Jesus said that when a man and woman unite in marriage “they are no longer two but one” (Mark 10:7-8). For two people to grow in their oneness, however, there must first be two individuals — each with a strong understanding of his or her own values, thoughts, and beliefs. Otherwise, the marriage is in danger of turning into a one-sided relationship where one spouse regularly controls his or her partner.
Let’s be clear that being an individual doesn’t mean that you don’t need anyone. God intended for us to have a healthy degree of dependence on one another (Galatians 6:1-2). Being your own person doesn’t mean that you don’t take into account what others think; we should allow others the freedom to have their own thoughts and opinions. It doesn’t mean that you can make choices without considering how they affect others. Followers of Jesus should always take into consideration the interests of others (Philippians. 2:4).
Being your own person means that you conduct yourself on the basis of your own set of convictions, standards, and beliefs. You are open-minded, but not easily persuaded by what others think. Your tendency is to make decisions based on what you believe is good, right, and honoring to God, even if there is a risk of upsetting others.
To help you gauge the level of appropriate independence for a sound marriage, ask yourself the following questions: Do I believe that my opinions count for something, or do I consider them unimportant? Do I tend to make decisions and interact with people based on my convictions of what is best, or out of the fear of losing their friendship or experiencing their disapproval or anger?
Ask others whether they think of you as a strong or weak person. Do they notice that you hold your ground in conversations, or do they feel that you tend to concede too easily? Do they see you as a person who stands up for yourself appropriately, or do you allow people to control or take advantage of you? Do you come across as a person who can hold others accountable for their mistakes, or do they see you as one who too readily accepts blame when something goes wrong?
Everyone is afraid at times. However, those who are controlled by fear are susceptible to being used and controlled in a marriage. If you are afraid to speak your mind because you fear that others will get angry and disapprove, you are not independent enough to get married. You need to take the time to build the godly independence and strength necessary to stand for what you believe and against things that can destroy a marriage.
Christians are not called to be passive doormats. We know this because there were moments when Jesus exposed, questioned, and confronted people who were in the wrong (Matthew 23:13-33; John 18:19-23). Although you may not be strong enough now to get married, there is hope that in time you can be. You can find the strength and the freedom that is in Christ and begin relating confidently to others out of love and godly self-assurance instead of fear. Being confident before God as one guided by the Holy Spirit, you can mature to the point of making an ideal marriage partner who offers him or herself as a whole person — and also have the capacity to recognize the kind of mate God desires for you. What is vital for you if you have witnessed an abusive marriage is to have the wisdom to recognize and understand the harmful dynamics of such a marriage — and have the determination to avoid relationships with potential mates who demonstrate such dynamics.