I got married at the age of 26. By that time, I was able to check a lot of things off that people say one should do before getting married, like going to college, traveling, and having great experiences. My husband was raised Catholic and we had the same faith in common, and that was like having another “marriage insurance” item checked off. We went to a few pre-marital counseling sessions with our parish pastor and took the compatibility test. But less than four years later, he walked out, never to return. I was divorced and there was nothing I could do about it.
Several years later as I went through the annulment process and faced a 107 essay answer questionnaire, I thought to myself, “Why didn’t anyone ask me these questions before we got married? I probably wouldn’t have married him in the first place!” These questions caused me to look back at our dating and engagement period and recognize there were many warning signs I should have paid attention to, but did not.
This is why it’s so important to prepare your kids for marriage every step of the way, even after they’ve gone out on their own and especially when they start bringing significant others home to meet you. Keeping in mind there is no perfect spouse and no perfect marriage, here are some important points you can present to your son or daughter to help discern if his girlfriend/her boyfriend is really “the one“:
1. Did your child’s boyfriend/girlfriend have a good model of marriage growing up?
Children who grew up in an intact family, with parents who loved each other and without the stresses of physical, sexual, or substance abuse have an excellent chance of bringing a valid marriage into being and making it last. I am not saying that someone from a different family background cannot make a marriage last, it’s just harder. For example, although my children are from my second happy and intact marriage, they know I’ve been through a divorce and I have to work harder to impress upon them that marriage is supposed to be permanent and divorce is never an option.
2. Have they had a serious and honest discussion about their views toward having children, contraception, and divorce?
Making a marriage last and keeping it in good shape is hard work. Not only is marriage hard, but there’s a whole society out there that wants and actively seeks to break up marriages through pornography, secret affairs, and much more. A lot of couples experience a time when they pushed to the brink of wanting to leave, and often times this happens because they didn’t discuss the really important things before they are married. So, it’s important to address some of the hard issues head on during the dating/engagement period to lessen the odds of that breach happening. Here are some questions that can get those discussions going:
- Do they agree on the size of the family they would like to have?
- What would they do if for some reason, they could not have children?
- Do they agree on how they will grow their family, (are they open to children)? Will they use Natural Family Planning? Does one or the other want to use artificial contraception?
- Do they both agree that divorce is not an option or are they secretly harboring the thought that it is a way out if things get too bad? Are there any “deal breakers” they are not being forthright about?
Will this relationship with bring me closer to God? Do they hold the same faith and are they supportive of each other in the way they practice? Are they comfortable discussing their beliefs with each other? Is faith and morality important to them both?
Will this relationship with make me a more loving person? This question does not refer to romantic love because that should naturally be a yes. It asks if their relationship enables them both to grow in love for God and others? Genuine love is self-less, it focuses on others. So are they focused on making their partner happy, or are they in it for their own benefit? How open are they to new life?
Will this relationship allow me to use my gifts and talents? God has endowed us all with gifts and talents for a reason… so we can use them for His glory and the good of others. So, this question speaks directly to the level of harmony between the two people in the relationship. Do they support each other supportive in their interests and goals? Do they encourage each other to follow their dreams?
As previously mentioned, there is no perfect marriage, but the goal is to go into it with as few strikes against the couple as possible. Having honest discussions about these issues can be a great way of discerning the couples strengths and weaknesses and help them have a strong and happy marriage.