For many young women, marriage isn’t even on the radar until high school and college are complete and their career is underway. So why think about it now? Though marriage may be a long way down the road (if it’s what God has in mind for you), it can be one of the most fulfilling relationships of your life. But it can also be the most challenging relationship you will ever face.
In a world where God’s definition of marriage is under fire, we need to approach marriage with intentionality. Too often the world of weddings clouds our view of what it’s all about. When that view is coupled with a lack of emotional and spiritual preparation, some young brides find post-honeymoon marriage a disappointing reality. Marriage is hard. It takes sacrifice, commitment and communication.
But while marriage is hard, it doesn’t have to be discouraging. It is possible to prepare for marriage while being single—and in doing so, prevent much of the heartache other couples experience. Below are five character qualities, applicable to every relationship, but absolutely essential to a God-centered marriage.
Love is patient and kind. (1 Corinthians 13:1)
It says something that the very first qualifier Paul used to describe love is the virtue of patience. Marriage requires willingness to listen, to put another person before yourself and to bear with your spouse as they grow and change. All of these actions require patience! This is why cultivating patience in your single years—as you wait to meet the person God has for you—is an excellent way to prepare for marriage. It may not feel great while you’re single, but you can rest assured your heart is being trained in a virtue you will use daily in your marriage relationship.
Paul first described love as “patient,” then added “kind.” It seems so simple. Shouldn’t kindness come naturally when you love someone? Yet as anyone with siblings or a roommate can attest, living in close quarters with another person is bound to result in disagreement at some point. During those resentful moments, we have to choose kindness by considering the other person before ourselves. This action will sustain and support your marriage if you’ve practiced it while single. In Jesus, we have the perfect example of kindness to follow.
One of the fruits of the Spirit that Paul describes in Galatians 5 is “self-control.” Controlling our actions and reactions is difficult when we feel offended or upset. But self-control goes further than managing our temper—it affects every area of life.
There are three areas in which self-control is necessary:
- How we spend our time
- How we spend our money
- How we spend our emotions
Learning to manage your time and money in a God-honoring way not only benefits you personally, but also creates habits that will bless your spouse. But just as we should budget our money and schedule our time, we must also learn to healthfully manage our emotions by committing them to God and choosing love at every opportunity.
You may have heard of the popular marriage ministry and book Love and Respect. These two virtues are essential to building a lasting marriage relationship. While the book articulates that men crave respect and women long for love (generally speaking), respect is a necessary component of marriage for both genders. Respect is what enables us to argue without accusing. It helps us see people as individuals, not as obstacles to our own desires. Respect reverences the humanity of others and recognizes their value. Respectful behavior proves that a person values people the same way God does. A person who values others when single will bring that attitude into marriage.
Back to the 1 Corinthians 13 passage—love is described many different ways, but each descriptor contains a common thread: Love is a choice. The emotions of love are wonderful, but they only last as long as we choose love with our words and actions. The four other qualities we’ve mentioned are integral to building a foundation of love as God defines it. When God tells us to love, He’s commanding us to give of ourselves with the same selflessness He showed through Jesus on the cross. To love God’s way means making a commitment, even when it requires sacrifice.