Four Steps to Prepare a Young Man for Marriage

COMMENTARY: Marriage, especially in the Catholic sense, is an institution created by God. Therefore, it takes three to get married.

Many young people, observing the spate of broken marriages around them, lose faith in the marital institution itself.
Many young people, observing the spate of broken marriages around them, lose faith in the marital institution itself. (photo: Fotorobs / Shutterstock)

The current divorce rate in the United States is the third highest in the world, higher than any country in Europe. 

In more concrete terms, approximately 630,000 divorces took place in 2020. This means that 1,260,000 individuals were divorced in that same year. These figures do not include those who were separated in the year 2020.

The goal of marriage, of course, is not merely to avoid divorce, but to create a loving, productive union of a man and a woman. One factor that stands in the way of a good marriage is inadequate preparation. This article calls attention to the kind of preparation that a man needs in order to enter into a successful marriage.

Pope John Paul II stated in what is regarded as the “Magna Carta for families,” the apostolic exhortion Familiaris Consortio, that “changes that have taken place within almost all modern societies demand that not only the family but society and the Church should be involved in the effort of properly preparing young people for their future responsibilities . . .the Church must therefore promote better and more intensive programmes of marriage preparation ...”

In 1996, the Pontifical Council for the Family released a lengthy document entitled “Preparation of the Sacrament of Marriage.” It pointed out that permissive laws “with all their force,” have helped “in forging a mentality that harms families”. It alluded to abortion and loose morality, especially in the area of sexuality.

Many young people, observing the spate of broken marriages around them, lose faith in the marital institution itself. Rather, they should come to realize that what is needed is a better preparation for marriage. One important way of preparing for marriage is to read and study the Vatican documents on the subject. 

It is true that not every young man is destined to become a husband. Nonetheless, a preparation for marriage is never wasted and has rich benefits apart from matrimony. 

I propose four steps that prepare a man for marriage. They are “steps” rather than rules because they are in sequence. They are not indispensable, but eminently sensible.

First, and most importantly, a young man should strive to be a loving person. This begins with love for his parents, then, other family members, friends, and acquaintances. It also includes, love of God. It is never too early for anyone to be a loving person. 

A good marriage requires love and love does not arrive overnight. The art and development of love requires both time and effort. Love is not only a marriage requirement, but a value that any sensible marital prospect would find necessary.

Second, the loving person must safeguard his love. Therefore, the virtue of chastity is needed so that love does not degenerate into lust. 

Love is directed to the other, whereas lust does not get beyond pleasure. Other virtues that help to keep a loving person on the right path are generosity, integrity, and determination. A young man must bring to the table of matrimony a rich gift of himself that a wife would treasure.

Third, a young man who has aspirations for marriage must be prudent. When surveying the field of potential brides, he must take age, temperament, level of education and religion into consideration. While the sexes are “opposite” in many ways, the partners must also be compatible and complementary. Marriage is for life. It is a conversation that never concludes.

Finally, the young man must understand that marriage, especially in the Catholic sense, is an institution created by God. Therefore, it takes three to get married. 

Husband and wife are united in God. They should not, in a splurge of romanticism, seek to make idols of each other. There will be times when forgiveness is in order. When they pray together, they understand that they will receive grace from above. Humility and gratitude can help immeasurably in sustaining a marriage. And if children arrive, they are also seen as a gift from God.

Individuals with athletic or musical talent work hard to prepare themselves for success in their respective fields. On the other hand, with regard to a successful marriage, preparation is often wanting. The incentive for remote preparation for marriage is not particularly strong since both a future marriage and the identity of the partner are unknown. What is known, however, is who we are and our supreme responsibility to grow as loving persons. If this growth occurs, everything else falls in place. 

Preparation for marriage, then, should begin long before an engagement.

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