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When “experts” talk about being ready for marriage or when two people who have been dating for a while talk about being “ready” for marriage there are some typical talking points: finishing college, paying off car/student/business loans, getting a better job/promotions, buying a home, etc.
Then there is real life. Daja’s husband went back to school when they had five children! Her family has moved once to Mongolia, back to California, and then across the country to Maine! Kristina completely changed professions after she got married. Her husband switched companies. They have moved from one coast to another and back again. This is life. No one is ever “ready” for these changes. No one is ever prepared for suddenly feeling the call of God to go on an overseas mission field or to adopt a baby or sell their home or take a massive leap of faith and change jobs. But it happens ALL THE TIME! Instead of focusing so much on those rather external things, we feel like there is a better way to Prepare for Marriage. There are more eternal things to consider. Marriages can survive a lot of rockiness and changes and surprises, provided you get the first things first and have a true foundation.
Do you and your potential spouse share the same basic faith? Of course, it may be unrealistic to agree on every single point of every single factor of religious life. But at the core, do you agree on the foundational things? Will you be able to raise your children in one accord?
Do the two of you have a vibrant friendship with Jesus? Let me tell you, you can be a much better friend to your spouse once you are walking in true friendship with Jesus.
How do you and your potential spouse handle suffering? Perhaps you’ve already been through the fire together and you know. But, perhaps your biggest suffering was before you met. Ask your significant other how he or she handles suffering and what is the biggest suffering they have been through.
“Those who do suffer well are a well-spring of life and faith. Who do you want holding your hand when the test says “cancer?” On whose shoulder do you want to lean when the doctor says, “We’ve done all we can?” With whom do you want to lay beside when you don’t know where your child is or if they will ever come home? When your world turns upside down, in whose eyes do you want to look? Find someone who suffers well.” (Kevin Thompson)
How does your loved one handle money? Regardless of your answer to this, it’s not necessarily a deal breaker. We can all learn to do better with our money. But, eyes wide open, k? Is he or she a spender? Are they generous? Do they know how to save? Do they rely on credit cards? Find out ahead of time. Balancing a checkbook is no fun by yourself. With a spouse it doesn’t get any easier, let me tell you!
How are your practical life skills coming along? Nothing thrusts you into the real world like a backed-up toilet, a flat tire in the rain, or trying to make a fancy dinner for your husband’s boss! Here are some very adulty things one or both of you should be skilled at doing before you get married:
- Basic cooking skills. And by this we mean frugal cooking from scratch. NOT opening up some boxes and cans or microwaving frozen meals. It doesn’t have to be fancy. But can you roast a chicken, use the bones to make a broth, turn that broth into a simple nourishing soup? Can you make decent breakfast (coffee, eggs, bacon, muffins) without hitting the Starbucks?
- Financial skills. Can you balance your checkbook? Handle online bill-paying? Interact with customer service people? File your own taxes? Read and understand your own investment paperwork?
- Home repairs. OK, so every man is not Mr. Fix-it. That’s OK. But, a few basic skills can make a world of difference at 2am on a holiday weekend. This is not when you want to try to find a plumber or handyman! Unclog a sink? Replace a wax ring on a toilet? Put together IKEA furniture?
- Basic car maintenance and repair. Again, we don’t need to marry a total gear-head. But, can either of you change a tire? Change the oil? Put on chains? Set the time on the dashboard clock?
One of the Most Important Things
Perhaps you have heard the phrase “staying pure until you are married.” Although, we understand what the speaker means, we really dislike this phrase. It give the impression that only purity is necessary before the wedding and only passion afterwards. And that cannot be further from the truth! Purity is so much more than abstinence. Purity is a condition of the soul and is crucial for ever stage of a relationship.
One of the most important things anyone can do to prepare for marriage (and teach this to our children) is to pursue holiness. Marriage is a school of sanctification. Marriage takes a purity of heart and intentions, love and compassion, chastity, and a daily laying down of your life and taking up your cross.
To prepare for marriage, we suggest:
- Keeping a reign on your thought life
- Making prayer and contemplation a regular part of your everyday life
- Become intimate with the Scriptures
- Get to know holy men and women (both on earth and those in heaven)
- Make accountability a regular part of your life (via the Sacrament of Confession, deep friendships, mentoring relationships, inner healing, Sozo, etc.)
So, tell us, what advice would you give to a young couple contemplating marriage? How can they be better prepared?