When Jono and I decided to get married, it felt exhilarating-and terrifying. He was abandoned by both of his parents and raised by his grandmother. I grew up with my parents, but their marriage ended in divorce my senior year of college (a few months before he and I began dating). So when we got engaged, we realized that in a lot of ways, we were sailing into uncharted territory.
During our engagement, we read books on marriage together, had discussions and meetings about our vision for our future family, and went through premarital counseling. It wasn’t easy; as a matter of fact, it was an uphill climb in a lot of ways because every day we realized more and more that we were going to have to put in serious work in order to have a successful marriage.
Since that time, we’ve counseled dozens of college students and couples about relationships. We started a blog to help people navigate through their relationships and build healthy marriages. So here are a few things to really think through if you’re considering marriage:
1. Do Our Goals and Values Match?
I can’t emphasize this one enough. Even if you have chemistry, if your goals and values in life don’t match, you’ll ultimately end up dissatisfied in your marriage. What binds you to each other, besides a physical attraction? Have these conversations often, and be honest about where you want to be in the next 5, 10, and 20 years. Talk about what you want to achieve in your life, your passions and dreams. If this is the person you want to have as a life partner, you both deserve to know exactly what you would be signing up for.
For example, my husband has always had an entrepreneurial spirit. He’s always talked about having his own business and making a difference in people’s lives through his story. I wanted to make an impact on people as well, I just didn’t know how. So when we sat down together to talk about our vision for our family, we both agreed that we were willing to sacrifice a lot of material things our peers had in order to build the foundation for the life we wanted. We weren’t going to go on fancy vacations every year, but we knew that ultimately we’d have the financial freedom we wanted to live exactly the way we wanted in the long run.
A friend of mine got divorced a few years after getting married because they felt their spouse continually made their medical career a priority over their marriage. Whatever your goals in life are, you need to share them and be honest and realistic about the type of life and daily routines those things will require. My husband and I know a lot of couples where one or both spouses are either in medical school or working in the medical field. The time spent studying, preparing for interviews, and working adds up to a LOT of time spent away from each other. These couples had to sit down and talk about what their time together would look like so that they could nurture their relationship instead of letting their careers isolate them.
What about you? What kinds of goals do you plan to achieve? What sacrifices do those goals require of you? Of your future spouse and family?
Being honest in these conversations is important. Don’t tell your boyfriend or girlfriend what you think they want to hear. Lack of honesty now will make them feel tricked or betrayed later. They may become resentful of being stuck in a life they have little say in. Build the right foundation now by having these conversations often.
2. Do We Have Chemistry?
Some people call it attraction. Whatever you call it, you need it in your relationship. Not just physical attraction though; a lasting relationship needs emotional-mental chemistry too. When you talk to one another, do hours feel like minutes? When my husband and I first started dating, we used to go to Bible study together, then sit in the car for an hour talking about what we’d learned. I felt like I could tell him things I never told anyone else, know he would understand.
Don’t marry someone just because they’re “godly” or financially secure. Your friendship is what will bind you for life through the hard stuff, like sickness and job loss. Be honest with yourself. Are you guys truly friends, or is it sexual attraction that binds you to each other? Can you share your heart with this person, or are you just with this person because you’ve become financially dependent on them?
If you aren’t married yet and realize that you can’t answer yes to either of these questions, I know you’re in a tough spot. But it’s better to walk away now than to jeopardize your future. The person you marry can change the course of your life. Don’t be afraid to be selfish in this matter. Time will heal the pain of a break-up eventually, but the pain of regret over choices you’ve made is far worse.
God has a plan for your life. He knows the path he’s leading you on. Make sure you marry someone who can walk that path beside you.
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