How can I find a good husband or wife?
Most young people still hope to get married and have children one day. The clearest sign that marriage is for you is simply that you have a desire to get married and have a family, and you do not have a sense of being pulled towards another vocation. If this is the case then it is perfectly reasonable to hope that you will be married, and to pray that God will help you to find a good husband or wife.
There are many happy and holy marriages between Catholics and non-Catholics, but if you are a Catholic it is a real blessing if you can find a husband or wife who shares your faith. This means that you will have the same Catholic values and the same understanding of the deepest meaning of marriage; that you can support each other in the practice of your faith; and that you can have a shared understanding of how to bring up your children in the Catholic faith. Here are some tips on finding such a husband or wife. It is not wrong or unreasonable to consider marrying someone who is not Catholic; but it is certainly worth hoping and praying that you will meet someone who is a committed Catholic.
Pray every day that God will lead you to a good husband or wife – Just say a short, simple prayer for that intention every day; use your own words, or say a ‘formal’ prayer for this intention such as the Our Father or Hail Mary. And pray to the Virgin Mary and to St Joseph for this intention.
Find out more about the Catholic vision of marriage – Our ideas about marriage are formed by so many different influences: by our family background, by friends, by the media etc… Some of our ideas will be good and healthy, but some of them might be distorted or wrong. So find out more about the true Catholic vision of marriage perhaps through reading about it or taking part in talks and retreats. One of the most exciting developments of our age is the spread of Blessed Pope John Paul II’s teaching on the Theology of the Body – a whole vision of human sexuality and relationships rooted in the Catholic faith. Understanding this great wealth of Catholic teaching on marriage will inspire and form you in your search for a good Catholic husband or wife; it will help you to look for the right things in a relationship and it will prepare you in a realistic way for the great challenge of married life.
Be a good person yourself – The best way to meet a good person, a person of faith, is to be a good person yourself, to be a person of faith. Like attracts like. That person is looking for someone full of love and goodness too. So live your faith. Live a life of prayer and love. Be the best person you can be. And this will help you to meet the right person and to build the best relationship you can.
Socialise with other Catholics – You don’t have to socialise only with other Catholics, but if you want to meet a Catholic husband or wife, make sure you are actually meeting some other Catholics. Go to Catholic youth events, prayer groups, retreats, pilgrimages – anything at all! Use Facebook and other social networking websites to hook into Catholic groups and events in your area. If you feel comfortable with it, perhaps use a Catholic online dating website. You have to be cautious meeting people online, but it might be that you can discover a wider range of practising Catholics on a Catholic website than you can in your ordinary social life.
Don’t date just for the sake of it – There is often a lot of pressure on people to be in a relationship. It can come from your peer group, or from society, and it makes you feel that life is empty and meaningless if you are not dating someone. This is not at all true! You certainly need love and friendship – but these can be found in many different relationships. Dating can be a chance to know someone better, to spend more time with them, to share their life – to see if you are right for each other. But it can also make a relationship narrow and even selfish; it can bind your hearts in a way that might not be good for you now; and cut you off from other friendships. So don’t assume that you have to be dating all the time, or that there is something wrong with you if you are single. If you are still young, or if you are not seriously considering marriage at this moment, then it is often better to stay single and put your time and emotional energy into strengthening friendships and getting to know new people. This gives your heart a kind of inner freedom to get involved in other things and it also means that you have a greater chance of meeting the right person when he or she comes along!
But don’t put it off too long – There is a risk that people drift through their twenties, thinking about qualifications and careers, and only begin to consider marriage seriously when they are well into their thirties. There are two drawbacks with this approach. Firstly, it makes marriage seem like a ‘second career’, something that you do when you have done everything else you want to. Instead, marriage, like every vocation, is something that you should want to give your best to. This doesn’t mean you have to marry young – the timing will depend on so many factors, not least on meeting the right person. But it does mean that you should not put off the idea unnecessarily.
The second drawback with waiting too long is that it gets harder to find someone. You shouldn’t get in an unnecessary panic about this, and you can trust that God is guiding you whatever the circumstances of your lives. But it is often easier to meet different people when you are younger. People are usually more open to meeting others, more open to new friendships, less stuck in their ways when they are younger. And it is more likely that a couple will be able to have children if they marry younger, without the struggles and anxieties of trying to conceive later on.
The importance of friendship in dating – If you are dating, then of course you want to get to know the other person well and share your life with them. But a couple can get so involved with each other that they never see the other person in a bigger context: with other people, with other friends, with their own family. You know someone partly through their relationships and their personal interests. And if they have no other interests than you, then perhaps they are not very interesting! Friendship is the most important part of dating: Can you really talk with each other, trust each other, forgive each other? Do you have things in common? Do you respect their principles, the way they treat people? Can you share with them what is closest to your heart – your hopes, your fears, your values, your faith? Ultimately, if you are considering marriage, the deepest question is not just: Do I love this person and do they love me? It is also: Are they a good person, a person of faith, who would be kind, faithful and loving – as a husband and father, as a wife and mother?
Keep your friendship chaste while you are dating – A chaste relationship when you are dating is one of the clearest signs that a marriage will be happy and faithful. If you are having sex before marriage, or if you are getting sexually involved in a way that is too intimate before marriage, not only is this sinful, but it actually damages your relationship. Dating and then engagement are about growing in love, trust and friendship so that you are ready to make the commitment of marriage. The paradox is that people are less ready for marriage if they are already sexually involved, partly because people often mistake physical intimacy for emotional and spiritual intimacy.
Living together, cohabitation, is not a good preparation for marriage, despite what many people think. It takes away your freedom to make a proper decision about the future, and it stops you being able to view the relationship in an objective way. It is no surprise that research shows that you are more likely to separate after marriage if you lived together before marriage. A couple is so involved, literally ‘attached’, that it becomes extra hard for them to see each other with clear eyes and a pure heart, and extra hard for them to step back and work out whether this is a truly good relationship. And if your boyfriend or girlfriend does not share your Catholic views about chastity before marriage, then he or she will probably not share your Catholic views about the true meaning of marriage.
There is much more to chastity than just abstinence. But the decision not to have sex before marriage is a fundamental one that will bring you inner peace. It is a way of being faithful to your future husband or wife (because you are refusing to give your life in sexual love before marriage); it is a way of loving your present boyfriend or girlfriend and growing closer to them (because you are respecting the true nature of your relationship, which is one of friendship and affection); and it is a way of protecting your own freedom and purity of heart.
If you are still struggling to find a husband or wife… - It is a source of great heartache to many people that they are finding it so hard to meet someone. Perhaps you believe that marriage is the right vocation for you, and you have been looking for someone for a long time, and praying hard to find someone – but it still hasn’t happened. There are two pieces of advice here, and they may seem contradictory, but they are not. Firstly, don’t lose hope. Keep doing all the normal things that might help you to meet someone, keep praying (but don’t become obsessive and pray too much!), keep trying. Trust that God will lead you to someone if this is truly his plan for you. Be patient and don’t lose heart. But at the same time, be at peace, and entrust your whole life and all your future to the Lord. Tell him that you accept his will in your life whatever that may be.
Secondly, don’t cling to the idea of a future marriage in a way that makes it impossible for you to live and love in the present. For any human being this kind of desperation can really damage our hearts. And for a Christian it can be a sign that we are clinging to our own plans and not trusting in the Lord and in his goodness. So you need to be hopeful and positive; but you also need to leave the results in God’s hands and let him do what is best. In a strange way it is necessary to hold onto the idea of marriage and, at the same time, to let go of it.
This article is adapted from the CTS booklet “How to Discover your Vocation” by Fr Stephen Wang.