For Valentine’s Day this year, I posted a picture on social media of my husband and I dating and then one of our current family – with kids and grandkids. Accompanying the pictures in the post, I wrote, “Choose wisely Valentines! This (dating pic) could turn into this (current pic) if you are as fortunate as I am!”
But then I got to thinking and that got me to writing.
I feared my quote could be misconstrued. I didn’t just choose my husband, Jack, out of a line up of handsome men and just got lucky with my choice. I did choose him after dating guys who taught me what I didn’t want in a forever valentine – and after lots of prayer.
We were acquaintances first – randomly paired at an event. Then we had lunch. We became friends and it wasn’t long before we realized friendship wasn’t enough. We wanted to spend forever together.
But, love isn’t enough. Really, it isn’t. There were guys I dated who I loved (as best I could understand love at the time) but now I see they would have been all wrong for me. I know the youngsters out there don’t believe me when I say love isn’t enough. That’s okay. I probably wouldn’t have believed an old woman before I had marched on the matrimonial battleground for over 31 years.
If you are willing to listen to a woman who chose wisely, here is my advice.
Family – The family you are creating with the love of your life comes from a family who will influence your future family. Don’t deny the importance of the influence.
Jack and I had only been dating about a month when I went home from college for Thanksgiving with his family. I am from a close-knit, extended family with parents who supported my every endeavor. He grew up without his mom and his dad was sickly so he was left to fend for himself a lot. I was delighted when his sisters, who are 10-20 years older then me, welcomed me into the kitchen and treated me as one of their own – giving me things to chop and dishes to wash – just like my own family would. After just one weekend with his family, I knew his family and I would have a mutual respect and love for one another. We held similar beliefs and values. When Jack went home to meet my family, my family knew he would fit right in and we were a good match. I valued my parent’s opinion and coveted their guidance.
If you are in a relationship and can’t stand the future in-laws, remember those will be your children’s grandparents, aunts and uncles.
Faith – Whether faith is important to you now, life has a way of increasing its importance on the marriage journey. It’s important you share the same faith.
I dated guys who weren’t of the same faith and I shouldn’t have – but some of them were fun and I was young. Most of them feigned interest in my faith. Feigned is the operative word there. I also dated guys of the same faith but we were still not on the same page. Yes, you can both be Christians and be unequally yoked by having differences in doctrine or levels of commitment. Life is hard and it’s important you share the same beliefs and commitment to your faith.
When Jack and I started dating, we were on the same “faith page.” Then life events happened that threatened to cut us off at the knees and Jack went through a time where he didn’t feel the need to attend church. But we had committed to be in community with other believers so he went, regardless of his feelings at the time. I had a time when I wanted to “quit church.” Jack encouraged me not to. If, in those hard times of our lives, either one of us wasn’t fully and equally committed to our faith and beliefs, it would have been really easy to walk away.
Fun – What do you both like to do for fun? Do you have the same interests? Life together is easier when you like being together.
I know that last line sounds intuitive but I’ve been shocked to learn many couples don’t like doing things together. “She does her thing and I do mine” doesn’t work in the long run. You don’t have to do all the same things together but it is helpful if the majority of the things you enjoy doing, you enjoy doing together.
During the friendship period of our relationship, Jack and I quickly learned we had many of the same interests – golf, scuba diving, football, boating, etc. Throughout the years, some of those activities have changed as kids have come along and jobs changed but if you talk to anyone who knows us, they will tell you we like to have fun together. And we choose to be interested in the other one’s interests.
Future – Your future doesn’t just happen. It’s important to talk about all of the “what ifs” and cast vision for what you want your life to look like 10, 20, 30, 60 years down the road. I realize life can throw a wrench in things so it is important you start off with a plan. Do you want children? How many children? Will you both work? Will one of you stay home to raise the kids? Want to live in the city? On a farm?
Don’t marry a guy thinking you can change his mind about having kids. Don’t marry a woman who wants to stay at home and then get mad when she quits her job and you have to give up your country club – or your car.
Marriage is best when it’s working well. It’s really tough when it’s not – so make sure you do all you can to choose wisely. If there is something just not quite right, do not ignore it because when you get married, everything is magnified. The good is better and the bad is worse.
So they are no longer two, but one flesh.
Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate. Matthew 19:6
Give honor to marriage, and remain faithful to one another in marriage. Hebrews 13:4
P.S. Each one of the “F’s” could be a whole post (and maybe they will) but you get the idea.
What about you? Did you choose wisely? If so what helped you make a wise choice? Tell me in the comments.