Evaluate the character of the person you’re considering marrying. A strong character is the most important quality you should look for in a husband or wife. So be careful to get to know the character of the person you’re thinking about marrying. Consider issues such as whether or not the person actively follows Jesus (rather than just attending church), treats other people with respect, follows through on commitments, controls his or her temper, avoids gossip, works hard, lives with sexual purity, demonstrates patience, manages money well, and would make a good parent if God gives you children someday. Ask people who you respect and who can offer unbiased opinions (such as your pastor or a counselor) to give their honest opinions about your boyfriend or girlfriend’s character.

Make a list of character issues that each of you has to work on, pray about them, and commit to working on them. However, keep in mind that you can’t change your spouse. Instead, each of you should take personal responsibility for the changes that you need to make individually. Be prepared to respond to painful and stressful challenges in your future marriage by working through them with help from God and your fellow Christians rather than quitting.

Pray for a vision of your vocational callings and how marriage may fit into those callings. Ask God to show you and your future spouse what specific plans He has for each of you in life, and how those plans may or may not work if you two were to get married.

Honor the personality differences between you and your future spouse. One of the most vital ways to prepare for marriage is to realize that the differences between your personalities are God-given and valuable. Rather than fighting against those differences, ask God to help you learn how to use them to complement each other so you two can be stronger together than you would be apart. Find activities that you both can enjoy together, and plan to make time for them often to bring fresh doses of fun and excitement to your relationship in the years to come.

Adapted from Young and in Love: Challenging the Unnecessary Delay of Marriage, copyright 2011 by Ted Cunningham. Published by David C. Cook, Colorado Springs, Co., www.davidccook.com.    

Pastor Ted Cunningham founded Woodland Hills Family Church in Branson, Missouri, where he lives with his wife and two children. A graduate of Liberty University and Dallas Theological Seminary, he coauthored several books with Dr. Gary Smalley, including The Language of Sex and Great Parents, Lousy Lovers. Visit his website at www.tedcunningham.com.

Whitney Hopler is a freelance writer and editor who serves as both a Crosswalk.com contributing writer and the editor of About.com’s site on angels and miracles (http://angels.about.com/). Contact Whitney at: angels.guide@about.comto send in a true story of an angelic encounter or a miraculous experience.