender v. tight wad, activist v. couch potato, super clean v. disorderly, cultured dresser v. slob, intellectual v. ignorant.  

What Do My Prospective Partner and I Expect of Marriage? 

Commitment to a lasting marriage is imperative. The word divorce should never come up. To enter a marital relationship with the attitude that if it doesn’t work I’ll get a divorce is likely to end in divorce and disillusionment. The words, ‘Do you take this person in sickness and health, for better or worse, in richer or poorer, till death due you part?’ should be taken most seriously. Not just couples, but children and families suffer in divorce. We want and need the security of a trustworthy responsible spouse who will stand by us in hard times that are certain to occur. 
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Persons contemplating marriage naturally expect companionship, mutual support, and sexual expression. But a host of other issues calls for open honest discussion. How about children, how many and when? Can I pursue further education or a certain career? How do you like my family members? Can you accept my physical ailments? Would you be willing for my older widow/er parent to live with us? Is there a special place we want to live? Be honest: Is there something about me you have doubts about or disapprove? It’s better to resolve these issues now if possible than hope they won’t come up later.
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Maybe we can sum perspective Christian mate hunting up in three statements: Christ first in all things, compatibility is vital, and commitments are imperative. Happy hunting.
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