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.