I love seeing people get married. This is nothing short of a miracle considering that marriage was at the very bottom of my goals in life. Well, that is before I met my husband Chris. Funny thing how that works.
Marriage does not solve life’s problems (it creates a few more actually). Marriage is not a utopia of romantic bliss. Marriage is not for everyone. I know this. With all of this, many people still want to get married and I think this is a good thing.
Those who know me also know about my “prayer list”. This is a list of people that I regularly pray for… that they would meet someone who would be their best friend in marriage. I have to say, these last few years have been good one for me. I’ve been crossing people off the list one by one as wedding bells have been ringing. (I’ve also had years of stagnation to the point that people wanted off my list because it wasn’t helping!)
In the midst of all this, I find another conversation going on. As singles are longing for, loving and pursuing someone there is a chorus of friends that are cheering publicly but doubting privately.
The doubts are varied and many:
Does this couple have what it takes for marriage?
Are they a good match?
Do they have any idea what they are getting themselves in to?
Shouldn’t someone tell them the hard truths?
Aren’t they being too naive and not counting the costs?
Is it a good thing that “she” is marrying that “he”?
Does “he” really want to marry that “she”?
We all can think of couples that married, all the while everyone had doubts in their mind if it would actually work.
Here’s the big question: “When do you say something and when do you keep silent?”.
I’ve thought about this a lot. I’ve boldly gone to friends months before the big day, said the hard thing and gotten the response, “Did I ask you?! Keep your advice to yourself!” Other friends have come to me after a first year of marriage that was full of tears and sorrow. They have looked me in the eye and asked, “Did you have doubts about this relationship and not tell me before the wedding?” Gulp.
So, when should you say something to a couple that you are concerned about? Here is the grid that I use:
When to pause before you speak.
“They have no idea how hard marriage is”
This is the most common thing I hear by myself and others. This is said by married couples who also had no idea what they were getting themselves in to on the day of marriage. If the only reason you want to say something is to give this couple an “education on the reality of how hard marriage is” then perhaps you should keep quiet. No one has a clue on their wedding day what is ahead.
“No one is being direct enough with them!”
This is also said by people who actually aren’t involved in the day to day of the relationship. I have actually had people come and ask me to step in to a relationship where I was not invited and did not know the couple very well. Others simply perceived that I was able to be “direct and honest” with the couple. I declined. I don’t fancy myself a professional “hit man” on those headed to the alter.
When to speak up and speak in love:
If they have invited your input.
If someone in the couple has invited my input, then I am obligated, by love, to ask the hard questions. I have been given permission to do so!
When the issues are repetitive sin.
If I see issues from the outside that are blatant, un-dealt with sin… I feel the Christian community can approach them with concern. I once asked a girl, “Does it concern you that your fiance regularly get’s drunk on the weekends to blow off steam?”. I knew her but not well. She later thanked me for being bold enough to ask the question.
When no one else is speaking in to their life.
Just because no one else is invited does not give me an automatic right. But, if I see a couple that I love “going it alone”, it concerns me. I will simply encourage them to find another older, wiser couple to walk with them. I have seen many times that one or both resist this because there are dysfunctions they are hiding. Overcoming this resistance is not always successful but I give it my best shot.
I might say something like, “I love you both so much. Marriage is difficult but wonderful. I want to strongly, strongly encourage you to find someone that can ask you both the hard questions as you prepare for your big day! If you need suggestions for people, just ask.” I then follow it up later and ask them if they have acted on my advice.
So that is my grid, what about you? Are you bold enough to ask the hard questions or are you too bold and an unwelcome counsellor in a couples life?
By the way, if you are actual friends with an engaged couple, here are 3 simple questions that will help them immensely! You don’t need to be their wise sage, but can raise the value of having input in any couples life!
- Who are you going to for pre-marriage guidance and counselling?
- How are you doing with preparing for the wedding, is there any way I can help and support?
- Do you have people that you can talk to after you get married?