As each generation fails to draw from the well of Christian wisdom, they experience more difficulty in finding the right person for marriage. Indeed, you will be surprised how shortsighted materialism and sensuality can make us. The result is that attraction is often confused with love.
Below are seven tips that may help you find that right person. You may find that some of these basic principles may seem like unrealistic ideals or attainable goals. But remember, with God everything is possible. It is He who will lead you to that right person if you are meant to get married. However, He needs your cooperation. And that cooperation may require a great deal of patience and self-discipline on your part.
1. Love’s priority: Your prospective spouse should love God more than you and you more than their parents. Christianity brings a right order to human love. A person who does not put God first in their life will likely put others, including their own parents, before you. The right order is this: God first, spouse second, children third and everybody else fourth. Too many wives and husbands will not defend their spouse when their mother, father, brother or sister meddles into their affairs. This causes problems. And more importantly, a person who loves God more than their wife or husband is much more likely to be faithful when no one is looking. More often than not, their priorities will be what they should be.
2. Christian identity: If a person claims to be Catholic or goes to church, do not assume that he or she is follower of Christ through and through. So many prospective spouses are fooled by this. Keep in mind that each soul is like a mansion or building. As you enter it, you will find that the first floor may be tidy and may even have Christian décor so as to express their religiosity. But as you proceed to the second or third floor, what you may find are things wholly contrary to that Christian expression. In other words, church pews are filled with sinners; sometimes of the worst kind. Do not take someone’s word that they are Christian nor should you consider their church-going practice as proof their faith is authentic.
There has never been a time when people are confused as to what a Christian really is as today. Pastors, parents and teachers are partly (if not, mostly) to blame for this. Just remember that the garb of religious devotion can mask many a sin. Some may pray the rosary or even do other pious acts and yet, they may have no qualms about backstabbing or doing things that will betray a relationship. The real test of Christian identity, therefore, is not so much in devotion but in virtue; especially when their will is contradicted.
3. Character and Contradictions: Before you get married, make sure you know how your prospective spouse responds to adversity and contractions; especially when you are the source of that contradiction! Ask yourself: What is my boyfriend, girlfriend or fiancé like when I disappoint them, when I contradict their will or when I am a burden to them? When they have nothing to lose, how will they treat you when you have a chronic illness, when your family becomes burdensome or if you should be unemployed for several months, thus making it necessary to make financial sacrifices? In other words, know how they carry their crosses; especially when you are likely to be that cross for them! If you get married and still believe that your fiancé can do no wrong, you do not know him or her enough! Love is not only an act of the will, but it is based on knowledge. You cannot really love a person you do not know.
4. Mom and Dad: Another very important consideration is how they relate to their own parents. If there is any discord between your prospective spouse and their parent, know that it just may carry over into your marriage. For instance, when a man does not get along with his mother, he may have difficulties, in some form or another, with his wife. There may be a tendency to be too rough or too insecure on his part. And if a woman is not secure in her father’s love for her, she may develop codependency habits in the marriage. Sometimes the slightest disapproval will cause a great deal of insecurity for her. On a very important note: If you were sexually abused, get help, talk things out and make sure the counseling you receive is coupled with good Catholic spirituality. A key to a happy marriage after having had your innocence violated is to forgive your offender.
5. Vices: Remember that vices rarely exist in isolation. Rather, they exist in families. The same applies to virtues. For instance, if a man is into porn, he may have problems with lying or infidelity. If gambling or alcoholism is a problem, again, dishonesty, intemperance and covetousness are probably vices that lurk nearby. Also, how someone treats a previous date or partner will most likely serve as an index as to how you will be treated. I can never understand why a man or a woman can marry an adulterer without realizing that they too are likely to be a victim of the same sin.
6. Sex and Cohabitation: Sexual activity is a distraction before marriage and worse, it is a rehearsal for divorce. A man or woman who says “I love you” or has sex on the first date is a person who will quit the relationship just as quickly as they rushed in. They are not to be trusted because they know not the value of love! For this and other reasons, when there are sexual attachments involved, it is exceedingly difficult to properly discern the right person for you.
Christ elevated marriage into a sacrament because married couples need his grace. But sexual sin prior to marriage forfeits the most important kind of grace – sanctifying grace! Not only are we short-sighted without it, we seriously compromise our salvation. Therefore, exercise the virtue of chastity before marriage; deny yourself in that area and open yourself to God’s grace. As such, you will be much more likely to have a long and enduring marriage with the right person.
7. Spirit of Sacrifice: Try to look for the greatest of qualities in your future spouse, namely, the spirit of sacrifice. John Gray, author of “Men are from Mars, Women from Venus,” stated that God gives every marriage about 3-5 years of a strong dose of attraction or hormones. After that expires, love (as an act of the will) must carry you the rest of the way. This is not to say the romance ends after five years. In fact, I believe that the biggest mistake that husbands and wives make is that they stop courting one another.
Here is my point: Marital love is accompanied with sweetness and romance in those first years of marriage. However, when children come along, that marital love matures and moves beyond the romance. Instead of frequenting restaurants and going for walks in the park during their free time, the married couple now has to change diapers, take the children to the doctor or stay up at night with them if they should be sick. Indeed, they have to share their time – the time they used to have exclusively for one another – with the little ones.
Believe it or not, some people take this work to mean that their love has lost its sparkle when in fact it has matured into a more selfless kind of love … the right kind of love. But the right kind of love can only be shared with the right person. This is why finding the right person is very important.
* Catholic News Agency columns are opinion and do not necessarily express the perspective of the agency.