By Rhonda Stoppe, Crosswalk.com
Does your heart long to marry? Do you look around at your friends who have wed and wonder, when will it be my turn?
If you’ve been waiting a long time for the one to show up, it can be easy to grow discouraged, or even be tempted to settle on someone who’s less than the one you had hoped for.
Over the past 30 years that I’ve mentored women, I have walked them through this season of waiting. For some, they find it hard to imagine God is interested in helping them find a spouse. But for anyone who is hoping for marriage, the best advice I can give is don’t wait until you start dating to prepare yourself to be a spouse.
Rather than making a list of what you hope your spouse will be like, how about you make a chart of what would make you the spouse of someone else’s dreams?
While it’s not wrong to day dream about the character qualities of your perfect mate, don’t spend so much time with your head in the clouds that you miss the opportunity to let the Lord mold in you Christ-like qualities that will help you be a better mate.
With this goal in mind, let’s visit a few of the things you can do to prepare yourself for marriage–-even before you are dating.
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1. Learn to Love Selflessly
To prepare yourself to be a wonderful spouse you must learn how to love others with Christ’s selfless love. The longer a person remains single, the easier it is for them to settle in their own self-focused ways––which can cause a lifetime of conflict in marriage.
Jesus said the priority of life is to love God with all of your being. And the second most important commandment is to love others as we love ourselves (see Mark 12:30-31). The secret to becoming a spouse who loves well lies in learning to love God with your heart, soul, mind and strength.
But don’t wait until you're married to grow your love for God. When your life’s purpose is to love Him with all of your being, then He will give you His supernatural ability to love others with His selfless love. And loving well is the key to a happy marriage.
In our many years as biblical marriage counselors, my husband and I have yet to see marriage trouble in a couple who makes loving God their highest priority––because their love for Christ selflessly pours out onto their mate.
But, how do you learn to love selflessly? You must spend time with God through prayer, reading the Bible and fellowship with others who deeply love Him. If as a single person you don’t make time now to fall more in love with Jesus, I can almost guarantee you’ll not find the time to do so once you’re sharing your life with a spouse––and family.
To love selflessly requires humility and willingness to lay down your entitlement attitudes. Serving others is the sweetest display of selfless love and one of the most precious qualities of a godly spouse.
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2. Learn to be Content
First Timothy 6:6 says, “Godliness with contentment is great gain.” Ask anyone who is married to a contented person will tell you that they have found a blessed treasure.
If being married to a gratified person rates high on your spouse-list, consider how important it is for you to learn to be content––in all circumstances of life.
This type of satisfaction comes not from having circumstances line up with your idea of a happy life. Rather, learning to find contentment is found in your relationship with Christ. Jesus is the only One who can satisfy the longings of your heart. And growing your trust in Him is the key to developing an overall satisfaction in life.
If you are tempted to think you will only be content once you find the one whom your heart longs for. The danger in this type of thinking is that once you are married, and your spouse does not measure up to your expectations, (which is the root cause of most marital trouble) you may be tempted to grow discontent and look for someone else to make you happy.
If you’ve been stuck in single-ville far too long, it is natural to grow discontent as you wait. My heart is with you. And I do not minimize your longing. But you can find hope in God as you listen to how He sovereignly brought other couples together.
In my book Real Life Romance you’ll be encouraged to read stories of real people who cried bitter tears over their singleness. Some, after giving up on real romance, found true love when they least expected it.
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3. Learn to Communicate
Communication is key to developing healthy relationships. For many, after they wed, they realize they have never developed good communication skills. This lack can be the root of a lifetime of conflict and misunderstanding.
You may be thinking, Oh I am a talker I’ve got this one down. However, “being a talker” does not qualify you as a good communicator. Communication requires a decided effort to expose your heart, and determination to listen in a way that draws another to trust you with their own private thoughts.
Before you will be able to one day talk with your spouse about what is going on in your head, you have to discern your own heart. Only then will you be ready expose your concerns, hopes and dreams.
One great way to communicate is to share word pictures. The goal of communication is to knit two hearts together in oneness. But good communication goes so much deeper than just voicing your opinions. You must also develop the habit of being a good listener. Listening well draws others to you as it makes them feel like they are being heard and understood.
The process of discerning your intentions, vulnerably sharing those feelings, and intentionally listening to others is what builds intimacy in relationships. Many people who are looking for a spouse are searching for one with whom they feel safe to expose their deepest thoughts, and in whom they can confide.
Developing the art of good communication may be the quality that attracts the attention of someone who will one day become your mate.
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4. Learn to Resolve Conflict
When things don’t go their way, many people will emotionally react without ever taking the time to evaluate why they are responding in certain ways.
And when their emotional outburst blows up a relationship their tendency may be to blame the conflict on the other person. This habit often stems back to they resolved conflict with their siblings when they were young.
Consider how you normally response to conflict. Fight or flight, are the two basic ways that people react to conflict. If you were raised in a home where people engaged in heated arguments, you will likely consider this as “normal.”
However, if a person you end up marrying responds to conflict with flight then your following them around the house arguing your point may feel like they’re being attacked.
While our family of origin definitely has an influence upon how we react to conflict, if you want to prepare yourself to resolve well conflicts in marriage you would be wise to learn now how to resolve conflicts in a loving and considerate manner.
If aggression and conflict feels normal to you, it’s time to realize this is not what God has for you––or any of His people. Romans 12:18 says, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” To honor Christ in your relationships you must be willing to turn from stirring up strife.
Learning to approach people in love with the goal of restoring and maintaining peace in your relationship is a lifeskill that will equip you to forsake arguments and restore peace no matter what the cost. And living in love and unity will bring glory to God and draw others to want to know Christ. Which is God’s desire for all of us.
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5. Learn to Pray
With so many other pressing obligations and forms of entertainment, it’s easy to exchange valuable prayer time for the fleeting cares of life. This is Satan’s ploy, to keep God’s people so busy that they don’t engage in communication with The Lord.
It has been said, “No prayer––no power. Much prayer––much power. For many Christians, the power of prayer is one of the most overlooked assets from the Lord.
While you wait for God to bring you a spouse, never underestimate the power of praying for His will and His timing in charting the course of your love life. He is more interested in guiding you toward a godly mate than you can ever imagine.
In 1 Thessalonians 5:17, the Apostle Paul instructs believers to pray without ceasing. This means to have a constant attitude of prayer. I found when I started actually talking out loud to God I more fully engaged in communication with Him. This practice truly transformed my time of intercession.
If you learn to pray throughout the day, you will draw on God’s wisdom and strength and become a person of prayer. Seeking the Lord first when you meet a potential mate will guide you in the way you should go.
And if you become a person of prayer, this habit will carry over into your married life. As a wife, I cannot tell you the sense of safety and peace I derive from knowing my husband is constantly praying for me and our family. A spouse who seeks the Lord daily is an incredible gift. If you want God to bring you a praying spouse, become a praying spouse even before you are in a relationship.
Waiting to wed can be a trying time. But the time is not wasted if you use this season to become the spouse of someone else dreams.
To prepare for marriage before you are even dating, use this season of singleness to learn to love selflessly, grow in contentment, communicate well to resolve conflict and pray for God to guide your path, then your prayers will be powerful and your future will be blessed.
Rhonda Stoppe is the NO REGRETS WOMAN. With more than 30 years experience of helping women build no regrets lives. I could have listened to Rhonda talk all night, is what women say about Rhonda’s enthusiastic, humorous, transparent teaching, and zeal as an evangelist.
She’s committed to fulfill the Titus 2:4 commission by mentoring, teaching and writing books that are inspiring, grounded in Scripture and easy to read––like you're visiting with a friend over coffee.
Rhonda is the author of 6 books and appears on numerous radio programs including: Focus on the Family, Family Life Today and Dr. James Dobson’s FamilyTalk, & hosts The No Regrets Hour. She’s an evangelist and speaker at women’s events, College Women’s Chapel, Pastor’s Wives Conferences, MOPs and Homeschool Conventions. Sharing the gospel at her NoRegretsWoman Conference is her sweet spot. Rhonda is a regular contributor for Crosswalk and many other magazines.
Rhonda ministers alongside her husband Steve, who for 20 years has pastored First Baptist Church of Patterson, California. They live out their own Real Life Romance writing books and speaking at their No Regrets Marriage Conferences, but their favorite ministry is their family. They have four grown children and 10 grandchildren. To learn more about Rhonda’s speaking topics, watch her teaching and to book Rhonda for your next event visit: NoRegretsWoman.com
Bonus: Listen to this episode of Focus on the Family’s Singles Show: Boundless with guest Rhonda Stoppe: Everyone Loves a Good Love Story
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