Photo by The Long Farewell
My wife and I dated for a year-and-a-half before getting engaged. I would like to say I always knew we would one day get married. But the truth is, I didn’t always know. In fact, for a while, I wasn’t sure.
Not because of anything having to do with my wife. Instead, I didn’t know if I was ready for marriage. I had been single my entire life, and marriage seemed like such a big — and permanent — step.
Fortunately, I worked up the courage to buy an engagement ring and propose, and all worked out. But it would’ve been helpful if I’d had a marriage preparedness checklist or a list of marriage material qualities to compare myself against. Because I would have seen that, in fact, I was ready. And I could have proceeded with greater confidence and assuredness.
With that in mind, I created such a list. It’s intended for those like my former self — people who hope to one day get married, but aren’t quite sure if they’re ready. Of course, if you’re already married, you can read this as a refresher.
1. You’re no longer looking for the perfect spouse.
For the longest time, I was looking for the perfect wife — a beautiful (faultless) woman who loved God (had a more mature spiritual life than me), adored me (always agreed with, supported and encouraged me), and didn’t have a single emotional issue (had never been hurt by another human). After dating several women, I realized that person didn’t exist, other than in my imagination.
No one is perfect. Everyone has faults. Not a single human skates through life without suffering trauma. And until you recognize this truth, you’ll remain unmarried (or unhappily married).
I’m not saying you should abandon your standards. By all means, pursue a beautiful and loving and healthy spouse. But be realistic with your standards, as I’m sure your future spouse will need to be with you.
Marriage isn’t about tethering yourself to perfection. It’s about pledging your life to another imperfect human — someone you love in the face of warts and wounds, faults and imperfections.
2. You don’t expect a spouse to satisfy your every need.
The first time I had a serious girlfriend, I struggled to remain engaged in the relationship. It’s not that I didn’t like her. She just didn’t seem to have what it took to make me happy. That is, my restlessness and loneliness didn’t vanish in her presence.
In the aftermath of that failed relationship, I forced myself to face the truth. Perhaps she hadn’t been the problem. Maybe the problem actually had more to do with me. By looking to another person to fix issues of my heart, I placed a burden upon her that no human could carry.
While God created us to be in relationship (Genesis 2:18), he did not create us to find our ultimate fulfillment in another human. There’s much we must do on our own to find personal peace and contentment. And there are some needs only God can satisfy.
3. You’ve accepted the monotony of daily life.
Life isn’t always a party. There are bills to pay, dishes to wash, floors to vacuum, money to earn, children to raise. There are early-morning alarms, inconvenient medical emergencies, and annoying family members.
The truth is, much of life involves monotonous tasks. This reality doesn’t suddenly change the moment you exchange vows. Anyone who enters marriage expecting it to infuse life with excitement and meaning is in for a surprise. Because it doesn’t. The basics of life remain.
That’s not to say marriage doesn’t improve life. But it’s not because you and your spouse shed the tedium of daily life. That will never go away.
4. You’re ready to love.
For most of our lives, we’re in the business of receiving love. Parents shower us with attention and affirmation, meeting all of our basic needs plus more. Friends accept us, making us feel wanted and valuable. Significant others affirm us, giving our lives passion and excitement.
While there’s nothing particularly wrong with this dynamic, it’s not the full picture of love.
Sustainable love isn’t one-sided. There are two sides to that coin. In marriage — or any mature relationship — two individuals must both accept and extend love. Not in a transactional sense, though. Love must abandon all concern for being loved.
Love simply loves.
Marriage is defined by mutual selfless love. It’s a continual pouring out. It’s an ongoing sacrifice. And it only works when two individuals understand this basic, yet profound concept.
It only makes sense, doesn’t it? It’s how God loves us. And it’s only because of his love that we’re freed to love Him — and others.