Choosing a Life Companion
MARRIAGE is for life, for better or for worse. There is nothing temporary or seasonal in it. There is no such thing as a trial marriage or an agreement to terminate the home if the husband and wife grow tired of each other. Selecting a marriage partner is a permanent decision, a choice that "affects the afterlife both in this world and in the world to come."—The Ministry of Healing, p. 359. Yet a number of individuals select a life companion with less thought than they use in selecting a house or an automobile. They do not know what characteristics are needed for a successful family. They are ignorant of the enduring qualities so essential for a happy home.
Well would it be if each pastor would give this needed information before the home is established, yes, even before the couple becomes engaged, while they are still in the window-shopping period—not in flowery symbolic language only, but in practical everyday statements that will enable each one to know exactly what he is looking for and to be able to recognize it when he has found it. One should know the difference between desirable qualifications and those that are essential. One should also realize that it is just as necessary to be a good companion as it is to get a good companion. At this time let us consider only the essential qualifications.
Before choosing a life companion both the man and the woman should ask themselves all ten of these fundamental questions:
1. Does he (she) have a good character?
A weak character can never make a strong companion. Cheating on an examination, telling littles white lies, or failing to return borrowed articles may seem far removed from the question of homemaking, but a man or a woman who is careless in meeting promises, shady in dealings, is likely to be undependable to his or her companion. Notice what the individual is contributing to his own home now. Is it heartache, trouble, and sorrow? If it is, he will more than likely contribute the same to the home he establishes. Does he contribute sunshine, joy, and happiness now? He is very likely to contribute the same to his own home. The kind of loyalty one gives his home indicates the kind of person he is. Problem youth make problem adults. Of course, the supreme test of character is revealed in one's relationship to God and to His commandments. Does he keep the Sabbath, attend church, take an active part in missionary work, have his private devotions, and long for Jesus to come? A person with a strong character is never a bully nor a braggart, neither a dictator nor a slave. He is a man of principle, a person who will do all in his power to make his marriage a success, his home a happy place to be.
2. Does he (she) value good health?
It isn't enough to know that one is in good health at the present time, free from disease at the moment, but does he value good health enough to protect it and to keep it? The one who boasts about his late hours, his ability to digest nails, and his iron nerves that can stand the strain of irregularity is looking for a nurse, not a wife. The woman who is so delicate she cannot exercise, so "finicky" she can't eat ordinary foods, so health conscious she is constantly talking pills, needs a hospital, not a home. Avoid the extremes—those who are constantly talking about their aches and pains, and those who never give health a second thought. The person who is temperate in his work, his study, his recreation, his eating, gets enough water and fresh air and sunshine, is cheerful and happy, bids fair to have good health for a long time to come.
3. Is he (she) intelligent?
Only intelligent people should marry. One whose IQ is below 70 would not be able to carry the duties and responsibilities of a home. Equally important is the kind of discipline one gives his mind. "An ordinary mind, well disciplined, will accomplish more and higher work than will the most highly educated mind and the greatest talents without self-control."— Christ's Object Lessons, p. 335. What kind of "food" does one feed his, mind? "Many an inmate of the insane asylum, has become such through the habit of novel reading."—The Ministry of Healing, p. 446. Cheap, trashy reading weakens the mind, while good wholesome reading strengthens the mental faculties. The music one hears also has an effect on the thinking process. The books, papers, and magazines one reads during his leisure hours, the pictures one sees, both still and moving, indicate the kind of person he is, "For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he" (Prov. 23:7).
4. Is he (she) emotionally balanced?
Marriage does not cure mental disorders. One who is emotionally disturbed is in no condition to many. But how can anyone tell whether someone is emotionally unbalanced or not? The answer is much simpler than many suppose at first, for we are not trying to make a psychiatric diagnosis but are trying to see whether this person would make a good companion so far as his emotional health is concerned. Let's look at some of the signs:
Good signs: He is happy. The cheerful, contented individual who has a smile and a pleasant word for all is a most delightful person to have in any home. Seldom does a happy person have a mental disorder.
Warning signs: Avoid the person who is always gloomy, morose, moody, or easily discouraged. One who is discontented, who is constantly whining, a chronic complainer, always criticizing, is certainly a most disagreeable partner.
Good signs: He has stamina, determination, endurance. Though problems may arise, he stays by the job until it is finished. He has a worthy goal and reaches it.
Warning signs: He gives up easily or blames others for his mistakes. He is easily discouraged, changes jobs frequently, begins many courses in school but drops them before completing them.
Good signs: Gets along well with others. Respectful and courteous to his superiors, kind and thoughtful to those younger, and congenial to his equals.
Warning signs: Sensitive, suspicious, jealous, envious. Thinks the neighbors persecute him, the boss has it in for him, his schoolmates do not like him, the world is against him. Avoid this person as you would the plague.
Good signs: Able to make his own decisions, to think a situation through, to solve his problems, to control his emotions.
Warning signs: Worries a great deal, has anxiety, abnormal fears, is easily upset, becomes angry over trifles, easily led, goes with the crowd.
Good signs: Gives major time to major items, less time to minor things. Is conscientious, sincere. Is a man of principle.
Warning signs: Extremist, fanatical, overly concerned over minor matters.
5. Can he (she) take responsibility? What does he do with his time, his money,
his talents now? One who can do the right thing at the right time in the right way can take responsibility. He can plan his work, and then work his plan. His daily schedule reveals a balanced program of work and rest, study and recreation, of caring for his personal needs and his obligations to others. This person is a joy, a friend indeed. On the other hand, one who is late to class, late to work, late to church, late to his appointments has at least one symptom of being irresponsible. He is kin to the lazy, indolent people who need someone to care for them. If he does anything, someone has to tell him what to do, when to do it, and how. This kind of person makes a very poor homemaker.
No one in debt is ready for marriage. Certainly before one takes on the financial obligations of a home one must be able to live within his income. The extravagant spender, the waster, the "easy mark" is a handicap to any marriage, no matter how much money he may have. Furthermore, the way he came by his money has a bearing on his ability to take responsibility. Did he earn it, or was it given to him? The rich man's child need not allow his wealth to weaken him and make him a worthless, irresponsible person. He can earn all or part of his own way through his own efforts and his own skill.
One who can take responsibility improves his talents and seeks thereby to help others. He does not bury his talents in a napkin or use them for his own amusement or waste them on himself. He seeks to use them where they will accomplish the most good.
6. Do you love him (her)?
Do you love him or his money? Are you interested in him as a person or in his possessions? Mature love is interested in people and uses material things to express it. Immature love is interested in things and uses people to get them. Grandma loves Junior and expresses her interest in him by giving him cookies. Junior loves cookies and uses grandma to bake them for him. Do you delight in making him happy, aiding him in his work, helping him to succeed, or is your main concern to see that he makes you happy, that he contributes to your success? Do you rejoice at his achievements, or does his popularity make you miserable?
Is your attraction to him love or infatuation? Love is from God and will draw one closer to God. Infatuation is from Satan and will draw one closer to him. Love never leads to sin, never goes contrary to a "thus saith the Lord." Infatuation tempts to evil and leads to sin. According to 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, love suffers long, is kind, rejoices in the truth, bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things; while infatuation envies, vaunts itself, is puffed up, behaves itself unseemly, seeks her own, is easily provoked, thinks evil, rejoices in iniquity, fails.
7. Do you accept his (her) relatives and friends?
When the two of you become one, his parents become your parents, his brothers and sisters your brothers and sisters. The children will inherit characteristics from his uncle and aunt just as much as from your uncle and aunt. In one sense of the word, you do marry the family.
Do you feel inferior to his relatives? If you do, you can never be your best as a companion to your husband or feel comfortable in the presence of his people. Do you feel superior to his people? Then you can never accept your companion as an equal, for he is kin to them. One is judged by the friends he chooses. To reject his friends is to reject him in part. In marriage you take him as he is, background and all.
8. Do his (her) relatives and friends accept you?
Relatives do have a right to say who shall become a member of their family. It is their duty to protect their good name and to uphold the family standards. Often the relatives can see more objectively than can the individuals who are emotionally involved. Their counsel is indeed worth consideration. Some nations for centuries have followed the custom of giving the major responsibility of mate selection to the parents or some close relative, with very satisfactory results. Our Western culture will not
recognize such extreme methods, but we must avoid the opposite extreme of ignoring the opinions and wishes of the relatives. After all, a marriage that has the acceptance and the blessing of the relatives is far more likely to succeed than the one without it.
9. Do you have the same interests?
It is a real tragedy when a married couple wakes up to the fact that they have nothing in common, nothing of mutual interest. To be companions they must be alike and have the same desires, the same aims, the same objectives. To walk arm and arm down the pathway of life they must be together and travel in the same direction at the same rate of speed.
a. They must have the same religion. Religion is a way of life, and when the ways are different they cannot walk together. The Founder of the home admonishes everyone, "Be ye not unequally yoked." "To connect with an unbeliever is to place yourself on Satan's ground. You grieve the Spirit of God and forfeit His protection. Can you afford to have such terrible odds against you in fighting the battle for everlasting life?"—Testimonies, vol. 5, pp. 364, 365.
b. They must be of the same race. Race refers to the major differences in the human family. The One who "hath made of one blood all nations" is the One who gave instruction time and again not to intermarry with other nations. Marriage does not abolish those differences that exist, but magnifies them. Even though a man and a woman marry, the two do not become as one. Daniel prophesies that down to the very close of time "they shall mingle themselves with the seed of men: but they shall not cleave one to another" (Dan. 2:43). Companions must be alike, not different. Even if it were possible for the husband and the wife to adjust to these differences themselves, "All should consider that they have no right to entail upon their offspring that which will place them at a disadvantage. . . . For this reason, if there were no other, there should be no intermarriage between the white and the colored race."—Selected Messages, vol. 2. p. 343.
c. They should be on the same social level, speaking the same mother tongue, having the same habits and customs, the same mores. When people from different cultural backgrounds marry one is likely to have an inferior feeling. Companions must be equal. The millionaire's daughter should not marry the gardener's son, nor the capitalist a peasant girl. The nearer alike their financial status is, the better.
d. They should be in the same age bracket. Neither the husband nor the wife can afford to become a second "parent" to the other. As companions they should be able to keep in step with each other as the major family interests change from baby's play pen to school programs, to teen-age driving, to daughter's wedding, to baby-sitting with grandchildren.
e. They should have the same likes and dislikes. The active outdoor girl might find her cloistral husband very boring at times, and the home-loving wife may be very lonely trying to live with a gadabout husband. The ultramodern person has little in common with the ultraconservative.
f. They should be companions in their trade or profession but not competitors. Both can be teachers, but they should not teach the same subject. One can teach Bible and the other English. Both can be musicians but not both violinists. One can play the organ and the other the piano. Both can be medically trained, but the two should not be surgeons. One can be an obstetrician and the other a pediatrician. Complementary professions are often desirable for husband and wife teams such as: evangelist-musician, pastor-Bible instructor, departmental secretary-church school teacher, doctor-nurse, administrator-secretary, et cetera. Whether they are equally trained in the same field matters little, but they must have the same interest in the family calling. The farmer should marry a girl who enjoys country living, and the sailor should find a wife who loves to ride the waves. Pity the musician who marries one born off key, or the artist who marries a man who is color blind.
In choosing a companion with similar interests we must not include certain physical characteristics that have no effect whatsoever on the marriage. The following are subject to personal preferences only: the individual is a blond, a brunette, or a redhead; the eyes are blue, black, gray, or brown. The man is taller, shorter, or exactly the same height as his wife. The woman is older, younger, or born on the same day as her husband. They are both extroverts, introverts, or ambiverts. These individual differences should not be confused with the major interests of life.
10. Do you want him (her) as he (she) is?
If you feel that your mission in life is to reform him, correct his English, watch his manners, and make a man out of him, you should think of adopting him but not of marrying him. Marriage is for adults only, for those whose habits are already formed, whose training period is in the past. Do you admire him as he is, and do you feel comfortable with him? Can you relax and feel secure in his presence? Does he seek to protect you, your health, your money, your character, your good name, your happiness? Does he inspire you to do your best and to be your best? By being with him is it easier to be sweet, charming, noble, and pure? Then take him as he is and be his loving companion for life.
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