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Busted Halo
feature: sex & relationships
July 23rd, 2012

Talking About Marriage

A Q/A about the right point in a relationship to discuss marriage

 
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Dear Michele,

When is it the right point of a relationship to start talking about marriage?

Signed,
When to Discuss Marriage

Dear When to Discuss Marriage,

Simply explaining you are interested in getting married to someone, some day, is a normal part of getting to know someone and can occur as early as the first few dates. My husband told me the first week we were dating he was ready to move forward with the “second part of his life,” letting me know that playing the field was something he wanted to put in his past. But a discussion about marriage between two people who are dating exclusively is a different story. A serious conversation about marriage can create a significant shift in your relationship, so it’s good you are thinking about the right timing.

To begin with, you should definitely be dating exclusively! The fact you are not dating anyone else, and you are not interested in anyone else, should be clear and intentional for both parties. If you find yourself still interested in seeing “who is out there,” then your relationship is not ready for the marriage discussion.

Assuming you are both committed only to each other, there are several factors to consider. You want to be sure that you have dated long enough to see the other person in a variety of settings. You are looking for consistency in character, whether you are with friends, family, co-workers, or out in social situations. Celebrating a holiday together can be an important milestone, and a good way to see your date’s family rituals and expectations. If one of you has been married in the past, then you want to have several frank discussions about what happened and what was learned. If you plan to marry in the Catholic Church, any previous marriages must be submitted for annulment. The process of annulment can be very helpful because it can shed light on areas that may need to be worked on before proceeding.

Talking about marriage can be a very special time in a relationship. It’s always a miracle when any two people meet, fall in love, and are both ready at the same time to make the same level of commitment. Talking about marriage changes how you see each other.

The level of authenticity in yourself and your relationship is another important factor. This means being honest with your date, and being honest with yourself. As Jesus tells us in Matthew’s gospel, to see others clearly we must remove the log out of our own eye first. Can you be completely real with your date? Even about the parts of you that may not be the most flattering? Have you told your date about any previous history of addiction, abuse or infidelity, either in your own life, your relationships, or in your immediate family? When marriage is part of the discussion, then the intimacy and security of the bond between the two of you should be able to handle the “difficult” conversations too. The strength of your relationship lies in your ability to be upfront and honest about everything: who you are, where you have been, and what you believe.

Have you had at least one disagreement? Two people who spend a significant amount of time with each other, if they are both being authentic, will eventually disagree about something. It’s okay to have disagreements. It’s how they are handled that is the important part. Do not lie about how you feel or about significant portions of who you are just to get along. And certainly, authenticity means that you do not tolerate deception in the other person. If you have experienced dishonesty, be sure that it has been discussed and enough time has passed to make sure change and repentance has set in.

So you’ve got the “real and authentic” part down. Then one final step, a litmus test of your relationship to see if it is ready for marriage conversation. Simply compare your relationship with the fruit of the Spirit: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, [and] self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23). Does your relationship bring you more joy or more stress? Do you feel safe to be open with the other person, secure in his or her ability to be kind to you? Can your friends and family see the blessings of your relationship?

I know it’s a lot to consider; no person and no relationship is perfect. If you haven’t been dating long, make sure your interest in getting married is not out of loneliness, wanting to get over an ex, or hoping that marriage will somehow improve the relationship. Invite God into your discernment process.

After thinking about all the different factors, and praying about it, talking about marriage can be a very special time in a relationship. It’s always a miracle when any two people meet, fall in love, and are both ready at the same time to make the same level of commitment. Talking about marriage changes how you see each other. You are not just a boyfriend or girlfriend, but a potential spouse. The first time my husband mentioned marriage to me, my heart pounded with excitement. I had been praying to meet the right man and it felt as if God was showing me, through the fruit of the Spirit, that He had finally drawn us together.

And know that if you have learned to be real and compassionate with each other, then the beautiful gifts of marriage are waiting for you on the other side! A good marriage is a blessing not only on the couple, but on your families and community. As Catholics, we believe that God has ordained marriage to be a commitment for life. This is such a huge blessing and responsibility! Taking those first few steps with thoughtfulness and prayer can send you down a path of great joy and fulfillment.

My prayer for you is that talking about marriage will increase the excitement and peace, along with the dedication, in your relationship. Keep us posted!

In Christ,

Michele Fleming, M.A.

 
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The Author : Michele Fleming
Michele Fleming, M.A., is a counselor, national speaker, and writer on Christian relationships for CatholicSingles.com. Michele has a master's in clinical psychology with an emphasis in the integration of Christian theology. She is currently completing her Ph.D. and her research is focused on dating and relationships. She is a member of the Christian Association for the Psychological Sciences and the American Psychological Association. Her website is www.michelefleming.org.
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Please note that the editorial staff reserves the right to not post comments it deems to be inappropriate and/or malicious in nature, as well as edit comments for length, clarity and fairness.
  • David Long

    I loved your article on talking about marriage! I was married for 13 years, and divorced in September 2009. I met my wife on the job at age 27, and soon we were stealing time away from the job by abusing our lunch break to go fornicate! I married her in less than 8 months of dating…She was 24 and I was 28 years old. The marriage started on a lie by her and I lying to our employers and her parents. She was married once before, and the day that we married, her 2 1/2 year old son and her moved out of her parent’s house into my apartment.

    We eventually had three more children together, but stopped going to church and glorifying God in our tithing and church attendance. Soon, all we had in common was children and partying at home and drinking martinis at bars—and on vacation—while the children sat home with babysitters.

    By October 2008, I left and began therapy with a licensed psychologist the next month, and went back to meetings in a 12-Step fellowship to work on myself and get mentally healthy again.

    By March 2009, I repented to the Lord and rededicated my life back to Christ. Since that time, in 2011, I met a Godly woman on Christian Mingle and we date for almost 2 years. Nevertheless, my children come first, and when my ex-wife and daughters relocated to North Jersey from the Philadelphia area, I moved and got a new apartment to be near my kids. I tried the long distance relationship thing, but distance and schedules made my dating impossible. I also had to get honest with the Godly woman that I was not interested in having another child given the fact that we were both 46 years old, and I already have teenagers, then 13, 15, and 16.

    I recently moved again, when my ex-wife and children moved into my mom’s house in Upstate NY. The ex-wife and kids recently got their own place, and I have been spending time with my kids. I did not think that I would date any longer and was acting like a martyr regarding not dating.

    Although I know that the Exception Clause of mutual infidelity applies to my 13 year marriage and justified our divorce in the eyes of God-citing Matthew 19:9, and that I could marry again, I have prayed for God’s Will not mine!

    Recently, I was at church and a woman caught my eye. We talked during fellowship and then exchanged telephone numbers. However, I did not call her during the week, because I was scared to venture into dating again. Then one Thursday night, I showed up to Bible study, and she was there…I was not sure that she would be at Bible study, but was glad to see her. Afterwards, we went to Denny’s together, dined and talked.

    I am 47 years old now and share a house with 3 other adults, so I felt safe and comfortable inviting the woman over for dinner, and she fit right in with my roomies. We ate, talked, and watched a movie with my housemates.

    Last Sunday, I sat with her and her children at church. And last night, I went to her house and hung out with her while her boys were home. Her children are 17, 23, and 26, and the her 23 year old son has a 6 year old son…They all live together, except her 26 year old son lives in NYC.

    Since, we have spent enough time together and have agreed to date exclusively, and have talked about staying celibate till marriage, I thought I better check the Internet about how soon should the marriage conversation come up,

    The best part is that I know that I met with this woman at church, and we are both in our late 40s with respective children, so I trust that the Lord will lead us. However, talking about marriage makes me nervous, because I married my ex-wife in less than 8 months of dating.

    People will probably laugh at the fact that two people in their late 40s are celibate and have decided to stay that way unless becoming married again, but the Lord has shown me discipline and Grace that His statutes are first and foremost.

    1 Corinthians 7, Matthew 19 and Ephesians 5 have been my Spiritual and Scriptural guides to dating as well as the entire Bible. Nevertheless, I do believe that is always good to seek Christian counseling. Thanks for your advice!

    As far as the relationship, I pray that the Lord leads our steps, and I surrender myself to His will not mine!

    Best,

    David

  • Mike

    I believe you know what your talking about Michele! Being honest and open is seriously important if you want to live with the ‘fruit of the spirit’ I was seriously concerned when I had an early argument in my current relationship of about year and still feel uncomfortable challenging problems and disagreeing with things. Gradually I am beginning to understand that being authentic allows more intimacy and builds more strength, but it is still proving rather difficult! The times we have witheld and not been open to talk, has caused the most stress and I pray we can not shy away from any ‘frank’ conversations and have faith in our relationship.

    Many people I would imagine get married through sake of loneliness, fear of rejection or by believing it will just improve a fragile relationship. I want to be able to be safe in the knowledge that I am marrying for the right reasons and with a true friend for life.

  • AnitaH

    Personally, I don’t think you should be dating exclusively until you’ve talked about marriage and each party has shown a sincere intent, in word and action, towards the other for marriage. Why would you date someone exclusively and limit yourself without knowing they had serious intentions towards you?

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