When two lives are going to be closely blended in a permanent union, no haphazard choice should be made. Nor should one’s own character be too much taken for granted. Character development is the work of a lifetime, and one does well to stop occasionally and make an objective assessment of one’s own progress.
There are many considerations which should be examined and beforehand in the light of Faith, common sense and reason- not blind love, which cynics call “a temporary insanity”.
Each one’s views on important matters, such as divorce and birth prevention, should be known. Divergence here can cause serious trouble later on. Certain character traits are more important than others- reliability, maturity, the ability to make sacrifices in time of trouble. It is well known that emotional maturity does not always keep pace with physical maturity. In the case of a girl, this could mean that she cannot face up to the day to day problems of running a family or household and is unable to accept minor disappointments and frustration without becoming upset. In the case of men, it is quite a common thing to find those who fail to make a success of marriage because they have never broken away from, or been allowed to break away from their mother’s domination. They are unable to lead their own lives with any real independence. Many girls’ future has been ruined because she discovered this too late. This is but one aspect of emotional immaturity, however.
Immaturity and selfishness are possibly the main causes of broken marriages. Immature people are easily offended, always want their own way and hate to be told they are wrong. In other words, they have not grown up before marriage.
Occasional lapses, of course, are consistent with even mature personalities, but frequent failure in any of the above matters indicates a falling short of emotional adulthood, and marriage risk would undoubtedly be a serious one.
Then there is the question of compatibility. Under this heading come factors like age-group, social and educational levels, recreational tastes and financial status. Sometimes, one or more of these things which seemed so unimportant before marriage assume an enormous importance after marriage. To take an example: after the first emotional flush of love has died down, a well-educated person may find it almost unbearable to listen constantly to a partner who uses bad grammar. A sound rule is to marry your equal. It is essential not only to agree on big things, but to understand each other sufficiently well to settle any lesser disagreements peaceably.
Responsibility is one of the most important components of love. It is, in fact, a response to the needs of others and, if it is missing, love will not last. Sometimes girls and boys find that they have married a completely different person from the one they imagined they knew so well- and this after months, even years, of being practically inseparable. In the quest for happiness, character is far more important than looks or social standing. It is an interesting fact that others generally see the true picture more correctly; so it is wise to find out quietly what parent and friend think about the one in whom you are interested.
Of course, neither party is expected to be perfect at the time of marriage, but the element of responsibility must be there and also a reasonable basis for the virtues that are to be developed during a whole lifetime.
A very common mistake is the notion that, in the case of some glaring unsuitability, “all this will be changed after we are married”. This hope-for reform rarely take place after marriage, and this fact should be noted well.
It should be a great comfort to us to know that God is interested in us personally and that He will respond willingly when we call upon Him. But as well as this, we should seek guidance and advise from experience older people, particularly from parents, whose concern for our happiness usually enables them to advise us in our best interests. Nor must we forget that parents have lived through many experiences during their years of married life. They have learned, among other things, to detect the true from the false, and we should be ready to listen to their opinions.
Nevertheless, parents have no right to make the choice of a partner for their children, or to force them to this or that choice. This right belongs only to the child. Parents have been known to impede good marriages and promote dangerous ones for social reasons. For this they will be responsible before God.