Checklist before Marriage
February 13, 2007 by Toheed Aslam
There’s an old saying, “Marriage is a school in which the pupil learns too late.” If we aren’t ready for marriage or if we choose a poor marriage partner, this can be very true. Yet for most people, it doesn’t have to be. To be sure that it isn’t, we need to do three things. First, we need to be prepared to be a reasonably mature, emotionally healthy, and spiritually committed spouse. Second, we need to select a mate who is ready to be a reasonably mature, emotionally healthy, and spiritually committed spouse. And third, we need to be willing to face our needs to grow and become better people and well-adjusted marriage partners.
Here we will look at eight areas that will critically impact your marriage. These eight areas can provide helpful guidance in determining whether you and your prospective mate are ready to make a lasting, lifetime commitment.
1. Personality Adjustment
Some people are quite well-adjusted, while others are not. The person who is lacking in good emotional or personality adjustment finds it difficult to live with himself and others. Most serious marriage problems arise because one or both partners have some long-standing problematic personality characteristics. Once we marry, these problems are even more likely to be triggered because of the new levels of intimacy, responsibility and give and take required in marriage.
2. Life Goals
Having compatible goals and understanding each other’s plans for the future is vital for a happy marriage. Goals affect every area of our lives. They involve having children (yes, no, and how many), our education, where we choose to live, our decision to reach out to help people, our spiritual interests, and a host of other factors. Like two front wheels of a car, the more a couple can have similar goals and head in the same direction, the more likely they are to run a straight course in their marriage.
3. Intellectual and Cultural Interests
Another question to consider before marriage is, “How compatible are we in terms of our intellectual and cultural interests? In the first blush of emotional love some couples give little thought to the importance their broad, long-term interests play in producing a happy marriage. This doesn’t mean that couples with different interests can’t enjoy and enrich each other. They can. But common interests help build togetherness. We need to share in our recreational, vocational, and spiritual lives.
The impact of education on marriage goes far beyond jobs and finances. Couples that share a desire to learn and grow can challenge and enrich each other. This, of course, does not require a college degree. Simply warming a bench in college for four years or longer doesn’t make you an open-minded, growing person! In fact, many people with little formal education are extremely wise and growing and knowledgeable. In many ways, life is the best teacher. Just be sure that both you and your prospective mate are willing to be taught! There are all too many marriages where unhappiness and divorce become the unfortunate fruits of an inadequate motivation to grow and learn.
Anyone who says, “I’m marrying him, not his job,” should spend some serious time reflecting on the ramifications of one’s vocation. In a real sense, you do marry your mate’s daily work – and your own! And what about two career marriages? Have you talked through the implications of a two-career marriage on your free time, your time together, your children, your roles at work and home, and your level of family stress and pressure? Two career marriages may work beautifully, but it’s important to think through the implications as thoroughly as possible ahead of time. And what about this situation?
6. Family Involvement
Our extended family does “bother us,” or help us, or encourage us in our efforts to build our own growing family! Even if your relatives live a thousand miles away, they will influence your marriage. Their physical absence may keep you out of open conflict, but if nothing else, it may deprive your children of their grandparents. Before marriage, be sure you get a reading on how you understand each other’s families. Some prospective brides and grooms have faced neither the realities of family involvement before marriage nor the impact their childhood family experiences will have on their own marriage. How much better to consider these matters before wedding bells ring, rather than later when conflicts have arisen.
Another area to check out is your compatibility with friends. You’ve heard the saying, “You can tell a lot about a person by the company he keeps.” How true! What our friends enjoy, we tend to enjoy. What interests our friends tend to be what interests us. What our friends don’t care for is most likely what we don’t care for. And our friends’ level of spiritual interest and commitment is probably similar to our own. Otherwise, why would we be spending time with them? Don’t expect you or your potential mate’s friends to change radically after you’ve said your vows.
8. Spiritual Interests
God created human beings – Adam and Eve – and the family. Marriage was God’s idea. He knew that it could be a wonderful place for companionship, love, nurture, teamwork, and growth! Unless the two are headed in the same direction spiritually, chances are they will be going in opposite directions in many other areas of life. Our spiritual interests and commitments impact our horizontal relationships as well as our relationship with God. Our spirituality shapes our entire worldview. It influences the way we choose to invest our time. It impacts our resilience in times of crises, the friends we choose, our work, and our leisure time.
No one can be a perfect mate and no one can choose a perfect mate. God created marriage to help us mature and grow and He knows every couple will have their share of struggles. But it is tremendously important that we are aware of as many of our areas of compatibility and incompatibility before marriage. And when the potential problems are clearly too great to enable a couple to build a fulfilling, enjoyable, long life together, we need to wait until God leads us to a compatible mate.