Most of us have about a thousand questions about marriage and how our lives will turn out.
For some of us, we’re wondering if we’ll ever go on a date, let alone find a husband. Maybe you say to yourself, “hey, I’m fun and cute and smart and shower fairly regularly. Why are some people mixing the same equation but getting more successful results?”
But today, I want to talk about something different. I want to talk about the question we ask when someone finally does comes along.
How do I know if this is “the one” I should marry?
There’s a Christian-y answer for this, like there is for most questions, and it’s worth mentioning. There’s this widespread Christian belief that God will just tell you who to marry. In other words, you’re going to show up one day and God will zap you both with the sudden and irrefutable knowledge you are meant for each other.
Sometimes that really does happen.
But it doesn’t always work that way – not to mention how much more complicated this becomes when one person gets “zapped” and the other person doesn’t.
I know for me, even if God did zap both me and Carl with that knowledge, I would have questioned it until kingdom come. Was it my imagination? Did God really say that? Were those butterflies in my stomach or was I just hungry?
Everyone’s story is different and God is a part of them all—if we allow Him to be. God can tell us whatever He wants to about who we’ll end up with. He’s outside of time, He knows how the story turns out.
But I do not for one second believe that, in becoming a Christian, we boarded a roller coaster without a steering wheel—in any aspect of our lives, dating included. I believe God is a loving father, not a controlling matchmaker.
I believe He created us to love each other, not to decode who is the other half of our pre-arranged marriage.
Okay, so what do we do with that?
If a successful relationship or marriage isn’t just a product of obedient direction following, we’re left with more responsibility in the decision-making process than we’re often comfortable with. If there’s not a pre-destined plan for our marriages, the ownership of our actions and the decision to get married rests on our shoulders.
And that’s much scarier.
Unfortunately, I don’t know if you should marry the person you’re dating. I can’t give you a definitive “yes” or “no” because everyone’s story is different, and I’m not in your relationship. You are.
But what I can tell you is what I learned from choosing a husband of my own. I can give you a few benchmarks that were key for me when I was looking at this wonderful man and wondering if we should be together forever.
Here are some questions I asked myself that helped me figure out if Carl was the man I wanted to marry:
1. Does my home team approve?
Whether it’s your friends, or your family, a counselor, or a mentor—your home team is the group of people who help you make good, sound decisions.
Ask those people what they think of the person you’re considering marrying.
Do they like him? If so, that’s a great sign. If they don’t, it’s worth investigating why. They might be able to see something you’re too gooey and in love to take into account.
2. Does he treat me well?
This one sounds obvious but is so often overlooked.
Often, when someone isn’t treating us well, we make excuses for them: they’re having a bad day, or work isn’t going well, or I did something to make them upset.
But if you’re making excuses for the way someone treats you—either to other people or to yourself—seriously consider if this is a relationship you can sustain over the long haul.
Nobody is perfect and we should have grace for someone having a bad moment. But look for patterns. In our relationships, the good, the respect, and the kindness should overwhelmingly outweigh the bad.
3. Does he pursue me?
I’m not talking about who asked who out, or who texted who first. Pursuit is so much more than that, and it’s not only the man’s job.
I define pursuit as being engaged in the relationship—participating in it, working at it.
I’ve been in relationships where I felt like, if I dropped the ball, there would be no one there to catch it. If I didn’t call him, we wouldn’t talk. If I wasn’t the pillar for our relationship, it would fall.
You want to be with someone who cares for you and is engaged in the relationship—putting time, effort, and energy into it. You should each be pursuing each other and the relationship you’re building together. You can’t carry it on your own and you shouldn’t have to.
4. Do we like each other?
One of my favorite things to tell Carl is that I like him. To me this is so different from love, and might mean just as much.
Marriage is romantic, but it’s also totally not.
You’re not just combining the romantic pieces of your life; you’re combining the whole thing. Dentist appointments and budgets and who’s going to take out the trash. Marriage is the commitment to combine your normal, daily life with the normal daily life of someone else.
And in order to do this without going crazy, you have to genuinely like the other person.
I not only wanted a romantic relationship, but a friendship. And that’s what I got in Carl. I genuinely like the guy—and although that statement sounds casual, to me it means so much.
5. Do we believe the same things?
When you’re attaching your life to someone, it’s important you base the foundation of your life and the way you make decisions on the same things—otherwise it’s going to be hard to ever agree.
Just like its helpful to speak a common language when having an important conversation, it’s helpful to have a common baseline for how you live your life.
And while your beliefs may shift and develop overtime, it’s important to be with a person who allows you to grow and helps you become the best version of yourself you can be.
For me, it was important to marry someone I could pray with, or talk to about God and what He’s doing in our lives. I wanted someone who was going to be on my team, working alongside me to fulfill the reasons God put us here on earth. And that’s what I have in Carl.
6. Do we want the same things out of life?
Where do you each see yourselves in five years? What dream do you want to pursue in your life? You need to know what is important to you and what you want out of life, before you hitch your wagon to someone who may be going a different direction.
You don’t have to match up perfectly but if you seriously disagree about something that’s important to both of you, you need to know that one of you won’t be able to have what they want.
If you’re heading due north, and he’s heading due east, together you’ll up somewhere in the middle, in a place neither of you ever intended to be.
7. How do we handle hard times?
This is the one that sticks out to me the most.
While Carl and I were dating, we had family members die, loved ones get sick with Cancer, and we both got laid off from our jobs on the very same day. How we handled those events together showed me, more than anything else, that this was the man I wanted to marry.
People say marriage is hard, and yes, I know that will be true. But what I’ve experienced is that life is hard, and when you’re deciding whether or not you want to marry a person, you need to decide if they’re the one by your side when you get that phone call.
This is not even close to a comprehensive list of questions, but it’s a start.
One final thought for you to chew on. At some point, when you say those vows, you’re making a decision. The person you marry is not going to be perfect when you walk down the aisle towards them, and they’re not going to be perfect the Tuesday after that either. When you marry someone, you’re deciding that you will decide to love them every single day for the rest of your life.
It’s not based on their behavior, or their ability to make you happy. You’re deciding you’re going to love them no matter what. And vice versa.
So be discerning now, take the time to really get to know this person, to see if they’re the kind of person you want to spend your whole life with. And then, when you decide that, yes, this is that person, put the checklist away.
They’re yours, for better or for worse. And it’s your job to choose them every single day. (That’s what I’m learning to do now. 🙂 )