We’ve probably all heard the statistics that forty to fifty percent of marriages end in divorce these days. In our own lives, it’s likely that most of us have quite a few friends and relatives who have gone through a divorce.
As Catholics, we know that a strong and healthy marriage is a great good. We probably have good reason to hope that, if we’re living out our faith well, our own future marriages will be strong and lasting.
But unfortunately, that isn’t always the case. According to the USCCB’s most recent data, 20.7 percent of adult Catholics have been divorced.
This statistic isn’t as discouraging as the forty to fifty percent of marriages that end in divorce for society as a whole. But still, it’s not great. The reality is that, even for faithful and devout Catholics, divorce can still happen.
Becoming divorced isn’t necessarily because of some fault or failing in us. But that doesn’t mean that there’s nothing we can do to improve our odds for a strong marriage.
Here are three ways you can work on preparing for a healthy, strong, and lasting marriage in your future during your time as a Catholic single.
Know your own story
True self-knowledge is useful in many areas of life. But it can be especially useful in preparing for a future marriage.
Many of us carry around wounds from our upbringing, personal insecurities, and patterns of sin that we’ve had trouble overcoming. All of these things are the type of issues that can work to weaken a marriage.
Have you been influenced by witnessing the divorce or unhealthy marriage of your parents or other close relatives? Do you struggle with issues of commitment, communication, or purity in your life as an adult?
Take a good, honest look at your emotional and mental health. Work to identify any area in need of healing. This kind of good (hard!) interior work can be a great way to help prepare for a strong marriage.
This knowledge helps you to prepare for moments in a future relationship that will stretch you or bring about a clash with your future spouse. But beyond just knowing yourself in this way, perhaps the best thing you can do is to take active steps to work on the areas that you struggle with most.
For some of us, this might mean diving into past wounds with a professional counselor. For others, it might mean working on skills like open communication in our platonic friendships. Or, it could mean working with a confessor or spiritual director to overcoming patterns of sin or vice.
The earlier we start working to overcome troublesome areas in our lives, the more prepared we can be for a strong marriage when God sends that special someone our way.
Prepare yourself intellectually for marriage
Unfortunately, many Catholic married couples can tell you that the required marriage preparation they received before they got married did not teach them an awful lot about marriage.
Of course, there are exceptions to this. Some dioceses and parishes have worked hard to implement practical and useful marriage preparation programs for their engaged couples. But by and large, there a fair lack of substantially helpful information being taught to engaged couples these days.
This is unfortunate, to say the least. The sacrament of marriage is a beautiful, deep, and sometimes complicated way of life that one could study for years. So, perhaps that is precisely what single Catholics should do!
Make a commitment to study the sacrament of marriage while you’re still single.
Check out resources like Christopher West’s The Good News About Sex and Marriage. Read papal encyclicals like Casti Connubii, or dive into the writings of Pope Saint John Paul II like Theology of the Body or Love and Responsibility.
Some of these writings are deep and do require some effort. But learning about the beauty and the spiritual requirements of this sacrament can be well worth the effort as you prepare for truly living out the sacrament as God intended.
Look at your past relationships
Your past romantic relationships might not seem like a useful thing to think about. But they can sometimes be a great clue to understanding how to find a good spouse.
Some of us have a type that we’re attracted to, and most of us prefer at least some certain qualities in a romantic partner.
By looking at your past relationships, it can start to become clear to you the types of qualities that do draw you romantically to others. Sometimes, those qualities aren’t always good.
Just as when you try grow in self-knowledge about your own faults, learning about the less-than-great qualities of the people you’re attracted to can help you in future relationships.
An honest look at the qualities that attract you and the ones that aren’t always a good fit for you can give real insight into the kind of person who will make a good spouse for you in the future.
There are no guarantees in marriage. Like all things in life, you can never control the outcome completely. But putting in some extra effort to prepare for a strong marriage now can truly pay off for a happy and fulfilling future!
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