How to Know You Are Ready for Marriage
“Marriage changes everything.”
Have you heard that one before? I have. But I’ve never understood or agreed with that sentiment.
“Marriage is hard,” they also say. If you believe those things, marriage sounds like a pretty scary thing!
But I don’t think marriage is scary. Big, yes. Scary? No.
Here’s why I feel this way, and more importantly, how you can know if you’re ready for marriage:
It’s Not About What’s On the Outside
Being ready for marriage is not determined by how long you have known or dated a person. It’s not determined by knowing everything about your significant other. It’s not about resolving all of your issues as a couple. It has nothing to do with being a certain age, or reaching an educational, financial, or career goal. There is no specific level of spiritual maturity required. All of these markers are nothing more than human constructs, burdens that society has placed on us to prove we are worthy of being seen as responsible adults who are “ready for marriage.” They are man-made boxes that have been built around the idea of marriage. But marriage was designed by God, not humans. (I’m not talking about weddings, to be clear. Weddings are pretty much all our idea.)
When You Know, You Know
As cliché as it sounds, I do believe that when you find the one for you, you will know. Maybe not at first, but definitely at some point. It usually takes time to build a relationship to that level, and there will come a time when the realization clicks that this is the person for you. You meet, you date, you get to know each other, you fall in love, you create memories together, you experience conflicts and struggles and learn to resolve them, you test your compatibility, you choose to love each other… and somewhere along the way, you discover that you know. Even when the newness and excitement wears off, and you start doing real-life together, you still feel that knowing. You find that you are not afraid of committing to this person. You find that you are already there.
Marriage Doesn’t Change Your Commitment
When somebody is ready for marriage, there are traditions we tend to follow. There’s the engagement, which is a promise to demonstrate your commitment. Then there’s the marriage, the final seal to that promise. Engagement and marriage are the public statements of commitment. They aren’t the commitment itself. Commitment comes before!
I believe that commitment in a relationship should already be solidly and firmly in place when you decide to take those vows. It’s not a decision you can make on the spot after you’ve already walked down the aisle. It’s not even a decision you can make on the spot when your significant other is down on one knee. It’s something that you already know in those moments, because it has grown naturally and is ready to blossom confidently into marriage. Marriage doesn’t change everything. It just declares what is already there.
Wedding Versus Marriage
Assuming a couple is already committed at their wedding, then marriage isn’t the beginning of a life together, it’s just one of the many steps along the way. The couple’s life together began when they met, when they fell in love, and when they knew. But weddings are a beautiful way to express and celebrate the start of a marriage, the public declaration of a permanent partnership. There can be great joy and excitement over this special celebration.
Still, it is important to distinguish between wedding and marriage. A wedding won’t solidify a commitment that’s weak to begin with, but it can very easily expose that weakness. Weddings have a way of stressing people out! When the wedding becomes more important than the marriage, there is a problem. Marriage isn’t about a white dress, cake, flowers, and dancing. Marriage is about loving each other and putting each other first. The wedding should never become more important than the marriage. A wedding is one day, but a marriage is forever.
So, How Can You Know That You’re Ready?
The answer should be simple. You know you are ready when you and your significant other have decided in your hearts and minds that you will stay the course.
It isn’t about how much money you have, or how far you’ve gotten in your education or career. It isn’t about your age, or your Grandma’s opinion. It isn’t about how much dating experience you’ve had. It isn’t about how close to perfect you are, or how long you’ve know Jesus (if you’re a Christian).
It’s about commitment. (Side note: you being ready for marriage isn’t the same as being with the right person for you to marry. Think about that carefully.)
Very few things in life are certain. We are not in control of what happens to us. We are only in control of how we react to what happens, and the steps we take to encourage positive things to happen. In marriage, we can choose to love each other despite anything happening around us, and even despite anything happening within us. That is our choice. God will help you, if you ask. Are you ready to make that choice? The answer is right there in your heart. Listen to it.
Why I Care
You may be thinking, who died and made you queen of marriage, Heather? Well, fair point. I’m certainly not a marriage expert or a perfect spouse or anything like that. But I did see a lot of marriages fall apart growing up. Five, to be exact. But even so, I was never afraid of marriage myself. Why? Because I knew. I still do, after six years of marriage. I still will, 70 years from now.
But my husband and I personally struggled with others telling us we weren’t ready for marriage. We knew we were. We were sure, and we were 100% committed to our marriage, and we had Jesus at the center. That was all that mattered.
We were married young, before finishing college, and without having established careers or even the financial strength to support ourselves. We didn’t and still don’t know everything about each other. We still have issues we need to work through, and we find new ones as we go. And we still have room to grow spiritually, imagine that! But we have enjoyed these years growing together spiritually and in maturity, and building our lives together. We are a marriage team, and a work in progress.
If I could go back in time, I would have gone and gotten married at the courthouse a year before I had my wedding celebration, because we were ready then. We waited for over a year to get married to appease our families and prepare financially for the wedding. That’s a whole year that we missed out on the special closeness and intimacy that marriage allows! I allowed other people’s concerns to steal that year from me, and now I am passionate about helping others avoid doing the same.
My hope is to help people see marriage as something beautiful, safe, enjoyable, and intentional, rather than approaching it with fear and doubt. Marriage is good! It doesn’t have to be scary. When we’re ready, we can jump in with our eyes and hearts wide open.