How do you know when you're ready to get married to the person you're dating? When is the "right" time?
There are simple answers for this question and also complicated ones. Bear with me.
1. You're ready if both you and your significant other both want to get married. This seems silly but many times couples tie the knot when one or the other isn't quite sure if they're ready to take this step, but feel pressured by the other person, by their age, or by a fear that they might not find anyone else to marry.
2. You're ready as long as both of you have a realistic understanding that marriage really is "for better or worse." This commitment means that you'll feel great when things are better....but you'll definitely feel like escaping when things are worse. Most people within their first year of marriage find themselves thinking, "Oh holy crap, what did I get myself into?" If you understand that this feeling is normal and that marriage means sticking it out through the "worse" times when it would be easier and less painful to leave, I'd say you're ready.
3. Having a good relationship with God really helps. Jake and I feel that it's a pre-requisite. You'd have to make up your own mind, but since you asked, we'll tell ya what we think! Marriage takes extreme acts of unselfishness on a nearly constant basis. Having a divine source of strength, love, and unselfishness from which to draw is something we feel necessary to keep marriages together.
Many times Christians (and non-Christians) agonize over finding the right time to marry or if they're ready for marriage. We feel this agonizing is unnecessary. The more complicated answer to your question...is another question.
When is it the wrong time or when are you not ready for marriage?
1. Many people want God to give them a clear, resounding, and specific "yes" about marriage or about a potential spouse. This doesn't happen a lot. If you're walking in relationship with God, you have the freedom and God-given wisdom to choose your spouse. More often, people hear a "no" from God and don't like it. You're not ready for marriage if you're feeling like God's told you no to marriage, no to a specific person, or that He wants you to wait. A wise couple trusts the no's from God because while it's painful to turn away from a relationship, it might be more painful to push onwards with something that He knows isn't best for you. And believe me, you will know when God says "no"....He's usually pretty darn loud and persistant about it!
2. You're probably not ready if trusted family members and friends are cautioning you that marriage to this person is not a good idea. The chances of people in love listening to this advice are slim, but really they should! Your close friends and family have your best interests at heart. If they express concern about marriage for you right now or marriage to your current boyfriend/girlfriend....you might want to pay attention. Listen to their concerns and ask yourself if maybe they have some valid and realistic points.
3. If your life goals are incompatible, it's not wise to marry. I'm talking about really obvious things like one of you wants an open marriage, while the other expects fidelity. One of you feels called to be a missionary in Africa, while the other strongly wants to live in a suburb in Idaho. One of you wants children and the other firmly does not want children. These things are deal-breakers.
4. If the relationship is at all abusive, you're not ready to marry. This includes sexual, physical, verbal, and mental abuse. God does not want you to be treated less than the wonderful person He made you. If you experience any type of abuse, do not marry or continue in a relationship unless the person struggling with abusive behavior has gotten significant professional help and has demonstrated healing and changed behavior for a good amount of time. Even then, exert caution.
5. You're not ready to marry if you don't have the same religious beliefs. This really offends many people. It's not PC. But I really believe it's wise. It's not about being intolerant. It's about realizing that one's religious beliefs seriously contribute to how one thinks about morality, lifestyle, money, child-rearing, and so forth. Opposing beliefs on any of those things can really tear apart a marriage. I'm not saying you should not date people with different faiths or no faith at all....but really think long and hard about what it would look like to marry someone with another faith. Faith should be your first love and your shared foundation for marriage.
Hope this helps! - Melissa
P.S. For more on these questions, check out our recent blog at RelevantMagazine.com - How to Find the One