Bear with me for a second and imagine that you are about to buy a used car. Before signing on the dotted line, you would request the diagnostics on the car. You’d take the car for ride to see how it drives — paying attention to its feel, listening for any weird sounds, and checking all the features to ensure that everything works right. You might even get an experienced mechanic to examine the car and give you their professional opinion.
You go through all this trouble because you don’t want to buy an unreliable car that becomes a money pit! You know it is a substantial investment and you want to know exactly what you are getting. You want to make sure you are getting your money’s worth.
While buying a used car can be a risky investment, the investment risk is small compared to the risk we take when choosing which relationships we should invest in.
If you invest in a bad car, outside of your pride, the only thing that takes a hit is your financial standing. If you invest in a bad relationship, especially if it turns out to be a marriage relationship, your entire future may be in jeopardy. Yet, too many of us treat the decision of whom to enter into a relationship with as something that is trivial, compared to the due diligence we give to deciding whether to buy a car.
Our lack of due diligence is NOT due to a lack of concern. Rather, any concern we have is often overwhelmed by the emotional tidal wave that accompanies the prospect of getting what we desire — the desire to be in a committed relationship. While this emotional wave produces butterflies and feelings of happiness, it can blind us to glaring red flags. It can cause us to overlook and excuse away foundational problems that require fixing.
Choosing to ignore foundational problems when choosing whether to commit to a relationship is like choosing to ignore a used car’s check engine light and instead choosing to focus on how pretty the paint job looks on the car.
If you are going to give yourself the best chance of making the best decision relationship decision, there are 3 things you must do while dating.
Talk About the Ugly Stuff
No one is perfect! Everyone has issues! If you are not talking about the ugly stuff, the ugly stuff will talk to you when it shows up later in your marriage.
Analogous to diagnosing a car to see what is wrong before you buy it, you need to look at what is wrong and understand what you have to deal with in your relationship.
You want to go into your marriage with your eyes wide open
If you do not know for sure what you are dealing with, then it is likely that many things will surprise and disappoint you. You will feel as if your partner was dishonest with you and sold you on a lie. And you are more likely to want to bail out when in the truth comes out in those early days.
But if you know what you are facing, you can make a quality decision. You can place boundaries on your relationship to prevent the ugly from coming out. You will be better prepared for the ugly when it does come out.
Example: When Jack told Lori that he struggles with porn from time to time, they spoke about it and decided that he needed to install covenant eyes while they seek out help for him.
When you know what is not right before hand, you can make a plan to deal with it.
Be Honest About What You Can Handle
When buying a used car, there comes a point when you have to make a decision about whether you can handle the maintenance cost! The same is true of relationships. There is maintenance work required for any relationship not to break down. You have to decide whether you can handle it.
If you know that you cannot afford the maintenance on your relationship, it is better not to commit to the relationship.
There are two key questions to consider when thinking of relationship maintenance: (1) Is the problem causing the maintenance a chronic issue? (2) Do you have the spiritual strength, mental energy, and emotional capital to deal with the problem?
If you know you do not want to continue spending emotional capital to fix an unending issue, then be honest with yourself and end the relationship before it gets really serious. You don’t want to put yourself in a situation where you get bitter because things don’t get better.
Example: When Samantha realized she could not handle Blake’s addiction, she decided to call it quits though she cared for him deeply.
Allow Someone You Trust to Evaluate Your Relationship
When in the throes of emotional energy in a relationship, we tend to magnify the positives and minimize the negatives. I can’t illustrate this point any better than my friend did a few weeks ago. He said to me “When I first got married, I wondered why I did not marry her sooner. Now I wonder why I married her at all.”
Before you commit to marriage, do yourself a favor and invite a wise objective person to speak into your life. Be sure to tell them the good, the bad, and the ugly. Also, be honest with yourself and let them know what you can handle and what you can’t handle. Then open your heart to receive what this person has to say and truly consider it.
This is like inviting an expert mechanic to see if this car you want to buy is a right for you.
Example: Kim and Tyler went to a counsellor with an open mind to get his take on their relationship. After four sessions, they realized they still had a lot of work today. So, they decided to put their engagement on hold and work through the resources the counsellor gave them. Because they put in the work, they now have a successful marriage.
It is better to wait and get it right, than rush in and get it wrong
Do not awaken love until the time is right — King Solomon