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After checking into the tragic accounts of some marriages, it's evident that the decisions and patterns made during the dating process have a far more serious effect on the success or failure of a marriage than most people realize.

Many times people go into the dating relationship unprepared, and they relate to each other in such a negative way. Then they bring that same negativity over into the marriage relationship.

Certain seeds were sown during their dating years - seeds for successfully failing in marriage. They totally destroy their marriage because the relationship wasn't built on knowledge. It was built on presumption, getting even with one another, and all sorts of other little games they learned while dating. So they have the same problems when they get married.

That's why there needs to be prerequisites for dating and marriage.

Prerequisites for Dating
You shouldn't be dating in the first place if you don't realize that marriage is the ultimate goal of dating! Realizing that marriage is the ultimate goal should be the number-one qualification for dating. Next would be to understand all God's requirements for marriage.

But, generally speaking, you're ready to date when you've met these four prerequisites:
  1. You're aware of both the benefits and dangers of dating. In other words, you've considered its advantages and disadvantages before you enter the dating relationship.
  2. You've worked out a set of personal dating standards from Scripture, which simply means that, in addition to God's standards, you've established your own personal values for choosing the right life partner.
  3. You've purposed in your heart not to lower your standards, even if it means losing dates or relationships. This is especially important because emotions can pull you in the wrong direction if you let them. If you're not careful, they'll automatically decide for you what you'll do in the early stages of a dating relationship.
    Never, never date someone you won't consider for marriage!
    - Deborah Butler

    But most of the time you don't really see what you're dealing with until you've been dating for at least six months. By then, the initial feelings have begun to wear off and you may find you want to get out of the relationship. That's when people can get hurt. It's much easier to set your standards ahead of time and learn how to control your emotions.

  4. Never, never date someone you won't consider for marriage! The main reason for establishing a set of standards before you start to date is so you can seek God apart from the pressures and the emotions of dating. You need that time to determine the sort of person who will be right for you.

    Then you need to settle in your heart that you're not going to let anything or anyone cause you to lower your standards. So once you set your standards, stick to them. You'll both save yourself a lot of time and trouble by refusing to compromise.

    That's why it's important to lay the groundwork for evaluating relationships first. You'll avoid a lot of problems if you don't even consider getting close to someone unless that person meets your criteria.
The engagement period allows you the opportunity to look at one another more closely once you know you're getting married. It's a time for working on your friendship at the highest level!

Hopefully, during the dating process, you'll develop a relationship only with a person who meets your standards for life partnership. So if you become serious about someone in particular, it means you've made your choice and you're ready to get engaged. That's when you want to take the relationship to the next stage - intimacy without the physical union!

Prerequisites for Marriage: Counseling!
Every relationship is going to take some time, but it will take a little less time if the person comes from a similar upbringing or background because it's easier to understand what makes him or her tick.

For example, if you came from a divorced home and I came from a divorced home, we have common ground there. You basically know what I've felt and experienced by only having one parent in the home. But suppose you came from a divorced home and I came from a two-parent home. I've been happy every day of my life and you've never seen a happy day. Then guess what? You're going to make sure I don't see any more happy days - because you don't know what happiness is!

That's why Bishop Butler teaches that you should marry a "clone" of yourself (someone just like you). A lot of people don't like that because they don't like themselves. You need to learn to like yourself before even thinking about introducing another person into your life.
So premarital counseling is very important. But a lot of times people don't seek it because they're afraid of what will be asked. They're scared that something will be pointed out that they know isn't right, and they don't want anyone to find out about it. Their attitude is, "I love her. She loves me. We're getting married."

Three weeks later they're sitting in the counseling office! They thought they could work it out, but they couldn't. If you think you can work a problem out, then work it out before you get married. You don't have to marry the person and then try to work it out. Work it out now.

The silliest thing in the world is for people to get married without counseling, especially when it's available to them. We want people to locate the problem areas before they get married. We feel that if a couple comes to us for premarital counseling, it's our responsibility to make sure they know as much about each other as possible.

So what we do is make sure people know that before they say, "I do," they'll have the opportunity to say, "I don't and I won't." We also require a couple to date at least a year before they ask for counseling. We want to see if they're really serious about the relationship and to make sure that they're at least friends. The worst thing two people can do is come in for counseling and they're not even friends! You can't be someone's spouse if you're not his or her friend first.

Discerning the Right Life Partner
One of the reasons why so many marriages suffer from breakups and problems is that the couple never laid the proper groundwork, which is something they should have done before they started dating.

Many of the qualifications for choosing the right life partner will be in the dating standards that you've set. You can evaluate each standard ahead of time by asking yourself how will such-and-such factor affect a relationship? Will it help build or destroy a marriage?

Everyone's list will be different because it's based on God's standards plus the individual's personal standards. But here are some basic things that everyone should consider when making up a list:
  1. Is the person a Christian? (2 Cor. 6:14).
  2. What are my life goals, and is this person compatible with them? (Col. 1:28,29).
  3. Does the person have any self-control? (1 Thess. 4:4).
  4. How does the person relate to other members of his or her family? Is there harmony at home (because that's how the person will relate to others in your household!)? (Num. 14:18).
  5. Is the timing right to pursue this relationship? (Gen. 29:20).
  6. What is the person called to do, and is that gift and calling compatible to my gift? (1 Cor. 7:32; Matt. 6:33).
  7. Am I being comprehensive enough spiritually so that God can fulfill my deepest needs? (1 Cor. 7:36).
The main thing to remember is to set standards that are really important to you and stick with them. That way, when you find someone compatible with your list, you'll know you've discerned the right life partner.

That doesn't mean you should just jump up and get married. Marriage isn't something that you just jump into, because you usually don't see what you're really dealing with until you've been in the relationship awhile.

For example, you might be looking at someone who, by the outward appearance, is doing everything right. But you don't know what kind of weeds are mixed up with his seeds! Unless God reveals it to you supernaturally, you'll never know what's really going on with a person until you spend some time with him.

Did you know there are people, especially in the world, who will watch you until they think they know what you expect of them? Once they see you and decide that they want you, they'll become in the relationship exactly what they think you need or want. You're thinking, "This person is an answer to prayer!" And no one can tell you anything different. No one can convince you to slow down.

We've had people tell us, "I don't have to wait, because this is the person God sent me." We say, "Well, if this is the person God sent you, that person will still be there in a year or two. Slow down and take your time." But often they rush into things because they've fallen for the trap of the enemy.

We've seen it happen again and again. A man or a woman seems to be everything you asked God for - and the minute you commit yourself, the real person "comes out." Usually, when the enemy sends the "perfect person" across your path, God's person is not far behind. Satan is just using someone else to distract you from the one God wanted to present.

So you have to slow down. Take your time. Don't be in a hurry. If you feel you're in a hurry for anything, that's when you really need to slow down. God will never push you, but Satan will. That applies to every area of your life: God doesn't push you into anything. He'll gently lead you, but He'll never push you.

Source: Marriage and Family by Deborah L. Butler.
Excerpt permission granted by Harrison House Publishers

Author Biography

Deborah Butler
Web site: Word of Faith International Christian Center
Pastor Deborah is a licensed and ordained minister of the Gospel. Her encouraging, yet down-to-earth teaching imparts wisdom from the Word of God to all that hear her speak. One of Pastor Butler's many duties is serving as the Director of God's BeYOUties, the women's ministry at Word of Faith in Southfield, and Faith4Life in Toledo. Pastor Deborah is often called to travel to other ministries to teach and admonish women to walk in the wisdom of God and to experience peace in every area of their lives.

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