I could see the worry on my friend’s face. He had been dating his girlfriend for six months and didn’t know if he should start planning a proposal or a breakup. It was a ripe time to choose.
I know others who have faced similar situations, so I asked my married friends on Facebook how they knew they should marry their spouse. Here are their answers.
The most common answer I heard from couples was that they married a friend — someone they enjoyed spending time with and with whom communication came easily. A few even ended up dating and marrying someone who started off as just a good friend.
Of her relationship with her husband, Bethany says, “I felt like it was easy to be myself. Like really me.” David describes something similar: “When I met my wife, there were times I thought, ‘Oh, wow! I’ve been waiting for this and feel so free to be me now!’ Marla says when she met her husband, “I felt like I had met my new best friend, but also like I had known him all my life.”
A strong friendship can be a good indicator of marital success.
In a partnership like marriage, it’s important to be able to pursue dreams and callings together. In Genesis 2:18-22, God gives Adam a wife as a “helper fit for him.” The first man and woman helped each other work toward God’s purpose for them in the garden.
Of her relationship with her husband, Glory says, “We felt like we could grow together, and we felt like we could be partners and supporters, in chasing after our dreams.” Summer says, “We talked A LOT about goals … what we wanted out of life, finances, kids … and what we envisioned about the future.”
Having compatible goals doesn’t mean you won’t have to adjust after marriage. Julie explains, “I’ve found that having the same goals and ideals and being willing to change with each other instead of separately has been key.” And sanctification is a primary goal Christians should share. Teri says, “Marry someone who makes you better than you are, someone who challenges you to be like Christ. A good marriage is not about finding the right person. It’s about being the right person.”
As we change and grow over time, a marriage focused on God can sustain the relationship through trials and hard times.
What you’re looking for.
A really good catch may not make a really good match. It’s good to know what you are looking for in a relationship. David points out that discerning the right person to marry “requires knowing and discerning yourself.”
Making a list of what you want in a spouse can help you see how someone measures up when other signs aren’t as conclusive. Bethany said she made a list of her non-negotiables early on and checked her suitors against it. When her husband came along, he embodied many things on her list, giving her assurance that he was a good fit.
While it’s wise to know what you’re looking for, be prepared to have your assumptions challenged. Casey, who considers herself to be very independent, said she felt like she didn’t need marriage. But when she saw how kind her now-husband was, she realized what she needed. She hadn’t been kind to herself in years. She needed someone who would be an example of God’s kindness to her.
Character under pressure.
We are all flawed. Julie says some advice from her grandma was a game-changer for her: “They will all drive you crazy!” she said. “You just have to pick the person who annoys you the least.” Realizing that no one is perfect (and your future spouse will annoy you at times), choose someone whose good character shines under pressure.
As you face adversity or conflict together, note how your boyfriend or girlfriend responds. Bethany says that in her marriage, “we love well and fight well. We respect each other even when we are mad.” That respect can be seen before you ever tie the knot.
Michael suggests marrying someone you know will have your back. Life will get hard, circumstances will change, but knowing that person will be on your side is important. Summer remembers how her boyfriend-now-husband took off work to support her at hospital visits after she received a cancer diagnosis. How the person serves you when you’re down can be a good indicator of the type of spouse he or she would be.
The Secret to a Lasting Marriage
A few nights ago, I was at a woman’s 50th birthday party. I talked to a couple, probably both around 60, that were flirting and laughing and stealing kisses from each other. I was afraid to even ask, because I so rarely see long-term marriages like that, but I finally did. “How long have you been together?”
“Thirty-seven years,” they replied. I asked what their secret was. The wife leaned way close to me and almost whispered, “I know this will sound corny, but the key is having God at the center of the relationship.”
I can’t give my friend a definitive answer about whether or not he should marry his girlfriend. Each of us has to choose for ourselves. But considering if your significant other fits the four criteria above is a good place to start.