While Christian dating apps and websites have made it easier to find a possible partner for marriage, religious leaders point out that singles are not preparing enough for this vocation.
Controversial Christian author and evangelical pastor Mark Driscoll pointed out that young people are often misled to believe that marriage comes at a particular age or time. Driscoll cited the marriage of Rebekah and Isaac, who was in his late thirties when he was wed. The pastor debunked the myth that maturity and wisdom automatically come as one ages in the same way that wounds heal in time.
"So how many of you have been talking and you're like, well, you shouldn't get married young. It's better if you get married older, because then you can mature. How many of you have seen people in their twenties and they're not mature?" Driscoll said.
"The point is this. It's not how old you are but how prepared you are for marriage," he stressed.
Driscoll's statements echoed Pope Francis' who stressed during the recently concluded World Meeting Of Families the need for more preparation among couples desiring to be married. The pontiff's call comes in the light of a draft text released by Vatican's Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life last June 15.
The document includes the Pope's introduction on the emerging serious concern of preparing couples for marriage because current preparations are "too superficial" leading to the risk of annulments or separation.
The Pillar highlighted that marriage among Catholics has decreased by 26% in the last 12 years. The case is similarly true in the United States where almost 50% of first marriages end in divorce within 20 years as per a 2012 National Health Statistics Report, of which 25% are Catholics.
So how does one prepare for marriage? Here are some tips to begin with:
1. Learn To Sacrifice First
Mark Ballenger, in a 2018 video on "How To Get Ready For Marriage In Christian Singleness," amplified the value of learning to make sacrifices while one is single. He stressed that a healthy Christian marriage is the result of the choices one makes while one is still single, citing Galatians 6:7. Ballenger, a Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary Pastoral Counseling Master's Degree holder, is a renowned Christian YouTuber and author.
Ballenger said that the Bible speaks of short-term sacrifices often leading to long-term rewards while quick pleasures "usually lead to long-term problems."
As previously reported, the need to learn to sacrifice during the marriage is highlighted by Harvest Christian Fellowship Women's Ministry Director Cathe Laurie in a Charisma Magazine article. Laurie stressed that nobody really arrives ready for marriage, which entails a lot of adjustments.
"For a marriage to grow strong and healthy, each person has to change to meet the other's needs," Laurie said.
2. Understand The Value Of Practicing Chastity
The practice of chastity has been stressed repeatedly by Christian leaders over time as a very important key for the success of one's marriage. Driscoll pointed to a recent Institute For Family Studies report that showed divorce rates are higher for couples who cohabited prior to marriage than those who didn't because of their religious upbringing. The study stressed "that religion fosters relationship stability by pushing young adults away from cohabitation, which is highly unstable, and towards marriage, which is much more stable."
"If you want to have the lowest divorce rates," Driscoll underscored, "don't live or sleep together until you're married."
3. Strive To Build A Godly Character
Christian marriage blogger Sheila Wray Gregoire in "7 Things You Must Do To Prepare For A Great Marriage" emphasized that a good marriage boils down to character. Gregoire stressed that a person who loves God and has a good character will "work on through pretty much anything."
This, she stressed, is contrary to someone who has a weak character, which is prone to result in "some major problems." Being aware of the character of one's partner as either good or bad comes in time, especially if one is equipped to identify what red flags to watch out for.
"Preparing for marriage, then, is largely about two things: making sure his character is good, and making sure you work together in the day-to-day," Gregoire said.
Gregoire explained that working together entails doing life together and pursuing God together. This includes volunteering together, blending families, blending money, and choosing a mentor coach. The only thing she discourages Christian singles from doing before marriage is "making out," which will weaken their emotional and spiritual intimacy in the long run.
According to Gregoire, faith is an important element in a couple's relationship because God becomes a common ground to sort things out when conflicts arise. She highlighted that the saddest emails she receives from women are those whose partners are not Christians and who exhibit red flags such as addictions in the form of pornography and alcoholism.
The character red flags Gregoire mentioned are playing video games all the time, never having a hobby he or she wants to do together, and he or she requires alcohol to relax. The blogger identifies never talking about God outside the church, having no interest in prayer, never reading the Bible, and having no opinion about God as red flags on the matter of faith.
Ballenger affirms these red flags when he stressed that Christians should have a consistent devotional time including reading the Bible daily, praying daily, and going to church frequently. He said this is the utmost and basic means for a Christian to prepare for marriage. He explained that these are difficult and require discipline. A lack of commitment, he pointed out, often leads to problems, that would be devastating in marriage.
Other red flags Gregoire identified are having no interest in helping others, no interest in knowing family or relatives, avoiding talking about debts, doesn't like budgeting, and, most importantly, insisting on having sex.
Gregoire concluded that feelings should never be the guide of one's decision for marriage but in one's readiness for and in one's discernment of one's partner as the right person from God.