Just as a woman must think carefully about a potential husband, you must be careful about a potential wife. Careful evaluation in a number of areas will save you a lifetime of frustration. Right now, you might think she’s pretty, or playful, or nice to you. It’s not enough. One pregnancy can alter a figure, responsibilities at home can reveal laziness, and a disagreement about money can turn her against you. The church in North America has many men who are hampered in their abilities and success because they were distracted by a pretty face who now seems to bring more trouble than bliss.
Just as a girl can’t imagine how much of an impact a husband will have on her unless an older woman is very frank with her, so you can’t imagine how that attractive girl you know could impact your life unless someone is very frank with you. Marriage will impact nearly every area of your life. Ready?
1. It will impact your spiritual life. If the girl is not a believer, drop her now. You have no right to yoke yourself with someone who is not a believer, and a responsibility to obey Scripture’s clear and good direction in this (2 Cor. 6:14). Dating is for marriage, not evangelism. Some guys think it’s unkind, or unfair to break up with a girl just because she’s not a Christian. The reality from God’s perspective is that it was unkind and unfair to start the wrong relationship with her in the first place. So are you going to falsely “be nice”, or are you going to be true to her by being obedient to your God? Be honest with her that you have failed in walking in God’s ways, failed in showing that the gospel, new life in communion with Christ, is foundational to Christian marriage–and as such foundational to a dating relationship. Ask godly women in the church to befriend her and to minister God’s Word to her soul. What should you do? Pray. Keep her at arms length. No dates. Stay away without a hint of any promise of anything future, until other mature Christians are convinced that she is genuinely transformed–and not just professing faith for a relationship with you.
If she is a believer, is she growing, or stagnant? Does she love God and commune with him on her own? Is she eager to learn from his Word, or more excited about shopping and friends? Is she by grace faithful to God and you now, or is she promiscuous with her emotions and body towards other men? Will she support and encourage your initiative in leading family worship, or will she hinder it? Is she the type who is going to be up and getting the kids ready for worship on Sunday morning, or will you be struggling to get everyone in the car on time? Few of us men are capable of getting small children fed, dressed, and buckled into car seats by mid-morning without help, though God can grant grace in exceptional circumstances. Just because you are the man, just because you are the leader in the relationship doesn’t mean that you will be able to pull her along in sanctification. She will either be a drag on your holiness, or a catalyst, a sweet encouragement for your personal, spiritual development. That will also be true for any future children.
Think long and hard. Pray. Get counsel from wise men with great marriages.
2. It will impact your service in the church. Is the girl that you’re thinking of excited about your involvement in the local church? Is she going to encourage you to serve the congregation with your gifts, or is she going to complain that you’re not helping her do laundry instead? Is she going to free you up to build up the body of Christ in whatever ways you can, or is she going to make it the last priority? Is she going to be a Priscilla (Acts 18) or a Michal (I Sam. 6:16-20)? If you think that this will be an issue, look elsewhere for a helpmeet – you will have to answer to God for picking a woman who prevents you from serving Christ in his church.
This is especially important to think about if you are considering any sort of formal ministry. Far too many pastors are hindered in their work because of wives who take advantage of flexible work hours and a willingness to help–a characteristic of many ministry-minded men. These wives cripple the church. Their husbands are doing routine laundry instead of hospital visitation, ordinary child care instead of sermon preparation, and pampering their wives instead of shepherding souls. I review a lot of recommendations for students applying to seminaries. Increasingly, good churches realize that not only the student, but also his wife needs to be evaluated in her role as wife and mother. Ordinary, faithful men shine with a steady, loving and wise, supportive wife. While your wife can’t qualify you for pastoral ministry, she can most certainly disqualify you.
3. It will impact your reputation. Do you know what your girlfriend says about you to her friends? Her mother? Her facebook and twitter world? My wife was once visiting with a woman who repeatedly belittled her husband, not as an evil man, not as a bad father, but as an inept goof. It was this woman’s habit to talk this way, and it made people disrespect her husband. While it is your responsibility to behave in a respectable way, it is your wife’s responsibility to speak of you in a way that preserves and builds up your reputation, instead of revealing your shortcomings and faults to the world. The Proverbs 31 woman behaved and spoke in a way that enable her husband to trust her fully (v. 11). She did him good, not harm, all the days of her life (v. 12), partly with her words.
That does not mean that a wife should be hiding their husband’s serious patterns of sin from pastors or other people who need to know, but that they must be very careful to speak respectfully wherever possible about their husbands. Will the girl you are with build up your reputation or tear it down? Will she teach the children to respect you, or will your own family think little of you? Will she broadcast every failure that you have, or will she, in love, hide them from the world and help you fight them in private?
What will your wife do for your reputation?
4. It will impact your work life and finances. God created Eve to be a help suitable for Adam – a helpmeet. She is a pattern for all other wives. Is your girlfriend excited about the work you do, or does she not care? Is she able to help you where possible, or does she not want to be involved? The sort of work a wife/helpmeet does depends on her husband’s calling, but it should always be there. We know so many examples: a husband who lays flooring and goes through the knees of his pants has a wife who loves beautiful floors and keeps him supplied with new work clothes. A husband who is an accountant and works long hours every tax season has a wife who keeps dinner hot for him and has the kids in bed when he gets home. A minister who faces spiritual opposition in the congregation has a wife who listens and encourages. A small town doctor has a wife who figures out how to get bodily fluids out of scrubs. And we also know men whose wives hate their work, and frustrate their husbands in their callings. It’s a huge burden to the men, stunting them in their careers and the use of their gifts. Can your girlfriend help you? Does she want to?
What will she do with the money that you earn through your work? Go shopping all the time, or wisely budget? Will she ask your advice about financial decisions, or make big changes without considering you? Will she be reckless with money, or enable you to live within your means? Is she greedy, or eager to give sacrificially to the work of the church? Is she looking for ways to get extra money, or finding ways to bless others in need with what you have?
Think: this relationship has the potential to ruin you or free you.
5. It will impact your other relationships. What does your mother think of your girlfriend? Does she think that this woman will take care of her son? Be a good mother? Does your girlfriend respect your parents? Is she happy to have them as grandparents for your children? Will your girlfriend’s parents dominate your marriage? Will they dictate “advice” or allow you to be the head of your own household? You do have to leave your father and mother and cleave to your wife, but you still need to consider what effect they will have on your marriage, because they will have one, for better or for worse.
What about your male friends and mentors? Will the girl that you have in mind encourage you to be accountable to older godly men, or will she not care, and complain about privacy? Will she suggest that you call up your brother once in a while and see how he’s doing, or will she whine that you’re not spending time with her? Will she be happy on occasion to put the kids to bed alone so you can visit with a friend, or will you not have that opportunity?
Make a wise choice, not a foolish one.
6. It will impact your health. Scripture gives us so many warnings about nagging, pestering, quick tempered wives (Gen. 30:1-2; Prov. 21:9, 19; 25:24). Men married to women like these are willing to live on a roof in order to have some mental peace. Will the girl you are with be careful to not pester and nag, and mentally wear you down, or will she prevent frustration where she can by expressing her opinion and being content with your leadership? Is she going to respect you and tell you so, or will she treat you like one of the kids?
Is she going to encourage you to exercise and prepare decent food for you to help you maintain your physical health? Or will she complain about the time and effort that it takes?
Is she going to be available, within reason, sexually, or will she use her body as a tool of manipulation to get you to do what she wants? Is she going to begrudgingly approach the marriage bed, or will she treat it as a good gift that God has given the two of you to enjoy, as an expression of love and delight?
Heed Scripture’s warnings here.
So how will your girlfriend do after the vows? Because this is just a sampling of the ways that a wife can bless or curse her husband. The effects are far reaching, long lasting, and either wonderful or difficult. Of course, there is no perfect woman. But there are amazing ones. And it’s better to be single for life than to marry someone who will make your life a burden. Singleness can be great – I was married late and experienced some blessed years of bachelorhood. Marriage to the wrong person is a nightmare. I know men whose careers, families, personal development and even congregations have been destroyed by their wives. It’s heartbreaking and messy, especially for the husband. Don’t be so easy going about your choice of wife that your marriage is a grief. If you are in an unhappy marriage, there are ways to get help. But if you’re not married, don’t put yourself in a bad situation when it is 100% avoidable. Don’t marry someone who can’t follow your leadership. Don’t marry someone who is not seeking to love Christ as you seek to love her as Christ loved the church. Marry someone who knows and demonstrates the love of Christ.