Couples should take the time to know each other before marriage


4/6/1989 Not long ago I was talking to a young woman who has been married less than a year. At the conclusion of our conversation she made an observation about her husband: “If I knew then (before marriage) what I know now, we would have never married.”

Granted, there is some risk in every marriage. You never can know everything possible or even necessary to give you any guarantee. Even if you know a great deal about a person before you marry and deem him or her to be an adequate spouse, the person might change in numerous ways after you marry. Life offers many risks and few guarantees. Marriage is no exception.

I firmly believe that many couples do not take adequate time to get to know each other. Neither do they take the time or opportunity to find out some basic information about a person with whom they originally intend to spend a lifetime.

My first semester at BYU in the fall of 1977 was very interesting. The first day of class I asked the students why they were enrolled in a course on preparing for marriage. (I have since learned that the real task at BYU is to take such a course without letting y our friends and roommates know that you are!)

After several comments, some of which were rather humorous, one young woman raised her hand. She said she intently wanted to find a husband and went to a dance one night with such a pursuit in mind. During the dance she met a young man who was also highly motivated to marry. The student told us that they were engaged in two weeks and married two months from the time they met at the dance. And four months after their marriage, they were divorced. She simply added. “I’m taking this class to find out what happened and why.”

MARRIAGE COUNSELORS AND EDUCATORS RECOMMEND that those contemplating marriage date each other several months before they marry. In her recent book “How to Stop Looking for Someone Perfect and Find Someone to Love,” Judith Sills, Ph.D., recommends that a person do a little checking on someone before considering marriage. She suggests that a person wait at least 90 days after first contemplating marriage and during those three months find out the following:

  • Demographic data (home, childhood, schools, etc.)
  • How the person has functioned in previous relationships.
  • Vocational capabilities and previous work patterns.
  • Ethical and moral views on important issues.
  • Political background and views.
  • Religious interests and perspectives.
  • Range of interests and hobbies.
  • Drug and alcohol habits.
  • Present relationships with parents, brothers and sisters. 
  •  Past ability to manage money, debt and savings.
  • Attitudes about child bearing and rearing.

How does a person learn all these things? Still suggests a person do so by listening, observing and, when necessary, asking. I also suggest all couples contemplating marriage visit the family of the person they intend to marry. The simple truth in life is “when you marry, you marry the family.” Yet many couples naively plan a wedding in which the ceremony is the first time he or she will meet their future in-laws.

If, at the end of the 90 days, you still feel you want to marry, then proceed. The new information acquired will help with the decision. But remember the warning not to marry too quickly.

Perhaps James Branch Cabell has said it best. He once wrote, “Marry in haste and repent in leisure.”

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