Whether you have someone special in your life right now or not, here are 10 questions to consider when it comes to choosing your future spouse.
Marriage is a big deal.
In fact, with the exception of your relationship with God, it might be the most important, most life-altering, most far-reaching commitment you’ll ever make in your entire life.
But the decision to commit to God through baptism is a little more clear-cut than the decision to get married. The overall question on the table with baptism is, “Are you going to commit to God’s way of life or not?” With marriage, there’s the added wrinkle of sorting out who you should make that commitment with, and how you can be sure he or she is the right person, and what you should be looking for to be sure.
What helps with that process is knowing the right questions to ask—which is why we’ve put together this list of 10 important questions to ask about the person you want to spend the rest of your life with.
Is this a comprehensive list of every question you’ll ever have to consider before marriage? Not by a long shot. But it is a place to start—and if you’re willing to answer these 10 questions honestly, they should leave you with a clearer picture of whether or not you’re on the right track.
1. Does he or she show you love and respect?
That might feel like an obvious question, but it’s easy to mistake mutual attraction for mutual love and respect. Just because you like each other doesn’t mean your relationship is anchored by these two essential qualities, so take some time to really think about it.
Paul told the congregation at Ephesus, “Let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband” (Ephesians 5:33).
We don’t show love and respect by accident. They aren’t things that just happen. To be consistent in these things, we have to be making a daily effort to express them—and to better understand what God says they mean. If the person you want to marry isn’t actively showing you love and respect, then the foundation of your marriage will be crippled from day one.
2. Are you moving toward the same goals?
Amos asked, “Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?” (Amos 3:3). By entering into the marriage covenant with someone, you’re agreeing to walk alongside him or her for the rest of your shared lives.
If you’re each looking toward different destinations in life, your marriage will feel the strain. But if you’re both headed the same direction, working with the same goals in mind and operating by the same values, your relationship will blossom and grow in the process.What do you want out of marriage? What do you want your home life to look like? What are your career goals? If you’re each looking toward different destinations in life, your marriage will feel the strain. But if you’re both headed the same direction, working with the same goals in mind and operating by the same values, your relationship will blossom and grow in the process.
3. How does he or she handle stressful situations?
It’s easy to be the best version of ourselves when life is going well—and in the beginning of a relationship, there will be a lot of easygoing, stress-free moments. It might even seem like things will always be that way—but that’s not how it works. Life will inject stress into your relationship, and it’s important to know how your potential spouse handles it.
Early in our relationship, my (then future) wife and I took a wrong turn during a road trip, which led us to a grid of under-construction city streets. After sunset. In an urban area neither of us had been in before.
It was an eye-opening experience because we both saw how the other handled unexpected stress. We made it out of there alive and (relatively) unscathed, and our budding relationship was stronger because of it.
“He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty,” says the book of Proverbs, “and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city” (Proverbs 16:32). Marriage works better when the people in it know how to rule their spirits when times get tough—because they will get tough.
4. How does he or she treat others?
One of the most important observations you can make about the person you’d like to marry is how he or she treats others—especially the ones who can’t really do anything about it. Cashiers. Waiters and waitresses. Employees. Total strangers. Anonymous users on the Internet. When there’s no repercussion for being rude or unkind, what kind of personality do you see on display?
Proverbs describes the ideal woman as someone who “extends her hand to the poor, yes, she reaches out her hands to the needy” (Proverbs 31:20), and Jesus gave us the Golden Rule: “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them” (Matthew 7:12). Make sure your potential spouse is someone who extends kindness and compassion to others, even when there’s nothing to gain from it.
5. What if nothing ever changes?
What’s the most annoying trait of your potential spouse-to-be?
Got it? Okay. Now, if that trait never changed—if you knew it was going to stay just as annoying and just as consistent for the rest of your human life—would you still want to marry this person?
It’s a dangerous game to go into marriage expecting your partner to change in a specific way. Sure, life is full of change, but for all you know, that specific trait might stay the same forever or even get worse. And if it does, are you going to be okay with that? Or is that a deal breaker? The marriage covenant is a very permanent thing (Matthew 19:9), so it’s important that we don’t bank on change that might never happen.
6. How focused is he or she on self-improvement?
In contrast to the last question, being a Christian means being committed to change. Following God means seeking out where we’re falling short of His expectations and learning how to do better.
One of the qualities any potential spouse should have is the desire to improve as God reveals areas that need work. Make sure you’re looking to enter into marriage with someone who makes the effort to grow as a Christian.
7.a. Women: Is this a man you can follow and support, even when you disagree with him?
Paul wrote an instruction that can be hard to swallow: “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything” (Ephesians 5:22-24).
But there it is. In the marriage relationship, part of the wife’s role is to submit to her husband. Women, that doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to voice your concerns or express your hopes as your husband leads. It doesn’t mean you’re expected to become some kind of mindless slave or you’re expected to submit to things contrary to God’s instruction. But marriage does mean committing to following where your husband leads, even when you think another direction might work better.
Make sure you marry a man you’re not concerned about having to follow.
7.b. Men: Is this a woman whose input you will value and consider, even when you disagree with her?
Paul had something to say to the husbands too: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her” (Ephesians 5:25). It’s that last part that often gets overlooked. Men, our job is to love our wives as Christ loves the Church. That’s a deep kind of love—a love filled with self-sacrifice and unflinching dedication. A husband should make decisions that place higher value on his wife and family than himself.
Even though it’s our responsibility to take the reins of the relationship, we’re not the boss or the dictator. We’re the husband, and we are to give “honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life” (1 Peter 3:7, emphasis added throughout).
Make sure you marry a woman whose thoughts and opinions will help you make better decisions as a leader.
8. What’s his or her relationship with God like?
More tough words from Paul: “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God” (2 Corinthians 6:14-16).
That’s not optional. That’s not a matter of preference. That’s not a suggestion, a hope or a best-case scenario. This goes back to having the same goals. If the person you’re interested in doesn’t believe in God or in living His way of life, how can you expect to walk together?
Or if that belief or that way of life is just something on the back burner, something that gets pushed aside in favor of other things, do you think the command to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18) is going to be easier or harder for you?
Marry someone whose dedication to living God’s way of life inspires you to do a better job in your own life.
9. Is he or she willing to put God before you?
Ah. Now we’re into really difficult territory. This isn’t the picture Hollywood paints when it talks about romance—or all those inspirational quotes on social media, for that matter. The world around us says that true love is finding someone who makes you the focal point of his or her entire universe, who puts you before anything else.
When we lose sight of who should come first in our life, the other areas of our life are bound to come undone in the process.Marriage is a lot of things, but it shouldn’t be that. Not in a million years.
God was serious when He said, “You shall have no other gods before Me” (Exodus 20:3). It wasn’t a joke. Nothing—nothing, not even your cherished wife or husband—is to come between you and your relationship with God (Deuteronomy 13:6-8).
Jesus also emphasized that God is to come first when He spoke His famous words, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33).
When we lose sight of who should come first in our life, the other areas of our life are bound to come undone in the process. “All these things”—all the blessings and benefits of life, which include marriage—come second to God.
If you want a successful marriage, make sure you’re looking for someone who will put God first—and you second.
10. What’s your relationship with God like?
But then, all this assumes one very important point—that God matters to you too. That you’re making the effort to put Him first in your life. That you treat others with compassion. That you’re making the effort to improve and grow as a child of God. Because, well, it’s a two-way street—if you’re asking these questions about the person you want to marry, then hopefully the person you want to marry will be asking these same questions about you.
Whether you’ve had someone in mind as you’ve made your way through this list or you’re still searching for that special someone, one of the best things you can do is to start making sure you can measure up to the questions on this list too. It’s a lifelong project, and there’s always room for each of us to continue improving ourselves—both for our own sake and for our spouse’s.
The book of Proverbs tells us that “he who finds a wife finds a good thing, and obtains favor from the LORD” (Proverbs 18:22), and again, “Houses and riches are an inheritance from fathers, but a prudent wife is from the LORD” (Proverbs 19:14).
Marriage, entered into by the right people and for the right reasons, is an incredible blessing from God, and it’s never too early (or too late) to start preparing for it.
Sidebar: How You Might Be Ruining Your Marriage Before It Even Starts
In many countries, around 50 percent of all marriages end in divorce.
That’s not a great success rate—especially when you consider that no one enters into marriage with the hope that the relationship will end in shambles.
Unfortunately, there are social norms and decisions people make every day that can make nurturing a healthy marriage increasingly difficult. What’s more, some of these can impact your future marriage long before you have a wedding date (or even a spouse) in mind.
If you want a strong marriage, here are two pitfalls to avoid—and why:
Moving in together is so common these days that it almost raises an eyebrow when two people decide not to live together before they get married. Most people look at cohabitation as a way to test-drive a marriage—to see if everything is satisfactory before making a big commitment.
Here’s why that’s a problem:
Marriage isn’t about everything working perfectly. In fact, if there’s one thing you can count on in marriage, it’s things not working perfectly. If you’re cohabiting—if you’re just two people living together, bound by nothing more than a feeling of affection—it’s a lot easier to walk away when things get tough.
Marriage—at least the kind of marriage God intended for us to have—is a binding commitment between two people. It’s an agreement that when things get difficult, the husband and the wife will put in the effort to make things work.
You can’t test-drive that kind of commitment.
More than that, God designed the sexual union to exist between a husband and wife exclusively. The Bible says, “Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge” (Hebrews 13:4). Sex serves as a powerful bond between husband and wife—but the more potential marriages you try and test-drive, the more diluted that bond will be when you finally say, “I do.”
This one umbrella covers a lot of territory. Yes, we’re talking about outright pornography here, but also anything that uses the idea of sex as a selling point or in a provocative way. That includes everything from sex scenes in popular movies to advertisements that want you to focus less on the product and more on the attractive model displaying it.
Understand that the world is selling you a false (and largely impossible) concept of what sex is and how it works. The more you let that imagery in—the more you believe what the world tells you about how sex should look—the more disappointed and frustrated you’ll be when your own marriage fails to live up to those impossible expectations.
Sex is a fantastic, awesome gift designed by God to bolster and enhance a marriage, which is why Satan is eager to cheapen and trivialize it. You don’t have to be married to negatively impact your future marriage—but the good news is, the opposite is also true. You don’t have to be married to set your future marriage up for success. Making good decisions now—and avoiding the bad ones—can make all the difference later.