Given the high divorce rate in the world and the church (there’s no difference), singles and dating couples should go into marriage wide-eyed and understand what brings people together and what breaks them apart.
People marry because they are compatible. People divorce because they are incompatible. It’s as simple as that.
There is no mystery to marriage and divorce, only hard work to cultivate and maintain compatibility. If two people who love each other thought they were compatible at the time of marriage, why would they ever get a divorce? I’ve observed and counseled couples, and have come to two conclusions about how disaster strikes.
The first formula for disaster: the couple was too immature to notice their incompatibilities while they were dating. They wore rose-tinted glasses while courting each other, so they only saw the positive aspects of their partner. They ignored older people’s advice. They assumed they were the exception. They thought nobody else was like them or understands them.
If you’re at the dating stage, you have a great opportunity to prevent this brewing disaster! How? Let me give you 4 Dating Tips:
1) Realize that nobody is perfect, except Jesus Christ. Everyone else, including you, is a sinner. In pre-marital counseling, I often hear couples talk about how compatible the other person they found is and how in love they are. Nothing is more beautiful and it’s the way the embers of passion should start. Part of my job is to prepare couples to keep the passion in marriage, to burn for the long-term, so one of the questions I ask couples is can they identify their partners’ weaknesses. If they cannot see any incompatibilities, I know they don’t know the other person. They are suffering from “idealistic distortion,” a distorted view which tends to see only the ideal qualities of a person, rather of a balanced, realistic view of what a person is truly like. If you want to have a long-lasting marriage, one of the first qualities for you to identify in a potential life partner is an honest heart that recognizes their own weaknesses and humbly depends on God to warn, shake, carry and correct them in times of need.
2) Involve other people in your dating, especially married people and elders who care about you. When you date someone, you are really dating their family and their friends. When you go to church, don’t just talk between yourselves. Get to know the other people in their lives, because if you marry them, you will have to get along with the rest of them. Beware of dating in a secretive, private fashion. Marriage will not work that way for long. You will want to get out, visit your parents, spend time with your friends. When you have kids, your parents will probably be involved in helping you to mind your kids. Imagine marrying someone who can’t get along with your parents, your pastors or your friends!
3) Realize you are not the exception in dating or marriage. Other people have fallen in love before you. Some of them have fallen out of love. Everybody will deal with compatibility and incompatibility issues. When it comes to relationships, there is no exception. We are more alike than most people admit. We all struggle with similar relationship strains and marital issues.
4) Actively look for compatibility and incompatibilities while dating.
I often tell singles, “The purpose of dating is to find reasons to not be together. The purpose of marriage is to find reasons to be together.” This is counter-intuitive. Most people will do exactly the opposite. They will find reasons to be together while they’re dating, but after they’re married, they will discover reasons to not be together. Why fight to be together when you are single and have zero obligation to be together? Why fight to be apart from each other after you are married and have children? Try doing the opposite! Do what most people will not do! When dating, look for incompatibilities and reasons not to be together. Take a break from the other person if you want to. Watch their reaction. Use the power of “no”. Enjoy the freedom of the dating process. Once you are married, think of as many reasons as possible to stay together.
For a marriage to last, you should be compatible on as many levels as possible from the start. Actively look for incompatibilities while dating, and compatibilities while married. (Remind me to share with you the 6 levels of compatibility another time.)
In my next 2 posts, I will talk to you about compatibility issues in marriage and incompatibilities dating couples should look out for.
COMMENT BELOW: How important do you think compatibility and incompatibility are to a relationship? Do you have real life examples to share?