How you treat your family is how you’ll eventually treat your future husband. And how he treats his family, or those closest to him, is how a guy will eventually treat his future wife.”
My mom’s words still echoed in my head after the mother-daughter powwow we’d had the night before.
It’s easy to get so caught up in a relationship (or the idea of a relationship) that all we see is how we interact with each other—our focus is rarely on how we treat other people.
Let’s face it, if a guy is treating us right, taking us on nice dates, and showering us with thoughtful deeds and kind words, then we’re pretty happy. Even if we notice him mistreating his siblings, we overlook it, thinking “He would never treat me that way!”
Eventually, though, if you end up marrying that person, the newness of the relationship will wear off. All those butterflies and fancy dates will disappear, and you’ll find that he treats you as kindly (or rudely) as he treats his little sister. Or that your new wife treats you as respectfully (or disrespectfully) as she treats her father.
It’s important to remember that the behaviors we form while interacting with those closest to us before marriage will carry over into how we interact with our future spouse. My friend’s experience illustrates this point beautifully. Ever since I met her in middle school, I’ve admired her beautiful servant’s heart. She’s kind and caring towards her siblings and parents, always cheerfully putting their needs above her own. And now, two years into marriage, that heart of service has not only extended to her husband, but to her husband’s family as well. When they went to visit his family recently, she happily spent her time tutoring his little cousins and caring for a sick relative. Most of us would gripe about spending our vacation that way, but not her. Her husband definitely found a gem when he found her!
So, when considering a relationship (or marriage), be wise and consider these steps:
1) Become an Observer
As you interact with a potential boyfriend/girlfriend/spouse, be observant. Ask yourself key questions and don’t sugar-coat the answers:
- Does he treat his family respectfully?
- How does she behave around her family? Is she helpful and kind or lazy and rude?
- Does he make his family a priority?
- Is she kind to new people at church?
- Is he patient?
- Does she take a genuine interest in others, or is she obsessed with herself?
2) Take Time to Think and Pray
Think about your observations. Rejoice in the positive character qualities and thoroughly consider the negative ones. Ask yourself:
- Can I live with the character qualities I’ve seen him display towards others?
- Is that how I want to be treated?
- Would I like to marry a person with this kind of character?
- Is it compatible with my strengths/weaknesses?
If you’ve identified character weaknesses, ask yourself:
- Do I have the grace to deal with that?
Take your observations before the Lord and pray for discernment.
3) Look in the Mirror
I saved the best part for last: Examining our own character. Jesus said,
Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck of out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:3-4)
While we definitely need to observe a potential spouse, it’s equally important to examine ourselves—to identify our own planks. Yes, we may have difficult family members or friends, and we may feel justified in being impatient with them. But have you ever considered that God may have placed that person in your life to shape your character?
Here are some questions to consider in the process of self-examination:
- Do I act lovingly toward those closest to me, whether they be parents, siblings, roommates, or friends?
- Am I a giver or a taker? Do I give to those that are close to me, or am I always taking?
- Do I respond with a kind tone or a rude one?
- Am I always helpful, or am I only helpful when it’s convenient?
- Am I patient?
- Do I put the needs of others above my own?
- Am I critical or encouraging?
- Am I loyal?
- Do I speak kind words?
I know it’s no fun to answer these questions, but it’s beneficial. And we don’t need to wait to be in a relationship either. It’s easy to become apathetic or think, “I’ll ask myself these questions when I meet The One.” But why wait? Certainly it would be a bigger blessing to those around us if we improve our character now. Not only that, but the character God develops in us during our single years is the foundation for our future relationships.
Will you join me in beginning each day with asking the Lord to mold you into His image? Then, at the right time, He can build a beautiful marriage on the foundation of our character.