3 Ways To Prepare For Marriage Now

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More and more I hear men are avoiding marriage because they feel as though the deck is stacked against them. They look at the divorce statistics and the burdens that many divorced men are saddled with after going through the court systems. Many single men decide to avoid entrapment, remain unattached, and perhaps join the ranks of “Men Going Their Own Way.”

It’s a seductive alternative, to be sure. Why not enjoy a life of freedom? It’s easy to blame the system and the nameless, faceless women who are waiting to take everything from you and leave you to face decades of bitterness and alimony.

This was not always the case with men. When I talked to my father before I got married he told me that the pursuit of marriage and children was something he and most of his friends just took as a given. It was an entry into manhood. They were eager to grow up and leave childhood behind.

Today, however, marriage and children (and the prospect of losing them once you take the plunge) are seen as obstacles to freedom. The same goes for getting lost in an unsatisfying or oppressive career. But I can’t help but think that all of the no strings attached talk is a cover for a very real fear: the fear of making a mistake. The fear of being unprepared or blindsided seems to be an epidemic these days. People are afraid of choosing the wrong major, the wrong career path, the wrong job, the wrong spouse. Instead of preparing ourselves and facing life, we hide in a life of self-attention and stand-still.

I think this fear can be conquered through preparation and learning. Couples who prepare for marriage, who try to learn about what marriage is, have a very low divorce rate. If you prepare now it will go a long way to conquering the natural fears that rear their heads as you get nearer to entering the covenant of marriage.

Although I found my wife at age 45, after years of searching, I still had a little trouble adjusting because I had not prepared in the way I should have. There are three things I wish I had done. I urge you to do all of them now, as they will help you prepare for marriage, should that be your vocation.

1. I wish I had talked to more married people before I had gotten married.

I relied too heavily on what I thought marriage should be, and my perception was greatly warped by popular culture. Too many movies, too much daydreaming, and too much of the “modern” take on marriage only served to provide me with a fantasy version of marriage. Instead of reading the latest blog posts about how to “follow my bliss” I should have been talking to married Catholics. Or married people in general.

Just as important is reading about what marriage is. And by that I mean reading about what the sacrament of marriage is. Marriage is a physical and emotional affair, but it is also a spiritual one – and I don’t mean that in a superficial, feel-good new age kind of way. Marriage is a spiritual crucible. In marriage, if we are doing it right, we allow God to smooth our jagged edges. As man and wife we are a new creation, and we are open to the creation of a new life in children, if we are so blessed. We also find in our companion a comfort and a safe haven that are dim reflections of those provided by Christ. All of these things are great joys, but they are not available if you are selfish. You need to let God take a chisel to you. It can be painful. Which brings me to my second regret:

2. I wish I had practiced occasional mortifications.

Self-denial is not in vogue. Forgoing instant gratification is not popular. Denying ourselves happiness and comfort is considered unhealthy. And when hardship is pursued, as in the latest diet or body-crushing fitness insanity, it’s only because we know that on the other side we will have a moment of self-satisfaction and pleasure to revel in. Or at least bragging rights on Facebook with pictures of themselves from the latest mud run with the caption “THIS…IS…SPARTAAAAAAA!”

There are moments in marriage when you have to deprive yourself of those wonderful moments of laziness, or indulgence, or complete lack of motivation that you used to enjoy almost whenever you wanted as a single person. Don’t get me wrong – you don’t want to go back to being single, but sometimes you run up against an obstacle that you are not going to climb over unless you drop the remote and the pizza.

Practice mortification now. Deny yourself the extra cup of coffee when you really want it. Get out of bed 10 minutes earlier when you want to hit that snooze. Not all the time – just occasionally. Get used to giving up the little things. Even if you never get married you are building fortitude (my favorite of the cardinal virtues – and the one I lack most).

3. I wish I had started earlier.

The advent of online dating has increased our apparent pool of prospects exponentially, but in an ironic twist it has also helped to reduce meaningful social interaction. My search for a spouse consisted largely of scrolling through prospects and sending a furtive introduction when I felt everything was perfect and the chance of failure approached zero. I didn’t go to Catholic singles events. I didn’t form many contacts with Catholics, married or single, at all. I didn’t ask many women out on dates. I didn’t move toward marriage; I just browsed online when I felt like it. Mostly I lived for myself.

Get out there now. Talk to people now. Avoid the temptation to live in an echo chamber where everyone reinforces the idea of autonomy and freedom. Resist the temptation to succumb to the fear of loss and failure!



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15 Comments

  1. Olivia-1254447 November 3, 2015 Reply

    This article raises many good points… makes me realize I’ve got a lot of things to work on myself. Thank you 🙂

  2. Patrick-341178 January 31, 2015 Reply

    Can we stop with this God’s plan business? God does NOT want 40+ singles, who want to be married, to have to accept a life of singlehood misery. Ok, yes, still go out and live your life to fullest, but don’t throw stats that say, well, only 1% of non-married women over 40 and only 5% of non-married men over 40 will ever get married, so basically it is game over….

  3. Patrick-341178 January 31, 2015 Reply

    I have been members of several catholic groups in my city, Chicago, and they are nice, fun ways to socialize around other catholics who take their faith seriously. However, I have found them horrible venues for dating. With a few exceptions, the men and women just become friends, which has some good aspects, but not why we are all here. i don’t understand the part about the guys that says he just browsed some profiles online and lived for himself and didnt ask women out. Well, why? I ask women out all the time on this site. Dont get many yesses, but try to take advantage of the fact that is a singles site….

  4. Michael L. January 15, 2015 Reply

    Remember this –the longer you are single, the more likely you will remain single. It is not in God’s plan for all of us to be married. I hope people realize if they aren’t married by a certain time of life, it might be God’s plan for you. Accept it and stop being unhappy or feeling you missed out on something. Finally, Census Bureau came out with this statistic–after 40 a single woman has only a 1% chance of EVER being married, a single male has only a 5% chance of EVER being married in the future. Stats don’t mean you can’t marry late in life, it does mean you are FACING heavy odds. Don’t gamble with your future–you most likely will lose. I did. You won’t get a second chance to be young in the dating market. Everything demands a sacrifice–being single or married demand different sacrifices. The goal of life is to live a life which is pleasing to God whether you are married or not. Keep that as your guiding light on the journey ahead. Good luck.

  5. Michael L. January 15, 2015 Reply

    Great article–at 59 I can only say, if you want to be married you must start your search EARLY for a spouse. I grew up in the 70s, and most folks esp. women were pushed to seek careers and be self-contained. That works until you hit 40 plus, and you aren’t competitive in the dating market any more. I tried very hard in my 40s and into my 50s, and no one ever seemed to be interested or available. Men 55 plus are totally invisible in the dating market. Don’t let my story be yours.

  6. Rachel-1164616 January 14, 2015 Reply

    I really enjoyed this, and was kind of wondering about this topic. I actually talked to a married woman yesterday and being curious I couldn’t resist asking her all about it – how they met, etc. It was a beautiful, chance meeting story of two people really made for each other. Her eyes and face just lit up telling the story. Married people really do love to share.

  7. Ellen-761443 January 13, 2015 Reply

    this article was very helpful for me to read. It is important to remember that we need to pray, prepare ourselves completely , and talk to married people as well as get out there and meet people who are not online.

  8. Dominic-1026417 January 13, 2015 Reply

    Excellent article!!

  9. Hugh M. January 13, 2015 Reply

    I am not young in age, but I am young in spirit. I shared my story today with my parish group for “Care Givers Support” and one fellow stopped me on the way out and said he would have never done what I did. After my wife passed (yeah 50 years of marriage), I enrolled in CM and am I think a lot closer to happiness than had I not. Nothing imminent, but I thing close to finding one for the rest of my life. Originally, before I married I went on my own to “pre-Cana” training and after college didn’t find her immediately, but 3 years after graduation. Married, we did “Prepare” for our parish as mentor couple and “Marriage Encounter” and learned more in the day to day communication with my spouse. Now she has gone to heaven and the I have looked again at abolishing loneliness and looking to a Catholic woman to love and be loved to continue God’s love here and now through CM. I am close to a joint decision and pray for her to be my “right one”.

  10. Lori-1020607 January 13, 2015 Reply

    Good article which rings true.

  11. Pat-5351 January 13, 2015 Reply

    This is my favorite part:

    “My search for a spouse consisted largely of scrolling through prospects and sending a furtive introduction when I felt everything was perfect and the chance of failure approached zero. I didn’t go to Catholic singles events. I didn’t form many contacts with Catholics, married or single, at all. I didn’t ask many women out on dates. I didn’t move toward marriage; I just browsed online when I felt like it. Mostly I lived for myself.”

    So very aptly describes what many, MANY folks are doing on CM….Carpe diem, people! The author lucked out to find someone at 45; we may not be so lucky–act NOW!

    • Stephen-725391 January 13, 2015 Reply

      And ladies, especially those 40+, don’t seem to want more than talk-at-a-distance when there are men within an hours’ drive who are seeking some one special.

  12. Maria-1105793 January 13, 2015 Reply

    This was a great article! Thank you.

  13. Aaron-1107802 January 13, 2015 Reply

    Great read! Thank you for posting this! I would also add that – although every family is different – it seems as though a number of parents neglect to prepare their children for marriage, or at least realistically so. I’m sure this is not the case in good Catholic homes with large families, but how many of those are there, and how many of us were brought up in them? I would argue that many of us (myself included) are ill-prepared for marriage and ought to slow down a little and take some time to learn about marriage, develop spiritually, emotionally, and mentally, and learn about the opposite sex and how best to love them in a manner that they can receive it and feel it. Marriage is not about satisfying our own egos, and the sooner we accept that, the quicker we can walk down the path to a happy (but not pain-free) marriage.

    • Jennifer-1108461 January 13, 2015 Reply

      Aaron, I completely agree with your comment! Even in many large, traditional Catholic homes, they are ill prepared. They acknowledge that a vocation to religious life or marriage are usually the two options, however, the depth and importance of marriage on all these levels is never completely explored or taught.
      As for the article, itself, I enjoyed the read. I have found fear to be a great motivator for why we do or don’t do things in life. Unfortunately, people tend to look at failure in anything, even the small things, as a bad thing, when, in reality, failure is what grows us , if we allow it to. In addition, many of us rely too much on ourselves and not enough on God, whether it’s frequenting the sacraments, or faith and trust in Him.

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