How do you avoid “buyer’s remorse” in a marriage relationship? What’s your standard by which to discern good character? In the first of this mini-series (Ep.138-142), Pastor Lutzer counsels us to watch out for 4 red flags in a potential spouse.
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Transcript: Welcome to “5 Minutes with Pastor Lutzer.” I’m so glad that you joined us again as we talk about the topic of “Making the Best of a Bad Decision” and this session along with some others is going to have to do with the topic of marriage, specifically buyer’s remorse. You know, as I was thinking about this (I’m gooing to be speaking about that also in the next session) it dawned on me that what I ought to do is to try to prevent some bad decisions regarding marriage. So, that’s what we’re going to do in the next few moments. I’m going to help you to make a decision if you aren’t married, hopefully to make a wise decision.
A number of years ago, as I was traveling around the country speaking at Bible conferences, I said to the audience, “I want you to write me a letter if you feel free to do so and tell me about some red flags that you missed and as a result, you have some huge struggles in your marriage.” I said, “You don’t have to sign your name. Just tell me your story.” Well, I received perhaps twenty or twenty-five letters of red flags that were missed. Of course, I won’t tell you all the stories. I could tell you many but what I’m going to do in the next few moments is to delineate five red flags that you should be aware of if you’re contemplating marriage. Are you ready?
Very quickly, number one, the narcissist. You know, the Bible says in the book of Proverbs, these words, “A fool takes no pleasure in understanding but only expressing his own opinion.” You know, the Bible is so accurate sometimes it takes your breath away. Narcissism is the idea that you are the center of the universe. Everything else has to orient itself around you. I spoke about narcissism at a conference and I remember the next morning a woman at breakfast told me, “My son married a narcissist. He came home one night and said, ‘I’ve met this cute girl, she’s funny, she’s so nice but she does think that she’s the center of the universe.’” And then the mother went on to say that her son and this woman divorced. It’s very difficult, you know, to live with someone who is the center of her own universe or his own universe, and while I don’t condone divorce, the simple fact is that in that instance, it ended that way. Narcissism. The person wearing a t-shirt at O’Hare Airport that I saw, “Just worship me and we’ll get along fine.” Now, I have to also add to narcissism, the borderline personality. I’ve spoken about that in other contexts. Did you marry the nice man, the charmer that you thought you were marrying? The women in church wish that they were married to him? At home, he’s angry, he’s controlling, and you believe now that you’ve been deceived. Look out for the borderline personality, where constantly you find that the goal posts are changing, they are difficult to please, and there you are in a bad relationship. Before you get married, look out for the narcissist.
Well, we have to hurry on because I have four others. And then, let us talk about the sensualist. That’s someone who is given over to sensuality. You know, the Bible tells us in the book of Proverbs, “Do not be intoxicated with the forbidden woman” and we can take that word “intoxication” and we can apply it to all the different addictions that exist out there whether or not it’s drugs, whether or not it’s sexual relationships or alcoholism. Be sure to look for some red flags. I have to take the time to tell you a story. One day, I found myself on a plane. I was sitting in the middle row. The woman next to me was a young woman and even before the plane took off, we got talking. She told me that she was on her way to visit her sister because she was wondering whether or not she should marry the man who got her pregnant. By the way, she had never flown before and I remember she said to me, “What’s it going to be like to be on the airplane?” She said, “Will it be like a roller coaster?” And I said, “I sure hope not.” But on the way we talked. As she told me about the man that she was involved with, I suggested she not marry him. For reasons that I will not go into, she had enough red flags to have her own parade but she said something that stuck in my heart, brought tears to my eyes. She said, “You know, I would like to be married for all the right reasons and now, I am in this predicament.” My heart breaks for young women like that, for young men who want to be married for all the right reasons but because of bad decisions, those right reasons seem to be very elusive. I encouraged her to raise her child with love within the members of her family and maybe someday a man would come along and she would find her dream fulfilled, but up until then I suggested she not marry this sensualist.
Well, we must hurry on. The angry person, the abuser. Oftentimes abusers give an indication that they’re going to be that way. I don’t have time to give you examples. The lazy shirker, you know, the Bible says even in Proverbs 26, it talks about the sluggard. I love this. It says, the sluggard is wiser — “sees himself as wiser than seven men who talk sensibly.” We’ve all met people like that, haven’t we? I want to tell you a story that comes to mind about me breaking up a marriage on Wednesday that was to take place on Saturday. A young woman came to me and she said, “You know, I’m getting married on Saturday.” But she said, “You know, this man is abusing me.” I talked to her for a few moments and I said, “Who’s marrying you?” And she told me. Thankfully, it was not a pastor here at the Moody Church but I called this pastor and I said, “Do you realize that the wedding that you are doing on Saturday, that this woman is marrying an abuser?” I said, “I’m calling off the wedding” and he said, “Based on your recommendation, I will not marry her.” So, I turned to her and said, “Guess what? You’re not getting married on Saturday.” She said, “There are people in town for the wedding. I’ve already received gifts.” I said, “Send them back.” Later on, the man that she was to marry, he called me and he was angry and he said, “Why did you do that?” I said, “Because you’re an abuser.” That ended the conversation. By the way, I told her that when people asked her, she could blame me and say, “Pastor Lutzer broke up the wedding.” A couple of weeks later, she met me in the lobby of Moody Church with tears, threw her arms around me, said, “Pastor Lutzer, how can I thank you enough? You kept me from an abusive marriage.” She said, “It would have been horrible.” She said, “I couldn’t back out. I didn’t have the strength because I come from a shame culture. I needed you to do it.” You know, I tell the pastoral staff here at the Moody Church that it is so important that we become, in effect, parents to young people today because many of them have no real standard by which marriage should happen and to discern good character.
Bottom line: please watch for red flags. Usually, they are there and next time, please join me because I’m going to answer the question — can God bless a foolish vow? I want to give you some encouragement and to remind you of the fact that some vows and marriages that begin badly can still end happily. I’ll see you right here next time and as for today, you just go with God.