Gary Thomas’s foreword:
Before You Save the Date may well be the second most important book you ever read. That’s not hyperbole. If you’re contemplating a less-than-wise marital relationship, and God uses the wisdom contained in Before You Save the Date to get you to re-evaluate your decision, no book, other than the Bible, will have a greater impact on your life. If you’re not dating anyone at the moment, and Before You Save the Date helps guide you to someone who would make a wonderful marriage partner, you’ll be blessed for the rest of your life. That’s how important the information contained in this book really is.
It’s difficult to overstate the importance of making a wise marital choice. Second only to your decision to follow God, who you marry will color every aspect of your life for the rest of your life—how you spend your weekends, the social atmosphere in your home, the amount of spiritual support you have (or don’t have) in your life, the parenting and role modeling your future kids will grow up with, how you’ll spend your old age, what you do on vacations, holidays, evenings, and more.
Such a monumental decision demands monumental attention, vigilance, and deliberation. Sadly, this decision is most commonly made on the basis of sexual chemistry—an immediate attraction that is powerful to the point of being overwhelming, but that also always fades sooner rather than later. The Friesens get it right when they suggest that while sexual chemistry is important, it should only be about fourth or fifth on your list of what really matters. Its presence does not, on its own, signify a wise choice. Its absence is a cause for concern, but not the primary concern.
There’s science to back up this wisdom. Western forms of “love style” marriages typically start out white hot and quickly cool; Eastern arranged marriages mostly start out somewhat cool and gradually heat up. Longitudinal studies have shown that the two forms of marital affection “meet up” at about year five, as the Westernized marriage is headed down and the Eastern marriage is headed up. A decade into the marriage, the arranged marriage is typically much more intimate and satisfying to both partners than the western ones.
By the way, eastern “love marriages” share the same trajectory as western ones, leading most to conclude that it’s the arranging, not the culture, that influences this dynamic.
Am I suggesting we go back to arranged marriages in the west? Not necessarily (though I do think you ignore your parents’ opinion at your peril)—but what we can learn from this is the need to use the same basis that arranged marriages focus on to evaluate “love marriages.” In other words, “love marriages” should be tested by the same types of questions and considerations that parents who are arranging marriages for their children use in their choices. That’s exactly what Before You Save the Date will help you to do: look at your marriage from an objective basis, and make your choice based on things that truly matter.
Again, I can’t stress how much of your future happiness depends on this. If you make one bad financial investment, you can always start over, but biblical marriage is a one-shot deal. Many Christians believe there are a couple biblically “accepted” causes for divorce, but these are limited and severe. In the vast majority of cases, should you be disappointed in your choice, your obligation as a believer will be to work it out instead of walking out. It’s worth the time, effort, and even the heartache of a breakup to make sure you’re making a wise decision before you enter into marriage.
But more than being merely a tool to evaluate your relationship, Before You Save the Date can also help you build a new level of intimacy as you contemplate each question together. It will encourage you to talk about things that really matter, and it will help you gain a greater understanding of your current romantic attraction.
Please read this book prayerfully, with your heart and eyes wide open. If any red flags appear, don’t even think about ignoring them, or downplaying their importance. Immediately focus on the potentially troublesome issue, talk it over with a parent, pastor, or counselor, and make sure it doesn’t signal a serious problem that will undercut the intimacy of your future home. Far better to postpone or cancel an ill-advised marriage, than to go forward “hoping” the red flag is just a red herring.
If you can go through this book in an honest and prayerful fashion, recognizing weaknesses and tendencies but no real serious threats, then your marriage day will be all the more joyful. You can truly celebrate the beginning of a lifelong union with a much higher degree of confidence, because you will know that it is based on the solid foundation of wisdom instead of the eroding sinkhole of feelings.
author of Sacred Marriage