So you've been seein' this girl for awhile now. You want to see her exclusively. You've even given up a couple of football Sundays and bowling with the guys because for some reason you just really, really want to be with her! In fact, you see yourself committed to her forever, TILL DEATH DO YOU PART!
But are you ready? Honestly, no man is ever 100% ready for that step. The black book isn't ready to be burned yet. Maybe you just don't feel all growed up yet. Or you could be at that prime spot in your life where a life partner would be totally ideal for you! Is she the one? Are you the one? Ask yourself these questions:
How important is religion to you?
Do you go to church? Does she? When you go, are you actually IN church because you want to be, or are you there because you feel like you HAVE to be? Religion can become a serious conflict down the road. God wants people to be married.
Marriage was originally a covenant to God according to the Old Testament. He wants a man and a woman to be together; the best way to make that happen is to get some Jesus and find someone who has it, too. If your girl has faith, and you marry her to honor God, you are on the right path. Solomon 8 verse 14 says "the faithfulness of our marital love should reflect God's perfect faithfulness to us."
Are there children involved?
There are so many "dysfunctional" families now that stepfamilies aren't even dysfunctional anymore. If she has children, how well do you really, truly get along with them? Are you around them with that "date" personality? You know the one you put on to impress your woman? If you are, you need to get real. Kids can see through anything and everything. If the kids are young, you can build an honest relationship by being straightforward yourself. Those children will NEVER be your children, but they WILL be part of your family.
They probably won't call you dad and you will never be their biological father, but you can be their outstanding father figure. http://www.geocities.com/stepfathers has some great info about taking on that role and what to expect. My old neighbor got along perfectly with his stepchildren to the point where he adopted them as his own. You really, really need to discuss this with your woman before you dive into becoming a family. BEWARE. If she has let you become close to her children fairly quickly, i.e., picking up the kids from school, letting you baby-sit them and you've barely known her, then she might- just might- be looking for you to fill a "man of the house" role and not necessarily a husband role. She's unloading children on you and she barely knows you. Look up what Amber Frey had to say about letting Scott Petersen pick up her kids.
Have you dated every last date?
God created beauty. Beauty should be cherished, honored, admired. But when you are married, admiring beauty is focused on admiring your spouse's beauty. I'm being honest: women still look good to me. But that doesn't mean I want to date them, take them out to get to know them better, flirt with them. Sure, your woman might seem cool with it at first. DON'T EXPECT THAT TO LAST! If she seems like the kind of woman who doesn't want to rock the boat, then maybe that's why she's saying "oh, I don't get jealous. Just don't take it too far" now. What is too far? Define these things! People change. If you don't want men gawking at your woman while she's at Home Depot buying plants, don't do the same at the commissary. If you haven't dated your last date, you might not be ready for marriage.
My wife and I have come to terms with this because I had a wandering eye. I was a big flirt in college; it was a joking kind of flirt because I never expected to be taken seriously, but I was a flirt. It's like this now: if a pretty person crosses my path, it's normal to look. You have 180 degree vision and anything can catch your eye. But the minute I turn my head to catch an extra peak at the 181st degree, I'm definitely in the wrong. "I wonder what it would be like to sleep with...." must absolutely, positively be out of your system! You marry because you know you have found that One.
What does your woman give you?
Honestly, what are you getting from her in this relationship? Good sex? A bowling partner? Does she really understand your needs? Does she complete you? These are cliché phrases, but give them some real weight.
Here's an example: I went on a training trip to Alabama. Long story short, my car broke down after 30 days gone and I was 250 miles from my house. I called my wife and told her that I was in a hotel and that she would probably need to come get me tomorrow. She was at home with a 4 year-old and a 2 year-old and it was about 6 at night. No way should she drive 4 hours to get me.
But she did. "Okay," she said. "Where are you staying at so I know you are safe?" I told her which hotel and gave her the number. 4 hours later, there was a knock on my door, and my wife and children were standing there. "I couldn't wait until tomorrow."
THAT is what I get from her: loyalty and dedication. I'm a military man and those are two qualities that are so important to me. Some people need someone to mother them, make their meals, was their clothes, fold their socks. Not me. I'm self-sufficient. What I need is someone who will, without prompt, be there for me when the chips are down and be honest with me if I'm out of line. That's what I have with my wife.
Whatever it is that you need or you like, see if that is what your woman is giving you. "Five Languages of Love" by Dr. Gary Chapman is an excellent start. You may be surprised at what your love language is.
What do you give to your woman?
Virtually the same thing. Does your girlfriend need a daddy figure? Someone who pays the bills, fixes things in the house, etc.? Or is she a Beyonce- an independent woman who wants someone along for the ride to cheer her on and provide stability? Does she need a chill partner to eat dinner with, go to movies with, grow old with, but needs no children? Where do you fit in? I have friends who have been married for 10 years. They have no children. They would love to have them now, but medical complications are preventing that. There were times where my wife and I wish we'd had that free time together as a couple because we had our first child a year before we were married. But there are times where they envy us because we have little rug rats that bring us unbeliveable joy and a sense of belonging. See, no one always has everything they want, but if you want them together then it works. She didn't marry him so they could have babies, but they wanted them at the same time. I pray to God that things work out.
What do you not like about yourself?
What are your true, true faults? Hotheaded? Procrastinator? Just didn't quite "grow up"? Are you one of those "kid at heart" men? Are you sensitive in a good way, like Ducky from "Pretty In Pink", or in a not-so-good way, like Costanza from "Seinfeld"? Do you wish you were more emotional? Find out what it is. You don't necessarily have to fix everything and that isn't your future wife's job, either. Marriage is work, but not a project. You do, however, have to acknowledge what it is that you don't like about yourself and grow towards doing something about it. I know I'm sensitive. If my wife does something to offend me, I'm not going to drink a beer and watch a game and "whatever" it away. I used to get upset and pout. Not rant and rave, but pout. She pointed this fault out to me because most of the time, it came down to either me overreacting or her not saying what she meant. I've learned how to take a breath before I react, ask questions for clarification, and if I was still not happy, I told her I wasn't and why. I quit just pouting and learned to use those "I feel" statements I taught my old camp kids, except I take it to the level of an adult. It's still a work in progress, but I have come a long way. "Baby, saying something like that gets under my skin and I wish you wouldn't say it like that. Consider me the way I consider you."
What do you like about yourself?
Ask every female you know about your best qualities. Ask your mom, your sisters, your female friends, your exes, whomever. If they say the same things, take pride in them and stick to them. "You never give up" can be a good or bad thing. If they say it in a good way, stick to your guns! Show that you don't let minor setbacks get you down, but be flexible to know when enough is enough. "You have a great sense of humor" probably means you can make them laugh, but it doesn't mean you do it at other people's expense. That's a good quality. Whatever gifts God gave you, don't be ashamed of them. Those are probably the gifts that your woman sees in you. If you keep them forever, your marriage can go on forever.
Is your family all about drama? Or hers?
If so, let her know. You marry into a family. Every family has its issues, big or small. If yours has the big issues that constantly involve you, and I mean constantly as in some relative is calling every week, and then see what your future spouse has to say. Families CAN get in the way if there is too much drama. Your spouse could be that pillar of emotional support and sound board and advice-giver to you IF she knows the whole truth before you take that next step.
I have a couple of relatives who, from time to time, call me with drama bigger than it needs to be. I told my wife before we got married that I would let her form her own opinion with first impressions but then I would give her the lowdown on what was going on. I married the right woman because she totally understood and shed some light on a few issues for me. She's made me more patient with those relatives. She also has 5 sisters, so I probably was drama to THEM when we first got married. Thankfully they are relatively drama-free and we get along fine.
What were the things you liked about your parent's marriage?
Remember those times as a teenager and you said "if I get married, this is what I'll do", and those were things that they didn't do? I learned that after you get married, you find out what you really are made of as a man. Looking back there were plenty of things that I did not like about my parent's marriage. I've mostly avoided those things. But the things that I liked, such as how my dad always made my mom laugh, and her loyalty to him for 25 years (see how that loyalty comes back to you) and how they always tried to entertain us were things I push in my own marriage. I know how to channel my sensitivity without being pouty about it. I've even got some of that mind readin' down, and my translating skills are improving. Nonverbal is everything. I learned them because every time a situation came up and I had time to myself, I thought "now, what happened when my dad did this or my mom did that? What do I wished happened? How can I make that happen?" It's not about perfection, it's about growth. "Self Matters" by Dr. Phil (yes, that Dr. Phil who has a way of making sense when you don't want him to) can get you on the right path.
How important is financial success to you?
Despite our modern age, money is still a measure of success to our society. It is only natural because we live in a capitalistic society where you can make a lot of cash by inventing things like Post-Its. The adverse of this is that a lot of times this wealth or status takes time away from the home. Sure, you as the mail clerk may be begging for 40 hours a week so that some day you'll fix that fuel injection, but you as the manager could just buy a whole new car! What will it cost you? 50, 60, 70 hours maybe. A few business trips. It's the same in the military, too. You make rank and then you go from 8 hours a day as a toolbox toter to 12 hours a day fighting to keep your toolbox toters motivated, hydrated, and situated for battle.
Now, this doesn't mean strive for mediocrity so you can spend time at home with the wife. What I'm trying to say is that as times change and you grow in your job, grow with your wife in mind and not your wallet.
Grow together. Let her know that you're going for that next level and it might cost you that weekly movie out, but you guys can make it up by sharing breakfast instead. You may not have that Saturday at the park, but Cancun could be calling you in a few months. If you have high aspirations, let your future spouse know what could be in store.
Yes, there are a whole lot of questions, but hopefully they are honest questions. By no means am I scaring people away from marriage. Don't let those negative buddies bring you down with those "ball-and-chain" comments. Just be aware of what you are getting into as a man in this world. I've been in mine for 6 years and every opportunity for us not to last this long was there: divorced parents, child-before-marriage, military, 5 sisters-in-law, etc. It could go on.
But what held us together is God. He brought us together under duress and gave us the strength to make it work. We didn't fully realize that until 3 years into it, but once we did, things changed for the better. Fights don't last as long; patience is no longer thin; optimism is high. We've seen each other's dirty laundry and even made new dirty laundry, but we're still going strong. I recommend you get God first because He opens your heart to answers more than any man can give you. "Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends"- Corinthians 13:7-8