Before you start practicing your new last name, or envisioning your destination wedding; how do you know if you should be heading towards the altar let alone saying…I DO?
When this topic comes up in discussion, one of the first things I hear is, “when you’ve been together for more than 5 years!” Of course I feel if you’ve been in a healthy, committed, and productive relationship for 5 years, what else could be hindering you from making the ultimate commitment with your partner? However, I don’t think time together should be a major determinate of getting married. I say this because when you know, you know, and knowing comes with discernment and quality time spent together with your partner. My husband and I dated for 8 months before he proposed. We had a year engagement period, and we’ve been happily married for 7 years! We were friends before we dated, but during our 8 months of courtship we got to know each other better, and know what the other deemed important foundationally in life.
I was single before I dated my husband and when I started dating, I knew what I wanted in a spouse, I didn't want to date idly. I identified what were important characteristics I wanted in a husband. I would recommend this so you clearly know what you deem non negotiable. Some factors that contributed to me knowing that when/if he asked, I would want to spend the rest of my life with my husband were:
These elements mentioned in no way mean that if you don’t have similar factors, you shouldn’t be headed towards I do. For me, these factors, confirmed that my now husband, demonstrated all the characteristics that are important to me. The character of a person is highly important, when you become married, the two become one and it is important to know who you are conjoining with. Essentially, who you are saying I do to, is what you are saying I do to. The good, the bad, the ugly, and the great! So knowing what characteristics are important to you and seeing them on display in your partner helps gauge the fortitude of not only a person but your relationship.
My now husband and I were able to complete our master’s degree while working a very demanding 50+ hour a week job. He started and completed his degree before me, this showed me he was able to prioritize and stay committed to achieving a goal. There were times we did not spend as much time together because work and school demands did not allow it, I knew his priorities were in order and education as a means to an end was important to him as it was to me.
We met initially at a meeting for work, we both were managers at one of the largest retailers in the U.S, but worked at different stores. I knew the grueling hiring process to be considered for that position; I knew the responsibilities, the demanding schedule, the integrity needed to have such a role. When we met again a few weeks later, honestly it was the reason I decided to give him my number, I said if he’s in the same position as me, at this retailer, he has to be a decent person. Who else would work 50-60 hours a week, every other weekend, holidays, and are yelled at daily by upset guest while having a smile on their face.
Although I consider family a good representation of who you are as a person, I do not consider it entirely indicative of who you are, merely a snapshot on what could motivate you, why you operate the way you do, or even influences. I do think it is true that people can be products of their environments. While we were dating, I met my husband’s family on a few occasions, weddings, family reunions, and holidays. My husband’s parents are married and he had a good foundation. This was another characteristics that was important for me, my parents, nor any close relatives were married that I was exposed to, so I figured, at least one of us needed a blue print. I saw the way he interacted with his siblings, cousins, grandparents, parents. Family was important to him, he cared genuinely, maintaining those relationships were important, and I was encouraged by it. I knew he would make a great father. Again, if your family upbringing is less than ideal, or you weren’t exposed to a large or loving family dynamic, it doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to see the characteristic of being family oriented manifest. That can be displayed through your sheer will and intention towards treating others well.
My husband is my best friend. Before we said I do we were best friends and that was established with getting to know him and developing trust, but also through our common interest. We share a love for sports, traveling, and being active. It is important that you maintaining your identity in a relationship but it’s equally important that you share something that connects you, in our case we have a few. Now that we are married, I’m not disgruntled from August to June during football and basketball season, because I enjoy watching sports too. I won’t give him the side eye when he wants hiking to be our family activity on the weekend, because I enjoy that too. I will however say, are you sure you want to do that, to swimming, if I am not in the mood to get my hair wet! Ha. Knowing what your partner's interests are is important, as it may potentially consume a bulk of their time as you become married.
I dated a guy in the past and I tried several times unsuccessfully to have him attend church. He always had an excuse for why he couldn’t, and it never changed. When I became nonnegotiable on what was important to me that’s when I attracted the same. A rooted and grounded solid relationship with Christ was on that list of things that were important to me and it was refreshing to be in a relationship with someone who felt it was equally important. I was never the girl that dreamed or fantasized about a happily ever after or a fairy tale wedding day. When I did begin to have thoughts about marriage, I was certain; I wanted a man of valor. A man whose salvation was important to him, lead of the Lord, and in turn could righteously lead his family. I knew that he wouldn’t be perfect, but that he would be sincere, consistent, and have a mind of Christ, and that alone would be enough for me to say I do!
When you have not identified what values and characteristics are important to you personally and with your mate before saying I do, you open your relationship up to conflict as you have not properly sorted through what could be points of contention in your marriage. Marriage is not about saying I do, but more so about meaning it. Meaning, you DO KNOW, that your future husband/wife is lover of video games, not a good cook, or not great with finances. If any of those rattle your bones or any other factor you deem important that is not listed, then you might need to pump the breaks on the I do and not waste your time on a person you can not change. When you try on clothing in the fitting room, if a gown/suit doesn't fit, you select another size. The same applies to selecting your mate, don’t force the fit! The core and essences of who we are can be developed, but are you willing to wholeheartedly support your spouse during their growth process? When you say I do, your spouse won't magically transform into the person of your dreams. Don't be entranced with the concept of being married and a fairly tale wedding. Be most vested in the person you will endure life with. If there are red flags or traits that are alarming to you, be mindful before saying I Do!