It might seem a bit early to start talking about marriage, but if you really think about it, it is not too early. You are preparing through school for the professional field you will enter: medicine, teaching, engineering, business, carpentry, etc. Yet in terms of our ultimate happiness, marriage and family life is far more important than any profession. Shouldn't we also be preparing for marriage with the same seriousness with which we are preparing for a career?

The reality is that many couples jump into marriage, caught up in a dreamy romance like they see in the movies. They are walking on the clouds and feel no need for any kind of advice or preparation. It is difficult for them to believe that daily routine, little irritations, competing attractions, financial pressures and the natural tensions of family life could ever eat away at their love and the joy they feel now. They think this despite the reality of divorce and unhappy marriages all around them. Somehow it never strikes them that such things could ever happen to them. After all, they are in love, and isn't that all that matters?

In actuality, marriage will magnify whatever problems a couple tries to overlook in their present relationship and within themselves. The honeymoon always ends!
Romantic dreams about marriage are often based on the expectation that your partner will be able to meet all your needs and desires for the rest of your lives. People think that their partner will always be ready, able, and willing to perform for them. They think also:

• that they will be happy at all times
• that there won't be any conflicts they can't manage
• that their physical relationship will be good and satisfying
• that if they have children, they will grow up without many problems
• that their love for each other will never change

It is good to have high expectations, but we also need to look at the reality of what it takes to make a good marriage. As Olympic Gold Medalist Evgeni Plushenko said, when you embrace a dream, you have to embrace all the effort you will have to go through in order to make it come true.

It is unfortunate that there is little real training or guidance to prepare people for marriage. Because of this, people go into marriage not ready for the difficulties. When difficulties do arise, they imagine that there is something wrong with them, with their partner, or with the relationship. There is little guidance about how to deal with such difficulties in a constructive way, so people often choose to divorce. To prevent that, it is best to learn about and prepare for marriage beforehand.

Choosing a Spouse

Choosing a spouse is the most important decision you will ever make. In the past it was common for parents to choose their children’s spouses, and it is still common in some cultures today. The parents look for someone whose personality, character traits, and family ties would provide a good complement for their child. It has not been considered necessary that the young couple "fall in love" right away. It has been believed that if both partners tried hard enough and were good and virtuous people, love would grow up between them naturally. Many marriages made like this were indeed lasting and happy.

Today, in many parts of the world this has been replaced by dating or courtship in which the young person seeks for a partner, with varying degrees of involvement by parents.
In courtship, if the initial attraction we are experiencing progresses to a desire to be with this person more and more, the relationship may lead to marriage. Courtship often lasts one or two years. During this time there is a constant evaluation and re-evaluation of values, viewpoints, and mutual compatibility. The process is important because the quality of the courtship will influence the outcome of the marriage. Often the parents are involved in advising or providing opportunities and places to meet during the courtship.

Although love may blossom during courtship, it is only in a committed marriage that love comes into full bloom as the couple invest themselves totally in the relationship. Only then does a couple come to really know and understand each other, developing a deep harmony. Therefore, love can come whether a marriage is based on the couple finding one another on their own and courting or whether the couple is introduced by the parents, a religious leader, or by the community.

The Courtship of Christopher and Cindy

"When I was a bachelor, I joined a local church. This older couple in the church was very friendly to me. They told me they had a daughter, Cindy, about my age, who wasn't married. They said she was working in another state, but she often came home for a visit on weekends. Then they invited me to their house for dessert one of the nights Cindy was home. I knew they were hoping we'd like each other. We did.

I started coming over to her parents' house on weekends and Cindy and I would sit in the living room or on the porch and have popcorn or cake together. Her parents were always in the next room. We got to know each other pretty well just through talking and playing board games and watching TV. After a year or so of this, it just seemed natural that we would be together for the rest of our lives. So I proposed and she accepted! Boy, were her parents happy!"

"Dating" is a little different than courtship. While courtship is done for the purpose of selecting a future spouse and starts when a couple seriously considers marrying and becoming partners for life, dating is thought of as being more for "fun," and it is more casual. It is also more passionate at times and involves less thoughtful consideration of the person as a future spouse. Unlike courtship, dating does not necessarily involve thoughts of marriage.

It has been said that, rather than preparing young people for marriage, dating prepares people for divorce! This is because typically in dating a couple develop an intimate relationship before there is any thought of marriage. When they eventually break up because there was never any real commitment on either side, this sets a pattern for relationships with the opposite sex—quick intimacy and then break-up.

On dates, couples usually look as attractive as they can for one another and spend time only with one another. They go out and do "fun" or satisfying things and see each other only at their best in a setting designed to give them pleasure. It is easy, then, to feel a strong pull toward sexual intimacy. But do they really know each other?

The truth is that it is not easy to truly get to know—let alone to truly love—another person. It takes time and care and the wisdom of previous generations to guide us.
Courtship generally falls under some supervision by the parents. It is understood by members of both families that the couple is at least considering marriage; the couple interacts under more natural circumstances than on a date—they may meet in one another's family homes, accompany one another on family outings, and attend group get-togethers with one another. They are able to see the other interacting with a family or extended family group in a more natural way and in settings they will likely find themselves in during their marriage.

What to look for in a potential spouse is also an important consideration, no matter how the candidate enters a person's life. We should learn what qualities are present in a loving person and how these are developed. We can start by looking at the qualities of people whom we respect and admire. Then we can look to see if these same qualities are in a potential spouse.

It is said that the most important thing in finding a good spouse is becoming a person who will be a good spouse yourself. We can think what qualities we would like our future spouse to have, and then focus on developing these qualities in ourselves. Every person has the potential to be a loving person, but not without sincere effort. If we do this, when the time comes and we meet our eventual spouse, he or she will recognize in us the kind of person who is desirable to marry.

Practical Ways to Prepare for Marriage

What are some practical ways for us to prepare for marriage? First, it is helpful to know the common points of conflict among married couples. If we can understand these and the reasons for them, we can take steps to head off potential trouble spots before they happen. Experts say that these common trouble spots are: sex, money, raising children and in-laws.


Because of differences between men and women, conflicts and misunderstandings often occur over the issue of sex in marriage. Men tend to have a stronger sex drive and are easily excited whereas women take longer to get excited. Men are stimulated by the simple appearance of a woman’s body while women are more stimulated when the man shows real love and affection. For men, sex is primarily a physical event; for women, it is mostly emotional. It is important to understand this and realize that, in marriage, each partner brings a sexual attitude that gives the relationship the potential to be deeply satisfying on the mental, emotional, and physical sides. Appreciating and sympathizing with the opposite sex's point of view (as the second half of a puzzle) is a step toward future harmony on these issues.

Scientists have found that people who are virgins before marriage experience greater sexual and romantic satisfaction in their marriages. It is also important that sex be a special, exclusive relationship between a married couple so that they do not compare one another to past partners but are free to explore the joys of a loving, committed, sexual relationship only with one another. Preserving your virginity—whether you are a boy or a girl—will help cut down on sexual problems during marriage. It also gives you the moral strength to resist improper sexual relationships once you are married, for you will surely be attracted to other people at times. Adultery is a major destroyer of marriages, so practicing self-control now will give you strength to keep sex within your marriage, and keep your marriage happy.


This is another area of conflict for many married couples, as it is very easy to be either too free or too miserly with money. If one or both have memories from childhood of being poor, deep insecurities may have developed in connection with money, leading to emotional conflicts.

Whether we grew up wealthy or in poverty or somewhere in between, it is important to learn how to handle money responsibly. We should know how to keep track of the money we spend, and to learn the difference between spending on needs and spending on wants and luxuries. Here again we must learn self-control, this time in relation to our desire for things so that we spend our money on what is important.

Raising children

Our tendency is to raise our children the way we were raised. The problem is that our spouse grew up in a different family with parents who probably had somewhat different ideas about raising children. This doesn’t seem to matter until the time comes when the couple begins raising their own children and suddenly discover they have strong disagreements about how to handle the countless situations that come up.

Before we actually find ourselves in such a circumstance, there is little we can do to resolve these differences. However, by spending time with young children and infants, we at least can learn just how much they need love, attention and time. Rather than waiting until after we are married to think about the reality of having children, we can prepare ourselves beforehand by watching and caring for younger brothers and sisters or children in general.


Another source of conflict in marriage has to do with problems in relating to our spouse’s family, such as the father-in-law who tries to boss the young couple around or a possessive mother who competes with her son’s wife for his attention, unwilling to let go.

In a sense when we marry, we are marrying into another family with all of its past associations and situations. One of our tasks is to win the hearts of our spouse’s family so they will trust, accept and respect us. Before marriage, we should learn to get along with many types of people, as we never know what kind of family we will eventually marry into. Our goal is to grow our hearts so that we can be able to enjoy many kinds of personalities.

Here are a few other ways to prepare for a future marital relationship:

Keep your commitments—There is no greater commitment in life than marriage. To be successful in it we need lots of practice in keeping promises. Make sure your words and your deeds are one.

Be open to advice—Learn to be open to advice, especially from your parents. In life we often get into situations where we need advice and guidance from others, and our parents have a wealth of experience to draw from. One of the biggest mistakes teenagers often make is to cut themselves off from a great source of wisdom—their parents. Marriage is such a unique and intimate relationship that we sometimes need our parents’ help.

Work through differences—Learn skills, including communication skills, to resolve conflict. Don't avoid people who make you angry. Instead, learn to win their hearts and work through differences. These skills will help not only your marriage but also your relationship with your future children.

Take the future seriously—When you are young, having fun is of major importance. The future seems far away. But before you know it, you are an adult and you wonder why you didn't prepare better for it—and for marriage. Prepare seriously for your future. No one else can do that for you.

Role play scenarios in a relationship

Have volunteer boy and girl students role play the following common marital situations, working toward how the couple can solve their problem together. Remind students that these are common areas of difficulty among married couples and are usually highly charged with emotion. Many couples find these problem areas difficult to work through.


Luke and Stella have been married six years. They have two young children. Luke works at the local factory and Stella stays home with the children but does some sewing to make extra money. They have enough money in the bank to live on for one month without either of them working.

Luke comes home and announces that he has lost his job.


Sally comes from a well-educated family; in fact, she has more education than her husband Christopher. Sally's parents are sometimes a little snobbish toward Christopher, but Christopher's reaction doesn't help either. He loses his temper at the dinner table and storms out when they are visiting her parents.

Christopher and Sally are coming home right now from just such a dinner at her parents.


Kevin and Sarah have two young sons ages 12 and 14. Kevin believes that "a child's play is a child's work." He thinks normal boys should be more interested in sports than they are in school, and when they come home from school he lets them play outside until it is dark. When they come home, they are hungry, dirty, and too tired to do their homework. Kevin thinks it is all right if they do a little before bed and catch up in the morning. Sarah notices that now that they are in middle school, their grades are going down because they have to study more than they did in grade school.

Kevin and Sarah decide to have a talk about it after the children have gone to bed.

Have the rest of the class evaluate how well the couple solved their problem. Did the students get any ideas for their future approaches to such common problems?

Questions for Reflection

1. What are your expectations for marriage?

2. Are there ways that you are preparing for your own future marriage?

3. What are some of the common mistaken ideas about marriage?

4. Knowing yourself, what kinds of problems do you think might arise in your own future marriage?

5. What kind of life would a married couple live if they did live “happily ever after”? Is this realistic?

6. How old do you think a person should be before he/she gets married?

7. What personal qualities do you think a person should have before they consider getting married?

8. Do you think if two people love each other that their difficulties will automatically work out? Explain.

9. What advice would you give to someone who was just about to marry?

Exercise: “What Do I Want From Marriage?”

My Ideal Mate
Think of your ideal marriage. What qualities would be necessary in the personality of your ideal mate in order to create such a marriage? Make a list.

My Ideal Self
Do you think your ideal mate would like you to have these same qualities in your own personality? Using the list you made, put a check mark near all those qualities that you feel you have at the present moment. Make a plan with a time frame to work on developing the other qualities on the list that you do not yet have. Evaluate your progress on a monthly basis.

Reflection Exercise: “My Preparation for Marriage”

Look at the points in the section “Practical ways to prepare for marriage.” Reflect on how well you are prepared for marriage in the following areas:

1. Your attitude about sex

2. Your ability to handle money

3. Your ideas about raising children

4. How you might relate to your spouse’s family

5. Your ability to keep a commitment

6. Your openness to others’ advice

7. Your ability to resolve conflicts

8. Your overall seriousness about preparing for your future

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