So, You Think You’re Ready For Marriage?
by: Ruth Purple
‘I do’—no other sentence is as emphatic, no words as life-changing. Marriage is perhaps the most important decision a person will ever make in his lifetime. Pledging your life to another person and living the rest of your days together; promising to love and honor each other through sickness, health, adversity, and conflict—these are demands too much to ask of mere mortals.
And yet, these are what marriage requires of us, from the time we cross to the altar, to the moment we say ‘I do.’ Sadly, most people miss the gravity of such a decision—they enter into marriage with eyes closed, hoping for the best but preparing for the worst. What a depressing way to start a life with someone! It is no wonder that more and more marriages end in divorce.
A 2002 census, for example, found that a staggering 54.9% of new marriages in Sweden end in divorce. Belarus and Finland follow close at 52.9% and 51.2%, respectively. Of the 51 countries surveyed, 21 have divorce rates above 35%. In the light of such sobering results, it is time to look at some major marriage issues that one ought to consider before taking the marital plunge.
The first, and perhaps the most crucial issue, is the reason for matrimony. As cliché as it may sound, marrying for love is still the best foundation for marriage. Marriages for convenience may last, but those entered into in love spell happier and more satisfying unions. True, unconditional love makes it easier to overlook a spouse’s annoying habits and shortcomings, and to focus on his virtues.
With love also comes respect, and with respect, honoring one’s spouse becomes effortless. The second issue concerns goals. Marital objectives are the oil that keeps a marriage moving; an aimless marriage becomes lifeless and inert. A couple should set personal, as well as, relationship goals to keep the marriage from stagnating.
Some marriage goals are non-negotiable (having children, for example); others can be compromised on (buying a property). While marital aspirations of both individuals need not be exactly the same, they should be complementary—incompatibility in this aspect of marriage results in discordant relationships. The third issue relates to beliefs and values.
A person’s religious beliefs form a big part of who he is and affect his perspective on things. A Jehovah’s Witness’ spouse stand on blood, for example, could have major impact on the family as a whole. For some couples, divergence in belief systems is the deal breaker; for others, it is a problem they can work around.
Marrying someone with the same belief system and values definitely make for a harmonious relationship; but if a couple with dissimilar convictions is willing to respect such dissimilarities, the union could thrive just as well. The fourth major issue concerns one’s behavioral expectations of his or her spouse. Nobody is perfect—each one has imperfections and character flaws that make an individual way he is.
This flaw maybe as mildly irritating as impatience or indecisiveness or something more serious—uncontrollable violent behavior, alcoholism, drug addiction or constant infidelity. Loving someone means accepting him for who he is, warts and all. However, it does not mean compromising one’s own principles in the process. Marrying a less-than-perfect person is perfectly okay, as long as his flaws are ones you can live with.
It takes honesty, openness, and courage to tackle these issues before getting married. A truthful assessment of a couple’s compatibility may take the romance out of marriage but it may just be what saves it. Done with sincerity and frankness, it will erase the doubts and strengthen the bond between the couple.
Only then will they be able to say with conviction:’I do.’