“How do I know if I’m really in love?” This frequently posed question comes in several versions: “Can I be certain he/she is the one for me?” or “Should I marry this person?”
We often answer the question with vague appeals to our glands and emotions. “I feel…” we say, or “I feel in my heart he is the one,” or “I just feel for her like I’ve never felt for anyone before.” And so on. Such thinking (or the lack of it) reduces love to a feeling that you feel that you feel when you feel that you’re feeling a feeling you’ve never felt before.
A few years ago while visiting Thomas Jefferson’s home, Monticello in Virginia, I couldn’t help but notice how a young dating couple in front of me had signed the guest register. The girl had signed her name and beside it under Remarks, she had written, “I like it because I’m with Harold!” There you go! Love that is an outward inexpressibility of an inward all-overishness. “I like the world because I’m with you!” You may be able to date happily on such feelings but that does not mean you will be able to live happily married on such a vague and fragile base.
Back when I was courting hot and heavy, my grandmother would often take me aside and warn, “Now, don’t marry a woman you can live with. Marry one you can’t live without!” And there is a difference. Many a woman would have been easy to settle down and live with in a marriage, but when the right one came along, it wasn’t merely a matter of living with her—I simply couldn’t live without her!
One way of helping to answer the question “How do I know if she/he is the right one?” is by asking still further questions. Questions such as:
- Am I more eager to meet his/her needs than I am to have him/her meet my own needs?
- Will our lives mean more for Christ together than they would separately?
- Do I really want to look across the breakfast table at her/him for the rest of my life?
- Do my parents think I am in love? Can they see me happily married for life to this person?
- If the object of my love doesn’t change after I marry him/her, am I willing to live with his/her weaknesses for the rest of my life?
- Does this person have the character I wish to see reproduced in my children?
- Are both of us disciplined enough to be married? If she/he cannot control sex drives now, what makes me think getting married will bring control later? And if they cannot control their sexuality, what else can they not control? Alcohol? Temper? Food consumption? Money?
- How does your intended treat his/her parents? That’s a pretty good indication of how they will treat you once you are familiar. It is also true that you don’t just marry the individual but join with the entire family. Do you want to get involved with this clan? Do you really want to spend Christmas—and Easter and summer vacations— with them?
- Are your lives compatible vocationally, socially, spiritually, emotionally, and intellectually?
- Are you attracted to this person?
- Can you communicate openly and honestly?
- When you disagree, can you discuss things calmly and come to a mutually agreed upon solution?
- When you quarrel, can you readily forgive and then get on with it?
- Do you respect this person?
The decision to marry is one of the most important decisions of life. And God allows us to make this decision, right or wrong, for ourselves. It must not be rushed; so if you’re not reasonably certain, then wait for further guidance. Furthermore, no important decision should be based upon one or two facts alone, but rather upon the cumulative evidence of all available facts. So when you can answer with an enthusiastic “Yes!” to each of the above questions, then you may rest assured that you have met the right one, and are about as ready as anyone ever can be to enter into marriage.