A few days ago, I had the privilege of being interviewed by Jon Weece for an upcoming episode of the new Locker Room Podcast (which is an incredible resource for men). Jon asked me a lot of very insightful questions, but one question in particular is something I’ve continued to ponder days later. He asked, “What are the most important things a young man should do to prepare for marriage someday?”
As an advocate for stronger marriages, I’m often writing and speaking about what we should all be doing to be better spouses, but this question reminded me that some of the most important and life-altering decisions we make happen BEFORE marriage. I’m convinced that if young men will do the following seven things, they will be prepared for marriage, fatherhood, and all aspects of life. I’m praying my own four sons will implement these disciplines and habits in their own lives for their own sakes and for the sakes of their future wives and children.
If you’re single, please take these to heart. The decisions you’re making today are either creating future opportunities or removing future opportunities. Invest into your future family by implementing the right habits and eliminating unhealthy habits. You’re creating a foundation for your legacy right now, so make the most of this time.
7 things men should do before marriage (in no particular order)…
1. Develop a Strong Work Ethic
When I was a young boy, I had the privilege of spending some time with my Great-Grandfather. He was a hard-working farmer who had raised nine kids and built a house with his own hands. He never earned more than $5 per hour, but through his discipline and work ethic, when he died, he left his family a farm and estate worth over one million dollars! He never lived to see smart phones, but he probably would have thought grown men playing PokemonGO were wasting their lives. He was a tough man. His individual knuckles were each the size of my fists. Even in his late eighties, he still had the strength to take down a young whippersnapper if he had wanted to. Despite his rugged strength and grit, he was tenderhearted and kind. He was quick to play with his grandkids, laugh with his friends, kiss his wife, give a dog treat to his old mutt and he’d shed a tear every time he talked about Jesus.
Men often fail in marriage (and in life) simply because they don’t know how to work hard. They give up the moment something becomes difficult. We live in a generation where his brand of manhood might seem antiquated, but I believe we have a lot to learn from his approach, because there are many ways that we as modern men are missing the mark. I’m not saying we all have to fit into a narrow definition of masculinity or all be able to handle power tools (My wife Ashley is actually MUCH better with tools than I am). What I am saying is that we need to recapture that sense of hard work which he developed as a young boy and it shaped all he did later in life. Don’t look for handouts. Look for way to get your hands dirty and calloused doing honest, hard work. It will serve you well all your life and make you a better husband and father someday.
“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.” Colossians 3:23
#2 means running towards something most men are running away from…
2. Seek responsibility instead of running from it
Another life lesson that can be illustrated from my Great Grandfather is this point of seeking responsibility instead of running from it. So many young men today behave as if they’re wearing a giant sign that says, “Don’t depend on me or tie me down.” We’ve falsely believed that “freedom” means not having to answer to anyone. This attitude makes us ineffective and unreliable in all parts of life (including future marriages and families). My Great Grandpa lost his dad and brothers young and when he was ten-years-old, he willingly took on the responsibility of being the “man of the house.” In a time with no government aid or charitable programs, if he didn’t kill a squirrel or rabbit with his shotgun, he knew he and his mom would go hungry that night.
One of the BEST things I did to prepare me to be a husband and father someday was to volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters which is a mentoring organization. I got paired with a twelve-year-old named Robert and simply having to consider another person in my scheduling and decision making taught me so much about life and responsibility. Robert taught me much more than I taught him. Be a man who seeks responsibility; not one who runs from it. Be a man who says, “You can count on me.” (And mean it when you say it!) It will make you a great husband and father someday!
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” Philippians 2:3-4
#3 is something I failed to do, and I wish every day I would have done it differently
3. Develop a Disciplined Financial Plan
Learn as much as you can and earn as much as you can. This is something I did NOT do before marriage, and the first several years of our marriage had a lot of unnecessary stress because of it! I thought credit cards were just another form of money and I lived beyond my means. I didn’t understand the concepts of delayed gratification, financial planning or basic common sense related to money. Please learn from my mistakes!
One of the best things you can do for yourself and your future family is to develop a financial plan NOW. There are some great and easy resources to help you get started at DaveRamsey.com. Work to spend less than you make, save some money in an emergency fund, relentlessly eliminate debt, trust God with your tithe and practice generosity. Once you’ve done those things, start saving for a down payment on a house and other big, longterm plans. Your future wife will thank you!
“…the borrower is servant to the lender.” Proverbs 22:7
#4 might be the most DIFFICULT one on this list, but it’s also one of the most important…
4. Prioritize Sexual Purity (both mentally and physically)
You certainly don’t need me to tell you that we live in an age of sexual temptation and exploitation like no other time in history. Smart phones have made the temptation of pornography literally within our constant reach. If you want to maintain God’s standard for sexual purity (which isn’t to limit your fun but to protect and bless you and your future wife) then you must be proactive in this. Get accountability in place.
Get software on your phone to block porn and track sites for accountability (X3Watch and Covenant Eyes are good places to start). Don’t develop the dangerous habit of masturbation as a way to “stay pure” (it really just perpetuates lust and an unhealthy view of sex as a selfish act). Protect the honor and purity of any young woman you might be dating. We can’t compromise here, guys. I’m not preaching at you or judging you if you’ve messed up in these areas. I’ve made these same mistakes and the temporary pleasure was never worth the pain it caused later. Never trade temporary pleasure for permanent regret. If you’ve blown it, seek God’s limitless grace and then turn to a new beginning.
“But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Matthew 5:28
#5 will require looking at your time, energy and resources in a different way…
5. Use your singleness as an opportunity for Service; not for Selfishness
If you’re not careful, being single can make you selfish. It’s easy to get set in your own ways and (without even meaning to) start feeling like life revolves around you. Serving is the antidote to selfishness. Nothing will sabotage a marriage faster than selfishness, so if you really want to be a great husband and dad someday, don’t wait until you’re married to start thinking about other people besides yourself. Look for opportunities to serve.
“God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another.” 1 Peter 4:10
#6 might sound old-fashioned, but it NEVER goes out of style…
6. Learn how to be a gentleman
Our world has become so confused about what a “real man” looks like. The idealized man is often very promiscuous, chauvinistic, misogynistic, reckless and selfish. If you want to be a great husband someday, and if you want to be all God made you to be, you’ve got to have the courage to be countercultural. You need to learn how to treat a woman like a lady and like a sister in Christ.
“But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.” Ephesians 5:3-4
#7 is actually the MOST important one on the list…
7. Make Jesus your most important relationship
If these were in rank order, this would have been #1. Whether your single or your married, putting Christ first must be the priority. If he’s not holding the top spot in your heart, then your priorities are going to be out of whack! The more you love Him, the more capacity you will have to love yourself and everyone else. You can make Him your priority by getting connected in a healthy church, using your gifts to serve, giving, praying and studying the Bible to learn more about Him and keep growing in your faith. You’ll love your future wife best when you love God most.
“Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.” Matthew 6:33
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