“Jesus answered, ‘The most important commandment is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’”
– Mark 12:29-30
One of my primary jobs during pre-marital counseling is to ask couples to answer questions that they never ask each other. Most young couples tend to avoid discussing hot button topics that may lead to disagreements or conflict. Furthermore, they are so focused on the details of their wedding day that they talk very little about the substance of their marriage.
So for years I’ve had a practice of leading a discussion about compatibility on the first day of premarital counseling. Many young couples have bought into the old wives’ tale that—when it comes to finding your lifemate—opposites attract and make the most compatible spouses. But it’s simply not true. The most stable, strong and happy marriages are those in which the husband and wife have the most important things in common: values, beliefs and goals.
Imagine a target with five concentric circles. The inner three circles are where it’s critical for couples to be on the same page. When it comes to compatibility, the bull’s eye is values. Values can be defined as: “What I really care about and what I prioritize.” (We’ll get back to values in a moment.)
The circle just outside the bullseye is beliefs. Beliefs can be defined as: “What I hold to be true.” Each of us holds thousands of different beliefs. For example, I believe that the earth is round, that Pluto is a planet, that the Victor Valley is a good place to live, that the Bible is true and that Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior. And my list of beliefs goes on and on. Although no two people will be in complete agreement with their thousands of different beliefs, husbands and wives need to be on the same page with most of their convictions, especially the ones they hold most dear.
Which leads us to the bull’s eye of compatibility: values. Remember that values refer to the things I deeply care about—what I prioritize. I used to believe that beliefs were the most important area of compatibility, but I’m now convinced that values are even more important. Here’s why. Of the thousands of beliefs that you hold, there are only a handful that you really care about. For example, like me, you may believe that Pluto is a planet, but you probably don’t give Pluto a passing thought on any given day. None of your emotions are wrapped up in Pluto. It isn’t a priority to you. And the same holds true for the vast majority of your other beliefs. There are only a handful of beliefs that you care enough about to prioritize with your time, energy and passion. And the same holds true for every other person.
Many Christian women lament that their husbands express little to no interest in attending church, praying or reading the Bible. When asked if their husbands are Christians, many wives respond, “Yes.” They are convinced that their husbands believe in God and believe that going to church, reading the Bible and praying are all good things. But their husbands’ actions don’t seem to jive with their beliefs. Why not?
The answer boils down to values. Their husbands believe in God, but they don’t love God. Their husbands believe that the Bible is God’s word, but they don’t care enough about it to spend time reading it. They believe in prayer, but they don’t value it as a priority every day. Many engaged couples explore each other’s beliefs. But sadly, very few probe each other’s values.
I advise all dating couples to ask each other deep, values-centered questions like: Who is your first love? What are you really passionate about? If you had a million dollars, how would you spend it? What do you prioritize in your schedule every week regardless of how busy you are? If you could spend the rest of your life doing only one thing, what would it be?
The third circle on the Compatibility Target is goals. Goals describe where a person is heading. Even if a couple is on the same page with their values and beliefs, their marriage will not be compatible if they are heading in opposite directions. If the groom plans to be a missionary in Africa and the bride aims to be a politician, their marriage is bound to be rocky. It’s very important for young couples to explore each other’s goals. Where do you see yourself in five or ten years? Where do you want to live? How many kids do you want to have? What are your financial goals?
Young couples would save themselves a world of hurt if they spent less time planning their weddings and more time determining the compatibility of their values, beliefs and goals. The marriage relationship is designed by God to be the most important and fulfilling human relationship on the planet. And it is intended to be for life. As such, it is not to be entered into lightly. Explore each other’s values, beliefs and goals. And encourage your kids and grandkids to do the same. Happier and healthier marriages are in store for those who do.
Dane Davis is the lead pastor of First Christian Church of Victorville and the author of Holy Huldah! Lessons You Should Never Forget from Bible Characters You've Never Heard Of. To hear Pastor Dane's messages for for more information about the church, visit www.fccvv.com.