How and When to Talk about Marriage
The ultimate goal of marriage is getting your spouse to Heaven—and the ultimate goal of dating is marriage!
That being said, it can still be a sort of awkward topic to bring up.
First date? Too soon.
Hundredth date? May have missed a few opportunities along the way.
Somewhere between there is the perfect time and approach to the marriage conversation, and we’re going to help you find it.
The if factor of marriage
One of the greatest gifts God gave us is our gut. Let’s be honest, sometimes we don’t listen with the most open heart or ears. It’s a good thing that our gut is a fail-safe that our creator programmed into us!
The times we trust our gut are the times when it matters most. Our gut comes into play in times of danger or great risk, good or bad.
Marriage is a great risk. It’s inherently good, but it’s a calculated risk in that it’s a complete change to our lives and paths!
I heard Catholic speaker and purity advocate Jackie Francois Angel speak at a conference when I was in high school. She told the story of determining whether or not a man was meant for her. She asked God to flood her with anxiety if this man wasn’t her husband. Guess what? God did.
Some of us may not ask God so directly, but often he will tell us anyway.
Red flags, white flags
When you hear the word “marriage” as it relates to your significant other, what is your gut reaction? Is it joy? Or impending doom?
Reasonably, if it’s joy, then you should pursue that conversation. If not, it’s time to figure out why not. How do you dig down to the root of your reaction? Use what I like to call the red flag and the white flag.
If your heart is blocking you from feeling joyful about marriage and you know why, odds are good that’s a red flag.
That doesn’t mean this is always the case. I don’t know you personally, but if you’re feeling emotionally responsive to this paragraph, maybe it’s something worth praying about.
Red flags are signs we see but choose to ignore; like moral or political opinions that will hinder a peaceful household, drinking or drug problems, or historical patterns of distrust or dishonesty.
Unpack these feelings of hesitancy before the Lord and ask how to get to whatever path He’s leading you toward.
On the other hand, if you’re feeling blocked up and don’t know why, it may be a white flag. The universal sign for surrender. It says, “Lord, I don’t know why I don’t feel called to marry this great person, but for some reason I just don’t.”
Spoiler alert: that’s how Jackie Francois felt. She had no logical or emotional reason to not want to marry a man who was good to her, and good to his God. There were no red flags for her, just a white one.
When she surrendered that feeling and listened to her heart flooded with anxiety, God opened the paths for their lives in new ways. God called Jackie to marry another man, and called the man she was praying about to religious life.
The when and how
When there are no red flags or white flags, it’s time to wait for the checkered flag to start the conversation.
There are a lot of theories out there about how to tell when it is the right time in a relationship to have this conversation. But the truth is you have to find what’s right for your personal faith journeys. If you follow the rule of thumb to be considerate of the other person’s time, heart, and God’s plan for them, you will find the exact right moment.
You can start laying the groundwork early without coming straight out of the dating gate with a ring in a box. Simply make it known that you’re looking for something serious. When you feel like it’s getting serious, decide what you will or won’t do before you’re engaged or married.
For instance, maybe a milestone for you would be to take a trip together. Not something for a dating couple, but perhaps an engaged one. When you hit that milestone suggestion, use it as an opportunity to open up the conversation.
Consider your season of life, as well.
For myself, dating a man with a child, it was important for both of us up front that we didn’t get to a serious place without marriage already being a serious possibility, for the sake of his child and my relationship with her.
When he introduced me to his daughter, we knew that marriage to one another was where we wanted to be.
But we weren’t ready yet.
We’d had something of a pre-conversation. After about five months of serious dating, we had another conversation about intentions and timelines. After nine months of serious dating, we’re engaged!
Some helpful conversation starters for the marriage conversation
I like direct, specific instructions. It’s not enough to conceptually understand the conversation surrounding marriage, but I need to have the words to say, please!
If that’s you right now, you’re in the right place. Here are some good conversation starters.
“What does a strong marriage look like to you?”
This is great in the early “if” stages of dating.
It’s not directly applicable yet to your situation or relationship, but the answer from both of you will not only open you up to one another more, it will shed light on long-term compatibility.
“What’s the next step in our relationship?”
Use an open-ended question, instead of the yes-or-no question. “Is marriage our next step?” makes way for a much larger conversation.
You’ll have an opportunity to each share where you feel you’re at in your current state, and what your hopes are for the future.
Having this conversation might be uncomfortable. But spending a life bound to another person on a quest for their eternal happiness is a huge undertaking.
If talking about is more scary than it is exciting, it may not be the right time or person for you yet.
My greatest advice is the same as it always is: call on the Holy Spirit and listen to him! The Holy Spirit has never once let me down for any important conversation I’ve had. I’ve always been provided the exact timing and words I needed.
Erin is a Catholic writer living on the windy plains of Kansas. She loves reading, dark chocolate, sunflowers, and learning to cook.