“But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife; And they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.”
This short passage tells us two very basic aspects of marriage that are often ignored today. It is exclusively a union between a man and a woman, and it is designed as a permanent covenant, not to be ended. There are very few and unfortunate circumstances under which Jesus allows a concession for divorce, and even then it comes with the instruction that one who is divorced is to remain single thereafter, and it is urged against in the strongest of terms. The point of this is, marriage is a very serious deal to God, and it should be to us. This is not something to rush into or to have any big unresolved doubts about before committing to. Many mistakes can be covered by grace, but exiting a marriage carries a lifetime of consequences that are not quite like anything else.
This article will be a mixture of biblical wisdom, and some of my own derived reasons and ideas about how we can best choose a spouse to ensure we do not make a painful and far-reaching mistake. Anything that isn’t tied directly to a bible verse is just my opinion, but I was raised traditionally and steeped in the bible since my youth; so I hope I can offer some valuable points to consider.
Starting at the first meeting, you won’t have much to go by for determining whether someone is spouse material for you or not. I say “for you” because we are all different, even amongst Christians, and it is rather a good thing I think; because what a world it would be, if everyone was after the same type. We have different strengths, weaknesses, tolerances, et cetera that will enable us to be fulfilled by and fulfilling to a certain type of person. To begin, of course you’ll simply talk to people who seem interesting to you. From there, I recommend becoming friends first; and in so doing you can do a little pre-courting to determine if you want to properly court/vet the person on the path to marriage. For more on courting, see the “Boundaries of Courtship” article. For the topics to look for and consider, read on.
The first category is mental, or things of the mind. This will include shallow things like interests and hobbies, as well as deeper things like personal beliefs. Politics, ideas about how the world works, and things like that are all things that should be considered, though none necessarily make or break a relationship. You will know for yourself how important each belief is. Personality is included here; is the person fun to be around? Kind? Easy to talk to? Think about what you need and what you can offer, try to find a nice balance. Everyone offers something different and needs something different from another, with inflection and consideration this step is relatively simple. Remember to consider if this person would make a good parent for your children.
The second aspect is emotional. Ideally you will want a partner who has a similar heart to your own, not necessarily the same but not wildly different either. If your reaction to an event is sadness and theirs is laughter, you may find yourself having a hard time connecting on a deeper level. This brings up the topic of openness… Everyone will have their own pace of opening up, some are slower and some are quicker; but ultimately you will be better off with someone who opens up to you in turn at roughly the same pace. Being patient can be a virtue, but waiting too long may lead to a feeling of futility and resentment. Consider for yourself how much you are willing to wait, and how much you are willing to compromise. Some people will never open up as fully as you would like, and some will open up too much for your liking. Politely let them know if that is a reason you feel incompatible, and move on.
The spiritual category is perhaps the most critical. Of course the other three have a big impact on everyday life and are not insignificant; the spiritual life of a person will impact not only the everyday life, but particularly how they handle hard times. In most places I say “ideally,” but here I feel safe saying you must find someone who has the same faith as you do. If you are a Christian, the bible is clear that you must marry a Christian. In summary, the bible is full of stories in the Old Testament of people who married into a different faith and thus led their families and even the entire nation of Israel astray until the whole kingdom collapsed. The New Testament says not to be “unequally yoked” because it will naturally cause strife and be a splitting point during arguments instead of a binding point (2 Corinthians 6:14). Others have written much more extensively on this topic, and this article has gone on long enough. In addition to the basic faith, you should make sure you have no major doctrinal disagreements. This isn’t a minor point like “Are Nephilim real?” but something such as “Is baptism required for salvation?” (It isn’t). In general, it is ideal for a woman to learn the bible from her husband so they agree on things and have more tranquility as a result, but of course if there is ever a contradiction between a man’s teaching and God’s word, God is to be followed.
Before Marriage it should simply be someone who you feel attracted too. Someone you find beautiful/ handsome, and appreciate the health of in terms of exercise and diet. Perhaps consider some eugenic ideas, though these are generally very low priority compared to making sure two people can connect on the previous 3 levels and get along very well in the heart, mind, and soul. But genetics are not entirely unimportant, and can be fun to consider how well two people match; though most people will do fine. Rarely will someone actually have major genetic issues to seriously consider a negative. For more consideration on how far two should go physically at varying stages, I recommend reading “Boundaries of Courtship”, the sister-article to this one. That article also briefly explains what courting is, and why I recommend it over casual dating.
Ideally, one should marry their best friend. Someone who they are closer to than anyone else, in each category listed above (with an exception of course to physical, in which intimacy should primarily grow after marriage). We can see the type of ideal intimacy a marriage should have in Song of Solomon, where Solomon wrote “How fair is thy love, my sister, my spouse! how much better is thy love than wine! and the smell of thine ointments than all spices!” (4:10). The word ‘sister’ is being used as the female form of brother, which is often used in the bible to mean “best friend.” Marriage should not be looked at like an obligation or a contract; it is not merely a man doing one role and a woman doing another. It should also be that two who are married feel more close and safe with each other than with anyone else on this Earth. Only God should be first, spouse second, and so on. It is my belief that if you seek a marriage like this, you will find yourself happier and more fulfilled than any other way. God bless.
P.S. I intended to use more verses, but the writing just didn't work out that way. I want to share them below anyway, because these are a few good passages to consider for this topic.
22 Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. 24 Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. 25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; 26 that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, 27 that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. 28 So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. 29 For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: 30 for we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. 31 For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. 32 This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. 33 Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.
“Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them.”
“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”
“Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised.”
“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. We love him, because he first loved us.”
1 John 4:18-19
The sister-article to this one, where I try to focus more on why courtship is a good idea and how to conduct yourself physically during one.
I am not a Catholic myself, but I find that the traditional orthodox Catholics have some good views on social issues that I very much agree with, such as marriage and birth control. I found this article the first time I pondered writing on the topic, and some of its points and verses are shared with my own article.
This can vary highly, but the most important component for a successful marriage is two people who are mature and put God first and each other second, with themselves and all else third. It makes good points for early marriage, and I believe that if two people are seeking after God properly, and courting intentionally, it should not take much more than 4-6 months to determine if they should marry. That number will change for many reasons, but assuming no big issues to work through and they can see each other regularly in person, it is plenty of time to get to know someone and their family fairly well.