A while back, I got the following inquiry from a woman overseas:
A few years ago, a close friend told me she had finally found a good man. He was in his mid-fifties, was a deacon in his church, sang in the choir, and could quote the Bible from beginning to end. He was living with his mother after his girlfriend of 7 years left him. Although I sensed this might be a red flag, and although they had only been together for a few months, I didn’t voice any concerns to her because it appeared she had already made up her mind to marry him.
Everything seemed okay until they returned from their honeymoon. That’s when he began verbally and emotionally abusing her. There were times that he got physical with her, too. She would tell me how little arguments would send him into a rage. The eventually separated. He admitted that he “used to be” an alcoholic 10 years ago and blamed alcohol for creating problems again. I don’t think this man respects my friend or is good for her in any way. But she is considering going back to him because she really wants the marriage to work. What advice should I give her?
My response to this woman’s question is not nearly as important as are the issues her story brings to light. The sad reality of our age is that people “hook-up” for all sorts of reasons, many of which are inherently unhealthy. And people sometimes get involved with one another with little forethought or prudence. It’s problem enough that some people are so good at looking good on the surface that others can be easily deceived about their true character (that’s one of the reasons I wrote In Sheep’s Clothing). But it’s another thing when someone jumps into a relationship without a careful enough “background check.” Suffice it to say, however, that if a relationship is to have a prayer of being an opportunity for two individuals to grow in a healthy manner, there has to be a minimum level of character development in each person. As I state in my book Character Disturbance, when all is said and done, character really does matter.
I’ve counseled many individuals and couples over the years. I have ceased being surprised or shocked about what initially attracted each person to one another or why they chose to enter a relationship in the first place. I’ve heard everything from “it was the best sex I ever had” to “I thought all he needed was a good woman.” Rarely have I heard that the decision to get together was based on a thorough testing of one another’s character during a reasonable courtship period, a careful examination of personal history, and an honest self-examination of one’s own motivation and character. But perhaps that’s because the few folks who have actually done these things aren’t the ones who, in desperation, seek help down the road.
Beginning a relationship without a good sense of who you are, who the other person is, and the principles that you’re committed to let bind and guide you both, is almost always a recipe for disaster and heartache. Character counts. That’s why it’s so important to correctly appraise it, both in ourselves as well as others.