The following is a condensed excerpt from my friend Tim Keller’s excellent new book, which I strongly endorse, The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God:
Practical Counsel for Marriage Seekers
Recognize that there are seasons for not doing marriage-seeking:
When you are going through a significant transition — starting a new job, starting a new school, death of a parent, or some other fairly absorbing time or event — it might not at all be a good time to begin a relationship.
Understand the ‘gift of singleness’:
Paul calls singleness a gift in 1 Corinthians 7:7: But what Paul speaks of is neither a condition without any struggle nor on the other hand an experience of misery. It is fruitfulness in life and ministry through the single state.
Get more serious about marriage seeking as you get older:
The older you are, and the more often you ‘go out’, the quicker both people must be to acknowledge that you are doing marriage-seeking.
Do not allow yourself deep emotional involvement with a non-believing person:
The essence of intimacy in marriage is that finally you have someone who will eventually come to understand you and accept you as you are. You should not deliberately marry someone who does not share your Christian faith.
Understand “attraction” in the most comprehensive sense:
So many people choose their marriage partner on the basis of looks and money — rather than character, mission, future-self, and mythos — that they often find themselves married to a person they don’t really respect that much.
Don’t let things get too passionate too quickly:
Refuse to have sex before you are married. Sexual activity triggers deep passions in you for the other person before you have gotten a good look at him or her. Put friendship development before romantic development.
Don’t become a ‘faux’ spouse for someone who won’t commit to you:
If a relationship has dragged on for years with no signs of deepening or progressing towards marriage, it may be that one person has found a level of relationship (short of marriage) in which they are receiving all they want and feels no need to take it to the final stage of commitment.
Get and submit to lots of community input:
Married Christians should look for ways to “share” their marriages with the singles and other married couples in their community.