By Dr. Audrey Davidheiser, Crosswalk.com
Have you found the one your heart loves (Song of Solomon 3:4)? Wonderful! Let me be the first to remind you of a God-given gift you may not realize you’d need: time. In other words? Lay a thorough foundation. Don’t rush into marriage.
Perhaps you disagree. “Once you know, you know. Why wait?” Good question. There’s a sweet spot between rushing toward matrimony and delaying the ceremony. If you can step into marriage after an unhurried preparation time, you’ve settled on the happy medium. What does this mean, though? Experts recommend one to two years of getting to know one another before launching into marriage—because not every couple should tie the knot. Still, the point isn’t to abide by some strict rule; it’s to give yourself plenty of room to assess your relationship before making things permanent.
Paul instructed us in Romans 12:18, “if it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” A way to interpret this verse is to station solid safeguards against divorce. So, employ time as one of your security guards. Evaluate your potential mate thoroughly and objectively so you can decide whether a wedding is even advisable.
Here are six reasons why rushing into marriage is unwise.
1. Discerning God’s Will Takes Time
Your lover may check every box in your spouse wish list, but does the Lord ordain them to be yours forever? The Lord’s involvement is paramount for building a house (Psalm 127:1). Why wouldn’t the same be true about building a home?
The problem is that seeking God’s will can be tricky for romance or marriage. Was it God who put the two of you together? Or is it your soul that attracts you to this infatuation? The human soul is a wondrous creation, vast enough to cradle both the conscious and unconscious mind. Beware, however—what’s unconscious exerts immense influence over our choices, as Carl Jung once observed: “Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”
Christians might dub it God’s will instead of fate, but you get the point.
2. Haste Isn’t of the Lord
Have you felt impressed by how hasty the Lord is? Me neither. What stands out from God, both from the testimony of Scripture and personal experience, is His steadfast ability to be oh so longsuffering (Exodus 34:6, Romans 2:4, Romans 9:22).
Even when we scream for His immediate intervention. But if it’s not in His nature to rush, and if He doesn’t hurry anyone to do anything, then who is rushing you to marry?
The truth is if it’s God’s will today, it will be His will tomorrow. He understands your responsibility to take the time and ascertain if marrying that amazing child of His is the right thing to do.
3. Maturity Matters
In his book, Dr. John van Epp cited statistics stating couples who marry for the first time after 28 have the lowest divorce rate. Indeed, studies show that couples who marry before the age of 22 have a much higher divorce rate than those who marry at an older age. Makes sense. Before creating our own family, we need to learn to establish our autonomy first.
Marrying too young can mean leaving your family without the chance to mature, such as by taking intentional steps to identify and fix leftover childhood problems. Rarely (if ever) do these mental and emotional issues resolve themselves. Without bringing awareness and healing to said issues, what’s more likely is that you’d unknowingly transfer them—including dysfunctional ways of relating—to your new marriage.
4. Who Is Your Beloved?
Going through at least a full year with your betrothed prior to marriage will afford you the chance to gather many important clues. Is your partner an active participant in faith practices, such as attending church and reading the Bible regularly? W. Bradford Wilcox, a University of Virginia sociologist and director of the National Marriage Project, concludes that “active conservative Protestants” who regularly attend church are 35% less likely to divorce than those with no affiliation.
There are other significant risks associated with a brief courting period. For instance, you may not know if Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a type of depression that can hit during late fall to early winter, is at play with your intended. It’s worth noting that sadly, depression can kill.
So, take your time and deduce whether the love of your life has an undiagnosed mental illness or unresolved trauma. Watch how they behave around major holidays and anniversaries, particularly related to deaths in the family. Avoiding reminders of grief, frequent anger or defensive maneuvers, addictive or secretive behavior are some of the signs that your partner may benefit from meeting with a therapist.
These red flags require the investment of more than just a few breezy months of knowing each other, but they’re worth your effort. Being yoked to a mate (2 Corinthians 6:14) who bears the burden of mental illness is a draining way to live.
5. Momentous Decisions Deserve Deliberations
Whenever I vacation, there’s a part of me that busies itself with fantasies of relocating to that area. This part starts scanning the buildings in the region and daydreams about how my practice might look when transported to that city. It doesn’t matter whether the trip is somewhat local or miles and miles away from my actual residence. I’ve imagined moving to both the mountains and beach neighborhoods. Sometimes the fantasy morphs into daydreams of retiring there.
It’s obvious I can’t let these whims uproot my life after every vacation. Because moving every so often isn’t ideal, buying a house requires ample preparation. Marriage is like moving.
After asking the Lord about it, submit your desire to those who know you well—parents, grandparents, close friends, church elders. See how they respond to your marital prospects. Following the naysayers’ cautious feedback now may shield you from a heartbreak later.
6. Better Single Than Divorced
Marriage provides plenty of perks, but being divorced isn’t one of them. Cultivating closeness to another person only to have that union ripped to shreds leaves a trail of consequences. Even if the couple divorces on biblical grounds, and even if either party (or both, for that matter) feels relieved once the paperwork is finalized, divorce can be damaging on many fronts.
- Emotional: divorce can lead to depression and anxiety. Plus, rebuilding a solo life after being coupled is like hiking in the rain; it can be done but is challenging.
- Physical: divorce induces stress, which undermines health, resulting in a higher risk of developing heart disease.
- Financial: on average, divorcees need a 30% increase in income to maintain the same standard of living as in marriage.
- Social: mutual friends might choose sides after the divorce. In some instances, divorcees necessitate a complete relocation to a different city, church, and community altogether.
Second and Subsequent Marriages
Have you been married (and divorced) before? Then taking your time to ponder another trip down the aisle becomes even more apropos. Divorce rates for second and third marriages are higher than that of first-timers. Don’t fall prey to faulty thinking that this isn’t your first time; therefore, you won’t need as much time to deliberate.
I pray the Holy Spirit will help you hear His still, small voice (1 Kings 19:11-12) if your engagement should culminate in marriage. Whether or not you’ve been married before. And if God and you decide the answer is yes, please accept my heartiest congratulations!
Audrey Davidheiser, PhD is a California licensed psychologist, certified Internal Family Systems therapist, and author of Surviving Difficult People: When Your Faith and Feelings Clash. She founded and directed a counseling center for the Los Angeles Dream Center, supervised graduate students, and has treated close to 2,200 clients. Dr. Audrey devotes her California practice to survivors of psychological trauma. Visit her on www.aimforbreakthrough.com and Instagram @DrAudreyD.