How do you know if you should marry the person you’re seeing?

Here are some practical points to consider when wondering if you should marry a specific person.

One: How is your friendship? It is easy to feel close to a person if you have been physically intimate, but how well can you honestly say you know this person? The more physically involved you have been, the more you will need to step back to evaluate the relationship. This is because physical intimacy clouds our judgment—which it should. One of the benefits of total physical intimacy for married couples is that it renders them less critical of each other. However, this clouding of your thinking belongs in marriage, not before.Be honest in examining what truly unites the two of you. Is it a desire for pleasure or emotional gain? Is there an unhealthy dependency, where one or both of you has made an idol out of marriage, expecting that it will solve loneliness? How do the two of you deal with differences? Can you disagree lovingly, or are there some issues of manipulation, anger, or guilt that need to be sorted out first? Before marriage it is easy to maintain a good image, so make sure you have seen each other with your masks down, so to speak.

Lastly, is there a real romantic interest? Some people say that romantic feelings are not that important, but there is grave reason for concern if these feelings are not present. This is not to say that you must feel constantly madly in love with each other. Most people do not struggle with the absence of feelings, but with infatuation. Just have the honesty to look at where you stand with this.

Two: Are the two of you on the same page when it comes to the size of your family? Does one of you expect one child, while the other envisions two minivans brimming with kids? Does one of you want kids right away while the other wants to wait ten years before having any children? If you have different dreams, then now is the time to be honest about your differences. More importantly, do you think that your prospective spouse would be a good parent? Or does he or she have habits that are destructive to a marriage and family, such as drug use, excessive drinking, pornography, sarcasm, anger, self-centeredness, or infidelity?

Three: Are you financially ready for a family? We should not jump into marriage before we are able to care for a family financially. You do not need to have college money set aside for your kids before you get married, but you should be stable enough with your career that you will be able to carry the great responsibilities that come with the gift of parenthood.

Four: What do your friends and families say? It is easy for a couple to become isolated and fail to consult friends and families. They know your habits, your emotional health, your dreams, and plenty of things you probably wish nobody knew. But they love you nonetheless and can give some of the best guidance.

Finally, know that if marriage is anything, it is a carefully planned leap of faith in each other. You will need to weigh all the above considerations and more, and make a decision. You can only know a person so well before you marry. This is because coming to know another person is not so much a destination as it is a lifelong process. Within marriage you will see strengths and weaknesses more clearly than ever before. Because of this there are inevitably going to be disappointments, but you should anticipate them with hope. Successful marriages happen when couples are willing to work at their marriage when things get tough. Don’t forget that. True love is a task, not a result of fate.

When difficulties arise—and they will come—they will test and affirm your love. Marriage is not an endless whirling romance, and your marriage will suffer to the extent that you expect it to fit that fairy tale. When the infatuation fades, some imagine that they must not have married Mr. or Miss Right. This is partly why so many divorces happen within the first few years of marriage. It is a shame that couples are not prepared to let their relationship breathe. We often have little confidence when the time comes to exhale. There is a love waiting to grow, but it is a quieter love than a couple know at the start of their relationship. It is unfortunate that so few have the patience to wait and work in sacrifice to see it blossom.

Successful marriages are not the result of finding the perfect person but of loving the imperfect person you have chosen to marry. Therefore, do not allow yourself to be discouraged when you discover faults and annoyances that you never recognized before. It is said that after marriage, the man gets upset because the woman changes, and the woman gets upset because the man will not change. But when faults do come to the surface, we should not be set on “fixing” our spouse. We marry a person, not a project. We marry a human being, not an idealized image. Only when we let go of the idealized image and begin to accept and love our spouse will the deepest and most fulfilling kind of love appear. As a friend of mine once said, “I married her because I loved her. Now I love her because I married her.”

When a couple understand these principles, they are mature enough to think about marriage. We are not eleven years old anymore, fluttering from one crush to another according to how fun the feelings are. When a relationship is based on an infatuation instead of a decision, it will last only as long as the infatuation does. We must be careful about what we base our relationships on, because finding the love that everyone longs for is a serious endeavor.