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So You're Thinking About Marriage?
Is Marriage Right for Me?

If you have already decided on marriage and are more interested in the practical considerations involved in preparing for or planning your wedding, try part one of this article. Click here.

But if you need help in deciding whether marriage is right for you, continue reading.

I will assume you are already in a serious relationship, perhaps you've been living with your partner for several months or years, and now you're wondering whether marriage makes sense. You've probably heard horror stories of couples who have lived together happily for several years, decide to get married, and shortly after they "tie the knot," their relationship falls apart. Surely you don't want this to happen. Rest assured. I find such stories are the exception that proves the rule. It's far easier to get married than to get divorced. So you do want to be sure that marriage is right for you, not because getting married may end your relationship, but because you don't want to go through the pain and disappointment involved in divorce.

So how do you know whether marriage makes sense at this point in your relationship?

In my own mind the most important reason for marriage is wanting to raise a family. As long as your relationship involves just the two of you, there isn't any particular urgency in making this commitment. But if you are thinking of having children, then the added sense of security and stability that marriage entails becomes critical. The ebb and flow of your relationship will be felt by your children. And the more you can surround your children with a sense of emotional security, the better off they will be. Being married, and including in your family the extended relationships of grand-parents, aunts, uncles, siblings, cousins, and, I would add, the stability of a loving church community, can be an important part of what will make your new family work. So the most compelling reason for marriage is your desire to build a family.

Next, I would say from personal experience that a good marriage is a great foundation for personal growth. I hate the expression, "tie the knot," as a way of referring to marriage. Ideally, marriage is rather a context in which you can experience your freedom and creativity. There is no one who supports my own creativity and growth more than my spouse, and I try in every way to be supportive of her growth as well ... personally, professionally, spiritually, intellectually. I do not see marriage as a matter of putting one's personal interests on the back burner out of deference to one's partner, rather I see marriage as providing a strong, nurturing and supportive setting in which you and your spouse are free to be and become all that you are meant to be. I will add that it's the same about fidelity in marriage. Being able to trust your partner emotionally is conducive to a statisfying phsysical relationship, especially one that deepens and grows over time. A one night stand, or a love affair, can be exciting ... but neither can be as fufilling and as deeply satisfying as a love that is lived out emotionally, spiritually and physically across many years, enriched by the layers of memory and experience that are part of a relationship that continues to deepen and grow.

Finally, marriage can provide a good platform from which to reach out and engage with the wider world. Having a strong personal relationship with a spouse who shares your deepest values can mean that he or she will encourage and empower you to become involved in community activities beyond the home. Having a secure primary relationship means that you will have time, energy and encouragement to reach out through volunteer activities ... in schools, church, or voluntary organizations of countless varieties. The fact that you no longer need to show up at the singles bar on a Friday night may mean that you can volunteer that time to help build a home for a homeless family in your community through Habitat For Humanity, for example.

In sum, as a foundation for buiding a family, because it can provide support and encouragement for your personal growth, and because it can empower you to make a contribution to the wider world, marriage may be right for you. In the end, of course, all of this depends upon whether you can envision your relationship involving all of these dimensions. If so, then the answer is clear: go for it.

And now for the practical considerations: How to find the right church, plan the ceremony, choose readings for the celebration. And what about costs?

Marriage Planner

Charles Henderson

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The Rev. Charles P. Henderson is a Presbyterian minister and author of Faith, Science and the Future, published in 1994 by CrossCurrents Press. He is also the author of God and Science (John Knox / Westminster, 1986) which he is now rewriting to incorporate more recent developments in the conversation taking place between scientists and theologians. He has also written widely for such publications as The New York Times, The Nation, Commonweal, The Christian Century and others.

For further information about Charles Henderson.