Monday, May 18, 2020

Preparing for Marriage: Self-Improvement

In a previous article, I recommended that Christian singles make an intentional effort to move toward marriage. If you don't aim for marriage and take concrete steps to get there, you may marry much later than you should or, potentially, not marry at all. So, how do you move towards marriage? It can help to have some practical ways to prepare for marriage. That's why I'm starting a series on the topic.

There are several ways to move toward marriage besides building a romantic relationship. You don't need a boyfriend or girlfriend right now in order to prepare yourself for marriage.

Even if you are dating or engaged, there are probably ways you still need to prepare for marriage. And if you aren't dating or engaged now, you can still move toward marriage by preparing yourself in several areas.

I would group these kinds of pursuits into 3 categories: Self-improvement, searching for a partner, and initiating a relationship. In this post, I will talk about ways to improve yourself in order to make yourself more ready for marriage. 

We all have areas we could improve. Working on yourself is something you can do without a date and will help you get closer to marriage readiness. You don't have to reach some magical "readiness" point before you can pursue a relationship or move toward marriage, but some facets of your marriage resume, as it were, are more helpful than others. 

Good Character

The most important aspect of preparing for marriage is developing good character. This is something all Christians should do anyway, whether or not they marry. So you can't go wrong in improving your character. The effort will never be wasted. Identify your character flaws (we all have them) and work on them through prayer, Bible study, practicing better behavior, finding mentors who will help you, and seeking the accountability of the body of Christ. Whether you struggle with anger, lust, laziness, greed, gluttony, pride, selfishness, or any other sin, God calls you to grow in grace and to overcome these sins through the power of the Holy Spirit. Study the Fruit of the Spirit and develop them in your life. They are attractive on everybody and very useful for building a strong marriage.

This point cannot be overemphasized. Your character defines how you will treat your future spouse, as well as everyone else. Your character defines whether you will be faithful, trustworthy, kind, encouraging, loving, and self-controlled. The marriage you build will depend directly and unavoidably on what kind of people you and your spouse are. There is no substitute for good character. It is vital to a good marriage. You should be looking for a spouse of good character, but you should also be a person of good character. You want to be the kind of person that the kind of spouse you are looking for will want to marry.

Social Skills

Another area to work on is social skills. Some people have more difficulty in social interactions than others. If this is something you struggle with, learning how to develop your social skills may help you meet, attract, and build a relationship with a good potential spouse. Social skills are about learning to put other people at ease around you and carry on pleasant and useful interactions with them. Building a relationship headed toward marriage usually begins when someone finds you interesting and pleasant to be around. Social skills really help with that.

Social skills include things like how to introduce yourself, how to make small talk, how to pay attention to non-verbal cues from people, how to have a conversation without either dominating it or making the other person work to draw you out, how to be considerate of other people's feelings, how to confront someone gently, how to apologize, and how to smooth over social tensions. If you are especially shy, cocky, awkward, withdrawn, brash, or insensitive, it can affect how other people see you and how willing they are to get to know you better. You might have lots of great qualities, but if they never get to know you, they won't know that. Don't let poor social skills scuttle your chances of building stable and rewarding relationships. Like building good character, developing good social skills is useful even for those who do not marry. So it is not wasted effort.

Financial Wisdom

One very useful area of self-improvement is financial preparation. Financial issues are one of the most common problems within marriage. Being financially stable and having good money habits helps get a marriage off to an easier start. Now, money is not everything. It's not about how much money you have, per se. It's about how wise you are with the money you have. You don't need a 5-figure nest egg before you marry. However, you do need to know how to live within your means, save for the future, avoid wasteful spending, and pay bills on time, at the very minimum.

For men, it is important that they develop a stable career that can provide for a family. God has called men to be the providers, which means that men preparing for marriage should be demonstrating that they can provide for a family while women preparing for marriage should be learning how to live within their future husband's income. Women should be evaluating potential husbands on their work ethic and responsibility with money because they will need to rely on their husband for provision. If he can't keep a job or spends as much or more than he makes, run away, ladies. Similarly, men should be evaluating potential wives by their ability to handle money wisely, such as living frugally and understanding the value of money. Preparing to show a potential spouse that you can handle money wisely is a big part of being attractive as a marriage partner.

Physical Attractiveness

Yet another area of preparation is physical preparation. This includes physical fitness, mental health, personal grooming, and overall appearance. Let's be honest. You're obviously going to be more attractive to the opposite sex if you're not an overweight couch potato wearing sloppy or dirty clothes and you bathe and groom yourself and don't have neurotic or obsessive tendencies. Get yourself as healthy and attractive as you can.

Of course, health and physical appearance is not everything. Not everyone is model material. Most of us have imperfections. Some people have health problems that are not their fault and that they can't change. Plus, you are likely to have to deal with various health problems as you age and a marriage is going to have to hold up in sickness and in health.

However, if you're trying to get someone to want to get to know you in the first place, make sure any health or appearance issues you have aren't of your own making. And do your best with what you have when it comes to your appearance. Sometimes a change in hairstyle or clothing or exercise habits can make a big difference. Ask some trustworthy friends if there are changes you can make that would make you more attractive.

Another aspect of the physical attractiveness issue is being honest about your own attractiveness. Like it or not, most people marry someone who is similar in physical attractiveness to themselves. If you're a super model, you can probably be really picky about who you go out with, but if you're average, holding out for a super model means you're going to stay single. Be realistic.

Other Useful Skills

One other way to prepare for marriage is to develop skills, habits, and hobbies that will make your future marriage more enjoyable and make you more attractive to potential spouses. Most people like to be around people who can do cool or useful things. Plus, sharing a common interest or hobby is a great way to meet new people. So find something you like to do and pursue it.

For men, learn to do handyman work like basic plumbing, electrical, or carpentry. It saves a lot of money if you can fix simple broken things around the house. It can also be helpful if you can do simple maintenance on vehicles like changing the oil or fixing a flat tire. A lot of women really appreciate a man who knows how to do these kinds of things.

For women, learn how to cook. Food is something your family needs every single day. Making a variety of delicious, nutritious foods on a budget is a vital skill. Developing your skills as a good cook is also a great way to catch a man's attention. Most men would prefer a wife who knows how to cook.

For both sexes, learn more about the Bible. You can never know too much about the Bible. Develop your apologetics skills. Be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks you about your faith. This is not only a Biblical command and very attractive to godly potential spouses, but very useful when you have children as you will need to disciple them in the faith. This is also an important part of developing good character. Don't just learn what it says, but practice what it teaches.

If you have spare time and you have your character and social skills and finances in good order, find a hobby you enjoy and pursue it. These can include things like hiking, bird-watching, sewing, coin collecting, flying an airplane, building model cars, painting or drawing, playing a musical instrument, or something similar. Having something that makes you unique and shows you to be capable of investing time in something worthwhile make you a more interesting person. And you just might find someone else who appreciates your particular skills or shares your passion.


These are just some of the major ways you can improve yourself as you prepare for marriage. And you don't have to stop after you're married either. All of us can improve in various ways. 



  1. How can one whose focus is to love and serve Christ marry "too late?" instead of pursuing marriage we should pursue Christ, letting His Spirit transform us, trusting Him to do what is best. Undistracted devotion is the goal. Not marriage. Trying to improve for my future husband is not the same as being transformed into the image of Christ. The best advice I got as a single was to get on with my life, get involved in ministry to others and keep my heart open to God's plan. I married at 37. It wasn't too late. It was God's timing and His ways are perfect. Marriage isn't the happy ending anyway. Jesus is!

    1. Preparing for marriage and being more like Christ are very much overlapped. If you are following Christ, developing good character, and being selfless and devoted to the things of God, you will be ready for marriage in almost all ways. There might be some tasks that are helpful for marriage that aren't directly spiritual like learning to cook and clean, but these are the less important aspects of preparing for marriage.

      It is true that we must be more devoted to following Christ than to getting married. However, God's design for most of us is to marry and have children as an important part of following Him. These are not contradictory goals. God calls most of us to marriage. Marriage is a gift God has given us for our good and as an important tool for helping us influence the world for Christ. So acting as though seeking marriage and following Christ were contradictory goals where you can only do one or the other is misguided. We should seek to follow Christ in everything, and that can include seeking Christ through a godly marriage that multiplies our impact for Christ.