How to know if you are ready for marriage?

Wedding dress.

"Dating was such fun, we thought that marriage would be the same,” lamented a disillusioned youngster.

Another acknowledged: “We married as boy and girl, but marriage required a man and woman."

And a heartbroken young girl captured the tragedy of her marriage when she explained:

"The trouble with my husband and me is that we didn’t give ourselves time to find ourselves. We married before we had any idea what we really were or really wanted-and now we’ve discovered that what we want is certainly not each other.”

These are typical expressions of youths who have been hurt badly in the wake of today’s avalanche of teenage marriages.

No doubt some of these young couples have made a fine success of their marriages, but can it be said that this is the general rule?

Are such young persons prepared to take on the responsibilities of courtship and marriage?

The evidence indicates that many are not.

Repeatedly, investigations have found that happiness in marriage is found less often in early marriages than in later ones.

One investigator, for instance, reported that:

"Divorce rate was six times higher in the marriages where both spouses were under 21, than in the marriages in which both spouses were 21 or over at the time of marriage."

This is certainly sobering evidence to consider if you are a teenager who wants to get married.

It should at least cause you to pause and think the matter over.

Although it is by no means true everywhere, where you live it may be the custom for a young man or woman to choose one’s own marriage mate.

If so, think of the tremendous responsibility: To select a mate with whom you will live day in and day out for the rest of your life!

Are you prepared to choose?

This raises the question as to whether you, as a teenager, are in position to choose a marriage mate for the fully developed adult that you will in time become.

True, you may have a strong desire to get married, and may even feel that a particular person is the ideal one for you.

But have you stopped to analyze why you believe this person will make a line lifelong partner?

Young people often rate prospective marriage mates according to standards that have little to do with whether they will make good husbands and wives.

For example, young girls are often enamored by a star athlete, a smooth dancer, or by a boy with dark curly hair and a sleek looking automobile.

Perhaps you, too, are prone to rate a prospective mate according to values such as these.

But are these the things that are really vital to a happy marriage?

Is it not of much more importance that a young man have the qualities that will make him a kind, considerate husband, and a faithful provider for the family?

Unfortunately, however, the emotions of young girls usually do not permit them to make such an objective assessment of prospective mates.

The same can be said of young men.

Contrary to what many of them seem to think, a girl’s having a pretty face and charming ways does not mean that she will be a dutiful wife, loving mother and an interesting companion.

You may be satisfied with just a pretty face now, but later on you will want the qualities of a fully developed woman, including intelligence and ability to shoulder responsibility.

Remember, too, with the passing of years bodies and faces change, and the glow of youth that makes some girls so lovely now does not last.

So if your choice of a marriage mate is based primarily on such transitory values, the union is not likely to be a happy one.

Many marriage authorities will not hesitate to point out that the average teenager is not prepared to make such an important choice.

And conditions that exist in countries where youths are allowed free rein to select their own marriage mates tend to bear out their contention.

In many parts of the world even the teenagers themselves will readily acknowledge that they are not qualified to select a marriage mate.

In fact, for centuries this important choice has largely been left up to parents.

As one Indian girl explained to a well-known marriage counselor, Dr. David R. Mace:

“How “would we be able to judge the character of a boy we met and got friendly with? We are young and inexperienced. Our parents are older and wiser, and they aren’t as easily deceived as we would be. . . . It’s so important that the man I marry should be the right one. I could so easily make a mistake if I had to find him for myself.”

Sex attraction and romance

What makes a wise selection of a marriage mate especially confusing for inexperienced youth is the powerful attraction that exists between the sexes.

When young people, unfamiliar with these forces, are caught up in the clouds of romance they lose all sense of sound judgment.

Young girls and boys are thus easily prone to confuse sexual passion with true love.

Further, where problems or troubles crop up, young couples who are courting often resort to hugging and kissing their way out of them.

The trouble may be any one of a number of things-bad habits or mannerisms, differences in likes and dislikes, or conflicting attitudes toward religion or handling of money.

But thinking that the wonderful feeling they have for each other will automatically solve such difficulties, they go ahead and get married.

This no doubt explains why many teenagers, and even persons out of their teens, are so in love before marriage and so terribly unhappy afterward.

Largely responsible are the modern movies, literature and songs that glamorize romantic love, leaving the impression that it is a sufficient basis for a happy marriage.

A girl whose marriage was prompted by such a wrong impression relates:

"I was elected Queen of the May and crowned in a gorgeous coronation ceremony. As I stepped down from the stage after being agreed to go out with him the next week. On that date he said when he saw me being crowned queen, he knew he loved me.”

The two were quickly married.

But rather than living happily ever after, the couple did not get along at all.

She said:

“He thought my standards foolish and called me highbrow. He really wanted nothing in life beyond a car and a good time. When he hurt me, he never apologized.”

The attraction that drew the two together was not genuine, unselfish love.

It was sufficient for a pleasurable romance, but not for a happy marriage.

Would it not be wise, then, for you to consider whether sex attraction and romance are the primary reasons you want to marry a certain person?

Is it her radiant smile, laughing eyes or beautiful form that make her irresistible to you?

Or is it the way that he holds you in his arms and kisses you that makes you certain he is the one for you?

If your desire for a person is based almost exclusively on sex appeal, be cautious.

Do not confuse this romantic feeling with the type of love needed for a successful marriage.

Are you ready for courtship?

The first question to consider, however, is whether you, as a teenager, are ready for courtship.

In other words, are you in position to take on the responsibilities of married life with which courtship culminates?

If not, is there any valid reason for going out alone with persons of the opposite sex and showing interest in them in a way that would naturally be expected to lead to marriage?

Is it wise to “date” before you are old enough to get married?

Of course, if you live in communities where “dating” by even very young persons is the custom, you may see nothing wrong in it.

In fact, you may accept it as the natural and proper thing to do.

But simply because something is popular, and “everybody does it,” does not mean it is wise.

The question is:

What is the fruitage of such a custom?

Does early unchaperoned dating lead to honorable, successful marriage?

Is it good training for youth in eventually choosing a mate?

You probably are aware that teenagers who “date” regularly often get romantically involved and do a lot of necking and petting.

What does this often lead to? You know.

All too often the girl gets pregnant, and they enter a marriage for which neither is prepared.

They did not plan it that way; they may have realized that sex before marriage is wrong, but they lost control of themselves.

Sociologists agree that 30 to 40 percent of the teenage brides are literally forced into marriage.

Most authorities recognize the inadvisability of early dating.

Noted the internationally known expert on marriage and family life, Dr. Margaret Mead:

"Boys should probably not start courting girls until they have got their growth; until they have some sense of themselves as people; and until a girl a couple of years younger than they are is old enough to be courted.”

Unchaperoned dating by young teenagers simply is not wise.

Rather than being a form of teenage entertainment, dating and courtship are for mature people who are ready for marriage.

It is a time, not for sexual experimentation, but for serious contemplation-When one makes the momentous choice of his or her lifelong mate.

This calls for taking a good, hard, realistic look at the other person, seeing him in as many situations as possible, particularly difficult and unglamorous ones.

Learn what the person is really like.

Consult your parents.

What do they think of the person?

Listen to their advice, for generally they are in a much better position to judge qualities of personality than you are.

The responsibilities of marriage

But regardless of whether your parents choose for you or the decision is your own, the question still remains:

Are you prepared to care for the responsibility involved?

And, too, is the one you plan to marry ready?

Unfortunately young persons often have a very unrealistic.

View of marriage responsibilities.

They simply do not know enough about what is involved when two people agree to live together.

For instance, do you have a realistic view of what it costs to live?

Have you paid your own bills, done your own shopping, handled insurance and taken care of other family matters?

It takes training and experience to run a household.

Have you had such training?

If you are a girl, you may reason that that will be your husband’s responsibility.

Well, then, is he qualified to handle such matters?

Does he have the necessary experience, or do his parents still support him?

If he has never been on his own and taken care of himself, how can you expect him to support both himself and you?

Is it wise to entrust yourself into the hands of such inexperience?

You will want to determine this before getting married.

A wife, too, has responsibilities.

Are you sure you are ready to care for them?

Do you know how to wash, iron, cook, clean the house, and do the many other things that are so necessary for a pleasant home?

True, you may be able to heat a can of beans or put TV dinners in the oven, but can you expect your husband to be happy with a steady diet of such meals?


To care properly for washing, ironing and cleaning also takes practice and interest.

For instance, you can be sure that your husband will not be pleased if he learns that you ruined his new white shirts by putting his colored socks in the same wash with them.

Inexperience can lead to much unhappiness.

One young married girl recently admitted:

"Like so many girls, I had never learned to cook or keep house. I didn’t even know how to iron a blouse. And Ralph’s mother had always done everything for him; he’d never had to pick up his bath towels or put the toothpaste away.”

The two were completely unequipped to handle the everyday responsibilities of married life, and the marriage failed.

The same thing can so easily happen to you.

And what if you should become pregnant?

Would you know how to care for yourself during pregnancy, and for the baby after it is born?

Or would your feelings be those of the inexperienced teenage wife who explained:

"When I first began to realize I might be pregnant, I was shocked. All I could think was, . . . I’ve never held a baby. How can I possibly take care of one ?”

This is a serious matter, for the early care of a child has a great effect on its well-being in later life.

Would your husband be mature enough to meet the situation?

Would you feel secure and confident in his care?

These are matters for serious consideration, because they are responsibilities that go with marriage.

So if you are nearing adulthood and realize that you are not yet equipped to care for the obligations that go with it, now is the time to do something about it.

Benefit from the experience that your parents have had; they will be glad to share it with you.

Show yourself willing to help with the work that has to be done at home, in this way gaining the training and experience that you will need in years to come.

Make the best use of your opportunities now, so that, when you are ready to choose a marriage mate, you will be equipped to contribute your share to a happy home.