In life, we are all faced with some tough decisions. Should I take this job? Should I leave this job and pursue another career or follow my passion? Should I forgive what my best friend has done, or is this betrayal too deep? Should I date this person, or can I take them to meet my folks?
These and many other forks that appear on our journey can lead us to drastically different places than we ever imagined. Among these many potentially life-altering decisions, one of the more pressing for some people is, “Should I get married?” The decision of whether you want to spend your life in a committed relationship with someone or not is one of those important inflection points in any person’s life.
Some people may ask this question because they are considering a life of voluntary celibacy, while for others they are asking this question because they may be in a relationship already and are considering taking the next step toward deeper commitment.
If you’re asking the question “Should I get married?” there may be some lingering doubt about the decision you’ve made to proceed toward marriage. If you have doubts, it’s wise to address them before you make this lifelong commitment to someone.
To address the question “Should I get married?” it may be necessary to ask a few more questions to think through what may be going on and how best to make a wise decision. Below are a few considerations to make if you’re asking yourself this question.
Why do I want to get married?
Going back to basics can help you figure out complicated situations. If you’re asking whether you should get married, asking the prior question “Why do I want to get married?” can help you not only understand yourself better but figure out if getting married is your best next move.
Marriage isn’t a magic bullet that solves a wide variety of problems. Sometimes people want to get married because they feel lonely, or because they feel it could help them feel more whole or more socially acceptable.
For other people, marriage is just something you do as an adult, right? While others may get married because they feel it can provide them with financial security, and still others get married because they feel it can help their relationship through its rough patch. Some people who have been raised with certain moral convictions want to get married because that means they get to have sex.
There are many reasons why people want to get married, and our motives and thinking aren’t always pure or free of error. However, it’s important to understand and be clear with yourself why you want to get married and work realistically through your reasoning to see if it tracks.
A marriage is a long-term commitment that requires some maturity and relationship skills to navigate successfully. There are some things that marriage can give you, such as companionship, intimacy, and accountability, but it isn’t a magic pill that can solve all problems.
Perhaps instead of getting married to resolve financial difficulties, it may be more helpful to work on your money handling skills. Being married won’t necessarily resolve feelings of loneliness or feeling disconnected from others. And just because you’re married that doesn’t mean you’ll be able to have sex on tap, or that it will meet whatever expectations you’ve set for it.
The point I’m making is this: marriage does many things, but it can’t and doesn’t do everything. Some things are better resolved through therapy and other means than by using marriage as a universal wrench to fix problems. Setting realistic expectations for marriage will help you avoid putting undue pressure on your partner. Shattered idealism can lead to deep pessimism and deprive you of enjoying your relationships for what they are.
Are my partner and I ready for marriage?
If you’re in a relationship with someone and asking, “Should I get married?” it makes sense to ask yourselves if you’re ready for marriage. For some, marriage is simply the next milestone and logical step after you get together. For Christians, marriage is a serious commitment that they make before God and their loved ones. It fits into the constellation of other relationships in a person’s life, but it holds a unique place there.
Christian marriage creates a sacred space in which you and your partner can journey together with God, and God uses it to grow the couple in their service toward one another and the world. In other words, it’s absolutely about the chemistry between you two, but it’s also a deeper vision than the two of you being attracted to each other.
Pastor and author Dr. Tim Keller and his wife Kathy, in their book The Meaning of Marriage, write “In sharp contrast with our culture, the Bible teaches that the essence of marriage is a sacrificial commitment to the good of the other. That means that love is more fundamentally action than emotion.
“But in talking this way, there is a danger of falling into the opposite error that characterized many ancient and traditional societies. It is possible to see marriage as merely a social transaction, a way of doing your duty to family, tribe and society. Traditional societies made the family the ultimate value in life, and so marriage was a mere transaction that helped your family’s interest.
“By contrast, contemporary Western societies make the individual’s happiness the ultimate value, and so marriage becomes primarily an experience of romantic fulfillment. But the Bible sees GOD as the supreme good – not the individual or the family – and that gives us a view of marriage that intimately unites feelings AND duty, passion AND promise. That is because at the heart of the Biblical idea of marriage is the covenant.”
The idea of being “ready” for marriage is a little complicated, but it may require us to ask ourselves if we are willing to put our future spouse’s interests ahead of our own, if we are willing to be held accountable and change for the good of the marriage, and whether we are equipped to handle the inevitable ups and downs that will characterize married life.
That doesn’t mean you need to have figured all of this out and be ready to be married “out-the-box,” but you need to have given it some sincere consideration and begun to move in that direction.
Is my partner the right person for me?
The question “Should I get married?” can be modified slightly to read “Should I get married to this person?” In many cases you might be ready for marriage, you have a mature understanding of marriage, and your motives are in alignment with the reality of marriage, but the question mark is hovering over your partner and potential future spouse.
They may not want to get married, or perhaps you’re not on the same page about things such as why you want to get married, and profound differences in issues such as how you handle money, conflict, family, your goals, faith, and spiritual expression and so on.
These differences aren’t such that they can’t be overcome, but you need to be on the same page and develop a way through that works for you both. This is one of the benefits of premarital counseling – it provides a space for you to decide whether the person you want to marry is really the right person for you, whether your differences are deal-breakers, and can add depth to your relationship.
In trying to figure out if your partner is right for you, one question to ask is whether the person you’re considering getting married to is someone who can be your companion and best friend for life. Leaning again on the wisdom from the Kellers: “When God brought the first man his spouse, he brought him not just a lover but the friend his heart had been seeking. Proverbs 2:17 speaks of one’s spouse as your “allup,” a unique word that the lexicons define as your “special confidant” or “best friend.”
“In an age where women were often seen as the husband’s property, and marriages were mainly business deals and transactions seeking to increase the family’s social status and security, it was startling for the Bible to describe a spouse in this way. But in today’s society, with its emphasis on romance and sex, it is just as radical to insist that your spouse should be your best friend, though for a different reason.
“In tribal societies, romance doesn’t matter as much as social status, and in individualistic Western societies, romance and great sex matter far more than anything else. The Bible, however, without ignoring the importance of romance, puts great emphasis on marriage as companionship.” This goes against the grain and is counter-cultural, but companionship in marriage is crucial to the success and longevity of the relationship.
Getting married isn’t a light or easy decision that can be made on a whim – it requires serious thought and consideration because it’s close to God’s heart. Whether you’re single or in a relationship, looking forward to getting married, or making the call to remain single, it’s important to think through your reasons carefully to arrive at a wise decision.
“Wedding Bands”, Courtesy of Sandy Millar, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Man at the Crossroads”, Courtesy of Vladislav Babienko, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Holding Pinkies”, Courtesy of Jasmine Wallace Carter, Pexels.com, CC0 License; “Undecided”, Courtesy of Andrew Neel, Pexels.com, CC0 License