...the person you're seeing?
I thought this was a really good article, and I'm afraid young people probably don't get these messages from the culture, media, or public education.
As a note to parents of children still at home, consider talking about this earlier than you think you should, as early as 12 or 13, because unless you are very skillful parents (we weren't) or blessed or lucky, they don't really take on board what you tell them from around 13 or 14. (I've emailed this to our nineteen-year-old, and if anybody feels moved to pray that he would read it, I thank you).
Here are five practical points to consider when wondering if you should marry a specific person.
One: How is your friendship? It is easy to feel close to a person if you have been physically intimate, but how well can you honestly say you know this person? The more physically involved you have been, the more you will need to step back to evaluate the relationship. This is because physical intimacy clouds our judgment—which it should. One of the benefits of total physical intimacy for married couples is that it renders them less critical of each other. However, this clouding of your thinking belongs in marriage, not before.
Be honest in examining what truly unites the two of you. Is it a desire for pleasure or emotional gain? Is there an unhealthy dependency, where one or both of you has made an idol out of marriage, expecting that it will solve loneliness? How do the two of you deal with differences? Can you disagree lovingly, or are there some issues of manipulation, anger, or guilt that need to be sorted out first? Before marriage it is easy to maintain a good image, so make sure you have seen each other with your masks down, so to speak.
Pope John Paul II beautifully sums up all of these thoughts in his book Love and Responsibility:
“The essential reason for choosing a person must be personal, not merely sexual. Life will determine the value of a choice and the value and true magnitude of love. It is put to the test most severely when the sensual and emotional reactions themselves grow weaker, and sexual values as such lose their effect. Nothing then remains except the value of the person, and the inner truth about the love of those connected comes to light. If their love is a true gift of self, so that they belong to the other, it will not only survive but grow stronger, and sink deeper roots. Whereas if it was never more than a synchronization of sensual and emotional experiences it will lose its raison d’être [reason for existence] and the persons involved in it will suddenly find themselves in a vacuum. We must never forget that only when love between human beings is put to the test can its true value be seen.