When I’m asked for the secret to success in marriage, there is one answer that rises above all the rest: my wife and I have an understanding of and commitment to the covenant of marriage.
That doesn’t sound very sexy, I know. But it’s the most powerful truth you can embrace in your search for the man you’re going to marry, have kids with, and live the greatest adventure of your life alongside of (it also turns out to be the sexiest answer there is to that question, but that’s the subject of another article).
What the heck is the marriage covenant, anyway? And what does it have to do with the revolving door of dating, breakups, let-downs, could’ve been’s and broken hearts that is my single life? Well, the marriage covenant is the goal; it’s what you’re aiming for. It is designed to be the launch pad of your soul, the security of your heart and the safest place for your sexuality, your motherhood, and your wildest dreams. It is the unbreakable promise you make that no matter what happens in the years ahead—no matter what—you are going to overcome it hand in hand, heart to heart, together. And so you really just need to reverse engineer your dating from there.
When I say covenant, I mean just that: a bond that you make before family and friends, that you both commit to for the rest of your lives and guides and protects you through the incredible journey that lies ahead. I know it sounds a little counter-culture because isn’t marriage an outdated and dusty institution from the dark ages meant to trap you and stifle your freedom? Well, after over 17 years of marriage and 5 kids later (not to mention thousands of years of the marriage covenant being the very building block of society all over the world) I can confidently tell you it isn’t dead. In fact, it’s the secret to your success. Not just for marriage but in your dating life as well. Here are two reasons why.
The marriage covenant focuses on the big checkbox qualities in a spouse, making your decision intentional, clear and focused. Let me share with you one of the problems I have seen with “daters” over the last two decades that has become a marriage-killing phenomenon: they major on minors and minor on the majors. In other words, they have no idea what are the most important boxes that need to be checked in a potential spouse, so they’re consistently passing on incredible opportunities.
Listen, here are the big checkboxes your imperfect, not-as-wealthy-as-you’d-like, quirky, irritating, issues-filled boyfriend needs to have for you to consider him marriage material. You ready? Character. Integrity. Honesty. Humility. Also on this list you’ll find Compatible Visions For Life and Romantic/Sexual Attraction (which one might argue could be on the medium checkbox list, but let’s skip that controversy and put it here). Compatible Spiritual Faith can be on this list as well. And lastly, of course (really firstly), is an understanding of and commitment to the covenant of marriage.
If he has these traits on board—listen to me—everything else can be overcome. That doesn’t mean you have to marry this guy, it just means that he’s got enough on board to make a successful life within the covenant of marriage.
Advice: major on the majors and minor on the minors. Twenty years and three kids from now, you’ll be happy you did. Because twenty years from now the sexiest guy in the room is the one who loves you unconditionally, serves you, hasn’t cheated on you, and is an amazing and faithful father. Hollywood may have passed him by but not you because you know what you’re looking for. #therealthing
The covenant is designed to be difficult because it is designed to mature you. Marriage isn’t hard because there is something wrong with the concept of marriage—it’s hard because there’s something wrong with all of us! Tons of something! And let’s not even get started with this guy you love/hate that you’ve been dating for the past 9 months. Look, both of you have loads of issues that need to be tweaked and dealt with, of course—we all do. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get married to him (as long as he’s got the big checkboxes marked!).
Marriage isn’t for perfect people. It’s for screw-ups like you and me who are willing to throw our hearts and souls into a covenant of power that is designed to change us, little by little, day by day, until we one day look in the mirror and realize we are becoming the incredible person we were created to be.
And that happens because we don’t run from difficulties in our relationship, we embrace them (and I don’t mean physical or mental abuse, manipulation, or whatever else Christian Grey is into. I’m talking about the imperfections in an otherwise healthy relationship). Difficulties spring up due to the issues we have inside. Marriage is designed in such a way that we can’t run away from the uncomfortable pain like little children; we have to face it like adults. When we do—with grace, patience and humility—we grow.
So don’t jump ship too early in your current relationship if you’ve got a big checkbox guy just because things are tough. The only question you have to answer is: do I want to go through the tough stuff with this guy?
I got married a month after turning twenty-one. Seriously. You think I had everything on board, my career in place, and was perfect in every way? Heavens, no! Here’s what Holly and I had: a deep faith that we shared, character, honesty, humility, attraction, an excitement and vision for life together, and—you guessed it—an understanding of and commitment to the covenant of marriage.
I promise you, there is no more freeing, secure, empowering sensation in the world than to know that the person who shares your heart is going to forgive you when you screw up, stand there with you through the tough times, and hold you through the trauma of life. In fact, it is that ability to throw yourself into the marriage covenant with full abandonment that gives your relationship the power that causes you to grow in your spouse’s love and change your life forever.
So dust off that old marriage covenant if you have to and take another look at it. It’s not a straight jacket; it’s the key to the greatest freedom your soul can experience with another human being on this earth. It’s the blueprint to reverse engineer why you’re dating who you’re dating and how.
Understand it. Commit to it. And find that imperfect, adventurous, quirky dude who will do the same. Because all the expensive, exotic ingredients in the world don’t matter if you don’t have the right ones. Start with those—the rest is for flavor and spice.
By Dean Kaneshiro // Image by: Vera Wilde