Tuesday, 15 October 2019

Seven Conversations To Have Before Deciding to Marry Someone

"True Words"by pxlline is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

As you might have noticed, I love giving romance and relationship advice, despite the fact that I entered my first and only relationship at the wise and mature age of 32. Does that stop me? No way! I have written about arranged marriages, stages of a relationship, reasons to get married, what not to look for in an Indian spouse, and a lot more.

I currently have a few friends who are in serious relationships. They are intentionally trying to get to know the other person in order to discern whether or not God is calling them to a lifelong commitment. 

The thing is, it's hard to REALLY get to know someone, especially when you don't have good guidance, tools, or anyone walking you through the process. Ideally, it would be good to have a spiritual director or mentor who you can talk to about your discernment. But sometimes those people may not themselves have a good idea of what to ask. "Is he a good boy? No bad habits? God-fearing? Well-settled? Go for it! You can't wait forever!" That's not very helpful. 

So here a few ideas for topics to broach before you make that final decision:

1. Do you or have you ever struggled with pornography use or any kind of sexual sin? How long ago? Are you trying to stop, and how can I support you in this? Not exactly first date conversation starters, but it needs to be talked about once you are getting serious. These are the kind of things that you must talk about honestly, or it will come up and sabotage your relationship*. You need to be honest about your own struggles too. 

Red flags: Behaving as if porn and masturbation are no big deal, no real repentance, being disgusted or repelled by hearing about your struggles with sin.

2. If you had to choose between your parents' wishes and mine, which would you choose? In India, this question seems almost unfair. Why should you make someone choose between their parents and you? It doesn't have to be one or the other, does it?

Well, it kind of does, to some extent. In the bible it says, 'Therefore a man shall leave his mother and father, and be united to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.' (Eph 5:31) There is a necessary leaving (emotional and often physical) that must happen in order for a new unit and family to be created.

This isn't easy for either man or woman who are attached to their parents and family and childhood home. It isn't easy for the parents either. But we have seen what happens when this leaving doesn't happen. Marriages are torn apart by divided loyalties, by men unwilling to stand up to their parents, or women who run home to mama every time they're having a fight. This does NOT mean it's ever okay to treat one's parents with disrespect. 

Red flags: Expecting you to 'adjust' every time the parents ask or expect something, ignoring your reservations or boundaries

3. Are you willing to care for my parents if and when they are old, sick, or need us? This is the flip side to the same question, and not something everyone thinks about in the midst of romance and dating. Making a lifelong commitment to someone means helping them carry their burdens, sharing their struggles and difficulties and responsibilities in life too. This goes for both sets of parents. 

Red flags: Avoiding answering the question, assuming someone else will do it or it won't be necessary.

4. Do you tend towards depression, anxiety, anger, suicidal thoughts, isolation, or anything else that affects your normal functioning and relationships? How bad has it been? Have you been through any major trauma in your life? How have you been dealing with it? Are you open to going to counselling? Some of these things may have come up already, you may have seen signs of it. Most people do or will struggle with one or other of these things to some extent. There is no shame in having struggles. The problem is when people are not willing to get the help they need. 

Red flags: Denying there is a problem, blaming everyone else, thinking counselling is not for them. On the flip side, telling you to be positive or just get over it when you share your ongoing struggles

5. Do you have other healthy friendships and relationships in your life? Does the other person have friends who they are able to talk to about deep stuff? Do they have mentor figures in their life? Are they open to advice and correction? If you are their everything, you will have no support system when the two of you have problems. 

Red flags: Having no friends, unwilling to seek out friends or mentors

6. Do you have any disordered attachments or addictions? How do you deal with them? It could be anything from being unable to go a few seconds without checking the phone, addictions to food, shopping, staying up late, being a workaholic, being a control freak or obsessive about cleanliness. It could be needing to constantly buy the latest phone, motorcycle or fashion styles. It could be video games, all-night DOTA sessions, constant Netflix binges.

There's nothing wrong with hobbies, leisure activities or enjoying the good things in life. But you will know it is an unhealthy attachment if your partner CAN'T do without it, gets angry or irritable if he or she can't have it, or if it regularly interferes with their normal duties and responsibilities, and with their relationship with you and with God.

Red flags: Refusal to acknowledge an attachment is out of control, or needs to be worked on, no plan to grow in this area

7. Do you have a prayer life? This goes beyond being 'god-fearing', willing to go to Mass, and fulfill basic obligations. It goes beyond praying the Rosary every day too, even thought that is a good practice. When the storms of life come, and they will, you both need to be rooted in something bigger than yourself.

God is the firmest foundation for a marriage, and the best way to build your life on that foundation is by setting aside time to seek Him every day. It is in honest regular daily prayer that God convicts, guides, strengthens, heals, and does the work in our partner that we cannot do. It doesn't mean that we have the 'perfect' prayer life, but that both are willing to make it a priority.

Red flags: Unwillingness to commit to prayer, suggestion that you can be the 'spiritual' one in the relationship

What other crucial conversations would you advise dating couples to have?

*Check out Fight The New Drug for more information about why pornography use hurts relationships.