As an engaged woman, marriage excites me. I look forward to the many incredible years of journeying with my future husband. But the idea of getting married has sparked many thoughts and brought consequent challenges. Some might question one’s readiness to marry being as young as 21 (more discussion on that later). My response to such a challenge has been to look inside and seek for myself the areas that may need ‘preparation’ before I am to commit my heart to someone forever- yes, the commitment is forever!
One thing I certainly have learnt is that there is no such thing as being completely “ready” for marriage. Marriage will throw a whole lot of things at you that you couldn’t possibly prepare yourself for. But what you CAN prepare is your heart and mind to be the best possible you in your season of singleness. After all, what you are bringing to the marriage is YOU– All of you.
Here are some questions that have been extremely helpful on my journey as a woman, and leading up to marriage…
1. Do you Love yourself?
I am not talking about an obnoxious or boastful love of self. I am talking about what you see when you look at yourself. How you describe yourself to others. When you look inside, do you see a beautiful being created in the image of God? Yes, we all have our flaws- none of us are perfect! But, we must learn to love ourselves before we are able to love our spouse.
The standard with which you love yourself will become the measure with which you love your husband or wife.
2. How do you respond to situations of stress or hurt?
Have you ever known someone who you thought was absolutely wonderful, and then been shocked when they responded completely out of character when something in their life went wrong?
The good things we see in others lure us. But it also so significant to assess the downfalls we may have. These make up our character too. Some ways of truthfully discovering where some of these weaknesses are is by stopping to observe our behaviour when we have a season of stress or hardship. Sometimes asking someone we trust to tell us when we act in ways that are not respectful towards others, and ourselves is really important. I have given certain people in my life permission to challenge me on my behaviour and attitudes throughout my life. While it may have been hard to hear at the time, I am so thankful today for the people who have challenged my ‘warts’ because it has enabled me to grow in positive ways and let go of the harmful attitudes that could have been damaging to my future marriage.
As long as this criticism is done out of love, and the person on the receiving end has given that person permission to speak criticism into their lives, this is completely HEALTHY and I believe will absolutely encourage positive growth!
When the honeymoon phase of your relationship is over, your filters for unhelpful attitudes and behaviours are lessened and we begin to unleash the reactions we may have been holding back. It is so important to challenge our response to stress and hurt, so that our future spouse does not become the target of our hurtful reactions.
3. Who are you when nobody is watching?
Going into marriage, your partner needs to be affirmed that they are marrying someone with INTEGRITY. In the same way, you would hope that the person you are marrying is who you think they are!
How do we know if we have integrity? A key question I have asked myself, (in my head of course) is, “would I speak in this way if my partner was present?” or, “would I be behaving this way if my partner was a fly on the wall?” Now, I know we all have our little inside jokes and outrageous craziness when we are surrounded by close friends in safe environments. This is not what I am referring to here. What I mean is that we need to be sure that we are not acting in ways that we would want to HIDE from our significant other. We do not want to depict a certain character, but then be something else when they are not around. Once we enter marriage, we are bound to one another. This covenant means bringing all of ourselves- that means the warts too!
For a woman, knowing the man you are with is truthful and integral in all things brings a deep sense of security. However, in order to enable ourselves to have this trust, we must first ensure that our own characters display integrity.
When a woman knows who she is, she gives her husband permission to be himself in his fullness too. When both a husband and wife are sure of each other’s integrity, the foundation is built on trust and will grow in strength without battling through the unnecessary doubts about the other.
If we want this for our marriages, we must begin pursuing characters of integrity in our own lives, before we make the commitment to get married.
Granted, growing our characters is a journey that does not end when we get married. In fact, it is accelerated because we are hopefully marrying someone who will continue to challenge us to grow and flourish. Asking these questions before we get there (and addressing the things we find out about ourselves) will only make for MORE growth when we reach marriage.