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As I made a batch of banana chocolate chip cookies a few nights ago, I started thinking about all the ways I can use my state of singleness to prepare for my future marriage.
There are different skills men and women bring to marriage. Relational skills add depth and speak volumes into marriages that practical skills cannot. And there are different aspects of character each need to work on in order to make marriage successful.
Men are expected to be spiritual leaders and should therefore make cultivating an attitude of spiritual leadership a priority. A husband’s job is to love his wife as Christ loves the church, and he does this through servant leadership. His duty is to ensure his decisions reflect his wife’s best interests and not his own selfish desires. This means he must learn to consider his wife’s input as much as his own.
Wives must learn to submit to their husbands as to the Lord. This means respecting any decisions he makes and encouraging him in faith. Wives should encourage their husbands to be active — not passive — leaders by honoring their leadership and forsaking any desire to usurp it. Women must also learn to think of their husbands before themselves and cultivate an attitude of helpfulness.
Marriage itself cultivates many of the attitudes required for a successful union as it refines our character to be more Christlike, but there are things we can do now to help prepare us for that giant commitment we'll make someday.
The most important thing we can do for our future spouse is grow daily in Christ. We need to become people of Scripture and of prayer. In doing so, we will gain priceless wisdom and strength. With Christ as our solid foundation, we will be able to love and encourage our spouse in a selfless way.
For our future marriage to reflect Christ and His love for the church, we need to practice loving others with a 1 Corinthians 13 kind of love. We need to cultivate attributes of patience, kindness and humility. We must learn how to put others before ourselves. We need to practice forgiveness daily and recognize that marriage is a lifelong union between two sinners.
For me, a big part of preparing myself for marriage is looking at my mom as an example of a godly wife and mother. There are practical skills I’ve learned from her over the years about managing a household, but I’ve also learned something by observing her character. She is always thinking of other people and their needs above her own.
She recognizes my dad as the head of the household. He asks for and considers her input, but ultimately, he makes the final decisions. My parents set an example for me of what it looks like to have a successful complementarian partnership in marriage where the husband is the head and the wife the helper.
What characteristics of husbands and wives do you think are crucial to a successful marriage? Share some things you are doing in your life now to prepare for marriage later.
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--I fear this may be start of another Gender War thread, with an additional Mommy War to boot.
--Perhaps the most important thing a single person can do with his/her time is to develop a strong set of convictions/ a firm worldview. Especially for homeschooled children (I am one), it's easy to either simply follow your parent's convictions or to break away from them without deep thought/prayer. The longer I am single, the more I begin to wrestle with what I, personally see in scripture. I also have learned to handle conflict/confrontation more biblically/healthily, and learned to crave others' approval less.
--Mike, you're not alone in your fear.
You know what is crucial to the success of your marriage? Learning to listen to and really communicate with people. Learning to stand your ground when you are right and humbly acquise when you are not. Learning to respect others and consider their happiness more important than your own.
Start there and you'll grow every relationship in your life.
--I agree with Mrs.AshleyTOF....the best thing one can do is to maintain a growing relationship with God. Being single is single, being married is being married....apples to oranges.
Also submitting and respect is crucial, however, learning to stand your ground especially if it is in the best interests of your children which are innocent and have no choice but to bear consequences of parent's actions is not disrespecting your husband nor being rebellious.
I think we need more blog posts about healthy communication and healthy respect vs. leadership and submission. Submission is NOT bad, however, there is more to it then being a doormat.
--"What characteristics of husbands and wives do you think are crucial to a successful marriage?"
Not being complementarian. :-) Not really, I'm sure there are some great ones out there. But a key aspect of my own marriage is that we are equals and don't conform to your standard gender roles (ie, we both take care of the kids, both cook dinner, etc.).
I will try to leave my comments on this thread at that.....
--"The most important thing we can do for our future spouse is grow daily in Christ."
The problem with this and some of the other advice in this post is that growing daily in Christ is *not* something we do for our future spouse, it is something we do for Christ. Cultivating my relationship with God, studying scripture and spending time in prayer aren't things I do to prepare for marriage. They will benefit my future (as yet hypothetical) marriage of course, but to do them for that reason is fundamentally *wrong*. I like a lot of your thoughts Amy, but for me this one goes beyond 'marriage is good' into 'marriage is the focus of our lives' territory. I'm certain you didn't mean it that way and that you don't think that way, but communicating these ideas in the way you have here is confusing and puts the emphasis in the wrong place, I think.
"-I fear this may be start of another Gender War thread, with an additional Mommy War to boot."
Likewise. Popcorn, anybody?
--I don't want to nitpick words or phrases... i'll just stick to the closing question. Not being married, I can only assume it's the things commonly cited - being on the same page with religion, finances, and children. So, communication is key... and since we're speaking as Christians - a healthy faith, along with compatible theology.
Personally my goals are to stay in shape spiritually and physically, and keep my finances in order as best I can. Safe to say I'm pretty flawed... and I'll never arrive to the point where I think things are "good enough." I think as long as the other person is headed in the same direction, that's good enough for me.
--The ability to do what needs to be done when it needs to be done instead of expecting someone else to take care of it for you is incredibly important for life, not just marriage. Nothing derails a relationship faster than assuming that someone else will do everything for you.
--Great article! I love how the main theme/focus of this article is growing in Christ - serving, loving, encouraging - basically, emulating HIs life by pouring into those around us. Good stuff!
--I Think Dborchers and JosieJo are both; growing more Christlike together is a great foundation for a marriage to be built on, and it will absolutely make your marraige better and stronger -- BUT in order for you to grow together you first have to make the personal commitment to grow to be more Christlike as an individual. :) The focus of growing your relationship with God isn't to grow your marriage or better prepare you for it -- There are plenty of "unholy" people who get married, after all (all of us, in fact!) :P
I think the idea that marriage is some kind of reward for pious living is something that the Church has gotten all wrong. BUT! I also think there are things you absolutely can do to "prepare" for marriage and grow your other relationships in the meantime.
I loved that my church back home kept all its bible studies open to any interested party. As a single, I attended a bible study on the 5 love languages -- and I worked on them in my relationships with my friends, roomates and especially my family of origin. Learning patience, love and forgiveness in those contexts helped me to become the kind of person who knows how to extend patience, love and forgiveness to a spouse, and also (very importantly) how to recieve love in a way that might not neccessarily be "natural" for me. In the meantime, it also vastly improved my relationships with people around me and generally made my life better.
I think sometimes we get this idea that preparation for marriage can ONLY impact your marriage -- so we (especially as women) start trying to "learn to be domestic" so we can pull in a husband who values those qualities. But why can't we learn to "be domestic" so we can be a wonderful hostess and invite people over for a home cooked meal, or learn how to sew and donate quilts to charity, or learn crochet and make baby blankets for new moms?
I think if we take the emphasis off of "Growth for marriage" which is not guaranteed, and instead place it on "Overall personal growth" which is attainable for everyone in every walk of life, we're a lot better off, and we're limiting ourself much less.
For example, what if weight training, which you do because you enjoy it, is actually preparing you for marriage to someone who also enjoys physical activity? What if learning to cook, because you like being in the kitchen is preparing you to be married to a woman who also loves food? What if just being kind enough to wash the dishes after dinner as a guest is building in you the kind of servant heart that someone else will someday appreciate? We get stuck in this mindset of "This is women's work" or "This is the man's role" and we stamp out room for ALL KINDS of growth. I think, too, it's really hard to understand and implement "godly submission" on the single side of the altar, and the relationship that has with the superceding command to "submit to one another in love."
That is, namely, submission does not always mean passively going along with the "leader." Real submission is engaging as an active follower and taking responsibility for those areas where _you_ are equipped to lead. We see that modeled very clearly throughout scripture -- but recent bible scholars have fed us the lie of the 1950s stepford wife as the only model for godly femininity. To me, it is much more inspiring to pick up a copy of Little House on the Prairie, or browse through a history book and take a look at how tough and strong the women needed to be to support their families -- but were still gentle, warm and kind enough to be feminine. To me, that is the model of Godly femininity I want to achieve. Men are humans -- as we women sometimes need to be reminded -- and a "helpmeet" is not a crutch, willessly enabling them to limp down the wrong path. We throw out strong works like "forsaking any desire to ursurp" and we begin the process of cementing in the minds of the young and unwed that they can either live in overshadowed servitude or out-and-out rebellion -- but that's just not the way live is.
Submission, for both husband and wife is a daily process, a willfull decision. It is the direct result of the kind of love and respect that makes a marriage work. I think sometimes we flub up (especially as women) by making submission the goal, rather than the byproduct of a healthy marriage. Likewise, in a healthy marriage with love and respect in appropriate amounts and collaborative teamwork, the man should be able to identify as the "team captain" of the home without being "harried" or "browbeaten" or "whipped". :P I submit to my husband not because it is my "role" to do so, but rather out of a mutual sense of love, respect and admiration for him. It is a natural result of our good relationship.
When thinks start to get out of whack, someone feels unloved or disrespected or taken for granted or undervalued, those "roles" get wonky. We mess up, I think, when we start trying to fix the "role" and not the problem. The problem often isn't, for example that my husband simply "won't lead" it's that I am impatient, or don't fully understand the situation. So I need to work on my patience and we'll get back to where we need to be. Likewise, the problem is rarely that I "won't submit," rather, I see something in the situation that has simply passed Mr. A(tof) completely by that he needs to have his attention redirected to. So he needs to work on listening to what my observations are and take them into consideration.
Marriage is not a Boss-Employee relationship or even a Coach-and-Teammember relationship, it is two people working together to live life to the fullest.
--I agree with Amy's example: one of the best preparations for marriage was seeing my parents do marriage excellently. I have good conflict resolution skills because I saw how they handled conflict; I interact a lot with my spouse based on the way I saw my parents interact - and I thought that their example was everything I wanted in my marriage. Also have to credit some extracurricular interest groups and leadership positions - they allow me to see the marriage as an 'institution' rather like a two-person business and to step back from it and say: "Let's talk about the issues for awhile, as a matter of practical decision-making and not as two emotionally-laden persons." Being in control of my temper and able to hold my tongue (but yet know when to speak) have helped me the most so far.
Excellent point. I can only speak from personal experience, but many of the qualities that I value in myself were developed solely for myself. I was hungry, so I learned to cook. My clothes were wrinkled, so I learned to iron them. My tire was flat, so I learned to change it. My roommate and I had a fight, so I learned how to resolve it. The list goes on and on.
Even if I never get married or no woman finds those skills attractive, I'm never going to regret developing them.
I also highly doubt that a woman stranded on the side of the road with a flat tire in a new state at 3 am is going to think to herself as she changes her tire, "Ugh. I can't believe I've known how to do this for three years, and it still hasn't landed me a husband!"
--Commitment to making it work. Not running when things are hard. Perseverance. You know, things American culture, educational system, and government denigrate and prevent people from developing.
--Banana chocolate chip cookies? hmmm.weird.
I agree with the post arguing against gender "jobs" like a woman's job is to cook, clean, etc and a man's job is to work on the car. One of the things that I've noticed about some of my friends that married relatively early is a lack of knowledge in some skills outside their "job" range, like a gal who didn't know how to check her oil because her husband always did it, or a husband who has no idea how to cook because his wife always cooks the meals. I don't really think that's attractive in the slightest, so I would say it's best for people (married or not) to be constantly trying to learn new things and expand your skills. Or at least just watch some youtube videos and then try it. :P
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