By Amanda Idleman, Crosswalk.com
Everyone’s journey that leads up to saying “I do” is different. Some of us meet and marry young, others experience relationship losses that eventually lead us to the one we commit to, and others spend much of their lives single before deciding to marry.
Though each story may be different, there are some things anyone who is hoping to marry can do to ready their hearts for a relationship that was designed to last a lifetime.
Marriage is a gift but it also holds up a mirror to your own character in a way that can be challenging. Being ready to lay down some of yourself to better love another is an important part of readying your heart for marriage.
The Bible does have a lot to say about preparing for marriage. Although we won't include every Bible verse below, we'll include a sampling of what Scripture says about this:
1 Corinthians 13:4-7: "Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things."
Ephesians 5:23-33: "For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish."
Here are 10 ways you can prepare yourself now for marriage:
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1. Preparing for Marriage: Begin Praying for Your Future Partner
Marriage was held in very high esteem in my home growing up. I am fortunate to come from a line of people who have remained faithful to their marriage vows over their lives, and consequently from a young age, my parents began talking about the man I would marry.
My young, hopelessly romantic, and enthusiastically Christian self, set out to pray for my husband on a daily basis. At thirteen, I would walk around my neighborhood praying for his well-being, protection, and salvation, and that God would bring us together when the time was right.
This prayer time helped keep a more healthy perspective when it came to romantic relationships. Even at the young age of thirteen, I knew that dating wasn’t so much about me having fun (even though it was) but giving my heart to someone else was a big, holy affair.
Jesus was in the mix for my every high school crush and he protected me from my more rash, desperate-for-attention teenage self.
2. Approach Your Dating Life as a Holy Affair
At a young age, I determined that I would not date anyone for more than a year without feeling strongly that I could spend my life with them. God placed it on my heart not to “waste time” with anyone that I wasn’t willing to spend a lifetime with.
This was just the standard I set for myself, and it is not a formula for success, but the idea that every dating relationship matters is key to being ready for big-time commitment.
Seeing people as things you can use for fun, enjoyment, pleasure, flings, or a place to “sow wild oats” sets a dangerous precedent for how you see those you romantically invest in.
Dating is a holy affair; it’s the place we practice married life.
Treating the people you are willing to allow into your bedroom or heart as commodities really undermines your ability to treat every person as those “fearfully made” by God. It also is easy to see our future spouses as dispensable when we have taken up the practice as seeing others as ways to bring ourselves joy, rather than ones we are made to serve.
The foundation of a strong marriage is mutual service and a willingness to sacrificially love one another.
3. Practice Being a Great Friend
When you are choosing who you want to marry you are essentially choosing who you want to be your best friend forever. Strong marriage is built on a strong friendship that is only enhanced by romance and intimacy… not the other way around.
My brother and his wife shared their first kiss on their wedding day (yes, I know they are amazing)! They made this commitment because they knew that what was going to ensure their marriage was going to be successful wasn’t chemistry or amazing sexual encounters but it was a strong friendship.
They wanted to focus on building that bond before entering into a physical relationship. They are two kids in and their marriage is still thriving because through all the challenges of having young kids they knew how to stay friends in the midst of life’s harder seasons.
What does it look like to be a good friend? You have to be willing to listen, to share experiences, to be there when your friend needs you, and you have to be committed to stay friends.
Practice being a good friend and choosing good friends so you have the chance to know what it feels like to be a part of a healthy and committed relationship.
4. Preparing for Marriage: Learn Yourself While You Are Waiting
I got married really young… which has been such a great adventure for me. There are many different sets of advice out there on when is the ideal age to marry.
Most of our culture has trended towards marrying a bit older. All I know is my own experience, which was saying “I do” before I was allowed to legally drink.
One of the harder parts of marrying young is how both my husband and I have changed over the past 13 years. I expect that if you marry closer to 30 you still experience a lot of change but I think you really grow into yourself over your 20’s in a more dramatic way than other seasons of your life. If you are in a season of waiting, I encourage you to learn yourself.
Challenge your default ways of thinking, flush out what your hopes and dreams are for the future, push yourself to face some of these quiet demons, and bring that awareness of both the good and the bad of who you are into your relationship.
Having a solid sense of who you are can help you paint a more honest picture of who you are when you are ready to commit. It also can help you grow more quickly when who you are no longer works for who you want to be.
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5. Live Life Fully Now
Marriage is not the start of life! Single people are fully alive and have the gift of time that allows them to dive more fully into their passions.
It can be easy to see adulthood as a set of “checks” you are just waiting to tick off your list. We can adopt the mindset that life doesn’t really begin until I reach this goal. Your life matters now and you don’t have to hold back on pursuing God or your goals just because you aren’t married.
I am going to share a little secret with you… there is a point in time after you check off those boxes in which you have to once again reinvent who you are.
It’s easy to find comfort in titles such as wife, mother, husband, etc. After you have become a wife, had the kids, and you are in the middle you have to again decide what is it that you are living for.
Those milestones are beautiful stages but they aren’t you.
Don’t wait to start being you, knowing what you are about, and living purposefully now. Don’t wait for a certain milestone to come your way to find your identity.
Begin that work of self-discovery and maybe avoid being the story I just heard yesterday about a middle aged woman with four kids that has left her family to “find herself.” Family life is not easy and having a sense of inner strength for what lies ahead is a gift to your future family.
6. Take Notes on Others Marriages
Start taking notes on the kind of marriage you want to have now. Pay attention to the traps, the strengths, and the stories that others around you a little ahead of you are writing. If your parents have an amazing marriage that you want to emulate, then keep them in mind when you start building your own relationships.
If your parents struggled, find others who can mentor you so you can have a better idea of what a healthy marriage looks like.
It’s hard to build something without knowing what you are working towards. You need a plan, the right foundations, and guides to properly build a life together.
Look to others, study what the Bible tells us about marriage, and let these nuggets of wisdom guide your steps.
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7. Practice Celibacy
While sex isn’t everything, it is something. There is a bit of mystery around the act that makes it hard to pinpoint what about it is so significant.
God did create sex to symbolize the union of a man and a woman (Genesis 2:23-24). We see later in the New Testament (1 Corinthians 7:2) that sex is reserved for marriage between a man and a woman. Sex was designed to bring two people together and seal a bond that should last for life.
The Bible clearly tells us that God did set sex aside as a significant act of love and commitment meant only for married life. As Christ-followers, we are prompted to commit to waiting it out until the big day. We have to trust God, knowing that He created sex with your life-changing union in mind.
Since we know it means something to Him, as people in His family, we should take the attitude that says, “If it means something to Him it should mean something to us.”
We follow a mysterious God, and He asks His people to trust and believe that He has your very best in mind. As believers, we are called to give over our sexual desire to the Lord and follow His plan.
Just as God throughout the Bible instructs His people is so many other ways (see the entire book of Proverbs). His instruction around sex is Him seeing the big picture of our lives and trying to push us toward the best this life has to offer.
8. Preparing for Marriage: Choose Your Partner Wisely
There is no way to know everything you need to know about a person before you get married. The story of who a person is continues to unfold over the course of your lifetime. Sometimes that means people face challenges that they never could have predicted, and God’s grace is sufficient for those moments.
That being said, having an idea of the kind of person you are looking for can help stop you from kissing from frogs and save you a lot of heartache in the long run. Looking for someone that lives with the fruits of the spirit evident in their actions is a great place to start.
Observing how they treat those closest to them can indicate the kind of partner they will be in the long haul.
Knowing which things are foundational to who you are and the kind of home you hope to have can help you know if you really are going to be compatible in the long haul.
Being attractive, a good kisser, or even successful can mean a lot less than you would have thought when you later are making decisions about how to raise your kids or where to go to church.
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9. Learn to Guard Your Heart and Mind
Our culture is continuously shouting out at us what joy, love, and sexuality should look like. The culture's picture of what these things are has nothing to do with what God shares in his word what his best design for our lives looks like. We have to learn how to guard our hearts against the lies that want to distract us from God’s best.
The pressure is high on singles to embody a certain sense of freedom, emotional carelessness, and lack of boundaries. No one in our culture really expects anything different from young singles except for God and those that follow the instructions of the Bible.
The struggle to strive to see yourself as valuable and worth a pure, committed, and lasting relationship is real.
Fill yourself with the truth of the Bible, with a community that believes your biblical lifestyle matters, and be careful not to place yourself in situations where you may be tempted to compromise on your ideals.
10. Journal about Your Journey
This idea may only resonate with the romantics, but journaling is a great way to capture the moment. There are so many highs and lows we encounter that time seems to sweep away from our memories.
Give the one you will one day spend your life with a peek into this season through your words. I had a box of letters I kept for my husband that I was able to give him as a wedding gift.
They included prayers, hopes, struggles, and promises that I had made long before we met. It was another way to let him know where I had come from.
Psalm 27:13-14 (ESV) says, “I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living! Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!”
Wherever you are in your journey, God wants you to experience his goodness in the here and now. The waiting can be hard, but God is present in every season of our lives. Ask God to open your eyes to how his goodness is at work in your life in this season, and ask him to work in your life strategically to prepare you for whatever comes next.
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