It's important to get a true picture of the person we plan to spend the rest of our days with.
The growing number of couples who opt for divorce rather than working to save their marriage remains alarming. And it’s amazing that even middle-aged couples spend more time organizing the wedding than remaining married.
It would be worth asking these couples the following question: When one of the windows of your house breaks, do you fix the window or move to a new house? There is so much that can be done to save a marriage. All that’s needed is the will to make the necessary changes and a lot of strength to persevere.
Letter from a longtime wife to a bride-to-be
It is said that there are no schools to teach us to be spouses and I agree somewhat … but not completely. Our first and most important school for marriage should be our parents’ example. The big problem is that those who are supposed to be the ideal models are often not. Many times, they are the ones giving up and showing their children that divorce is a good option. I’m not talking about being perfect spouses — that doesn’t exist — but about modeling how to get through the tough times and come out victorious on the other side of a crisis.
Know how to read the signs
There are some basic, common sense details that you have to consider and take into account when choosing a partner, especially if you want to get married. That is why I emphasize so much that when we’re married and make that lifelong commitment, we have to have an open heart that is willing to give everything, but we also have to have our eyes wide open. Even when we buy a car, we have to do a test drive, check the engine, know its features, and so on. So how much more do we need to practice that when we are choosing the person who will accompany us on our path to holiness through marriage!
Both spouses need to look out for significant details that can give us an idea of whether they will have the “right stuff” to walk that path together. That’s what courtship is for: to see whether we agree and, if necessary, to make the necessary changes while we are free, using our will. And if during the courtship phase, both realize that it’s not going to work in the long run, it’s best to end it before it starts, even if there is a lot of love.
When the butterflies are over
Before you get married, be very aware that the infatuation stage lasts an average of 18 months, and then the butterflies in the stomach and that kind of adrenaline and euphoria usually recede. But far from saddening us, this should make us rejoice, because if we can get through that stage victoriously, we can already almost ensure that we are loving as an act of the will, consciously.
Date nights are little Sundays for your marriage
Think of that person you say you love today and ask yourself the following magical questions — and answer honestly: Is this person the one I want for my life? Am I able to make this person happy? Before you get married, try to be very practical and dispassionate so that you can make intelligent decisions, thinking more with the head and less with the heart, because afterwards you won’t be able to say that nobody warned you. So, look at the following questions with your eyes wide open to make the decision that best suits you:
- How does this person treat their parents and other people (including ex-partners)? This point is crucial because the way they treat their parents is an indicator of how they will treat you. A man who loves and respects his mother, and speaks to her and treats her with absolute consideration, will almost certainly be an excellent husband, because generally someone who is a good son is also going to be a good husband. If he treats his mother — or father — with disrespect and impudence, run for the hills … because he’ll treat you even worse.
- How do the parents treat each other? This point is also basic because the way the children have seen their parents treat each other will be the way they will treat their spouse. The relationship they saw in their parents will be what is normal for them. If there is a lack of respect between the spouses, it will usually repeat itself in the children’s marriage because it was what they observed. If the parents modeled a lot of love, respect, and cordiality, then usually the children will act the same way in their own marriages. Of course, there are exceptions to the rule.
- How was love and respect shown in their home? If love was expressed in shouts, then expect shouts. What they saw modeled at home will generally be the way they will show you love. Unfortunately, in many homes, the parents didn’t show love in the best way and there may even have been abuse or some kind of dysfunction. As children, we do not fully understand what is going on. We believe that mom and dad’s love is unconditional, and if their love came with slaps or hitting, then the child just assumes that that’s how love is.
- What values and virtues govern their life? Do those values fit with mine? Are their stated values consistent with their actions and words? What respect do they have for the gift of life? Are they open to having children and if so, how many? What do they think about the culture of death? What respect do they have for marriage and family? What faith do they practice? How is their relationship with God? Do they believe and practice fidelity? Do they believe in chastity and practice it?
- Social life. Do you know their friends?Do you identify with them? What do those friends have in common with you and where do you differ from them?
Long marriage, beautiful life
- Do you understand and accept their temperament, character and personality?How about their maturity level? How do they react to a crisis? Do they have a balanced mood? Are they responsible? How many jobs have they had in the past few years? Are they constant in them? Is she a spoiled, short-tempered, and demanding daughter? Be careful, because that’s just the beginning of what you’re going to get. Is he a spoiled boy who does not take a step without asking permission from Mommy? Does he work and provide or is he someone who needs to be maintained by his parents? Does he support his parents both financially and emotionally?
- What rules and habits does your prospective spouse have? For example: “I provide for you, you provide for me or we provide for each other.” Are they open to dialogue to reach agreements about who contributes “what” to the home? About who goes out to work and who takes care of the home? Do both work or just one? Do they have good manners at the table? Do they have the habit of going to Mass and practicing their faith? Once married, does he plan to go out with friends to bars and do the same things he did when he was a bachelor? How does he manage his finances? Is she generous or the opposite?
- What is their level of education and culture?What I mean is, how were they raised? What were their parents like? What are their topics of conversation? Does she talk only about soap operas or does she know how to delve into matters of interest? Was education a priority? It is said that when you get married, you do not marry the family. Not true! You marry the family and it’s for forever. That is why it’s so important for you to reflect, totally without judgment, because no one is better than anyone else; there are just different ways of being raised. Is this the environment in which my future children and I would like to grow, live together, and develop?
- Purpose of life. What is their sense of mission in life? Do they have great goals and aspirations? Do they do everything to achieve those goals or are they just a dreamer who never makes things happen?
Marriage should be a permanent bond, one of the most important decisions you will ever make in your entire life. It’s worth taking a look at these questions and asking yourself if you are totally comfortable with the decision, or if there are some warning signs that you should perhaps slow down and consider. Marriage is about total self-giving, but we should also have our eyes totally open going into it!
This article was originally published in the Spanish edition of Aleteia and has been translated and/or adapted here for English speaking readers.