While I’m not a fan of The Bachelor or The Bachelorette, I did watch the finale of this season’s Bachelorette. As always, the concept amazed… and saddened me. Here is a woman, dating a truckload of men and dumping most of them because there are other men at the house with better looks and qualities (at least from what she can tell in the short period of time she has there). After a few months she will accept one of their proposals, thereby sending the other men home in heartache and agony. Seriously?!? Have we, as a society, really come this far from God’s design for courtship and marriage?
We can know from a cursory reading of the Bible that Reality TV’s model for finding and sustaining love is not the same as God’s model. His standard for relationships and marriage is much higher… and it comes with indescribable peace! There is nothing as freeing and wonderful as being in God’s perfect will. So how can a Christian man tackle the question of knowing when to propose? After all, God doesn’t send a group of camera people to follow a man around to tell him when it’s time to walk onto the beach and drop to one knee – nor does a symphony follow him around cueing the important moment, as in the movies. Below are a few questions that guys need to answer before popping the most important question of your life (we also wrote about knowing whether she is ready for a proposal):
- Is your faith and trust primarily in Christ more than your relationship? Is your love for Him so great that you would not leave Him even if it cost you the woman you love? Is there evidence that her faith and trust is completely in Christ? Are you confident that nothing you could do would cause her to walk away from her faith in Him? Have you had enough time with her to know beyond the shadow of a doubt that her faith is real? Have you had enough time being a Bible-believing Christian to know that your faith is real (2 Corinthians 13:5)? We call ourselves Christians, but have we discussed what we personally and actually believe (and by ‘believe,’ I mean live out)?
- Are you ready to support a wife and kids financially? Whether she is planning to work or not after you both are married, do you make enough, or have enough saved, that you could support her and your children if you were to come home from your honeymoon pregnant? Are you at a place in your life right now where you could provide the necessities of life with little stress (I Timothy 5:8)? Is there a good game plan for where you are headed occupationally? Are you in agreement about wanting children and a rough idea of how many you each want?
- Are you fully committed to loving her and her alone? Is there any other woman you have cared for, or with whom you have had a deep emotional or physical connection, that you have not fully released from your life? (If so, it is best to wait until all doubts are settled before proposing. Sharing these concerns with your girlfriend would not be wise as it may bind insecurities to her for the rest of her life just based on that one conversation. However, it would be wise to discuss those concerns with an older man you trust – preferably married for at least ten years – who shares your faith in God. It is preferable to find someone who knows you both, but also someone who is not related, or has a long-term tie, to either of you.)
- Does her father fully approve? A loving father will treasure his daughter and consider her very precious. He wants what is best for her and has a great deal of concern that a suitor will come into her life to provide and protect her as he has done throughout the years. So, it is important to get his blessing on your relationship. Therefore, is her father (and if her father is not present, is disinterested, or is deceased, is the primary spiritual leader of her life – uncle, grandfather, pastor/elder in the church, etc.) in total agreement with your relationship? If not, what reservations does he have? Man to man, discuss them with him to see how they can be resolved. Based on God’s design for a female’s innate desire for protection, He gave her father that role – to be a covering for her until her marriage; whereas, after marriage, her husband becomes her new protector. If her father sees glaring concerns, it is important to try to understand them and rectify them – or to discontinue the relationship. After all, you will not just be marrying her, you will be marrying into her family (and she into yours).
- Do we have the support of our family and friends? When you approach other family and friends about your relationship, do they tell you how much they appreciate your relationship or do they avoid discussing your relationship with you for fear of offending you? Can you sense a general angst from others when you are together or do the majority of people with whom you spend time together seem at peace around you both? Have you found that you have gained friends through dating your girlfriend or have you started to lose friends and alienated people? While you shouldn’t base your decision to propose on a few pessimistic people (and there will ALWAYS be a few), you should sit up and take notice if you have a hard time finding approval from most of the people in your life that you love and respect – and those who love you. If you are specifically seeking it, you’ll likely be able to find people who will support you regardless of whom you have selected (either because they don’t want to confront you on your relationship or they like to justify their own hasty decisions – and in supporting your relationship, they feel they have the right to continue what they are doing), but it is important to have the true support of those you respect. (When I have dated guys that I knew in my heart were wrong for me, there were always a few “friends” I could count on to tell me how cute we were together or how we belonged together; but, at the end of the day, I had a handful of firm, loving, honest friends that would tell me the truth… no matter how much it hurt. These are the friends you want supporting you when you take that important step towards marriage.)
- Are our life goals and interests compatible? It is okay, and even preferable, for married couples to have some different interests. This gives each person the opportunity to spend quality time with same sex friends. However, if every hobby and interest is different, finding activities to do together after marriage could be more stressful than beneficial. Finding other couples with whom to spend time can be hindered if there are no shared interests. However, much more important than shared leisure interests are shared life goals. If he senses a strong calling to ministering to youth and she hates teenagers and never wishes to set foot in a youth group again… there will be problems. If you love something and want to devote your life to it, you will need your spouse’s true support in that pursuit – otherwise, your spouse will often feel like he or she is in competition with that pursuit as you devote your time to it. If she is not the least bit interested in the task, occupation, or ministry to which you are called, she will lack the ability to fully support you in that task, occupation, or ministry.
- Lastly, have you quit asking yourself, “Is she the one?” When it’s right, it shouldn’t be forced – it actually should be very easy and feel natural. When you allow yourself to be fully honest with yourself, you know when the relationship is right or not. Ignoring that still small voice inside of you that says, “I wouldn’t do this if I were you” never ends well. God does know what’s coming around life’s bend and we do not. Sometimes just waiting a little longer is all that is needed to find, or be found, by your true heart’s desire. Other times, the relationship just needs to end. I have ended relationships because I knew God’s favor was not on them. At the time my heart ached deeply. Looking back, I am so glad that He warned me during those times and led my strong husband to find me.
I trust that several of these questions will get you off on the right foot. If you are at, or nearing, the point where you are wondering if it is time to pop the question, I would encourage you to pause and reflect on the questions above. Additionally, pre-engagement counseling is a vital process to understanding, in advance, the long-term health of a marriage. It is an evaluative process to determine whether or not you have the propensity for long-term success or may face long-term struggle. I strongly encourage you to get pre-engagement counseling before you pop the question (and, if you’re the girl – you may want to suggest pre-engagement counseling to your boyfriend if you sense that he is getting closer to asking for your hand in marriage). It is an investment for your future and the process should bless you for many years to come.
Do you know the seven healthy indicators of knowing when to propose?