What You Need to Know About Your (Future) Spouse
Most of today’s young adults have grown up hearing the statistic: about half of all first marriages end in divorce. This means that roughly fifty percent of the people reading this have been affected by marriages that came to an abrupt end. Many of you are looking at your own marriages (or future marriages) and wondering, “How do we make it last?”
I’ve been married for more than thirty years, and I have to tell you, I want more for you than that. You can do much better than make it.
King Solomon understood this. The son of the great King David, when he took his father’s throne, Solomon knew what mattered most for his future. One night, God handed Solomon a blank check. He said, “What do you want? Ask, and I will give it to you!” (1 Kings 3:5 NLT).
You probably know the story. With an open invitation to ask for wealth, power, influence, or fame, Solomon cut straight to the heart and asked for what he needed most: wisdom.
It was this wise man who penned some key insights about marriage over the long haul. “Enjoy life,” he said, “with the woman whom you love all the days of your fleeting life” (Ecclesiastes 9:9 NASB). Elsewhere he counseled, “Rejoice in the wife of your youth” (Proverbs 5:18 NLT).
That sounds like a lot more than making it last, doesn’t it? Enjoy. Rejoice. You don’t want a marriage that survives. You want a marriage that thrives.
Whether you’re already married or want to be married later on, there’s one essential thing you must do to change your marital trajectory from survive to thrive. You need to make sure your relationship is on level. You see, there are three levels of relationships: the physical, the soul, and the spiritual.
The Physical Level
The lowest, most superficial level of relationships is the physical level. Many romantic relationships begin here, with thoughts like: She’s good-looking, or He’s good-looking, so maybe we should get together.
Physical attraction is vital to a healthy marriage. My wife is the most beautiful woman in the world to me, and I am extremely attracted to her. However, many couples only have a relationship on this level when they get married. They think, I can ignore the fact that we don’t get along very well. I can overlook that we don’t communicate well, agree about important issues, or connect on common interests, because I’m attracted to him or her. In these marriages the next level, the soul level, is underdeveloped. The wedding bells chime, the honeymoon ends, and then life happens.
Couples who enter marriage with relationships like this must establish a deeper level of intimacy with each other or they will suffer miserable marriages. They may make it, but they won’t enjoy it. The woman will pursue her interests with her friends, and the man will pursue his interests with his friends. They will wind up coexisting. This was never God’s intention for marriage, but it takes a commitment to deeper connection for marriage to thrive.
The Soul Level
The next level of relationship is that of the soul, or personality, of a person. This is the level of relationship that existed between David and Jonathan. The Bible says that “the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul” (1 Samuel 18:1 NKJV). When Jonathan was killed, David lamented, “I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan; you have been very pleasant to me; your love to me was wonderful, surpassing the love of women” (2 Samuel 1:26 NKJV). David was not talking about a romantic or physical relationship. There was no physical attraction between them. Their connection wasn’t romantic, but it was a friendship that existed on the soul level. Because of this, they were able to build a bond much deeper than that of a physical relationship.
The soul level is the level on which marriages should be built. This deeper level of relationship can and should be achieved between husbands and wives. The fact is, as much as I treasure Lisa’s physical beauty, her personality is more endearing to me.
A few years ago, I was preaching at a church where a gentleman walked up to me after the service. He was surrounded by six young children. Two were in his arms, two were holding onto his legs, and two were running around in the foyer. The man had such a depressed look on his face that I asked him, “Sir, are you okay?”
He said, “Not really. Today my wife left me and our six children for a man she met on the Internet.”
The woman’s “soul” relationship with this other man had become so deep that she was willing to leave her husband after many years of marriage. The tie was even strong enough to separate this mother from her natural inclination to care for and be with her children.
This heartbreaking story is repeated far too often—but imagine the strength of a marriage that possesses this kind of connection. This is why relationships that start off long-distance often end up being some of the best marriages. Without the potential distractions of physical attraction, the couple is able to focus on the development of their soul connection.
The Spiritual Level
The highest or deepest level of relationship is the spiritual level. Paul once said, “For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him?” (1 Corinthians 2:11 NASB). In other words, you cannot know the true thoughts or motives of a man or woman unless you are in tune with his or her spirit.
As I mentioned, Lisa and I recently celebrated our thirtieth anniversary. We took some time away to celebrate, and some of my favorite memories from that time together are of us sitting by the pool and discussing the things of God. As I shared what God was putting in my heart, she responded with wisdom and revelation that further illuminated what the Spirit had been revealing to me. Since we both have an intimate relationship with God’s Spirit, we are able to commune on a deep, spiritual level.
This is one of the main reasons Lisa and I pray together. It connects us spiritually because we are sharing spiritual things. We are building our relationship around our relationships with God. In your marriage, you can develop the deepest level of intimacy by spending time as a couple praying and discussing Scripture. As you pursue spiritual things together, you will form a spiritual connection.
Learn to move beyond physical attraction and get to know the soul of the person you’re with. As you deepen your commitment to each other, be intentional to establish a spiritual connection. Then rejoice and enjoy life together—till death do you part.
This was adapted from chapter 3 of my book The Holy Spirit: An Introduction. If you want to learn more about building deeper relationships with God and others