Are You Sure You’re Ready For Marriage?

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During a recent radio interview I was asked what I thought about the recent statistics that reveal more than half of the adult population in this country is unmarried.

The usual reasons came to mind. People focus on their careers. Pre-marital sex is no longer taboo. Traditional marriage and monogamy are under attack by the culture at large. But something else popped into my head. I wondered if there was a significant number of people are who are simply unprepared for marriage, even though they want to be married. And I wondered if part of the reason for that lack of preparation is the false belief that “time passing” = “growth.”

I can remember over the years, through my twenties and thirties, being asked two questions: “Why aren’t you married?” and “When do you think you’ll get married.” I usually answered, “I’m not ready yet” to the former and “when I’m ready” to the latter.

Years passed but I never got any more ready for marriage. In fact, I think I became even less ready than I was in my twenties. How could that be the case? I always had it in the back of my mind that I would be married someday. I spent a fair amount of time thinking and journaling about it, especially in my thirties. And yet, I did not seem to be moving toward marriage, even after I started online dating. I searched online for five years before I met the woman who would become my wife (here on CatholicMatch). I was 45 years old, but in many ways I still wasn’t ready. Oh, I was ready enough. But just enough. Just enough to take the plunge.

I say I was just ready enough because immediately after I was married I faced anxiety over the culture shock of marital life and realized I wasn’t really ready at all. But that’s okay, because you’re never really ready anyway. But you have to be ready to grow. You have to be ready to give up your independence and live in a world that does not revolve around you, your comfort, or your feelings about how things should be.

I was not really ready for any of that. For the roughly two decades between leaving home and getting married I lived in a state of almost perpetual self-focus. I sought comfort whenever possible. I thought about myself and what I wanted out of life, and I made most of my decisions based on the idea of the perfect life. My feelings became a barometer and I valued my intuition as a reliable guide much of the time. I contemplated things. I ruminated. I kept journals. I lived pretty much carefree. But I did not grow. Time was passing, but I was not working on the skills or the mindset of being in a life-long relationship. I was not living, or forging meaningful relationships, or venturing out of my comfort zone.

I never really learned to sacrifice for the good of someone else, and I learned to avoid things that irritated me by spending most of my time on my own, doing things I wanted to do, and seeking out company when it suited me.

And all the while time passed, and I didn’t grow.

When I reverted to my faith (about 6 years before I met my wife), I began to make a few changes. My focus shifted somewhat toward God. I can look back now and see that he was preparing me for marriage. I dragged my heels quite a bit, and I made the mistake of molding my faith into a comfortable, self-focused affair. After all, that was what I was used to. I did grow a little, as I said. Just enough to recognize my future wife when I met her. Just enough to be willing to step into marriage after a two-month courtship. I had grown enough to realize she was the one, but not enough to make the transition smoothly.

I know God made the transition uncomfortable for a reason. I needed that discomfort in order to change and grow. I honestly believe I would still be single if I had not answered the call of my faith.

I know there are a multitude of reasons as to why any one person might be single. When the time comes along, when the right person comes along, make sure you are prepared. No matter what our vocation is we must remember that “time passing” does not equal “growth.”  We need to keep growing, no matter how difficult it is.

That’s equally true during marriage (or any vocation). As I near the two-year mark I can see where I am falling short, and I can tell that it is time for a renewed effort. I thank God every day that my wife is blessed with patience.

I invite you to spend some time reflecting on the ways that you can become the best version of yourself so you will be ready to meet your spouse.



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20 Comments

  1. Rhodora-183219 May 20, 2017 Reply

    I love this article! Very helpful!

  2. Michael L. November 7, 2014 Reply

    Great article–too bad it wasn’t written earlier. This society is very anti-marriage and anti-family. People get the I’m benefits of marriage today without the ceremony. Unless you want children or must have a spouse, the cost of marriage outweighs the benefits. I’m 59 now, and I’ve never been able to attract anyone into a relationship in my life. In my teens and 20s, it was all about women getting ahead or getting a job period. Over time it just got easier to defer the decision. At 40 I gave up, and I think lots of others do too. I was not able to pursue dating earlier in life due to lack of resources and the lack of potential partners. All the women I would have ever married I met in high school. After that I never really met anyone I would marry. Dating requirements are pretty stiff these days, most women want a lot from any guy. I’ve heard the same line from women for years–you’re a nice guy, but…..fill in the blank. After that for decades, I realized most women today aren’t ready for marriage either. Result–most Americans are or will be singles longer than they should or want to be. Case closed.

  3. Aline-1103561 November 5, 2014 Reply

    Beautifully written. I can see myself into your article. Thank you for sharing.

  4. Lori-1020607 November 5, 2014 Reply

    Enjoyable article, we just need to keep growing.

  5. Dacia-777603 November 5, 2014 Reply

    Thank you, your article is very good and I hope it helps a lots of people here on the Catholicmatch.com

    Reading other people comment really gives me food for thought! but I have to keep in mind that we all so different with many different views in life so not all is the same for everyone. As for me I know there is a multitude of reasons as to why I am still single one of them not by choice God took my spouse home and it has not been easy to have to think of starting all over again in a new relationship . I hope God willing when the time comes along or when the right person comes along, I am prepared and no matter what I always must remember that as time passing I need to keep growing.

    Thank You and Have a Blessed Day.

  6. Alberto-419637 November 5, 2014 Reply

    Thank you, your article seems to be written about me! A life of constant prayer, sacraments, works of mercy, etc. will fix our self-absorption and makes us holy and ready for the love that marriage requires. The difference is in our level of commitment. We tend to think of our single life as temporary and that is how we fall into this spiritual slacking. That is, I think, the postponement that you are talking about in your article. God changes us through our efforts to follow him and sometimes we seek comfort in the sense of belonging and safety that we feel when we think of having a family. We should realize how dangerous it is to let ourselves feel that way because it takes us away from God and others in this particular moment when we are going through difficulties. Contrasting this feeling with the objective difficulties of family life should help. And letting ourselves feel our frustration, regrets, etc, letting them go and giving them up to the Lord in constant prayer helps even more. Seeking comfort in something other than God is going to lead us astray, even [and especially] thoughts of this kind. We must try to know ourselves and learn to avoid them. It is heroic, counter-cultural and impossible for us alone but it is what Christ calls us to do: to leave all our attachments behind, as the gospel reminds us today.

  7. Jane-828478 November 5, 2014 Reply

    What an encouraging article. Thanks for sharing (honestly) your journey and experience.

  8. Jane-828478 November 5, 2014 Reply

    Thanks for your encouragement and inspiration. Just what the Doctor ordered.

  9. Jhoanna-1033298 November 4, 2014 Reply

    Just the words I needed to read today. Thank you very much for being God’s messenger to me. God bless you more!

  10. Kathleen-924756 November 4, 2014 Reply

    I was ready to be married when I was 21, but my husband, who was everything I could want in a partner, died in an accident after 3 years. I had two small children. Five years later, I remarried. I don’t think I was ready at all. It took decades of hard work and determination for us–mostly me, as I was the more self-focused–to build trust and friendship on the love we had for each other. Five years ago, he died of cancer, after 40 years of marriage. Now I would like very much to remarry, but I wonder if I am ready this time. In five years, I had to become self- sufficient in taking care of all that two used to do. I found I could do it fairly well. I’d like not to have all that responsibility, but am I willing to let go of it, to share it? I hope so.

  11. Robert-514120 November 4, 2014 Reply

    I think it also has to do with priorities. What was a priority in my 20’s and 30’s (marriage, that is), is not as much the case, now that I’m in my mid 50’s. I have other concerns, like taking care of a house, finances, and retirement in about 15-20 years. As we get older, our priorities tend to shift. It’s all part of the process.

  12. Noah-906178 November 4, 2014 Reply

    I definitely agree, the more we’re alone the more self-absorbed many of us become – but and I’m not sure how complicit the faithful, Sacramentally-living single Catholics are in this anti-human society we live in; organisms don’t exist in vacuums, and when no one echoes your convictions and sacrifices (outside of the totally-voluntary parish situations and closed circles of friends there), it’s hard to grow in the real world. But immaturity – regardless of age and gender – is a relationship and growth-killer.

    • Noah-906178 November 4, 2014 Reply

      I would also add that we’re supposed to have hobbies, we’re supposed to have interests, commitments, volunteering, etc, we’re supposed to be people of dimension…which all takes time and resources – our time and resources, and again it becomes about us – even when we’re seeking integrating with others!…

  13. Joni-821455 November 4, 2014 Reply

    Thank you for this great article it is just what I needed to hear right now.

  14. Remigiusz-918248 November 4, 2014 Reply

    … I think that people over 40 years of age to wonder too that the time for marriage was 40 years of age, and so we come to 50 years of age and so on …
    … but I’m thinking that it is better to marry late than to be alone …

  15. Bradley-266389 November 4, 2014 Reply

    Hi. I have met a wonderful lady through Catholic Match. We are trying to discern marriage long-distance. Any suggestions for this?

    • Erik-215414 November 4, 2014 Reply

      Hello Bradley –
      I have never had a long distance relationship, so I have no practical experience. There are, however, several very helpful posts on this blog which deal with that very subject. A quick search for “long distance” returns a slew of them.
      In addition to those I urge you to read Dan Flaherty’s profiles of several CatholicMatch couples who have married after a long distance engagement.
      God bless,
      Erik

  16. Michelle-989480 November 3, 2014 Reply

    Loved this fantastic article! Thank you for your insights.

  17. Tessy-971159 November 2, 2014 Reply

    Good article Erik. I think you are right on the mark. I think the longer we are alone, the more self absorbed we can become. Making the effort to grow in the virtues isn’t easy when there is no one around to challenge us. Thanks!

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