8 things you can do now to prepare for a happy marriage

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Practical steps to take even before you meet The One

Suppose you’re a young woman or man somewhere between the ages of 15 and 35, and you want to know what you can do now to set yourself up for a happy marriage. How do you know if someone is good “marriage material”? Are there dating behaviors that correlate with a better future marriage? If I could take you out for coffee, sit down with you for an hour and share my best advice, here’s what I’d tell you.

  1. Pray and grow spiritually. First off, I’d encourage you to become the best you you can be by growing close to God. Dedicate time every day to a regular practice of daily prayer. Make sure to go to Mass every week, more often if possible. Go to confession regularly (maybe monthly), and seek out spiritual reading, talks by Catholic speakers, and info on Catholic radio. Work on growing in the virtues you specifically need. This will help you be a stronger Catholic and better person. Prepare yourself to be the best gift you can be to your future husband or wife.
  2. Education, work and money. On the human level, get the best education, training and work experience you can. Strive to learn about financial literacy, and get cracking paying off any debts you have. I recommend taking Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University course. Again, this will help you start your marriage and family life strong. You can keep working on all this after you’re married, too (I certainly did!), but if you’ve got time before you meet The One, use it well!
  3. Pray for a future spouse. Asking St. Joseph’s intercession to help you find your future spouse is a wonderful way to pray. You may have another favorite saint to ask, as well. Marriage-minded singles often like to pray to St. Anne, St. Catherine or St. Raphael. Catholic.org has a great prayer for a good husband or wife that is addressed straight to Jesus.
  4. Look for a Catholic to marry if you can. Studies show that couples who share the same church divorce less than those of different faiths. Socializing at parish activities and archdiocesan young adult events or searching for practicing Catholics through popular dating websites can help you meet Catholic singles (see my September 2014 column on finding a good spouse). Of course you can also have a strong, happy marriage in an interfaith marriage (see my April 2018 column on interfaith marriages).
  5. Learn what marriage means. There is a specific meaning and purpose in God’s plan for marriage, family and sexuality. Read the Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraphs 1601–1666, to get an overview of that plan.
  6. Make your wedding night special by saving sex for marriage. In God’s plan, making love is the body language of the wedding vows. Refraining from sexual activity beforehand also correlates with happier marriages and less divorce. According to a study by the National Marriage Project, “the more sexual partners a woman had had before marriage, the less happy she reported her marriage to be.” Whatever you’ve done before now, you can seek sacramental reconciliation and cultivate chastity from this point forward to make your total gift of self on your wedding night more meaningful.
  7. Learn about natural family planning. Find out about how natural family planning methods work, about their scientific basis and high rates of effectiveness, about how they support women’s health and couples’ communication, and which ones you might use in your future marriage.
  8. Ask these important questions. When you’re dating someone, ask yourself: “Is this the man I want to be my kids’ dad?” “Would this woman make a good mom?” “Can this man or woman sacrifice their own preferences for the greater good of another?” If you can answer yes, then this is exactly the kind of person who will help you build an amazing marriage and thriving family!

Northwest Catholic - April 2019

Sarah Bartel

Sarah Bartel, a member of St. Andrew Parish in Sumner, holds a doctorate in moral theology and ethics from The Catholic University of America, where she specialized in marriage, family, sexual ethics and bioethics. Her website is www.drsarahbartel.com.

Website: www.drsarahbartel.com