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elopeJust heard about a 15-year-old girl who’s planning to elope with her 19-year-old boyfriend.

In case, you’re not familiar with the term, “elope,” here’s Merriam-Webster’s definition: to run away secretly with the intention of getting married usually without parental consent.

In a way it’s sort of the opposite of cohabitation. Instead of going public with your non-traditional lifestyle, you go traditional, but in secret.

Of course, I don’t think a 15-year-old can be legally married in the United States without their parent’s permission (except in Arkansas), but whatever their age, here are 15 questions one should ask themselves before they sneak off to Cupid’s Wedding Chapel.

Actually, it would be a good idea to ask yourself these questions before you get married, whether it’s in secret or on live television.

  1. Do you truly love this person?

And how “in love” you feel or how much romantic affection you display doesn’t count. It’s likely, you have personally known several couples who believed with all their heart they had found true love (and displayed it A LOT), but it didn’t last. You may have even felt that way before with another person(s). What verifiable evidence makes this time different? Different enough that you’re ready to put a ring on it.

  1. How do you know your partner truly loves you?

Though our modern culture would lead us to believe the greatest expression of love is laying down with someone and having sex, some dude named Jesus said it was actually laying down your life for someone. So we see true love isn’t about sex, but sacrifice. So your partner is dying to be married to you, but would they die for you? And what’s the proof?

  1. How well do you know this person?

If getting married wasn’t serious enough, you’re looking at doing so without the support or approval of the people currently closest to you. That means, if this winds up being your next mistake it will all be on you, so you owe it to yourself to discover everything you can about your partner. And if you’re smart you’ll have it verified.

4. How well does your partner know you?

Your deepest darkest secrets. The dreams you dare to dream. You’re greatest hopes and fears. Your most painful heart wounds, shameful habits and regrettable mistakes. Your happiest memories and proudest moments. How could someone truly love you without even knowing about these important pieces of who you are? And if they aren’t willing to take the time and put in the effort to learn these things, how can they be ready to commit their entire future to you? Or if you aren’t ready to share these deeply vulnerable details of who you are, how can you be ready to commit your entire future to them?

5. Should you trust this person?

Obviously, you must trust this person more than anyone in the world. Why else would you secretly commit yourself to them. But should you? Are they honorable, respected by those who know them well, keep their word and finish what they start? How long have you had to see their character tested, and seen how willing they are to make things right when they are wrong? (If they can even admit when their wrong.)

6. What do those who know you and love you best think about your plans?

OK, I realize you might consider this a stupid question either because:

  • You haven’t told the people who know and love you best about your intentions to marry, hence the eloping. (If that is the case PROCEED to the next question)
  • You don’t feel like there is anyone else who knows and loves you like your partner does, hence the intense desire to marry them. (If this is the case, SKIP the next question.)

7. Why wouldn’t you want the input of those who know and love you best?

If you have family and friends who have known and loved you for 15+ years (albeit imperfectly), doesn’t having their input (albeit imperfect) in this most important of decisions make sense? Why would it not? And how will they feel when they find out what you did? Will that serve to strengthen your relationships with them (and with your spouse) or complicate things?

8. Apart from your lover, do you feel like you’re alone in the world?

If you answered, “yes,” to that question my heart truly goes out to you! But here’s the reality. I may not know the person with whom you’re making secret marriage plans, but I know this: they’re not Jesus Christ. In other words, they aren’t perfect. Which means you will have days when you and your beloved are at odds, and you will feel very alone togetherIf you think being single and alone feels bad, wait until you’re married and still feel alone!

9. Who is going to be on your support team?

No perfect couple in all of human history has waltzed through their lifetime in love and alone. In some sense, a marriage is “us against the world,” but not in every sense. We all need help making a life-long, sacrificial relationship like marriage work. All means all. That includes you. So if you truly feel like this potential spouse is your lifeline to rescue from your inadequate family and friends, then when you walk down that secret aisle you’ll also be walking into a hidden trap. To be straightforward, if you’re coming from an abusive or simply dysfunctional background, you don’t need to get married. You need to get counseling. Even the most mature and well-matched couple can benefit from the perspective, tools and ideas a pastor or counselor can give them. Are you a mature, well-matched couple? Then premarital counseling is for you.

10. Have you learned how to get along with people?

Believe it or don’t, a healthy marriage is a very complicated relationship to maintain, even more demanding than a parent-child relationship. Why? Because you never expected to live with your parents forever. But your spouse? That’s supposed to be permanent; so permanent it’s expected you’ll be buried together! So with your parents you can eventually learn to get along apart from them, but in a marriage you have to learn to get along with each other. But if you haven’t managed to get along with your parents in the brief span of your life so far, what makes you think you’re ready to get along with this lover of yours until death do you part?

11. Are you running from your problems?

I don’ t know you, but here’s what I suspect: if your home life was healthy and whole, odds are you wouldn’t be contemplating this bold move of radical independence. If I’m right, then I can see how you could think elopement allows you to run away from your problems! Just know this, no one successfully runs from their problems forever, because they will chase you down. Especially if those problems involve immediate family members. Problems must be dealt with. Not run from.

12. Are you a problem solver?

Let’s forget about the idea of eloping for a minute. I know you’re in love and that everyone in love thinks, “what could go wrong?!” But the reality, outside of your lovey-dovey bubble? Lots of things can go wrong. And they will. People lose jobs, lose things, lose loved ones, get sick, get in accidents, get into trouble with the law, fail classes, fail drug tests and just plain ol fail at life. Are you the kind of person with the communication and problem-solving skills to handle all of that in marriage? Is your partner? Again, what’s the evidence?

13. Are you holding grudges?

If you didn’t know, the single most important relational skill is forgiveness. And that means that the single worst trunk load of baggage you could bring into a marriage is bitterness. What does this have to do with you? Well, I don’t need to know any specifics of your life to know that someone willing to dishonor their loved ones (yes, if you didn’t realize it until now, getting married without their knowledge or approval is dishonoring to them) has some significant forgiveness issues, and though you may have a right to hold onto your bitterness, it doesn’t make it right (or in your best interests) for you to do so. That’s why I not only wrote an entire book on forgiveness, I offer it for free to anyone who requests it.

14. Why don’t you want a wedding?

Though in our culture a wedding may have been reduced to a extravagant party to celebrate the romantic affection between two people, the original intent was more of a solemn ceremony commemorating a covenant between two people committing themselves to each other for life, before God and their closest family and friends. Why wouldn’t you want that kind of start to your marriage?

15. Speaking of God, have you spoken with Him about this relationship?

And more than spoken with Him, have you listened to Him? Because God wants you to know He loves you with a love unfathomable. Not a mushy-gushy love like the one you may share with this lover of yours, but the kind of love described in question two above. The kind that lays down it’s life for you. And God did lay His life down for you. So I urge you to seek His will about this decision before moving forward. And trust His word.

And to wrap this up, here are words right from God to you:

  • 1 Cor 13 Love is patient and kind…
  • Eph 6:1-3  – This is the first commandment with a promise
  • John 15:5-20 – I say these things that my joy may be in you that your joy may be full

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The LoveEd study guide series, Beyond Sex & Salvation, will empower you to prepare for relational success when it counts: BEFORE YOU FALL IN LOVE! It’s NOT for couples, but for any wise individual who thinks they might want to get married sometime before they die. Check out the first two 8-lesson study guides in our store. You can walk through it on your own, but it’s more fun with friends, so consider putting together an FMU LoveEd small group study. Even better?  And ask a married couple you respect to lead it!