Know your issues...

I’ve been asked a number of times how I knew that Christine was the right one to marry. I’ve really struggled to put it into words until last night. I was watching a sermon and it suddenly dawned on me that you should marry someone you agree with. I think this is good advice not just for Christians but in relationships more widely. Many Christian guys I know have a list of things in their head it goes something like this; Is she Christian? Is she hot? Is she single? Sometimes in reverse order.

I’m not trying to critique this particular view but I would like to add an element to it. Marry someone you agree with. I’m not saying you need to agree with absolutely everything (that would make life boring). What I am saying is it’s not as simple as just marrying another Christian… “Ok are we both Christians? Yep. Let’s go for it.”

Everyone has “issues” both theological and otherwise. This could include the type of church you attend, the style of worship you enjoy, whether you think the wife should stay at home with the kids, right down to whether you leave the toilet seat up and where jam is stored (cupboard or fridge).

All of these things are “issues”. To marry right you must know your issues. More importantly know which ones you can let go and which ones you can’t. If you are passionate about the toilet seat but don’t care if your wife is the breadwinner then bully for you. But know which issues you have to hold to and which ones you can let go. One of the biggest mistakes I made in my relationships was to think that I didn’t have any issues. I thought that I was godly enough just to let things go. I wasn’t and I learned the hard way.

So if you are dating (or thinking of it) let me ask you some questions. What are your issues? What things can you flex on and which one’s can’t you flex on? Here was my list of non flexible theological issues in order of importance.

  • Christian?
  • Passionate about ministry and involved in church?
  • Strong theology of the roles of men and women in the church and home?
  • Calvinist?
  • Theology of spirits work in believers*?
* What I mean here is I potentially couldn’t marry someone who had a Pentecostal view of the second baptism of the Spirit.



JK said... 3/09/2009 1:08 pm  

I like this post pal. I remember Mark saying this in that talk you watched,Very helpful.


mike said... 3/09/2009 1:13 pm  

Thanks man. I'm thinking about a follow up post with some more personal reflections on "issues".

mark said... 3/09/2009 1:59 pm  

YES! I fully agree! Carmen and I grew together instead of apart because we knew what we thought about so many things, and had the same mind about them. Can't have too much unity without united minds.

Bron said... 3/09/2009 3:44 pm  

Or get married really young ;)

Jokes aside, I appreciate the post. I do think though that people can change. Perhaps it's the real foundational things that are most important. This comes out in particular issues.

Erica said... 3/09/2009 8:19 pm  

Thanks Mike, that was really helpful. It is always useful to learn from the mistakes of others, rather than having to learn from your own! Look forward to further thoughts on the subject :)

Happy 3 weeks of being a dad!

The Pook said... 3/10/2009 12:58 am  

I think this is good advice at the level of human wisdom, and as secondary or complementary to primary Christian principles. But it is still operating fundamentally on the Western Romantic model which puts "compatibility" as the number one criterion for a successful marriage. I'd want to challenge that model. Why is it that arranged marriages statistically work just as well or better than those where the marriage partners have married on the basis of compatibility? The ideal marriage is where love is based on commitment, not commitment on love.

Also, what kind of basis for success is 'thinking alike' when you can't guarantee that your thinking will remain the same? Do you still think the same way you did ten years ago? Or twenty? There's good reason for the traditional Christian marriage vows to say "for better for worse, richer for poorer, in sickness and in health..." We promise to love no matter what changes may come. It is that commitment before the Lord, and in His strength, that is the most important thing.

Jono said... 3/10/2009 6:03 am  

Pooky (Or Greg? The only Scotsdale preacher i know!)

I kinda disagree... The subject was how do you know if you should marry him/her. I don't think general 'commitment' is necessary to work that out because you can commit to anyone... commitment is needed after you've made the decision!

Statistics can be used in a lot of ways... I had a guy tell me he didn't 'believe' in marriage anymore because more than 50% of marriages end up in divorce? does that mean that marriage doesn't work?

Don't get me wrong, I reckon commitment is important - but when I'm going to marry someone I'll first love the other person (In a western romantic way!) work through all the 'issues' - then commit to it on the wedding day!

The Pook said... 3/10/2009 10:08 am  

Hello Jono. You said "because you can commit to anyone... commitment is needed after you've made the decision!" That's my point. As J.R.R. Tolkien said to his son in one of his letters, your real soulmate is the one you are actually married to, regardless of anything else. You can commit to anyone. WHO you marry is not the prime determinant of whether the marriage can be successful. Yes there are some things that can make it easier or harder for you, and maybe thinking alike is one of them. But if you are married to someone, you can be sure they are the right person for you.

Bron said... 3/10/2009 1:52 pm  

Picking up on what The Pook said in relation to change and how do you know you'll be the same in many years time... I guess that's what I was getting at when I mentioned foundational beliefs. I reckon stuff like,

- mutual commitment to following God
- commitment to working things out
- God's word as the ultimate authority
- commitment to growing in godliness
- desire to do what's right and to work for what is truly good

I guess these things could all be summed up as a mutual commitment to God and each other. It affects the way you see the relationship, it affects the way you deal with issues, it's just so foundational.

These things will probably work out in similar ways when it comes to "issues", so it's definitely wise to look at your issues. But I think it's important to keep going on to the foundations (I'm not saying you weren't suggesting that btw Jolly)

I guess when people say you should marry someone who is a Christian this stuff is assumed... but I think it's important to spell out that God needs to be the foundation of your relationship.

Astrid said... 3/10/2009 4:29 pm  

Pook - the reason for that statistic could be that in situations where arranged marriages occur there is more of a cultural push to make in work than in the current western culture. I don't know how you could remove that varible.

But moving on thats all quite good it reminds me of a study that mark driscoll quoted about lastibility and happiness in marriage amougst evagelicals but it worked if you were of same denomination or something.

I think that agreeing and having to work towards something is certainly very important but I think there are other factors that are also important.

Claire :) said... 3/11/2009 1:22 pm  

I think I generally agree with The Pook's comments. I think you can make something work if you're determined. Not just marriage but all aspects of life, including employment and education. That doesn't mean you *should* marry just anyone, on the contrary. Just that you don't need to have everything in common. Even religion, presumably. I think it helps dramatically if you DO, but there has to be a reason why so many happily married oldies are around while only (typically) the wife is at all devoted and attends church. Their marriages evidently worked fine despite disagreements on the importance of church. I'm sure you could make arguments about how much more effective she could have been if her husband had been in it with her, but nevertheless, conflicting ideas/beliefs need not make for an unworkable marriage.

Anyway, just to be flippant, one of my inflexibles is peg colours. I HATE having white clothes hung from coloured pegs and blue things hung with red pegs etc. I just wish one could buy black pegs!!

The Pook said... 3/11/2009 4:47 pm  

...there's always wooden ones Claire.

Marriage is a creation ordinance, not a Christian one, so what Claire says is true - mixed marriages can last. Nevertheless, a Christian should never choose to marry an unbeliever. But that's another subject.

Astrid said... 3/11/2009 6:22 pm  

the comment about the pegs made me laugh

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