A commenter has written in about some questions pertaining to his engagement. I answered them, but if any of the married men commenting have experience with these questions feel free to offer advice as well.
“For us, we’re at the stage where, it’s hard to keep our hands from each other … physically — hugging and kissing”
Well, I’m no physical affection Nazi, but it is good to draw some boundaries. There is hugging and kissing in our relationship, but the main boundaries that are drawn in the sand are: no hands under clothes, nothing horizontal or lying down (if you get my drift), although [more upright] cuddling I’m alright with, alone time should be limited especially if you lack self control, etc.
If something starts getting heated then call it off. Obviously, boundaries can be broken but legalism isn’t the answer either. I always know what I am getting myself into, so if I sin then I have to repent of it and reaffirm the truth. If there are habits of continually breaking boundaries then you need to be more vigilant and accountable about it [especially to other people].
(a) What should, I, a Christian man do (as the leader-in-waiting) in leading the both of us to marriage?
This depends a lot on your leadership style and how you want to run the relationship. What I do may not necessarily fit what you do and vice versa. However, I personally like Bible studies and I’m OK prayer time with each other. I will not be conned into people saying that I should do those things though… my girl’s friends were asking if we prayed together and the answer was not much, so I had to educate her that there is nothing about praying together in the Bible. Although it is good, it is not a spiritual requirement for marriage. This is freedom in Christ that we can choose how to behave in our relationships, although the end goal is unity.
The main thing I think you should go through is each other’s expectation of each other in marriage. Libido is a good one. You can go through talking about what you are like… so for example I would ask her what her libido is like. Then I would say that I want sex 1-3x per day in marriage. Most girls eyes pop out at this, and then I ask them about their response to my expectations there.
Comparing expectations and seeing if they match on sex, financials, relationships, and other important areas of life is probably one of the most important things you can do because it ensures that one person wont be feel conned into accepting a marriage to things they didn’t agree to later on.
(b) How should I lead my fiancee in preparation to be my wife? (her father is not a Christian)
A more difficult question. I’d still ask him for his daughter’s hand in marriage.
I think generally as more fathers get “relegated” to just walking their daughters down the aisle it’s best to keep him in the loop and treat him with respect. Respect is a universal language regardless of Christians and non-Christians and treating people right goes a long way to friendly interaction and may even bring him to Christ.
For men this would constitute something like the following: Since he knows her better than you do, I would even enter sort of a “mentor” relationship asking his advice about treating his daughter correctly and things to look out for. This treats him as the sort of benevolent authority figure there and allows him to interact with you on a “help you out” type of basis, and given the Ben Franklin effect where doing something good for a person makes you like them better you will easily be on his good side. Most fathers aren’t so far in pedestaling their daughters that they can’t see their flaws and what to look out for, and they can always help you out with what she likes. Even better if you can have some camaraderie with him about her flaws and tease her about them.
(c) What advice would you have for me?
1. Fix your eyes on Jesus. Study the Scriptures many times on what it says about marriage. Go over and over and over them again. That’s one of the reasons why I know myself so strongly is that I know exactly what is required of me and exactly what is required of her, and I don’t compromise. Make sure you are OK with your roles and responsibilities, and making it known what hers as well. This is a good discussion topic.
2. Keep walking with eyes wide open and don’t let infatuation blind you. Don’t be afraid to be playful and fun, but know when you need to call out bad behavior both from yourself and from her. Don’t tolerate disrespect and make it known that you will tell her when she is being disrespectful in situations.
3. Make sure you have a Christian male mentor (preferably married and knows about the nature of women) to help advise you. [Many mentors is good too if you know many men who can be good mentors].
4. Keep up relationships with family and friends. It’s easy to get caught up in just the two of you, but there is more to life than just the two of you as well. Family is an important calling but it’s not the only calling.
5. Have the “politically incorrect” discussions now. They will be worse if you have to bring them up in marriage. For example, If my girl is getting fat I will straight up tell her (as kindly as possible) that she’s getting overweight and my attraction for her will decline because of it.
If a woman can’t handle the truth now what makes you think she will do better in marriage? You need to know she values the truth over feelings.
(d) In your opinion, how important is pre-marital counselling (conducted by the church we’re attending)?
This depends on the quality of the pre-marital counseling. Hard to tell without looking at most material, but if it’s anything like most Christian counselors expect it to be mediocre cause everything is supposedly solved through “communication”
Personally, my girl and I are extremely prepared for marriage because we have already discussed and made boundaries about what we expect from each other in daily life (housework, cooking, cleaning, division of labor, etc.) and we have discussed what God expects of us, what we expect of each other, and many other things. We have also gone through April’s list on her expectations about marriage.
I’ve also had the discussion with her that she is still responsible for herself and her emotions. She must maintain her relationship between her and God, and not to foist things that need to be taken to God on me. This is another extremely important thing to look like because a wife that idolizes her husband can be as much of a pain in the butt as a wife that is not a Christian. She becomes overly dependent on you is not a good thing.
(e) How long should it (the pre-marital counselling) take? Is one year sufficient or too long?
To be honest that’s long for my tastes. I only want a 3-6 month engagement at most before marriage. The majority of vetting I have already done, and I think should be done prior to engagement. If you have already talked about marriage expectations and know how to communicate with difficult situations then that’s what most of the hard work is.
Of course, not every relationship will have a man who is proactive about his own pre-marital counseling and discussing the issues without an intermediary. Thus, it may be useful to go through a directed program. However, since they are offering the service I would ask about their statistics:
- How many couples have gone through
- How many successful marriages and divorces. If a Church doesn’t keep track of their divorces of those who went through the program and had counseling this is a yellow flag. Tracking divorces means they are willing to identify problem areas with their counseling that they can work on.
- Close to that is to ask what they have improved on in their counseling and what they have learned counseling. No program is perfect and if they can tell you straight up you know they are committed and invested in improving it.
Also, If my church had something like this I would ask for the quicker version, but that’s up to you if you want to try to negotiate this depending on your own preparedness.