Some years ago, a recently divorced gentleman attended a get-together for single parents. The loss of his marriage had devastated him, but he was consoled by the fact he had won sole custody of his three children. During the get-together, he met a woman who seemed to be in very much in the same predicament as he. They talked for hours and exchanged phone numbers when the evening was over. Within a matter of months, they proclaimed the joyful news of their engagement. They wanted a brief engagement and despite the reaction from their family and friends—all who tried to talk them out of such an impulsive move—they were married shortly thereafter.
They moved in together and began the process of blending their families and integrating their broken-hearted children into the new family. The sad thing is, this couple got divorced less than a year later. I offer this real life example to reinforce the point of the recent article, Predictors of Divorce: Length of Acquaintance. Written by my esteemed colleague, Joy Kubik, this article points out the importance of understanding what it means to be prepared to walk down the aisle… you don’t want to make that decision too hastily, nor do you want to have a laissez-faire attitude toward it. But I would like to take the assertions made by the researchers who provided the statistical information just one step further.
It’s important to examine statistics and acknowledge their face value, but they also serve to discover a deeper meaning. If the researchers stop at stating the length of time a dating/engagement period lasts is a predictor of divorce, they’re merely swimming in the shallow end of the pool. The real, dependable predictor of a divorce in my humble opinion is not the length of a couple’s engagement but more importantly, how the couple lived their courtship and engagement.
For example, did the couple sleep together? That’s almost strike three with one swing as far as hoping for a lasting marriage is concerned. Most priests who do pre-marital instruction require a co-habitating couple to live separately until their honeymoon, as well as requiring couples who sleep together but live separately to remain chaste until after the wedding. Many of these couples do not follow this recommendation but instead lie about their situation hoping it will put the priest at ease. These couples are almost always using artificial contraception, which presents an even larger scope of problems that will definitely play a role in creating an unhappy and unfulfilled marriage.
Did they really, truly get to know each other? The opportunity to have quiet time with the one you love and talk about things that are important to you and make each other laugh, is extremely important. Take advantage of those times to include discussing each other’s goals, religion, politics, money, children, etc. You know, all those difficult and challenging issues that are uncomfortable to broach when you’re in love and don’t feel like rocking the boat, but are surprisingly helpful in creating an open and honest flow of communication and a deeper understanding of the person you are pledging your life to.
Did they address each other’s potential personality and temperament hazards? If there are issues like flaring tempers, lack of communication, or dramatic tantrums that you don’t like or make you uncomfortable, the right time to bring up these issues is before the marriage. Who can forget the recent video of the woman throwing a toddler fit in the car because her husband wouldn’t take her to the lake! Yes, this would be information you need to discuss before the wedding.
I love the fact that Joy has such a great story to tell, and she and her husband definitely are not an anomaly. My husband and I were married just 14 months after we met. We met in April, began dating in November, became engaged by February and married in June. Our marriage is as wonderful as it can be for two imperfect sinners. That has little to do with the length of our dating and engagement and everything to do with how we lived the time before our marriage. Yet, another great reason to find your spouse on CatholicMatch, where you can begin a relationship already knowing many important things about your date right off the bat.
Thank you to all who have written to me and for those who would like to ask a question or submit a comment, I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow me on Twitter at @lisaduffy.