The Bible doesn’t say anything directly about dating. If it did, we’d all know because Joshua Harris would’ve written a book about it already. As a wise man once said, “You won’t find a passage stating, ‘And Moses took Zipporah unto Chili’s.’” Partly because the ancient Hebrews had better taste than that. And because dating just wasn’t a thing in Bible days—mostly that.
Yet the Bible does have much to say about evaluation. It also says a lot about marriage and relationships. Scripture is full of passages that encourage us to evaluate ourselves and our potential partners, and to grow in marriage relationships in ways that are healthy and spiritually fulfilling.
Proverbs 25:28 warns, “A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls.” Does that cute guy you like have a temper? Does he explode in anger or berate his friends? Does he turn green and burst out of his clothes and start speaking in incomplete sentences? If the answer is “yes” to the first two questions, don’t marry that guy. He won’t build up your house. He will only destroy it (If you said yes to the third question, ignore what I just said. That is Mark Ruffalo. Trap him.).
Proverbs 25:24 says, “It is better to live in a corner of the roof than in a house shared with a contentious woman.” Do you think that was written for some poor married dude hanging off the side of his house, reading this thinking, “Now you tell me!?” No! It’s for the single man evaluating what kind of woman he should marry.
When applied correctly, these timeless truths have a lot of modern, practical applications—for dating couples and married ones. Here are some questions we should ask to help us determine whether or not we should spend the rest of our lives with someone.
1. WHAT DOES SUCCESS LOOK LIKE FOR YOU IN 10 YEARS? 20? 30?
Marriage is not about staring into one another’s eyes to find our meaning in life. It is about a couple standing side by side, grabbing hands as you look toward the same horizon and running into life together. A great conversation to have early and often is, “So where do you see your life going?” What we value shapes our goals. Goals shape our decisions. Decisions determine our destiny. So you want to be lockstep on the biggest issues in life.
Whoever said, “Life is not about the destination, it’s about the journey” must not have flown on many planes. It makes a great difference if the flight lands in San Diego or Syria. Are you both moving the same direction?
This does not mean you need to have an identical career path. But what do many couples say as the reason for why they divorce? “Our lives went in different directions.” They don’t mean that one became a lawyer and the other a professional mime (That’s a thing, right?). That is not a statement about career; it is a statement about what they ultimately value in life. So explore what they believe a successful life would be. What are they chasing? Money? Fame? Power? Comfort? Or do they want to honor God with their lives? Find out what your partner’s priorities are.
2. WHAT DO YOU WANT TO DO THIS WEEKEND?
Much of marriage involves the two of you hanging out. This does not mean you have to have the same hobbies, but you’ve got to have a little in common.
Does she like a night at home watching a movie and he like going out seven nights a week? Does she always have friends over and he just wants to watch the game on the couch? You don’t have to do every single thing together—and probably shouldn’t, but here again is an area where unspoken expectations can lead to frustration.
If you envision walking to the farmers’ market hand in hand every Saturday morning, and he envisions waking up at noon and watching ESPN until midnight, you’re going to want to have talked that through. Some negotiating will be necessary—but as with anything in a relationship, finding middle ground and compromising on some of your own desires for the sake of your spouse is essential.
3. WHAT HAPPENED THE LAST TIME YOU GOT IN A FIGHT?
The past is often a predictor of the future. Learning how someone has handled conflict in the past will give you a good idea of how they will treat you when you two disagree.
How did they respond when things didn’t go their way or when someone hurt their feelings? Did they allow distance in the relationship? Did they talk about the person instead of to them? Did they seek understanding and forgiveness? Or did they explode and say hurtful things?
Proverbs states, “The words of a fool are like thrusts of a sword but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” You want to make sure you both have learned the art of resolving conflict in a way that is constructive, not destructive.
4. HOW MANY KIDS WOULD WE WANT TO RAISE?
Kids are amazing. But raising them absorbs a lot of money and time. They prevent sleep. Their appearance on the scene forever changes a marriage.
So if one of you never wants to have children and the other wants to have enough young to populate a volleyball team, you’re going to want to have mapped that out a bit before you walk down the aisle.
It will at least disrupt her career, and may end it entirely for an extended season. You can’t predict all that will come your way as you attempt to have kids, but you can see if you are both generally headed the right direction.
5. HOW IS YOUR FINANCIAL SITUATION?
Do they spend every dime they make? Do they give their parents coupons for their birthdays? One of the leading causes of marital stress is money. Not just “I wish we had more,” but “How I spend it is very different than how you spend it.”
For many people, the thought of an impending marriage motivates them to get their financial act together. A conversation about money carries with it the possibility of helping you both align your expenses with your priorities. Let the thought of settling down propel you toward being a person who handles money with generosity and wisdom.
And if you’re already married, there’s never a bad time to re-evaluate and start to make steps to get into alignment with one another and start to make healthy decisions.
6. WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO ON HOLIDAYS?
Most people spend time with their families on holidays, and your expectations here reflect how much or how little each of your families will be involved in your marriage.
My wife’s family enjoys a nice meal together at major holidays. My family does not consider Christmas celebrated properly unless we all stay in the house together for at least a week! Our failure to understand early on that neither philosophy was wrong led us into some hurt feelings and arguments early in our marriage that really could have been avoided.
Know that when you get married, you do not just unite your lives, you unite families. Understand what the family dynamics are, and don’t just assume everyone was raised the way you were and with the same expectations. As troubling as it might be, the truth is, some families don’t all wear matching footie pajamas for the entirety of Christmas day (Though, obviously, they should.).
7. HOW OFTEN ARE YOU ASSUMING WE’RE GOING TO HAVE SEX?
Pro tip: Don’t roll out this question on the first date. However, for engaged couples, this should be one of the most important topics of discussion.
Sex is designed by God to foster and promote bonding. Your sense of connection, intimacy and oneness as a couple and your rhythm of when, how and how often you have sex will play a role in all of this.
So again, here is an area where unvoiced expectations can lead to frustration. You need to figure out what the other person expects.
It can be an uncomfortable conversation at first for a couple, no matter what stage of a relationship they are in, but it can prevent miscommunications and unrealistic expectations.
8. FOR DATING COUPLES, “DO YOU REALLY WANT TO DO THIS?”
In Song of Solomon, the beloved says to her man, “Set me as a seal upon your heart … For love is as strong as death.” How is love like death? They are alike in their strength. When death takes hold of something it does not let go. Love is like this.
How do you know real love? It grabs hold and says, “I will never let go.” There is a deep sense of commitment to each other. A resolve to stay even when it requires the discomfort of working through problems.
You want to make sure that when you finally stand at the altar in front of God and all your friends and declare, “I promise to love you for better or for worse …” that those words reflect a deep resolve you already carry inside. This is how Jesus loves His Church and marriage at its best is meant to be a picture of this relentless kind of love.
Ben Stuart is the author of the new book, Single, Dating, Engaged, Married: Navigating Life and Love in the Modern Age available now.
Ben Stuart is in the process of planting Passion City Church in Washington, D.C.