By Francis Ewherido

As we begin a new year I want us to take a look at how to choose spouses. Dating can be described as a form of courtship and may include social activities undertaken by two persons (male and female) with the aim of assessing the  suitability of spouse for marriage while courtship is that traditional period before engagement and wedding when couples date to know each other and take a decision ahead of marriage. It is therefore a very critical period. Let us look at areas and issues we should focus on during courtship.

God: If you are a Christian, the first thing to realize is that courtship, like marriage, is not just a relationship between two persons;God should be in the centre of the  relationship as the third person—which can seen as a triangular relationship. That is why the Book of Proverbs tells us that, houses and wealth can be inherited from parents, but a good wife comes from God ( Proverbs 19:14).

He is the creator of the marriage institution. I personally believe that since God created you specially and knew from the beginning that you are going to get married someday, He has also created somebody specially and specifically for you. It is your responsibility to rely on God and with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to find that person.

Core Values: What are your core values? Core values are principles and qualities that guide your internal conducts and determine how you relate with the external world. Core values define who you are; they go to the root of your existence. They are sacred to your being and non-negotiable a lot of the time. They might be ethical, religious, intellectual, social, appearance related, etc.; the question is do you share common values?

If you do not, then it is not advisable to continue the courtship. But if you do, but not all, you need to check how acceptable or unacceptable; what is lacking …. Are they things you can live with or without? Sometimes it is not the level of compatibility that holds the marriage together; it is the ability of couples to manage their inevitable differences. Ultimately we are all prisoners of nature and nurture; breaking out of that well-guarded prison can be tough business, depending on whether it is a small, medium or maximum security prison.

Assets and Liabilities: when you marry, you marry wholesale not retail, that is, you marry the person with his/her strengths and weaknesses, successes and failings; the good the bad and the ugly; his/her past, present and future. One question you must answer is whether you are ready to put up with the person’s failings, shortcomings and weaknesses for the rest of your life. If your answer is affirmative, please go ahead, if it is negative, end the relationship.  Do not ever deceive or fool yourself into believing, he/she will change for the better, so you will manage the situation for now.

Some people either out of desperation or stubbornness go ahead even when the red flag is all over. They tell you that they will change their prospective spouse once they get married. This is a fallacy. In marriage expect change from only yourself. You do not have control over your spouse’s mind, and it is wrong to shift the goal post after the match had started.

If you want to take the matter to God in prayer,  also remember what God told St Paul when he requested God to take away an affliction from him: “My grace is enough for you” (2 Corinthians, 12:9). In any case, if God answers your prayers and your spouse changes for the better, then that is a bonus; your “salary” is the state your spouse was in when you married him/her, that is your entitlement, that is what you accepted and signed for.

So if, for instance, your partner is abusive or violent, flee. But if you foolishly  go ahead and get married to him/her you have negotiated a very bad and poor salary; do not bank on a bonus…. There should be no room for blind love during courtship, blind love belongs to the realm of marriage only and it is for its survival and your peace of mind; so shine your eyes and borrow more eyes if need be during courtship.

Friendship: One of the things courtship must do is build a bond of friendship. You must be friends with your spouse, because ultimately it is one of the major factors that keep a marriage going. I often laugh when some young adults place all emphasis on sex.

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