Wanting the dream of a white picket fence, 2.5 children, and a fairy tale ending with Prince Charming isn’t the worst dream a girl could have. The desire many of us carry to one day be married, even from a young age, is okay.
But what happens when that desire becomes so deep that we lose sight of who we are and what we are ready to begin? When the desire becomes so all-consuming that we cannot see our lack of readiness?
The data from a number of studies on divorce – although varying slightly from study to study – still proves a high likeliness of divorce in today’s marriages in western culture. According to Philip Cohen’s Analysis of American Community Survey Data, a study conducted in 2016 of the U.S. Divorce & Marriage Rates by Year, nearly 50% of today’s marriages will end in divorce or separation. Researchers estimate that nearly 41% of all first marriages will end in divorce. However, millennials are causing the U.S. divorce rates to plummet, as their desire to co-habitate has far outweighed their desire for marriage, at least before the age of 40.
Over the last decade, my primary ministry has been among single mothers across the U.S. Many have endured the pain of a divorce or the devastation of a co-habitating relationship that failed. The hours I have spent holding the hands of weeping, heart-broken women are hours I wish never had to exist. What does this mean for you? It means your readiness to move into a relationship matters. It means that God wants what is best for you and that it is important for you to evaluate where you stand in critical areas before you move into something too quickly.
The following 8 categories may reveal that you are not ready for a relationship and the truth is, that is okay.
1. You are not financially secure.
Now, I hesitated to lead with this one, because discussing relationships and finances can get hairy and it doesn’t tie into a neat little bow. I’m not suggesting that you have a 20-year plan on overcoming financial hardship or hold a Master’s Degree in Finances. However, I’m reminded of Proverbs 31:11, which says her husband can trust her, and she will greatly enrich his life. Enrich means to add to, to enhance, or to improve. This means that you are to enhance your future husband’s life. Too many move too quickly because the difficulty of managing money alone can be overwhelming. The idea that two incomes in a household are better than one and the paralleling cost of living increases we see annually can falsely convince a single person that financial relief is only a relationship away. Yet, we know that finances are cited as one of the top causes of future divorce.
Photo Credit: Cherrybeans/Thinkstock
2. You talk (and think) about your ex frequently.
One of the biggest indicators that you are not ready for a relationship is that your ex is still a topic of conversation. Healing and forgiveness don’t excuse one’s past behavior, so if you’ve been hurt or abused by an ex, it doesn’t mean their choices were correct. But a constant need to talk about what an ex did to you or how the relationship failed is a big red flag that you’ve not given yourself ample time to heal from that relationship. The likelihood that you will make your new partner pay for the previous guy’s mistakes increases tremendously.
Photo Credit: Thinkstock
3. Your emotional health remains unaddressed.
Your wholeness in all areas matters. Whether there is lingering hurt from a past relationship, devastation from a childhood abuse, lingering grief from the death of a loved one, bitterness, offense, or any myriad of emotional wounds, the need to work on yourself and address emotional wholeness is great. Seek counseling. Enlist a Godly mentor’s help. Don’t ignore or attempt to mask emotional unhealthiness. You (and your future spouse) will pay for it.
Photo Credit: Diego Cervo/Thinkstock
4. Your spiritual growth is stagnant or weakened.
The joy of the Lord is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10). Our ability to endure, find true joy, and withstand the trials that a future marriage will face rest in knowing who we are in Christ and growing in Him regularly. Intimacy with the Lord creates the platform necessary to build a strong marriage. Our future spouse can never be the one who completes us or makes us whole. We set up the relationship for failure when we enlist the strength of another human to fill the places only God can.
Photo Credit: Ben White/Unsplash
5. You lack boundaries or the self-control necessary to stick to them.
Boundaries aren’t established when you meet Mr. Tall, Dark, and Handsome. They are established in the waiting period. This is when our thoughts are most clear. We know what we won’t compromise on and the things that are most important to us. Use wisdom to create a list of boundaries that are important for you. This list is very important, but not near as important as your willingness to follow them. A list on a sheet of paper on your bed-side stand won’t protect our hearts. Our willingness to submit to the boundaries God laid out before us will.
6. You fail to parent your children well.
This will only pertain to parents, of course, but this one is huge. The rate of re-marriages makes blended families more common than ever before. The complexity of spouses walking into a ready-made family is multi-layered. It’s important that your desire to marry isn’t simply to have someone to “help with the kids”. While a future spouse can certainly provide stability and strength to a home, the responsibility of strong parenting can never rest on the shoulders of a future spouse to do the work you are unwilling to do. Parent the children well now. Adhere to boundaries. Establish a parenting method that works for you. This makes a future relationship much more likely to last. While your future spouse can be someone who brings ease to your parenting challenges, the burden can’t rest solely on his shoulders.
Photo Credit: Janco Ferlic/Unsplash
7. You can’t leave the past in the past.
This one is hard. The abuse rate in the U.S. alone is overwhelming and includes childhood molestation, physical assault, and emotional abuses. This, coupled with the wounds that childhood can sometimes brings, such as absentee parents, death of loved ones, or traumatic experiences, leaves the heart and mind wide open to keep exploring the past. Our past wounds can hinder us from moving forward into all God has for us. Counseling, open dialogue, books and studies, and support groups are all ways to work on the hurts we may have experienced from the past. It is a necessity that we forgive, heal, and move on from our pasts in order to flourish in our futures. Don’t make the present pay for the past. God has too many plans for your future.
Photo Credit: Candice Picard/Unsplash
8. You lack commitment and clarity.
Do you truly know what you want? Have you heard from God about the desires He has for your life and the direction He wants you to head? Are you committed to following His call, above all else? People perish without vision. We must be willing to listen to the Lord and obey his commands about our futures. We cannot be found by fear or live in a perpetual state of “wishy-washy.” We must let our yes’s and no’s be what they are. A fear to commit hinders many relationships from moving into the level God desires for them. Commitment issues can stem from any number of the above-referenced items and must be addressed.
Listen, your lack of readiness to move into a new relationship doesn’t make you broken or forever destined to singleness (not that singleness is somehow a life curse either). Your lack of readiness is simply that – nothing more, nothing less. The key to a successful relationship, among many other things, is our willingness to work on ourselves in the waiting. Examine these 8 things and determine where you stand in the waiting process. Waiting patiently on the Lord, while working on yourself first, is the groundwork necessary to build anything meaningful and long-lasting. Commit to the work necessary to be ready when the right one does arrive.
Jennifer Maggio is a wife, mother of three, and Chief Executive Officer of a national nonprofit, The Life of a Single Mom. She is the author of 4 books and director of Single Mom University. Her greatest desire is to see women live a life of freedom in Christ. For more info, visit www.jennifermaggio.com.
Originally published Monday, 10 February 2020.