In marriage preparation at City Church we ask engaged couples to complete the following questionnaire on their expectations for married life. It’s one we adapted and added to from a questionnaire I did 20 years ago in my marriage prep. classes at St. Helen’s Bishopsgate.
Our approach is to ask the couples to complete the worksheet separately and then talk through their conclusions with each other. We don’t then go through the answers, question by question, with them in marriage prep. classes but we do ask them to talk through with us any areas of significant disagreement or uncertainty.
Expectations in marriage worksheet
A. Spiritual life
1. Where and when do you generally read your Bible and pray?
2. Do you expect to have devotional times together? How often?
3. How important is God in your life? How is this manifest?
4. Are you growing as a Christian? In what ways do you envisage your spouse being able to help you grow? Be specific.
B. Daily living
1. Are you a ‘morning’ or ‘evening’ person? What time do you like to go to bed in the evening and get up in the morning?
2. How important are music, radio, TV, social media, surfing the internet and computer games to you? Do you think anything will need to change when you are married?
3. If you were given £25,000 what would you do with it as a couple?
4. From the list below, what jobs around the house do you expect to do, what might you share with your spouse and what do you expect your spouse mostly to do?
Mowing the lawn, Car maintenance (if relevant), Washing up
Cooking, Cleaning the toilet, Food shopping
Ironing, Paying the bills, Wiring a plug,
Unblocking a drain, Sewing on a button, Changing the bedding
Doing the washing, Driving the car (if relevant), Taking the bins out
Husband will do:
Wife will mostly do:
We will share:
5. Do you expect to keep some secrets from your spouse? For example:
- Private letters?
6. In what areas do you expect to disagree most? For example:
7. Is there anything you feel it will be difficult to discuss with your spouse? Are you willing to try?
1. How would you like to celebrate your first wedding anniversary? What about your tenth?
2. How do you view your (future) in-laws? How often will you visit them? How often will they visit you?
3. What about your own parents? How often will you visit them? How often will they visit you?
4. How often would you expect to speak to your parents and other close family?
5. How do you think your relationship with your parents will change once you’re married?
6. How might your parents and in-laws be cared for in old age?
7. How do you view your future spouse’s friends? Will you encourage these friendships?
8. How many evenings a week would you expect to be:
- Out, with your spouse?
- Out ,without your spouse?
- In together, with friends?
- Left at home alone?
- In together, alone?
- Out together, just the two of you?
9. How important is time on your own to relax? Do you relax best in the company of others or in your own company? Do you think you will need time alone when you are at home or on holiday together?
1. How was Christmas for you growing up?
2. What traditions did you have as a family that you would love to keep/prefer to lose?
3. Do you look forward to the Christmas season?
4. How would you like to spend your first Christmas together?
5. How might you balance time spent with your respective families over the years?
1. What makes you nervous or afraid at the prospect of having children?
2. If you are able to have children, how many children would you like? How important would financial considerations feature in your thoughts? What other factors would apply?
3. How long would you like to wait before trying for children?
4. How would you respond if you became pregnant on honeymoon?
5. What would be your top three priorities for your children?
6. What is your view about infant baptism?
7. Do you anticipate parenting in a similar manner to which you were brought up? Why or why not?
8. What sort of education would you want for them?
9. How do you see your responsibility as regards ‘bringing them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord’ (Ephesians 6v4)? How about your future spouse’s responsibility?
1. What areas of church life do you currently serve in?
2. Are there any responsibilities you should consider giving up once you are married?
3. What particular contributions to church life do you anticipate having as a married couple?
4. In what particular ways do you want to serve God together? Be specific.
5. How do you want God to use your marriage and home?
6. What part will hospitality play?
G. Communication and Conflict
1. Are you good at communicating “basic” information: diary planning, phone messages, short- and medium-term plans? If not, how will you improve?
2. Are you good at the kind of communicating that builds and strengthens intimacy? Do you think you need to improve at making space for that in your relationship?
3. Do you think your spouse does? How can you help?
4. Do you find it easy to talk about things you are struggling with? How can your spouse help you?
5. How good are you at “speaking the truth in love”, saying difficult things in a loving way?
6. Are you willing for your spouse to be frank with you regarding any personal habits you have that they find unpleasant or simply unhelpful? How best might they address or initiate the subject?
7. How do you respond to conflict? Do you go quiet, sulk, become argumentative, become defensive?
8. How do you anticipate resolving conflicts?
9. Do you consider your future spouse to be good at communicating? How could they improve?
10. Do you consider yourself to be good at communicating? How could you improve?
1. What do you enjoy doing in your leisure time? Is this something you plan to continue to do when married? Would you anticipate your spouse being involved in this? How?
2. How often do you expect to have a holiday? What would you expect these to look like?
1. What is your attitude towards work? Do you find it difficult to stop working? Do you find it difficult to switch off after work?
2. How important is having a career to you? What expectations or hopes do you have for your career?
3. How would you respond to an expectation from an employer for you to work overtime, or increase your hours?
4. How do you feel about the role of housewife and mother? As a mother, how soon would you consider returning to paid employment, if at all? As a father, how would you feel about your wife going back to work?
1. What standard of living have you been used to?
in your childhood
2. What expectations do you bring into marriage in relation to this? Do you expect a steadily rising standard of living?
3. What debts do you have?
4. What about savings and assets?
5. What is your attitude towards money? Do you generally save up before buying larger items, or do you buy these on credit and pay back?
6. When you buy something, do you prefer to pay more for quality instead of pay a lower price?
7. Do you budget carefully?
8. Are you giving to the church in a disciplined manner? What will that look like when you are married?
9. Will you have a joint account when you are married?
10. Do you plan to save together? How much? What will these savings be for?
11. Will you maintain a savings account, pension, life insurance?
12. Who will be in charge of the money when you are married? Who will be responsible for paying different bills and how?
13. Do you expect to talk about every purchase you make, set a threshold for this, or each be free to spend what you want?
14. How much money do you think you ought to spend on holidays?
1. Do you expect to be living in Birmingham in 5 years? What about in 10?
2. What are your priorities in choosing where to live?
3. How important to you is where you live and what sort of house/flat you live in?
- In 10 years?
- At retirement?
4. What sort of home would you expect in 5 years’ time?
5. How important is it to you to be buying your own home?
6. How much of a practical handyman/woman are you? Do you enjoy doing things around the home, for example: putting up shelves, mending things, decorating, making curtains, etc.?
7. How tidy are you? How important is it for you to have a clean and tidy home?
1. Try to write down in a sentence or two about why you want to get married and why to this person in particular?
2. How do you hope being married to your spouse will benefit them?
3. How do you hope being married to your spouse will benefit you?
4. What could undermine these benefits?
5. How often do you expect to have sex?
6. Where would you turn to if you were having problems with the sexual relationship within your marriage?
7. Do you think romance is important? How do you intend to be romantic towards your spouse?
8. How will you keep God central in your marriage? How might you keep a check on that?
Notes for discussion
If we were in any doubt that the introduction of same-sex marriage would change the very nature of marriage for everyone then we are in no doubt any longer. If we were in any doubt that the introduction of same-sex marriage would weaken rather than strengthen the institution of marriage for everyone then the recent remarks of Baroness Stowell put that, too, beyond doubt. Baroness Stowell, who speaks for the Conservatives in the Lords on equalities issues, confirmed that faithfulness in marriage is not to be a requirement under the proposed legislation for same-sex relationships. Rather, issues of fidelity would be up to each couple to decide for themselves.
As the law stands, for heterosexual couples adultery has always been a grounds for divorce. The proposed legislation for same-sex marriages will not include the same provision.
Quite simply there are only three options for the government:
1) In order to maintain a level-playing field an adultery clause has to be added to the proposed legislation but how do you define adultery in some homosexual relationships? Hence the governments decision not to include it.
2) Or to maintain a level-playing field adultery has to be removed as a grounds for divorce for heterosexual marriage
3) Or we accept different definitions for marriage depending on whether you are gay or straight.
David Burrowes MP in the Telegraph article said: “This goes against everything the PM has said about his desire to try and strengthen marriage by extending marriage to same sex couples.”
“If the legislation is not urgently amended, it signals the abolition of the law of adultery. It will create an adulterer’s charter across both types of marriage, which far from strengthening this great institution will do irreparable damage to it.”
(HT: Christian Institute)
I took a marriage preparation session for a number of engaged couples at our church last week. There were lots of things I would have been very happy to discuss not least all of the many practical issues that a couple face as they get ready to marry. But rather than start there I wanted to start with the biggest issue facing any human relationship: Am I willing to let this person change me?
Tim Keller in The Reason for God writes: One of the principles of love – either love for a friend or romantic love – is that you have to lose independence to attain greater intimacy. If you want ‘freedom’ of love – the fulfillment, security, sense of worth that it brings – you must limit your freedom in many ways. You cannot enter a deep relationship and still make unilateral decisions or allow your friend or lover no say in how you live your life. To experience the joy and freedom of love, you must give up personal autonomy.’
For a love relationship to be healthy there must be a mutual loss of independence. It can’t be just one way. Both sides must say to the other, ‘I will adjust to you. I will change for you. I’ll serve you even though it means a sacrifice for me.’
In the most radical way, God has adjusted to us – in his incarnation and atonement. In Jesus Christ he became a limited human being, vulnerable to suffering and death. On the cross, he submitted to our condition – as sinners – and died in our place to forgive us. In the most profound way, God has said to us, in Christ, ‘I will adjust to you. I will change for you. I’ll serve you though it means sacrifice for me.’ If he has done this for us, we can and should say the same to God and others.
In summary: As God has changed for you, so you can now change for him.
That’s exactly what we find in a passage like Philippians 2:1-18.
2:5-11 tells of Christ’s willingness to leave the glories of heaven and become a man, taking the form of a servant, being willing to die, and to die on a cross (a cursed death – the worst death). From the highest place it is possible to be, at the right-hand of God, Christ now occupied the lowest place it is possible to be, cursed on a cross.
Either side of these verses are a call for our relationships with one another to be utterly transformed by this gospel pattern.
So, 2:2-4 we read: make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others (NIV).
And 2:14-15: Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation” (NIV).
The power to live well in a marriage comes from our willingness to change and to let our marriage partner be God’s change-agent. Christ’s willingness to change for us gives us every reason to change for him and to let him use others to do exactly that. As we learn to welcome change and to say to our marriage partners,for Christ’s sake, I need you to change me to be more like him so our marriages grow stronger.
Mark Vernon has written a really helpful myth-busting piece for Valentine’s Day. Here are some of his key conclusions could have been written by a Christian and they certainly serve to highlight how both Christian and non-Christian alike can go badly wrong when living according to the myth of Romantic love. Here are three of his key insights.
1) When we think that there is someone out there who can ‘complete us’ we are looking in the wrong place if we look for that in a person. Marriages can be extremely happy and do offer many blessings but when we marry we marry fallen, sinful human beings just like us. If we want someone to ‘complete us’ what we’re really asking for is someone to be God for us. He alone can provide ‘true love’. Vernon points to the conclusion of philosopher Simon May when he says:
There is a spiritual dimension to this romantic addiction too. The philosopher Simon May has proposed that while many have given up on God in the West, we still long for the unconditional love that God used to offer.
But godless, we seek instead unconditional love from our fellow humans. We make them gods, and of course they fail us. And then love turns to hate.
2. When we put that kind of expectation on ourselves, our spouse or on a potential boyfriend or girlfriend we ask them to do the impossible and they will always be a disappointment to us. We risk damaging the relationship if we want perfection. We risk never entering into a relationship if we wait for ‘the one’ who alone is perfect.
3. We need to recognise that love is a decision rather than a feeling or destiny.
The pressure to find ‘the one’ is socially corrosive because it idealises love, rather than understanding that love is made not found. Love is made in the gritty ups and downs of being with someone who is as flawed as you.
All of this said we should still celebrate human love and that should include romance; flowers, candle-lit dinners and all. What we mustn’t do is ask Romance to be our god for God alone IS love.
Tim and Kathy Keller deconstruct the cultural myths that surround marriage and give a gospel answer.
(HT: Justin Taylor)
Preaching through a series on the 10 commandments on Sunday we reached the 7th . Yesterday I posted the first part of the sermon on the relationship between sex and marriage. Today the second part looks at God’s purpose in the 7th commandment.
What is the 7th commandment?
The seventh commandment reads ‘You shall not commit adultery’. Pretty much every Jewish adult who first heard those words of God would either have been married or engaged to be married. Every adult could expect to be married by the age of 20. So in that culture the biggest challenge to honouring God with your body was remaining faithful to your spouse. But the commandment clearly speaks against all kinds of sexual sin.
Paul in Ephesians says ‘ Among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality or any kind of impurity.’ The word there for sexual immorality is porneia and refers really to any sex outside of marriage.
So why is faithfulness in your marriage so important to God?
We’ve been learning over again in this series is that each of the commandments that call on us to ‘love our neighbour’ depends upon a more fundamental commitment to ‘love God’. There is a right and necessary ordering of the commandments. It is the nature of our relationship with God that compels us to remain faithful to our spouse.
Covenant faithfulness in marriage is an expression of our covenant faithfulness to God. As God is faithful to us and as we are to be faithful to him so we are to exhibit the character of faithfulness in all our relationships, especially marriage. As his people so we want to be like him, to say to the world how great it is to have God as our God and so being faithful to our promises is part of saying thank you to God for being faithful to his.
I was at a wedding a while back, chatting to a non-Christian couple. They asked how long my wife and I had been married and at the time it was something like 10 or 11 years. One of them was surprised that having married so young we had lasted so long and then the other commented ‘it’s only the Christians who stay married.’ Sadly, in a fallen world marked by sin that is not always the case but it often is.
Our faithfulness in marriage is a reflection of God’s faithfulness we reflect God’s character as the faithful one who loves us with a never-breaking love. A husband and a wife are in their marriage to model the exclusive relationship between God and his people.
What makes adultery so serious it is both one and the same time a betrayal of a spouse and a denial of our God.
In Genesis 39:9-10 Joseph refuses to betray Potiphar by sucombing to the advances of Potiphar’s wife. He refuses out of loyalty to an earthly master. But more fundamentally he recognises that to break a human marriage is to ‘do a wicked thing and sin against God.’
The 7th commandment is given by God to protect marriages, to protect children in marriages and to protect God’s own name and reputation in the world.
Jesus and marriage
No wonder then that Jesus in Matthew 19:3-6 issues a solemn warning that it is God who joins a couple together in marriage. Through marriage they are now to be considered as one person (v.6) and therefore Jesus issues a command ‘let not man separate.’ It is not that it is impossible but rather that it is should not happen.
And the consequences for those who do break this commandment are serious. In the book of Hebrews Christians are reminded of the seriousness of honouring God with their marriages. 13:4
Marriage should be honoured by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.
Yesterday we saw that sex outside of marriage damages ourselves. Today that it dishonour’s God and we are warned judgement awaits those who dishonour God through adultery or sexual immorality.
Tomorrow’s post looks at how we all break the 7th commandment and how through Jesus we can keep the 7th commandment.
It’s becoming more common for dating couples to go off on their own for holidays. Peter Ko offers biblical wisdom on the matter.
Great article by Steve Cornell. Does not say everything that would need to be said in such a situation but is a very helpful starting point.
(HT: Tony Lane)
An interesting post by Chris Wiles on being a single Christian on Valentine’s day prompted me to offer up some material on marriage, singleness and Christian ministry. A second post will follow on some of the practical outworkings on the issues faced by married’s and single’s in ministry situations.
1. Biblical models of marriage and singleness in the Bible
- The Apostles – 1 Cor. 9:5
- Priscilla & Aquilla – Romans 16:3
- Typical situation of a church elder – 1 Tim. 3. 2-5
- Jesus, Paul
2. Does the New Testament offer any advice on whether marriage or singleness is better for Christian ministry?
a. Genesis 2, Ephesians 5:22-33, 1 Tim.3:2-5
Marriage is a gift from God to be enjoyed. Companionship, procreation.
Christians, through marriage, have opportunity to model to the world God’s ultimate purpose of the heavenly marriage between Christ and the church. Given that the majority of people in a local church congregation will be married a church minister has opportunity to model to the church, and to a watching world, Christian marriage and through marriage point people to Christ.
Marriage is a privilege, blessing and gospel opportunity!
b. 1 Corinthians 7 – a brief overview
1 Cor. 7:1 should follow the ESV translation
Now concerning the matters about which you wrote: ‘It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.’
Some at Corinth seem to have been following the Greek practice of celibacy and considering themselves more spiritual for doing so. They were possibly also using Paul’s celibacy to justify their own attitude to sex and marriage.
In Chapter 7 Paul wants to defend the value of singleness without defending their rationale for it.
The theme of Chapter Seven can be summed up as ‘remain in the situation in which God called you’ v.8, 17,20,24,26,40. i.e. Be content with who you are in Christ.
Were you married when you became a Christian? Then stay married, even if your spouse is an unbeliever. This is command of the Lord v.10-11
Were you a widow(er) or unmarried? Then Paul’s advice is that it is best to stay unmarried, as he himself is. v.8.
Please notice that to those who are married Paul issues a command from the Lord but to the singles Paul does not use commands but rather offers guidance. He chooses not to speak with the full force of his apostolic authority but with words of advice.
‘Paul’s argument takes on a character of its own, quite unlike anything else in his extant letters. He begins with a caution, that what is about to be said, even though he thinks it trustworthy, is less than a command of the Lord; it is his ‘opinion’ (v.25). The argument is then laced with ‘I think’ (36), ‘I am sparing you’ (28), ‘I wish’ (32), ‘I say this for your own good’ (35), ‘let him do as he wishes’ (36), ‘he shall do well’ (37). Whatever else this is not your standard Paul.’
c. Why does Paul seem to prefer singleness?
i) Eschatological perspective – Christ is coming soon vv.26-29
This is almost certainly what Paul is referring to in vv.26-29 as the present crisis v.26 and again in v.29 when he comments that the appointed time is very short. If Christ is coming soon then there is an urgency about the Lord’s work and we must be free from the grip of the world’s values e.g. Pursuing the things the world chases after – spouse, 2.4 kids, nice house, car and dog!
ii) Those who are married inevitably have divided interests. v.28, 32-24.
Family life is hard work and requires time and effort to sustain. Being single enables an undivided service of Christ.
d. Is it less spiritual for Christians to seek to be married?
No. Twice Paul affirms that if you marry you are not sinning v.28, 36
Paul also recognizes that God gifts people differently. He gives a marriage partner to some and not to others. v.7. If you are married, thank God for your partner. If you are single thank God for that too! Both are gifts from God.
Paul is concerned that we seek the Kingdom of God first, c.f. Matt.6:31-33, and not get hung up on marriage. However if a suitable marriage partner comes along and we wish to marry then we are free to do so.
‘Ultimately, however, it is our freedom to marry or not which Paul emphasizes time and again. .. As such, we should regard singleness (whether short or long term) as an available option and, since we all start out single, we should approach life form the point of view of seeking the Kingdom of God, not the end of our singleness, as our priority.’
- First things first. Seek to serve Christ where you are!
- Don’t idolize either marriage or singleness.
- Don’t consider yourself superior because of your status e.g. ‘smug married’s or ‘single for the gospel’.
- If looking for a potential marriage partner ask:
‘Will this person I am thinking of going out with / marrying help or hinder me in the work of the gospel?’ ‘Will I help them?’
- If you are thinking about starting a relationship look to go out with someone more godly than you.
- Consider life goals i.e. how, where and when you might serve in say 10 years time when thinking about marriage.
g. Can I know today which gift I have been given by God?
Not necessarily. John Stott helpfully comments in an interview with Al Hsu at the end of his book Singleness
In spite of rumours to the contrary, I have never taken a solemn vow or heroic decision to remain single! On the contrary, during my twenties and thirties, like most people, I was expecting to marry one day. In fact, during this period I twice began to develop a relationship with a lady who I thought might be God’s choice of life partner for me. But when the time came to make a decision, I can best explain it by saying that I lacked an assurance from God that he meant me to go forward. So I drew back. And when that happened twice, I naturally began to believe that God meant me to remain single. I’m now seventy-six and well and truly ‘on the shelf’! Looking back, with the benefits of hindsight, I think I know why. I could never have travelled or written as extensively as I have done if I had had the responsibilities of a wife and family.
It should also be noted that some people long to be married and yet for various reasons never do. This must be seen as God’s sovereign gift for them.
Some good books to read on the broader issues of marriage, singleness and the gospel:
Good commentaries on 1 Corinthians!
Typical, you wait years for a book on marriage and then two come out within a couple of months of each other. I’m talking about The meaning of marriage by Tim and Kathy Keller and Real Marriage by Mark and Grace Driscoll.
Given that most of us will probably choose one or the other (at best) how do you go about deciding between the two.
Tim Challies considers one to be ‘my new favorite book on marriage and the best of all the books I read in 2011‘ but when assessing the other concludes ‘Would I want to read it with my wife or would I encourage her to read it on her own? Would I recommend it to the people in my church? In both cases the answer is no.’
Read his reviews to find out why and if you’ve the time and the money to read both make up your own mind!
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