Asking the Hard Questions, Part 1

Suzanne Hadley of Boundless recently provided a couple of blog posts (Asking the Scary Questions, and More Questions) regarding asking the hard questions during courtship/dating (or whatever one claims to have kissed goodbye but still practices while calling it something else).

One of my readers asked what I thought of the posts, as she suggested that they could stoke the aura of unreasonable expectations by one or both parties.

Before I answer, I believe it is necessary to provide fair disclosure: I generally will give a gal the benefit of a doubt, until the evidence doesn’t allow it. That means (a) past screwups are not dealbreakers; (b) she is not required to have perfect maturity; (c) she is not required to have all t’s crossed and i’s dotted; (d) most red flags–while potential dealbreakers–are not automatic disqualifiers.

Okay…having finished the disclosure, I have no quarrel with either of Suzanne’s lists of questions. Women need to ask them of the men, and men need to ask them of the women.

In fact, if nothing else, the questions are good because they will get you over what I call the “goo goo ga ga” stage–where both parties are largely thinking with hormones and emotions–enough to consider the realism of marriage.

In my almost 42 years on this planet–not including about 7 months in the womb–I cannot count the number of times I’ve seen someone dive headfirst into marriage with a partner who seemed like a nice person, only to find out that (a) he’s a marginal believer at best; (b) his care for spiritual matters is near nonexistent; (c) he has no concept of personal responsibility; (d) he has an unaddressed sexual matter that threatens the fabric of the marriage.

Lest you think I’m picking on the guys, think again. I’ve seen men get burned nearly as often. The dynamics are similar. (The following is said tongue-in-cheek.) The man marries a gal to whom he’s physically attracted, then finds out that (a) the wedding cake destroyed about 98% of her sex drive; (b) her mood swings contribute exponentially to his gray hair count; (c) she expects him to make $150,000 per year while working only 40 hours per week; (d) now married, she has decided she no longer has to take care of herself; (e) she makes a habit of deriding him in front of their friends.

In all seriousness, both he and she need to address the questions soberly and honestly. We live in a fallen world; your future mate is not an angelic, sinless being; total depravity is total. You will not always check your selfishness at the door; neither will your mate.

I would add the following to Suzanne’s first list:

(1) Don’t just ask about sexual addictions. Any addiction is a potential disaster. I’ve dated a gal whose whose food addiction cost me a heck of a lot more than the thousands of dollars I sunk into trying to help her. If you look close enough at my crew cut, you’ll see the gray hairs I have from those days.

Like I said, past screwups are hardly dealbreakers–I know women who conquered anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa–but I want to see the proof that it is behind her.

(2) This is going to sound mean (and I promise it is not intended that way), but guys…if she’s not a virgin, you might want to ask if she’s ever been pregnant. I can’t remember the stat source, but last I checked, 1 in 4 women of childbearing age have had at least one abortion.

Having done post-abortion counseling during my CPC days, that is not a dealbreaker for me–as long as (a) she is repentant about it, and (b) her views on abortion are compatible with mine–but you’ll BOTH be a lot better off dealing with this before the wedding.

Otherwise, if she carries that baggage into the marriage, she will punish herself and it will impact you and any children you have together. I’ve seen good marriages in spite of past abortion(s); I’ve also seen some marriages get slaughtered because she could never come to terms with God’s grace in the wake of her abortion(s).

Now, a few notes about porn exposure:

(1) If he was born in the 1960s or later, and he tells you he has never been exposed to pornography, then he is probably lying (which is a larger issue). 

I guaran-dang-tee that, in his grade school days, someone in his class brought a Playboy to school that his dad left laying around. And all the guys–and I DO mean ALL the guys–looked at it. And they weren’t paying any attention to the great articles, either…

(2) If his teen years fell in the 1990s–when Internet porn exploded–he has almost certainly been exposed to online porn, and the potential for varying levels of addiction–from mild to severe–is very high because of the hardcore nature of e-porn.

That need not be a dealbreaker, but–like the post-abortion scenario–you’re better off dealing with the matter BEFORE the wedding.

(3) Porn addiction–once considered to be exclusive to men–is increasingly prominent among women, too. I’ve never asked a potential mate about her porn exposure, because I long-assumed it was just the men who were vulnerable to it.

I’ve had several women tell me that I need to ask potential mates about it.

8 thoughts on “Asking the Hard Questions, Part 1

  1. i’m glad you’ve discussed this as, sometimes being a woman, it is difficult to assess what is offensive to you and men like you (ie: anti-Maiken) and what is okay.

    i, too, felt like the questions were good … and that they should be asked/addressed by both.

    fwiw – your “tongue-in-cheek” is actually more real than you’d probably like to think (or you prefaced it as such so as not to be so offensive).

    i REALLY like your additions … i do NOT think the abortion thing is harsh … actually, i believe that question needs to be asked both ways. i know of quite a few men who encouraged/demanded/paid-for abortions before they married their wives and struggled with it immensely. there are also quite a few whose girlfriends got an abortion without his knowledge or consent. if any of this is true, he needs to “(a) she [HE] is repentant about it, and (b) her [HIS] views on abortion are compatible with mine–but you’ll BOTH be a lot better off dealing with this before the wedding.” … so they can be healed from it.

    a friend of mine leads a local abortion-recovery group. 1 in 4 may even be conservative.

    i absolutely agree with you on the porn. it is VERY rare that both men and women have not been exposed to it on some level … and i believe the expectation should be that he/she HAS been exposed and the issues then become to what level have they been exposed, was/is there an addiction issue with the porn, and what have they done and are doing about it. also, what measures have been put in place to protect oneself going forward.

    i believe it is absolutely critical that both the man and the woman in the relationship should be free to ask, at any time for any reason during the whole course of the relationship, even and especially into marriage, if the other has been exposed lately, struggled lately, given in lately … to keep everything honest and out “in the light” so it can be dealt with appropriately. this should not be a condemning thing but a help/healing thing … and prevent the one from going further with the porn.

    ALL addictions – i absolutely agree here.

    ***

    “(a) he’s a marginal believer at best; (b) his care for spiritual matters is near nonexistent; (c) he has no concept of personal responsibility; (d) he has an unaddressed sexual matter that threatens the fabric of the marriage.”

    excellent – again, goes both ways.

    i’m assuming that ‘unaddressed sexual matter’ would be sexual abuse victim or porn addiction.

    define more what you are thinking here about “personal responsibility” … do you mean in their relationship with Christ or in their life in general … and how would that look to you.

    the spiritual questions are great. i would add that one should be concerned that there is a desire/willingness which is evident to grow spiritually. there should be some kinda track record here … but i say that with caution because i know many women come up with what they consider should be a ‘track record’ that is totally unreasonable.

  2. Ame: When I said those things tongue-in-cheek, I meant by that to indicate that I was speaking hyperbolically. Having never been married, I cannot confirm or deny those jokes about wedding cake, but I thought it made for a good one-liner.

  3. i know … it’s just that, having been married, unfortunately, there’s more truth sometimes than not among married couples … and i’ve seen (c) a lot.

  4. I take issue with her use of the “t” word — “tithing.” It doesn’t belong on this list unless its a doctrinal disqualifier. It certainly is not a reflection of character; rather of the willingness and/or ability to follow rules.

  5. SXM: I haven’t addressed those items. That is coming in part 2.

    For the record: I’m not dogmatic about tithing–it is amazing how many church leaders play down the OT but are extremely dogmatic when it comes to tithing–but someone needs to be a regular giver to church and/or charitable causes as they are able.

    Pastors need to eat, and the Church ought to have resources to help needy people. It takes greenbacks to make those things happen.

    Whether that regular giving is 1%, 10%, or 50%, that’s for you to work out with God.

  6. SXM – thru words you have written here, you have helped me see “tithing” in a different light. my ex and his parents are dogmatic about following rules (and creating more rules to follow), and we never missed a “tithe.” (of course, he musta thought “keep yourself only for her” was negotiable; oh well. nice to be able to pick and choose, huh?!)

    anyway, in the divorce i went thru a time where i had to stop following all these “rules” till i could figure out what was actually biblical and what was man-made. the three big rules i dropped were religious church attendance, saying blessing before every meal, and tithing.

    he and his parents are at church to unlock the doors everytime they can lure anyone else to join them.

    i couldn’t see how saying the same rote prayer before every meal was actually praying (and my BIG pet peeve – making a public show of blessing in restaurants … when you pull up to a restaurant, you KNOW you’re gonna eat, so why not say a blessing in the car BEFORE you get out?).

    and then the legalistic tithing to prove you are better’n everyone else.

    it’s been a long, hard road for me, working thru all this stuff. but i believe it’s our heart’s that God wants. when we give Him our whole heart’s everyday, the rest will line up.

    and it was interesting … i was going over this list with my friend last night, and he picked up on the tithing thing, too, and expressed it the way you have here.

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