If I were talking with a single person about someday getting married, I would strongly advise them to make a list of non-negotiables. That would be the things their spouse must be (or do), and the things they can’t be (or do). Then I would advise them to not continue dating anyone who was missing any of the must haves or had any of the must not haves.


Given you’re already married, it’s a bit late for that. Or is it?

I realise the idea of making such a list now is scary given you are already “stuck” with what you have. What good could come from it? Still, whether you make a list or not, there are make or break issues for your marriage. Ignoring those things won’t make them go away, and pushing them off is just kicking the can down the road. 

My suggestion is to make the list and then spend a good deal of time thinking and praying about where your wife lacks something you want or has something you don’t want. What is really non-negotiable for you, and what can you live with? If something is non-negotiable it’s just a matter of time till it becomes a problem. I realise bringing it up now feels like picking a fight, but dealing with it sooner rather than later makes it more likely you can resolve it. What’s more, choosing your time is way better than having it come out in the midst of an argument or during a difficult time in your marriage. 

The other side of this is your wife’s list of non-negotiables. Why not ask her to make a list, pray about it, and then share it with you. Again it seems like asking for trouble, but it’s a whole lot better than dealing with it five years from now when she’s talking divorce!

Tomorrow I’ll talk about what to do if she is never going to be something you feel you really need.


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43 Comments on “Non-Negotiables

  1. While I generally agree with you, I’m afraid I cant follow you on this one. I tried to find some Biblical support for what you are proposing, and if it is there, I can’t find it.

    I think you would agree that it would not be wise to say to a prospective spouse, if you did/did not do this, I might marry you, otherwise I can’t. Too much possibility of unsustainable change, because the motivation would be wrong. It would just be kicking the can down the road. There might be a few areas where that would work, but not if it was a heart issue. I would guess that is why you advised to end the relationship.

    Now, trying to do something similar, in a retroactive measure would be the height of hubris, because you have already said that you accept that person as they are. I absolutely agree that if something bothers you, and you know that it jeopardizes the marriage, you should speak your heart. I also believe that if your spouse comes to you with a serious issue/concern, you should hear her out, and make every effort to find common ground. If it is a sin issue, that should lead to the sin being let go.

    If you are is sin, yourself, you should make every effort to remove it from your life. If your spouse has some sin in hers, and we all do, then you should come at it from a standpoint of grace, and go from there. You should absolutely not be looking at your spouse trying to find deal breakers, after the deal is sealed.

    I am pretty firm in my opinion here, as it relates to my own marriage, but I am interested in hearing what others have to say

    • Cool, so you’d be fine marrying someone who was not a Christian and had no intention of becoming one, nor even feigning interest.

      • I was not speaking of having standards prior to marriage. I was speaking of creating a list of “deal breakers” after you have already married. You can not go back and change your standards after you have already committed to a lifetime FOR BETTER OR WORSE.

        That does not mean that I am saying you should remain married in the case of abuse, or unrepentant infidelity. In every other case I can think of, every effort should be made to find common ground and heal the rift.

        I know that for me, I would be a lot more receptive to a remark along the lines of “Dear, that thing you do really bothers me. I’m sorry I didnt day something sooner. I thought I could deal with it even tho I dislike it, but I find myself struggling to let it go.”

        As opposed to the alternative “if I had known it would be like this I wouldnt have married you”

        Furthermore, I have a suspicion that of you go looking for ongoing deal breakers in your marriage, you arw going to find them. What happens when the change you were hoping to create does not take place. Are you going to cover them with grace, or are you going to become more dissatisfied and unhappy in your marriage.

        For me, I prefer to take things one at a time as they come up, and deal with them. So far 35 years into our marriage neither of us has found any deal breakers, probably because we didnt look for them.

        For the record, my wife did not marry a Christian, and neither did I. We might have told you otherwise, but nothing in our lives would have testified to that.

        I certainly would counsel a young man or woman to do a better job of identifying those things than we did, but once the knot has been tied, I suspect I would have to advise them to try to reach common ground and cover those things with grace.that can not be agreed on kr more important, cant be undone.

        • I’m going to be the “well, actually …” chick. Well, actually …. my husband straight up lied about two things while we were dating and months into our marriage: I had no idea he was an alcoholic and I had no idea he was regularly using porn. If I had known either of those things, I wouldn’t have married him. (I would have insisted he stop or get help, he would have refused because #alcoholic, and we wouldn’t have gotten married.)

          And I just found out that last week, he got completely plastered at a work event (which I knew, because he was hours late and very drunk when he got home) and, it turns out, had spent the entire evening flirting and groping with an employee and probably didn’t hook up with her only because of how much they’d been drinking.

          So … yeah, I have a list, and I don’t know what to do with it. But, um, I don’t think it’s my fault that I have a list or that, you know, if he hadn’t misled me about these things five years ago, I wouldn’t have married him.

          • I am sorry for that. I am sure it is painful. A few years ago, I had very little hope in my marriage, amd so much has changed since then, I probably come across as too optomistic. I agree with one thing Paul mentioned. Change was a frightening process. We found our way on a different path to reconcilliation than most. I dont think it would be the right way for everyone.

    • @Man without a map – I agree one should not try to get someone to change. My suggestion was to avoid those who didn’t fit, not ask them to try to fit.

      If you are already married it is indeed a difficult and tricky thing. This is not about looking for deal breakers, it’s about admitting to the ones that are there. Part of my motivation here is the number of marriages I have seen end because things like this were not addressed until it was too late. A man or woman tries to put up with something for years, then when they are at the end of their rope they give up. Their spouse never knew and never had a chance to change.

      There are also things we won’t put up with. Maybe it’s can’t, maybe it’s shouldn’t, maybe it’s won’t, but the fact is we all have a list of things that would cause us to end the marriage. If we deny such things exist we give up the chance to work on them before they kill our marriage.

      I suspect you will resonate with my Thursday post!

      • My first instinct was to respond to this as soon as I read it, and I have, in fact started typing a response on a couple of occasions, and then gone back and deleted them prior to posting.

        I guess the best way for me to respond, is to go back and quote you directly, so forgive me if it seems I am trying to use your words against you.

        “There are also things we won’t put up with.”

        This may or may not be true. It is true that we each have a individual threshold, but I have found that to be a flexible thing, largely dependant on our willingness to forgive, whether or not there is repentance and a willingness to look inside the heart of the one guilty of offense. That makes me wonder if there actually is a threshold, or just a point where we give in to our own hurt, and let it start dictating.

        “Maybe it’s can’t, maybe it’s shouldn’t, maybe it’s won’t, but the fact is we all have a list of things that would cause us to end the marriage.”

        I probably believed that was true at one time, but I also believed that I would never face any of those things. Every person is different, every marriage is different, and I realize that many marriages have ended. That would seem to confirm your remark to be true. On the other hand, some marriages end over the most trivial of offenses, and some survive and eventually even thrive, despite the deepest hurts imaginable. That simply can not be explained, if it is the nature of the offense that makes the difference.

        “If we deny such things exist we give up the chance to work on them before they kill our marriage.”

        I don’t deny that there are things that can damage a marriage, or that there are things that genuinely need to be addressed. On the other hand, I just have a hard time with the idea of creating a list of non-negotiable offenses. In my experience, and from all the evidence I have seen, you have no idea at all until you are faced with the reality of having to decide.

        • @Man without a map – I agree with you that being willing to forgive is a huge part of it.I do think there is a limit to that. When Jesus was asked how often we must forgive He didn’t say forever. He gave a very high answer, but there was a limit. Of course most of us stop well short of that limit.

          I too have seen marriages end over trivial things. I’ve also seen marriages end over things that I don’t think justify ending a marriage because they went on and on and on till the one spouse was done. I’ve seen plenty of people who said they would never divorce file for divorce. I think their denial of their own limits made the divorce more likely. If people admit they have a limit they can redouble their efforts when they see they are reaching that limit. People who deny they have a limit just walk when they pass it.

          It’s not about creating a list, it’s about admitting to the truth. Denying it results in what I said above. I agree we can’t know till we face it, but we can have a pretty good idea.

          • “He gave a very high answer, but there was a limit. Of course most of us stop well short of that limit.”
            That in my view depends on if one reads this statement literally or figuratively. I tend to look at it as Jesus having picked a high number not because EVENTUALLY there is a limit to how often we should forgive but to demonstrate to Peter that it was an imaginable high amount of times (limitless), not the 3 times taught by the Rabbi’s or the “generous” number of 7 times that Peter thought he so selfrightously offered.

            But marriages don’t just end because of unforgiveness, but sometimes because there is no change in behavior, even though there was forgiveness granted

  2. This is one of your best posts. One of the things I actually did really well when I was younger, I had several non-negotiable items in relationships I pursued, and it benefited me by keeping me out of relationships with women I really understand now that I did not want to be married to.

    Before you are married is when you have the greatest power over your relationship. If you really care about your wife being of the same denomination or political persuasion, before you get married is the time to figure that out. If her being open to adventurous sex, you need to at least put that on the table before you get married. Do you really want children? How important is the vacation your family takes every year? How important is living frugally? How important is your career?

    The biggest change in our marriage came a few years in when I told her I would not have married her if I’d known how much her attitude about sex would change, she told me she would not have married me if she’d known how much trouble I’d have getting along with her parents. It allowed both of us to focus on the really crucial aspects of our relationship. My wife didn’t really care about me buying her roses on valentines day, her happiness had more to do with harmony in her family. My wife realized I didn’t care a thing about her making me breakfast or anything like that, my happiness had more to do with our sex life. Spend your efforts focused on the things that make the biggest difference in your life, essentially the pareto principle for your marriage.

    • @mykidsmademedoit – Exactly what I am talking about, thanks!
      Those things might not have resulted in either of you walking away, but they would have hurt and weakened your marriage. At best you would have had less of a marriage, and it might be one of many sticks that eventually broke the camel’s back.

      It must have been scary to discuss those things, but it sounds like it ended well.

      • it was definitely scary to say “i wouldn’t have married you over this” especially when neither of us was seeking to split up, but pretty much every time we’ve dropped the pretenses and formalities and gotten deadpan honest with one another, it has improved our relationship.

  3. Great Post, Paul! Very thought provoking.
    I’d like to expand on your thoughts a bit. I think we all have “non negotiables” to begin with, whether they are written down or not. (Some of them could be being a Christian, being faithful, non smoker, not doing drugs, mental health, etc) These are the big ones, that are quite obvious, but how do you deal with the ones that aren’t so obvious? Like you said, it’s a bit late for those of us that are married already. But after my first marriage ended in divorce, I made a short list of non negotiables. (No past sexual abuse, strong sense of boundaries with other men, strong interest in sex, strong friendship between us and of course the big ones mentioned above)
    But some of these seem impossible to nail down without a doubt before you get married. How do you know how someone (incl. yourself) is going to be in a sexual relationship when you don’t have one before you get married. Or how will We communicate or demonstrate our interest in sex after we get married. Before marriage you do all you can to not show and communicate to much interest in these things and you’d feel like a fool to even mention that such would be a “non negotiable” for you, because it seems like that’s all both of you can think of. Yet the reality looks much different a decade or two down the road.
    Where it really becomes tricky is if the question is being asked: “Knowing what you now know about me, would you still chose me over again?”
    I’m sure we’d all want to hear: “For sure I would!” But would we be able to say that whole heartedly?

    • The boundaries and friendship should be pretty easy to figure out while dating, as should the drug use, smoking, and mental health….especially if you date for a couple of years. I think you’d be out of your mind to get married to someone as an adult and not have explored sex with them, this is your partner forever, figure out if this is the sex you want forever; I’m sure I’ll get lots of hate comments with churchy nonsense about waiting for true love or whatever, but you’ve been married once, and gone through the divorce process, don’t leave that up to chance. Otherwise I would find a really good marriage counseling program that makes you talk to each other about uncomfortable stuff. If your premarital counseling doesn’t cause you to get in a fight about something, it isn’t doing its job.

      • I’m not going to give you hatemail about your point of view, but I will push back on two things you said:
        -1. Friendship and boundaries- in my first marriage we dated about 5 years, did not have premarital sex but explored our sexual relationship enough to know that we both wanted it. There were no signs about unhealthy boundaries with other men. I was the only one she had interest in! All the time. After the wedding she looked at me as the one with a legal document to continue a right for a sexual relationship (in her eyes abuse), which later turned out she equated to the same that her father had done to her as a young teen. First 5 years of marriage, several unhealthy emotional relationships with men, after that full blown sexual affairs.

        -2. As for premarital sex, I still hold strongly to biblical standards, as old fashion as that seems. Sex to me is GREAT and for marriage alone! That’s also what I teach my kids too. But that aside, much more people have challenges in their marriages today because of all the baggage and memories of all the partners they tried and it either didn’t turn out for them or their partner.
        By the way, while my wife and I in our current marriage had plenty of sex and it was ok (beginners), if I would have judged that experience (honeymoon and first few months) as the deciding factor for whether we should get married, we probably wouldn’t have. We often joke about how lousy it was back then compared to the things we’ve learned in almost 2 decades.

        • The marriage sex thing is just one of those irreconcilable points I have with my religion. I see nothing in the bible that indicates you have to be married to have sex, the bible is full of people having sex that aren’t married to one another. And at this point I really just don’t care what religious people think about it anymore, I’ve heard enough stupid relationship advice from the church that I’ve pretty much stopped listening.

          More realistically almost all women seem to have a lowered sex drive in long term relationships, there are a few ones that comment here and there that they want it more than their husbands, but men have a MUCH higher sex drive on average when you compare center of the bell curve to center of the bell curve. Anyone who argues with that point across the social spectrum is just plain wrong:

          “After months of reading and compiling results, the answer was clear. There is a substantial difference, and men have a much stronger sex drive than women. To be sure, there are some women who have frequent, intense desires for sex, and there are some men who don’t, but on average the men want it more. Every marker we could think of pointed to the same conclusion. Men think about sex more often than women do. Men have more sexual fantasies, and these encompass more different acts and more different partners.” psychology today article

          I think it is unlikely you’ll ever find a woman who will match your sex drive over the long term, each of you has a sex drive determined by different things. Unless we start shooting women up with a male dose of testosterone, we will not see parity in this.

          I’d put money there were signs of your ex wife’s instability, if you were a young guy when you married you probably didn’t notice them, but ten or fifteen years later, some of those personality traits are much more obvious, especially after you’ve been burned by them.

          • @mykidsmademedoit – Just because the Bible doesn’t comment on something does not mean it was okay. We are never told it was wrong for Lot’s daughters to get him drunk and have sex with him, but that doesn’t make it right! If we know it’s wrong, the Bible doesn’t need to interrupt the narrative to make that point. All non-marital sex is called sin in the Bible. That is enough to make it sin. (But we won’t agree on that, so I will drop it.)

            Since arguing your second point makes me wrong, I won’t bother. (I don’t fully disagree with you, but you are ignoring a lot and suggesting all are average.)

            I know plenty of couples where the wife has the higher drive over a long marriage. Both she and the man will say this. It’s not the norm, but it’s not non-existent and it’s not rare either.

            For the record, giving women testosterone usually causes them to masturbate more, but not have more sex with a partner.

            • ….and God killed Onan for “not sinning”? I’ll settle for it is no where near as clear cut as we want to make it out to be, I don’t know that one can argue that point.

              Show me a psychological study that shows that women have sex drive parity with men on a population average, especially one that includes men in their 20s and 30s. Me telling you “most couples I know the man wants it more” is just as anecdotally insignificant as “I know plenty of couples where the wife has a higher drive”. More compelling anecdotal evidence would be the preponderance worldwide of female prostitutes and the dearth of heterosexual male prostitutes, but subsequent preponderance of homosexual male prostitutes. Or if we look at homosexual behavior, there is no lesbian equivalent of Grindr, why is that? No one is saying the paradigm fits every single relationship, it’s like saying men are bigger than women…….my wife is 6ft tall, she is a data point outlier, but if you graph the heights of all men and all women, the center of the bell curve for men would be taller than that for women.

              So giving women testosterone increases their sex drive……

              • @mykidsmademedoit – I’d say he was killed for lying and deceit.

                I am not talking about populations averages, which is the point. Averages mean very little in this kind of thing. I do know that is it now generally accepted that 20% to 30% of wives want more sex than their husband will provide. That’s not the majority, bit it’s a significant minority and it matters. Making that go away by talking about averages is wrong.

                • Genesis 38 8:10 ESV: “Then Judah said to Onan, “Go in to your brother’s wife and perform the duty of a brother-in-law to her, and raise up offspring for your brother.” 9 But Onan knew that the offspring would not be his. So whenever he went in to his brother’s wife he would waste the semen on the ground, so as not to give offspring to his brother. 10 And what he did was wicked in the sight of the Lord, and he put him to death also.” I’m not a scholar but that looks a lot like someone being ordered to have sex with someone not his wife, and being killed for not following directions

                  From what I’ve read, about 25% of men have low testosterone, that would explain a pretty good chunk of the women with higher sex drives….

                  • @mykidsmademedoit – The “duty of a brother-in-law” was to take her as his wife. The first-born male child from that marriage was considered to be the child of the dead brother.
                    As to testosterone, it’s not nearly as simple as those pushing replacement make it seem. Testosterone is just part of a very complex system that give men a sex drive. Plenty of men with low T have a great drive, and some men with good T levels have little or no drive.

                    One study on this was done on men with an average age of 47. Of those men 11% said they had a lack of sex drive. Of those with lower T 28% had a lack of sex drive. So yes, it was a factor, but some with higher T levels had no sex drive, and the majority with low T had a good sex drive.

                    Then you have the issue of correlation and causation. We know that stress, lack of sleep, depression, and chronic illness hurt sex drive. These things also lower T levels. So low T may not be causing the lack of sex drive – it’s likely that both the low T and low sex drive are caused by one of the things I listed.

                    Beyond that claims of men having low T are based on speculation (or are just plain made up) because we have not been studying this long enough. It’s not like there is a normal T levels by age, because men naturally vary a great deal. If you don’t know what your level was at 20 and 30 you can’t know if you are low at 50. You can know how you compare to other men your age, but that means very little. Giving T to a man who naturally has lower T levels can do bad things.

              • Mykidsmademedoit-
                If your reasoning is any indication of how you read the bible, I can understand your frustration with the messages you have been getting from other Christians or the Church.
                Just because it is in the bible or because people, chosen by God to do or be something special, did it does not mean that it was good, holy or not sinful. Allot of people that are very much against God, the bible and Christianity or Christian living, are using exactly your reasoning: “they did it in the bible” or “the bible never said it was wrong”. (Btw. If you are referring to “Onan’s sin” as the fact that he spilled his sperm on the ground, as an argument against masturbation, it has nothing to do with that!!! It was his disobedience and selfishness that killed him!)
                The bible is FULL of really REALLY bad behaviour. All over! Just because it’s in the bible and people did it back then, doesn’t make it right. Jacob, the very first Israelite, had two wives and had children with 2 more slaves girls. Is that ok? Is killing the husband of a beautiful woman ok, so you can marry her? Or cutting off the foreskin of a few hundred soldiers to prove yourself to your future father in law? Most of the things that only David (THE man after Gods own heart) did would land you in jail for the rest of your life nowadays. And that’s just according to our worldly governments standard, much less Gods righteous standard. But all these people paid dearly for their sins and mistakes, during their lifetime. And that was my whole point! Trying out sex before marriage is not a guarantee that it will go well. In fact it most certainly is a guarantee that you will have many challenges down the road. There are tons of studies to support the evidence on all kinds of bell curves that couples who waited generally have a much more satisfying sexlife then those that didn’t. But what’s really frustrating is if you waited and then things still didn’t work out well. So I am 1 for 2.

                In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome this world. John 16:33

                • Except none of that is called a “sin”. The old testament gets pretty granular about what you can and cannot do, and no where does it say a man can only have sex in the bounds of marriage. It talks about bestiality, homosexuality, if a woman is not a virgin…….but sex before marriage isn’t one of those things. The more salient argument would be that Paul says in Romans “anything that isn’t of faith is sin” which could include just about anything.

                  The bible is not clear cut nor straightforward about much of anything, but we want to make it conform to whatever social norms we have. We’ve decided that one man one woman is the current narrative, and the only example of that is Paul saying an even tempered man of one wife to titus when talking about setting up church elders. Aside from that, it is never said a man cannot have more than one wife. We want to start citing scripture when people do things we don’t like and tell them it’s sinful behavior………but getting your dog neutered is also sinful behavior, so we might want to check ourselves on that.

                  The way I read the bible is colored by growing up and learning to use it as a weapon against the people I disliked.

                  • @mykidsmademedoit “The way I read the bible is colored by growing up and learning to use it as a weapon against the people I disliked.”

                    Yeah, that will mess you up. So sorry.

                  • “The way I read the bible is colored by growing up and learning to use it as a weapon against the people I disliked.”
                    I’m sure that was God’s intention when he had people write the Bible.

                    As for testosterone shots for women, I have no desire for chest hair and a mustache on my wife. The benefits are minimal and side effects huge.

              • And the data on this seems to be changing rapidly too! Usually (or at least often) it is attributed to porn use in men, but I’m in the middle of reading a very interesting book by Dr. Robert Glover, No More Mr. Nice Guy, where he claims that the population of “Nice Guys” has increased dramatically in the last 5-6 decades. Most of these are men that are conflict avoiding, not so assertive that loose their interest in sex rather quickly if there are challenges in the relationship. I wonder if any of that has to do with it?

                • @Jay – I am less and less willing to blame it on porn. More “nice guys” is certainly part of it. In addition to avoiding conflict, they have been taught they are oversexed monsters and they back off because of that. Stress and busyness are also big players.

                • Porn is the symptom, not the problem. Fight club was right, we are a generation of men raised by women(to become women). We are pansies. The average testosterone count in a man has been going down for more than 50 years. We live more stressful lives, don’t sleep enough, are fat, and eat poorly……starting as children. All of those things negatively impact testosterone production, and cause men to be passive and timid little weaklings.

                • @Jay, at your comment on the above post, Christians don’t do a lot of things that God intended them to do. If you beat someone over the head with the bible for long enough who isn’t interested in it, do you really get mad when that person decides to use the book to start hitting you back? I’m embarrassed to be associated with Christian culture the vast majority of the time, almost nothing we do is reflective of what we preach.

                  • “Christians don’t do a lot of things that God intended them to do.”
                    You’re so right! I couldn’t agree more, yet it is sad at the same time. But that is our human condition, unfortunately.
                    I’m sure you and me grew up worlds apart from each other in terms of location, yet it seems we had very similar experiences.
                    As Christians ( and I’m assuming you are one ) I feel that we have a responsibility to represent God’s word accurately and in the way it was intended, even though we can’t always know for sure all of his intentions. But by studying it correctly we can get a good idea of his intentions. Why do I say all this? Our words have consequences. There is a great danger in confusing some people even more by misrepresenting God’s word. These people often will make life-changing decisions based on things and ideas they read, assuming they are coming from more knowledgable and mature Christians.
                    I often see people ask questions here and on similar blogs, whether something in particular is a sin or not. I sometimes wonder, do they keep a log of how many they have committed and where is the limit? To me it is not so much a question of whether something is a sin or not, but does it help me to live a more fruitful life for Jesus. Even though I try, a lot, (in my humanness) to avoid as many sins as possible, I know I will never be free of them. So in my mind it really doesn’t come down to one more or less. But I also know that not all sins carry equal consequences. Some really carry no consequences other than that you know you did it, but others can have a huge impact on your own life and even worse on many people around you.
                    The fact that God intended one man for one woman for life is rather obvious throughout the Bible. The fact that many people throughout the Bible did not live up to that standard or intention of God, demonstrates that they were all sinful just like we are, but not that that was OK or maybe even God’s intention. To represent it as such in a public forum is misleading people. Whether you slept with one woman before marriage or with 50, I don’t think really makes a big difference in God’s economy of forgiveness. (Jesus died for allot more even then 50) But the impact that it will have on your life and the other woman, or 50, will be huge throughout your life. Even if we waited with sex till marriage, there are still a million other sins we need forgiveness for. They may or may not have much of an impact on us or others. So whether something is or isn’t called a sin is actually somewhat irrelevant. This Christian life is not about following a rulebook the way they were called to follow it in the Old Testament. It is about living out our faith as a testimony to others in what we do and say.
                    I find that a good motto for Christian living is to “play ball in the centre of the field” as much as possible. If we play to close to the edge, we will inevitably step out of bounds constantly. You don’t get thrown out of the game for it, but it sure interrupts the game a lot. In order to get to the end zone, every time somebody steps over the sideline the game has to be restarted in the middle of the field again.

        • @Jay – 1) I will repeat what I said about GOOD premarital counselling. I wouldn’t expect you to have seen the sexual problems while dating (and I doubt they would have shown even if you had sex). But someone who knows what they are doing should have seen that loose thread – and when they pulled it you would have seen it.

          2) Yes, past sexual partners (and porn, and abuse) are a major factor. We push those down and deny them to ourselves and our perspective spouse, but they are still there waiting to come out and wreak havoc.

          Early sex may seem okay if we are just excited to be having sex, but it’s not great sex. Part of why try before you buy is such a useless plan.

    • @Jay – This is where good premarital counselling comes in. The idea is to get all these things on the table so both people can see, think, and talk about them. That even includes sex. A good process for this will uncover things the couple wouldn’t have seen for many years.

      I recently talked with a couple who do a good deal of premarital who have had several couples not get married after spending time working on this stuff. That’s great as those were marriages that were going to end badly or continue badly. The problem is we usually don’t do premarital until the date is set. At that point a couple may keep going out of pride.

      • I agree, our marital counselling was pitiful! Even though it was done by a pastor.
        The second time around I made sure to get a professional marriage counsellor. But even that does not guarantee everything.
        The thing that looked like it would be the biggest challenge (finances) in our marriage, has been rather insignificant, yet the thing that looked like we matched up the best (sex), has and continues to be the greatest challenge. But we continue to work on both!

  4. @Jay, except that “following a rulebook” is exactly my experience with Christianity. Yes, I am a Christian, I guess somewhat reluctantly; atheism still tugs at me a lot. I dislike being around most Christians, I’m much happier being around atheists and agnostics, I find most of them to be better people. I’m sure growing up in Texas around religious fundamentalists doesn’t improve my outlook. Christianity is culturally used as a rule book to enable social control over people who do things we don’t like. We all fail at something, but I don’t see atheists at abortion clinic screaming “whore” at scared teenagers; and then go talk about how much Jesus loves people on Sunday; people I’ve gone to church with do that.

    I’m sure if I grew up on the west coast or in a less culturally religious area, I’d have a different perspective, but I didn’t….so from my perspective, as long as the “church” or more accurately the old people at church want more people there to hit the tithe quota, they can deal with the monster they created.

      • Other than I seem to intrinsically know that God exists and Jesus died for my benefit, I can’t really explain it to you. I hate most everything having to do with organized Christianity, and think a good chunk of the OT is just this side of Hebrew mythology, there is no logical reason I should continue to try and read and practice faith in something I spend as much time as I do fighting with…..I’d be much happier as a deist I think. I keep flailing away at it, I’m on my sixth time through the bible with the men’s group this year…

  5. Thank you!
    So what exactly is it that you think makes you a “Christian”?

    • The only real requirement to be a Christian is belief in Christ, and his death for sins. So that would be the only thing that makes you or I or anyone else a Christian. I’m sure you are aiming to tell me I’m not really one like every other person I debate.

      • No, not at all! I don’t know you at all, how could I make that judgement. But even if I or anyone else did, it holds NO value. In the end it is up to God to make that call, and NO ONE ELSE.
        When I ask these questions, I’m just trying to understand you.
        What exactly does it mean to believe in Christ and his death for sins?

        • I shouldn’t project my defensiveness onto you, my family has told me my wife is not a Christian because she is Catholic, I’ve also been told I’m not for various other reasons. Also Calvinism is quite prevalent in Baptist churches which loves to tell people they are going to hell.

          I look at Jesus this way: god looks at people and is like “you idiots don’t get it” I’m sending someone personally to handle this. He comes and shows us the true nature of god, which doesn’t conform to our religious ideology, so we kill him in the most humiliating way possible to preserve our religion and social power, and demonstrate to all other people don’t mess with our power. Since he’s Jesus, he comes back to demonstrate that we cannot actually kill him, and leaves us an example for how to live. Through his death, whatever price we owe to god for being idiots is paid. We may walk through the open door to God’s presence, or we can shut ourselves off from it, the choice is ours.

          • Id mostly agree with your broad strokes of how you discribed Gods plan of salvation , even though I would put it in very different words. But I’m not gonna get hung up on that.
            If you know this to be true and you claim to be a Christian, why do you dislike the faith that you hold to and the people you associate yourself with so much? Why not go hang out with the atheists that you get along with so much better, in a bar on your men’s night then spending your evening with other Christian men that you don’t like. Being in the bar with atheists does not make you a godless drunk anymore then spending time reading the Bible with Christian men at church makes you a Christian.
            If you truly are a Christian (a follower of Christ and what he taught) and you know that you are going to spend eternity with billions of other Christians which you say you don’t like, I’d really suggest that you use whatever time you have left here to spend with those you do like so much more. No matter how nice they are, they won’t be in heaven with you! Not because they are so bad! Not because Jesus didn’t die for them too. But, because they chose not to. For them spending an eternity in an amazing new world filled with people they don’t agree with and a God they don’t believe exist would be the equivalent of Hell. So God is not going to force anyone to be with Him, if they chose not to.

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