In the not-so-distant past, I took a big step in my adult life. I bought a ring. And then I asked my girlfriend’s father for his blessing. And then I bent to one knee in a parking lot in Baton Rouge. And then I asked a question. And then I was engaged.
I didn’t make an elegant speech or stutter through some rambling prose. I just asked a question and received the answer I had hoped and prayed for. In that moment, I became more than a man in search of his forever love. In her, I found it, and through that tear soaked “yes,” our march toward the eternal always had begun.
When I realized I loved my fiancé, we were sitting in that same parking lot in south Louisiana some months before. I looked at her and I knew. I knew she was the one I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. So I saved my dollars and bought the ring I knew she would love. I steeled my nerves and asked her hulking father for his blessing. He cried and shook my hand with a smile. I planned the night and held my breath as we drove to that spot. I found the parking lot in which we sat when I fell so hard for her. I put on the song that had connected us through the months and felt the concrete bite into my knee as I bent in submission to her. And lastly, I smiled and hugged her tight after she slid the perfect little ring onto her perfect little finger. It was simple and beautiful.
But before all of that—before the saving and the steeling, before the planning and the kneeling—I looked within myself and wondered if I was, indeed, ready to be married?
I knew the desire was there. I wanted to be hers and hers alone, forever and always. But was I ready to be a husband? Was I ready to take on the yoke of being one half of a whole? Was I okay with sharing a life with this one wonderful woman for the rest of my life?
I thought and prayed and concentrated on these things with diligence, because once before, in what seems like a past life, I had made that leap too quickly from infatuation to marriage, failing to stop for love or prayer or reason. I had said “yes” to marriage without thinking on those necessary questions. But in this relationship of now, the answer to all was a quiet but resounding “yes.” Here are a few things I used to guide my thought process.
There’s No Rush
Most of us are taught from an early age to believe marriage is the holy grail of the Christian way. We are to love and couple and procreate to further the Kingdom, so if you can find someone to marry you, do it, and do it sooner rather than later.
But within that wave of dangerous thinking, we can find ourselves lacking answers or direction. Why? Because marriage is more than a readymade “yes” or a Pinterest inspired, envy-inducing wedding. It’s about love and commitment. It’s about forever and always. And more than anything, it’s about guarding your heart and knowing when to say “yes” and when to say “no.” Speaking of …
It’s OK to Say ‘No’
Because no matter how old or young you may be, it’s OK if you aren’t ready to get married. No, really, it is. Just because he’s asking for your hand in marriage doesn’t mean you have to take that proposal. Just because she expects you to propose doesn’t mean you have to. And just because your partner is ready to be married, it doesn’t mean you have to automatically agree. I didn’t understand that once before and the marriage ended after 36 months and what seemed like a thousand years.
Getting engaged—agreeing to marry someone and spend the rest of your life with them—shouldn’t be a tossed-about thought. It’s not some flippant thing that should be decided on a whim. It’s important and heavy and vital. It’s OK to say no. If you aren’t sure you’re ready to take that step, be honest with yourself and your partner and allow the truth to settle the uncertainty. If they love you, if they are truly committed to you and to a life with you, not only will they understand your position, they will be honored to wait for when you are ready. But it takes honesty and it takes truth. It takes standing by what you feel and know and explaining yourself with clarity and compassion.
Ask the Right Questions
Agreeing to marry someone, asking for or saying yes to their forever, is one of the most important decisions you’ll make in this life, so why approach it with whimsy as I did once before? Instead, it’s more responsible and faithful if we’re allowing ourselves to concentrate on these things with a prayerful spirit.
“Is this person right for me?” “Do I love them or am I merely infatuated with them?” “Is spending the rest of my days with this person and this person alone what God wants for my life? Is it what I want for my life?”
These are questions that need to be thought through, and it’s OK to wait, to press pause on your relationship until you can answer them with certainty. Of course, there has to be a healthy balance here, marriage will be a lot of work, and if you wait around for someone who is perfect in every way, you will never get to the point of saying “I do.”
You are worth the right type of marriage and spouse. That means you don’t have to settle and you do not have to say yes simply because you’re asked or being pressured to ask. You will never be completely prepared for marriage, but you have to be ready to make the commitment, to seriously consider and accept the implications of spending the rest of your life with another flawed human being. It’s OK if it takes time. It’s OK to wait. It will be beautiful when you are ready.
Cory Copeland is a writer living in Little Rock with his wife, Bri. You can follow him on Twitter @Cory_Copeland and read more of his writing at CoryCopeland.net.