People put off committing to marriage for all kinds of reasons, and while some can be valid, the underlying idea of “I’m just not ready yet” is not always the legitimate reason people believe.
Marriage is not easy. You're choosing to commit yourself to someone, for better or for worse, for the rest of your life. This is understandably a huge task and one that shouldn’t be taken lightly. There is, however, a definite distinction between being “ready” and being “willing” to enter into marriage, and the two are not to be confused. It's much more important that you're willing to undertake all that comes with marriage, rather than be ready.
My wedding vows simply said, “I take you to be my lawful husband, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.” These vows require that for the duration of our lives we commit to one another, no matter what life may throw at us. I don’t believe anyone is really ever ready for this kind of commitment, but you can be willing, and I argue that that makes all the difference.
I Take You, To Have and To Hold
Although at first, it seems like the easiest part of the vows to accept and be ready for, I think this is the line that is arguably the most difficult. “I take you” is something that nothing can totally prepare you for because it requires you to accept everything another person brings - their good, their bad, their past, their family…everything. You willingly accept who they are, who they’ve been, and who they will become.
You willingly accept who they are, who they’ve been, and who they will become.
Obviously doing some due diligence into someone before you marry them is necessary, and adequate preparation is important, but how can you ever really be ready to accept all of this, particularly the unknowns about who someone will become? You can certainly have a good idea based on a person’s past and current personality traits, but life can be a wild ride, and you can’t always predict what circumstances will arise and how they will affect you or another person.
You might be ready to take someone as they are right now, but there really is no preparation that will make you ready to take someone for who they will potentially become. Rather than worry about being ready for who someone will become, you should focus on whether or not you are willing to grow with that person over the course of your years together, helping one another become better with each passing day.
Being able to have and to hold one another is so much more than a warm and fuzzy sentiment, but an obligation to care for one another and at times put their needs above your own. Loving another person is far more than just butterfly feelings, and choosing to love when those flutters aren’t there is a choice that you either are or are not willing to make, rather than something you are just suddenly ready to do. It may not get easier, but your love for one another certainly grows deeper because of this willingness.
For Better or for Worse, for Richer and for Poorer, in Sickness and in Health
Most adults will tell you they’re just winging it, and that in many ways they still feel like a kid thrust into situations they are highly unqualified for. “Adulting” isn’t so much about establishing control or preparing for every little thing, but rather learning how to deal with the constant changes in life and expecting the unexpected. This is both more simplified and yet more complicated by adding another person that you’ve agreed to stick by through all of life’s ebbs and flows. Just like you can’t ever fully prepare for who someone will become, you can’t fully prepare for all that life may throw at you.
“Adulting” isn’t so much about establishing control or preparing for every little thing, but rather learning how to deal with the constant changes in life and expecting the unexpected.
I see couples of all ages who have struggled through financial hardship, infertility, terminal illnesses, and unexpected tragedies, and I am in awe of how these difficult situations have made them stronger and shown them how to love one another more deeply. I have also seen couples who have let these issues drive them apart through casting blame and not prioritizing the other. Were these couples less “ready” for marriage than the ones who succeeded? I would argue that it wasn’t a readiness that separated these couples, but a willingness to prioritize their vows and their commitment to one another, despite life’s many hurdles.
Until Death Do Us Part
A lifelong commitment to anything is a little terrifying, let alone a lifelong commitment to another person who is supposed to love and care for you to the end of your days. Don’t get me wrong, I think there is nothing more beautiful than two people who have loved one another for years and prioritized the other, but I don’t disagree that it's still terrifying.
Choosing and being willing to stand by your partner, no matter how difficult that may be, is more important than any preparation ever will be.
Again, while there is a certain amount of preparation that can and should help you determine if you two are suitable for a life together, but there is no assurance that you are fully ready to take on a commitment to another for the duration of your life. Rather than a readiness to embark on life together, a willingness to do so no matter the cost is where the crucial decision lies. Choosing and being willing to stand by your partner, no matter how difficult that may be, is more important than any preparation ever will be.
Committing to Your Vows More Than to Each Other
We have our vows framed in our bedroom, as a way of reminding ourselves that we commit to our vows just as much, if not more so, than we commit to each other. This may seem like flawed logic, but prioritizing our vows forces us to prioritize the other by default.
Our vows are a constant reminder that in the easiest and the hardest of times, we have chosen to be there for one another, no matter the circumstance. I don’t think I will ever be ready to act with this kind of selflessness towards my husband, but the beauty of marriage is that I am willing to spend my life trying to do so, with the comfort of knowing I have my husband at my side, attempting the same great feat.
It is so easy to fall into the trap of analyzing every aspect of our relationships, but at some point, it's important to remember that, as a great man once said, "True love sets no conditions. It does not calculate or complain, it simply loves.” Perhaps we should worry a little less about being ready to love with no conditions and instead be a little more willing to do so.