Under Construction Two
How to Make Commitments and Be Influenced by People
Last week, we started a conversation about the purpose of engagement – that it is more than a time to plan a wedding and wait to be married. It is a unique time in your relationship to capitalize on the opportunity to lay a foundation for your marriage and begin to practice the skills you’ll need on daily basis once married.
If reception seating charts seem daunting, the sort of vague “laying a foundation for your future success as a married couple” must seem even more so! But never fear, today’s blog post is all about a few steps you can take now that will help you and your fiancé begin to pour the cement, so to speak.
1) Make a List of Engagement Deal Breakers.
It is our firm belief that engagement is the first step into a marriage relationship, not the trial period for whether a marriage will work or not. If you are willing to pursue marriage with someone by entering into engagement you want to be fairly convinced that you’re saying “yes” to the person God has for you and that you are truly committed to that person.
However, the fact of the matter is that engagement is not marriage and there are times that an engagement should be broken. Big issues do come up. We do struggle with sin issues that would make entering into marriage unwise. We do hide things from those we love and, when the truth comes out, sometimes trust is irrevocably damaged. These are reasons to make use of the sort of escape hatch that engagement allows us.
But you know all of this. What you might not know is that the closer you get the wedding, the more likely you are to start to second guess yourself. All of a sudden you will realize that he spends $125 a month on Red Bull (because you were going through his wallet and found the receipts) and you can’t believe that he would put so many toxins into his body on a regular basis and how could he risk your future children’s health by doing that?!? Or, guys, she’ll stay the weekend at your folk’s house and you realize for the first time that she showed up to every date looking like a bombshell because it takes her 2 hours to get ready every morning, and you’re just not sure you can handle the alarm clock going off at 5:45 a.m. for the rest of your life.
I know these silly “issues” pale in comparison to the severity of an affair or other trust-breaking event, but I promise that your insanity levels rise in direct correlation to your stress levels the closer you get to the Big Day. It’s natural, it’s normal, and it leads us to think less clearly and carefully than we normally do. You are going to overreact, second guess yourself, and wonder if you’re missing some hidden problem in your fiancé. In our perfect-wedding-day-soaked culture it’s easy to get caught up in looking for happiness, rather than godliness. So I’m just suggesting that you be prepared for that eventual reality by being proactive now - while you still feel sane. Sit down together and make a list of the reasons you really would call the wedding off. Anything less than those major line items is just a challenge to work through, a chance to practice your communication skills, and hopefully something that will bring you closer together.
Figuring out what those major items are can be a challenge in itself, which is why I don't recommend doing it alone. That brings me to my second point...
2) Find a married couple to talk to.
I’m not saying it has to be us – even thought we LOVE talking with engaged couples – but find a married couple you trust who’s hit the 3-5 year mark (at least) and plan to hang out with them once a month or so. They’ll be your go to people when you have questions that you don’t want to ask your parents or your pastor. You might go to that initial meeting with a few questions in tow, or you might just spend time together getting to know them better. But after a fight about potential budgets, or when to start a family, or which set of in-laws you’ll spend Christmas with, they will be your first call. Not only will they have likely had the same argument before (and survived it), talking to another couple gives you the added bonus of getting the male and female perspective on different issues. They’ll help you feel normal and understood, which often translates to better, more open communication between you and your fiancé.
3) Start to understand and practice biblical leadership and submission.
We are all familiar with the glimpse of God’s design for marriage that Ephesians 5 outlines. That passage ends by saying that this is a “divine mystery” – and Paul, of course, is speaking of Christ’s sacrifice for the church. But there is a lot of mystery in the interplay between biblical leadership and submission within a marriage. While I truly believe that this pattern of relationship is exactly what our souls were created for, and when done right it is so right, so much of what we’ve learned about these terms is skewed by our culture, distorted by our personalities and experiences, and rebelled against by our sin natures. The rhythmic pull and sway that Paul describes often doesn’t feel natural at all, and while it’s a rhythm that really only works in tandem with your partner, neither of you have ever practiced it before! There is definitely a learning curve involved in honing these skills!
Let’s start with some basic definitions:
Leadership is the resulting action of a husband's intentional pursuit and intimate knowledge of both his wife's heart and the heart of God. As he continually cultivates this knowledge over the life of a marriage, he dynamically sets a vision for his wife, in the best interests of her heart, based on the teachings of Jesus Christ in Scripture. This vision is sought selflessly, as the husband constantly invites his wife, encourages her, and challenges her to chase after Christlikeness as he traces ahead the line between her heart and the Father's.
Submission, therefore, is a wife's trusting choice to lean into her husband's vision for her heart and for God's design for her life.
These definitions may sound sort of “churchy,” but, as spiritual beings, our faith-walk effects every area of our life. This stuff will come to bear on so many practical details in your life together. Can I suggest that you begin to study this passage and pray over these roles? Ask God to shape you to play your part in marriage in a way that honors Him. This is by far one of our favorite things to discuss with couples because God’s design is so life giving to relationships. It can be exciting to figure out how to start to practice implementing pieces of this structure now, so that when you say “I do” you know what you’re committing to!
So there you have it: just a few key ways to make to the most of your time as an engaged couple. If you have any questions or concerns about any of these topics, or just want to deepen the conversation about them, send us a message via the “Contact” tab at the top of this page. Regardless of whether you’re thinking about getting engaged, have already popped the question, or are days away from your wedding, we value the chance to get to know you and support your upcoming marriage and your current relationship!