Read an Excerpt
Before Relationship & Marriage Guide
By Toni Henderson-Mayers
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2013 Toni Henderson-Mayers
All rights reserved.
Are you sure you are ready to walk down the aisle?
A great writer
I have a confession to make. I am not a great writer, great theologian or even a great thinker. I do serve a great God who has laid a great and heavy burden on my heart to share and remind His people of principles He left many years ago in His Word. The bible says, "My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge." (Hosea 4:6, NIV) If the knowledge of God is not studied, practiced and passed down from generation to generation, we will soon perish. With every generation, generally speaking, something is lost and we begin to see evidence of a breakdown, especially in our families and relationships. Please allow me to share a little of what I believe God has given to me.
Just trying to help
This book is intended to be a helpful guide. I do not have all the answers, but God does. It is my prayer that something in this book will encourage you to read and study God's Word further for the answers in life you seek. Ask God for direction and to reveal to you what He wants to happen in your life. If you do, you'll never go wrong.
Society looks to many people as experts. What's amazing is we seek advice from those who really are not successful in the area they are giving advice. Counselors who have many troubles themselves, parent advice from a parent with unruly children, relationship advice from those with many broken relationships is commonplace. Although no one is perfect, there are some who have had success in a certain area. We can learn a lot from those who have made mistakes, but we can only learn what went wrong and what not to do. Perfection is far from all of us; however there are some areas in all of our lives, where God has given us strength and success. It is our duty and privilege to share those experiences with others. A person who is successful in an area can teach you how to do it too. What would this world look like if we all helped to strengthen those areas where others were weak? What would you look like if some one helped you?
I pray this book will empower you, strengthen you and encourage you and most importantly, teach you how to identify and cherish, love.
Are you ready?
One of the toughest questions you will need to ask yourself is, "Am I ready to be married?" On the surface, the answer may seem obvious since there may be an inner urge to unite with someone else. However, when one ponders the question deeply other questions may also arise. For instance, "What makes me so sure I am ready to marry?", "What do I have to offer my potential partner?", "What flaws do I possess that would make it difficult for someone else to unite with me?", "Am I willing to make amends to be marriage ready?" This is by no means a thorough list of all that one may need to ask themselves years before walking down the aisle. The point is however that questions need to be asked of oneself as soon as the thought of marriage enters one's mind. Actually, I believe these questions should be considered even before a courtship begins.
The task of asking oneself thought provoking questions and being blatantly honest may not be easy but has to be done. You will need to be honest with yourself, answer the questions and be brave enough to follow through on what needs to be remedied. Self-reflection and improvement is a task for the courageous. It may be a lot of work upfront, but is extremely fruitful when completed. It will save you a lot of future heartache. Include family and friends in this exercise. Anyone who knows you well and loves you and wants the best for you can be an asset. With the right combination of God, self, family and friends you will be able to see a realistic picture of yourself and your readiness for lifetime relationship with another person.
Is your partner ready?
This book comes from the premise that you are ready for commitment, but is your partner? Within the following chapters there is information to help you assess your partner's readiness. We cannot read anyone's mind, but we have to do our homework to determine how ready our partner may or may not be. Your happiness is on the line. The work is worth it.
In addition, let me say that we cannot force someone to be ready or make them ready for us. Each of us is ready at different times in our lives if at all. If you force a person to be ready and they are not, the relationship might fail.
Is your environment ready?
At first glance you may be thinking what on earth does the environment has to do with my relationship. I'm referring to the environment in which we live, mingle, work, worship and the like. Do you have drama in your life? What dynamics are present in your family? Are your friends busy bodies, tend to mettle? What will your church's reaction be? How does your church handle change? Do you have a plan for any of the questions asked? Will your partner have an adverse reaction to any of these environmental conditions? Have you asked them? Do you care? Don't assume that your partner will just fall in line. You may be used to your crack head sister barging into your home asking for money, disturbing peace and causing trouble, but your potential spouse may not like the idea.
It is amazing what we grow use to in our lives; even dysfunctions. Don't expect your potential spouse will want to get use to your dysfunctional or functional life.
Did God tell you?
Did you ask God what He thought? In order to find out what God thinks, you need to ask him. You ask God His thoughts through prayer, meditating on scripture and listening for His response. God will answer audibly, through scripture, a sermon, friends, guidance or in a variety of ways. No matter how you receive a response, make sure you receive one and you are totally clear on His direction.
Many people skip this crucial step, but this is a huge mistake. If you are not sure God told you to marry this person, DON'T. The marriage will fail.
Do you know this person?
Ask questions. I can't provide a simpler and more effective form of guidance. Get to know this person you plan on spending the rest of your life with. And it will be the rest of your life! The marriage will not be over because you become tired or bored or aggravated or even frustrated. Well at least it shouldn't be.
I'm sure you are well aware of the terrible state marriage is in these days. Over half of all marriages end in divorce. Over 80% of failed marriages, failed because of financial issues. Whatever the case, whatever the reason, many marriages, I believe could have been much different, if the couples took the time to ask questions before getting married.
I remember a friend who married and desperately wanted to have children. After being married for a year, this friend was ready to have three children approximately one to two years apart. To my friend's dismay their spouse did not share the same vision. As a matter of fact, the spouse didn't want any children. That's right, no children! How did their messages get so crossed? How on earth could they not know that each other were so far apart in their views on having children? I'll tell you how. They didn't ask the question.
It is true that one could ask the question, receive an answer and later in the marriage the spouse changes their mind or reneges on their prior agreement. All in all however, most people don't even take the time to ask in the first place. Many disagreements in marriage come about because the topic at hand was not brought up in conversation, fully discussed and decided upon. Don't let this happen to you.
What do I suggest? I suggest you interview your potential spouse. That's right, I said interview.
The concept of interviewing is not a new one. We interview people all the time. Usually when looking for a job, a potential employee will interview with a potential employer to see if a particular job will be a good match for the applying candidate. We interview people for admission into schools, solicited advice from experts on TV by interviewing them and even interview new cars and products to see if they will be best suited for our everyday needs. For some strange reason, when it comes to love, relationships and family we don't take as much time and care by interviewing our potential love interest. We spend less time deciding on a potential mate than we do in deciding to buy a car. This person is designed to spend the rest of your life with you. You are important enough to carve out more time to get to know this person (your potential mate) and get to know them well.
When I mention interview, I am referring to asking a series of questions over a period of time. I'm not talking about asking one or a few questions and then going about your life as usual.
A good interviewer knows what to ask and when to ask it. The interviewer is careful to watch body language and is sensitive to how the person answers the questions. You must do the same. Ask many questions at different times and phrase them in a way that is not threatening but straightforward. I hope to write more on how to ask and what to ask, in another Wise Courtship book.
Earlier, I mentioned a friend whose marriage failed because they failed to ask the right questions before getting married. Just in case you are not convinced that asking questions beforehand could save a marriage, here are additional real life situations that destroyed or damaged certain marriages. The names have been changed to protect the identity of these people.
Case # 1 – Mr. & Mrs. Broke A. Lot
Clyde loved buying new things and showing them off. He would buy the latest and most expensive car, take exotic vacations and wear the latest fashions. Clyde loved doing these things because it afforded him the opportunity to show off to all his friends. He loved his women thin and beautiful because like all his possessions it would make him look good and he could brag to all of his acquaintances.
He really felt a sense of pride from what he had accumulated. When Clyde bought his house, his house cost at least $100,000 more than what his friends spent. It didn't matter whether it was worth that much or not, Clyde wanted to out do everyone. Everything he had was top of the line even though he was sinking deeper and deeper in debt. When he met his wife, she was thin and beautiful, the essence of perfection. He showed pictures of her to all his friends and explained how perfect she was physically. There was never any talk about her mind or her character. She was beautiful on the outside and that was all that mattered.
Clyde's wife loved to spend money. She liked to look a certain way. She loved Clyde because he spared no expense. She blended in with his life well because she liked to take the exotic vacations and spend large. Clyde could brag; while she could get all the "goodies" she wanted. Everything was great until they married.
Well for the first few years, life was grand, until the bills mounted and the trips and gifts became few. When Clyde tried to get his wife to work, he found out she never really ever kept a job and never really intended to work. Ever! She had expected Clyde to support her whether they had children or not. Clyde was a laborer and was getting tired of lifting boxes and wanted relief from double overtime. His wife was tired of getting threatening phone calls from bill collectors and could not understand why Clyde didn't make enough. She had no idea what he did for a living. She knew he worked at a warehouse, but she didn't know that he was a laborer and she really had no clue what that meant totally in terms of pay, promotions or progression. Her dad was a doctor and he always took care of everything. She never really cooked before or cleaned and was used to being pampered.
With seemingly no help in sight, Clyde began to wonder about his marriage and his wife saw Clyde as a failure.
Case # 2 – Mr. & Mrs. A. Past
Tamara was the happiest woman in the world when Jaleel asked her to marry him. After all Jaleel was the most attractive man in their social circle. He was everything most women desire according to Tamara; tall, dark, handsome and had a job. He was the ladies' desire and he knew it. Jaleel loved the ladies and the ladies loved Jaleel. Who could resist his smile, charm, flashy dress and sense of adventure? The ladies naturally flocked to him. There wasn't a time Jaleel didn't have a lady on his arm. He never really had a long term relationship although he was now 50 years old. In fact, he really never spent too much time alone. He hated to be alone. He hadn't really discussed this with anyone except to a close buddy of his. Jaleel feels loved when surrounded by beautiful women. The women surrounding him tended to make wonderful comments about him that boosted his ego and made him feel great. He in turn had mastered the art of flattery but he was weak in commitment. Jaleel has an insatiable need for approval, to be desired and needed. He is temporarily satisfied through sexual pleasures and the initial phase of dating and falling in love. Once the relationship settles into a routine or a "working phase" of a relationship, better known as commitment, Jaleel loses interest. During this time, his partners were less flattering and flirtatious and desired a deeper long lasting love. Jaleel feels incompetent to share a true love. He is not sure what that is since he was abandoned by both his mother and father. It was too painful for Jaleel to even think about.
When Tamara came into Jaleel's life she was Jaleel's number one supporter and cheerleader. She loved saying and doing nice things for him because she secretly wanted him to return his affections in a similar way. She needed Jaleel and he loved that. Although Tamara grew up with both her parents they were neither affectionate nor supportive. Tamara's parents put her down and often ridiculed her. Tamara decided early on she would not be like her parents and adapted a very encouraging dialogue and lifestyle. Tamara was drawn to Jaleel's outward appearance and his flattering tongue since she felt inadequate in every way. Jaleel could be very attentive initially and Tamara longed for someone to take notice of her. Tamara was beautiful inside and out and surely she would supply Jaleel with the need of being wanted that he so desired. Jaleel was the epitome of success and surely Tamara's family would agree that she had done something right in her life.
After they were married life was wonderful for the first six months. Since both had an enormous need to be validated, neither one could ever really have their specific needs fulfilled. Jaleel became unfaithful and Tamara felt hurt, betrayed, unwanted and unloved. Consequently, their relationship ended in divorce.
I'm certain some of these case studies seem very unrealistic, but I assure you, they are not. You would be surprised at how many relationships flashed large, red flags along the way, only to be ignored. Notice these red flags, do the research and ask the right questions.
Interviewing your potential spouse brings about more marital satisfaction, less confusion and a closer bond.
You are better off knowing what you are getting into rather than being surprised once you get into it. If you are expecting one thing out of your marriage and get another, the usual result is disappointment and dissatisfaction. Ask specific questions that pertain to issues that jeopardize your level of satisfaction in a marriage. Don't be shy in asking these types of questions. Your happiness is on the line.
If having a career is of utmost importance to you, you need to focus a lot of your questions around careers, what your opinion is on the subject and listen for their response to what you have said. What was your initial reaction to their response?
Decide together where the limits should be. Were you satisfied with what was decided? If not, you may want to rethink marriage, at least until common ground is found.
It goes without saying, that if you ask a question, discuss it and come to an agreement about an issue, that there will be less confusion in that area. There are times, however you can speak with someone and they do the exact opposite of what was agreed upon, but that occurrence is rare among rational people. Even when this is the case, repetitive discussions on the same issue can help to eliminate confusion and lessen the chance of a person saying one thing and doing another. The repeated conversations should happen before the marriage, however. (If the person you are considering continues to say one thing and do another, this is a MAJOR RED FLAG! I suggest very strongly that you discontinue your relationship with this individual.)
Start with the most important situations in your life and begin to ask questions related to that situation. Get as much clarity as possible from your potential spouse about how they feel and how you feel about the situation. Remember, there will be less confusion in your marriage if you do the initial work now.
In the case of my friend, a simple discussion beforehand could have saved their marriage unnecessary pain.
Knowing your potential spouse's inner feelings, goals and desires can help to develop an unshakeable bond. No one should know your spouse better than you. You should be the first person they confide in, kick around ideas and discuss life challenges and issues with. Starting early, in particular before marriage to open the lines of communication can lay the foundation for a deep and lasting relationship. In the future, you may have to speak for your spouse when they are unable, support their causes or buffer them from unnecessary pain. These tasks become easier when you know them and know them well.
Excerpted from Wise Courtship by Toni Henderson-Mayers. Copyright © 2013 Toni Henderson-Mayers. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
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