The Bible’s Viewpoint
How to Choose a Marriage Partner
A SINGLE WOMAN WAS ASKED, “DO YOU EVER THINK OF GETTING MARRIED?” “THINK?” SHE ANSWERED QUICKLY. “I WORRY.”
THIS woman’s terse comment speaks volumes about some people’s desire for love and companionship. Many rate finding a marriage partner as one of the most important things in life. Thus, worldwide, there has been a mushrooming of services designed to help people find a marriage mate. Nevertheless, in many parts of the world, the number of marriage failures eclipses the number of successes.
In Western lands it is common for people to choose their own marriage partner. In some parts of Asia and Africa, on the other hand, arranged marriages are still the custom. In either case, the process is one that should not be treated lightly. Few other decisions a person makes in life have as much potential for happiness or for sadness. A loving marriage can be most enriching and fulfilling. Conversely, a contentious union can be a constant source of pain and stress.—Proverbs 21:19; 26:21.
Like others, true Christians want their marriage union to bring joy and contentment. But they also desire to please God and honor him. (Colossians 3:23) Being the Creator and Originator of marriage, God knows intimately what our real needs are and what is best for us. (Genesis 2:22-24; Isaiah 48:17-19) Besides, he has witnessed millions upon millions of marriages, good and bad, over the millenniums of man’s existence. He knows what works and what does not. (Psalm 32:8) Through his Word, the Bible, he sets out clear, concrete principles that can help any Christian make an informed choice. What are some of these principles?
Look Beyond the Physical
Where individuals are free to choose whom they will marry, they may meet potential partners casually or be introduced by friends or family. Often, romantic interest is initially sparked by physical attraction. While this is certainly a natural and powerful incentive, the Bible encourages us to look deeper than mere appearance when contemplating marriage.
“Charm may be false, and prettiness may be vain; but the woman that fears Jehovah is the one that procures praise for herself,” says Proverbs 31:30. The apostle Peter spoke about “the incorruptible apparel of the quiet and mild spirit, which is of great value in the eyes of God.” (1 Peter 3:4) Yes, the spiritual qualities of a prospective mate—that person’s devotion to God and love for God as well as his or her Christian personality—are far more important than physical beauty. It is vital to take the time to make an objective choice, selecting someone who shares the same spiritual goals and who is also endeavoring to display the fruitage of God’s spirit. This will go far in ensuring a happy marriage union.—Proverbs 19:2; Galatians 5:22, 23.
‘Marry Only in the Lord’
Sharing common goals and beliefs with the person you want to marry is very important. Marriage is a real challenge, requiring many adjustments in behavior and attitude by both parties. Logically, the more you already have in common with your prospective partner, the easier those adjustments will be.
This helps us to see why the apostle Paul exhorted Christians to avoid becoming “unevenly yoked with unbelievers.” (2 Corinthians 6:14) Paul knew that marrying someone who does not share the same faith and understanding of Bible principles can create conflict and disagreement. The admonition to ‘marry only in the Lord’ is reasonable. (1 Corinthians 7:39) It reflects God’s thinking. Those who wisely follow it avoid many serious complications and problems.—Proverbs 2:1, 9.
What about areas where arranged marriages are still customary? In southern India, for example, some have estimated that 80 percent of all marriages are arranged by the parents. Whether or not Christian parents follow this tradition is a matter for personal decision. At any rate, such arranging of marriages works best when spiritual values dominate.
Those who favor arranged marriages feel that this puts the decision-making process into the hands of experienced and mature people. “Some parents feel that because of their children’s age and lack of experience, they cannot be relied on to judge correctly the spiritual maturity of a prospective mate,” notes one Christian elder in Africa. “Young ones are inexperienced in life and may decide things emotionally,” adds a traveling minister from India. Since parents know the character of their children better than anyone else, they feel that they are in a unique position to choose wisely for their children. They would also be wise to consider the views of the young man and woman.
However, when parents ignore Bible principles, they may end up suffering repercussions if the marriage subsequently has difficulties. Because there is often little chance beforehand for the prospective marriage partners to get to know each other well, problems may result. And when they do, explains a Christian father in India, “the tendency is to shift the blame onto the parents.”
For Christian parents who are arranging a marriage, the question of motive must also be considered. When materialistic goals or a desire for prestige dominate the choice of a marriage partner, problems arise. (1 Timothy 6:9) Therefore, those arranging a marriage should ask themselves, ‘Is this selection made to ensure the happiness and spiritual health of the two parties? Or, rather, is it to enhance family status or wealth or to gain some financial benefit?’—Proverbs 20:21.
The Bible’s counsel is clear and beneficial. When a marriage partner is being considered, the virtue and spirituality of the prospective mate should always be of primary concern, regardless of how the choice is made. When this is done, Jehovah God, the Author of the marriage arrangement, is honored and those marrying can start off on a solid spiritual footing. (Matthew 7:24, 25) This will greatly contribute to a happy, enriching union.