There is no better time than while you’re single to prepare for an amazing, God-honoring marriage. Here are 7 great things you can do while you’re still single (or while you’re single again) to prepare for a successful marriage:
1. Address your unresolved childhood issues.
You’ve got to take care of the baggage that you’re carrying from childhood. When I do premarital counseling, this is the first topic we always talk about. Your unresolved childhood issues can absolutely sink a marriage. Here is a great quote from nationally respected and recognized marriage experts Les and Leslie Parrot: “If you attempt to build intimacy with a person before you’ve done the handwork of becoming a whole and healthy person, every relationship will be an attempt to complete the hole in your heart.”
Think of it like trying to fill a five-gallon bucket full of water when you’ve got holes in the bottom and on the sides, it’s never going to stay full. Your unresolved childhood issues are some of those issues you need to resolve. And I know that some of you will say, “I don’t have unresolved issues. I talk with my mom, I send her a Mother’s Day card every year.” If you have a parent that is still alive but you don’t have a healthy functioning relationship with them, there may be some issues you need to resolve. For many people, it comes down to your father, or your lack of a father, or an absent father. That’s a real thing.
Even if it means counseling, take care of all of your unresolved childhood issues so you don’t bring that baggage into your future marriage. If you’re divorced, you need to unpack not only the baggage from your childhood, but the baggage from your previous marriage or marriages.
2. Get out of debt.
In premarital counseling I do with couples, I spend an entire session simply on finances, because 85% (that’s not a scientific number but my experience with couples) of all fights stem from money, or specifically a lack thereof. If you do the hard work to prepare before marriage to take care of your money, you’ll bring less baggage into your marriage and you’ll be less likely to marry someone who can’t take care of their money.
Ladies, if your boyfriend or fiancee has thousands of dollars of debt and kind-of-a-job, RUN! And some of you may be thinking, “I’ll just get out of debt once I’m married!” Ha! Married people, can I get an “Amen!” on how hard it is to get out of debt once you’re married? If you want to prepare successfully for marriage, get out of and stay out of debt. I guarantee you, you’ll thank me later.
3. Ladies: Don’t dress like a commodity and refuse to be treated like one.
Ladies, I know that the cultural mindset in America is to use your body as bait to get a man, but as followers of Jesus and more importantly as daughters of the King, you’re called to live differently.
Don’t dress like a commodity. Don’t dress in a way that uses your body as bait. Do you know how fisherman know what kind of bait to use? By what kind of fish they’re trying to catch. You don’t fish for crappie the same way you fish for largemouth bass. So ladies, if you dress in a way that uses your body as bait, you’re going to attract guys that view women as a commodity. And some of you might say, “All guys are the same.” No, all the guys you date are the same. There are better guys out there, but you can’t use your body as bait.Because whatever you catch them with, you’ve got to keep them with. And ladies, I hate to break it to you, but if the only thing keeping your man is your body, you realize that as you get older . . .
If your man treats you like a commodity, kick him to the curb and drop him like a bad habit. You can do so much better than that.
4. Men: Quit looking at images and listening to music that turn women into a commodity.
Or more specifically, quit looking at porn and quit listening to rap music. Now, women can struggle with porn too. When you look at pornography, it turns people into a commodity. When you listen to music that degrades women, it turns them into a commodity. And if you think you can engage in that stuff without it affecting you, you’re absolutely wrong. Guys, I guarantee you that will wreck your future marriage. So get help, stop it.
5. Break your bad habits.
Whatever other bad habit you’ve got that you know you need to take care of, take care of it. Maybe it’s drinking, maybe it’s prescription pills, maybe it’s gambling, maybe it’s self-harm or cutting. Getting married and making a promise won’t make those things magically go away. They’ll just make your single person problems a marriage problem.
6. Postpone the physical components of the relationship as long as possible.
I’m not just talking about sex, I’m talking about everything. When I talk with couples, they never wish they would have gotten physical sooner, they always wish they would have waited.
If you rush in too quick, it’s the third date, we got hot and heavy, she spent the night, that’s changing the fundamentals of the relationship. When you get physical, you’ve stopped building a relationship and now you’re building chemistry. Chemistry is a really lousy thing to build a marriage on.
And this point includes living together. I never, ever recommend that single people move in together. In fact, research has documented time and time again that moving in together before marriage actually decreases likelihood that your marriage will work. This is because you move into together for totally different reasons. Women move in because they see it as a step towards marriage. Men move in to test things out and see if they want to stay in the relationship. As the old saying goes, “Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?”
7. Get involved in your local church.
Now, you would expect me to say this as a pastor, but this is incredibly important. When you get involved in a local church, wherever you live, when you grow in your faith, when you serve, you’re focusing on becoming the right people, alongside other people who are focusing on becoming right people, which only increases your odds of finding the right person for you.
This worked for me. I met my wife while serving at a Christian youth camp back in the summer of 2001. That’s the first thing I fell in love with about her: her heart for God and her heart for serving others.
QUESTION: What other ways should singles prepare for marriage?