Why do we all agree that a 16-year-old isn’t ready to date seriously and start searching for their future spouses? (Well, all of us except the 16-year-olds themselves, that is.) For the exact same reason many “grown ups” aren’t either: they are unprepared and lack the maturity required for a committed relationship.
We keep talking about the importance of being prepared to meet your potential partner. We also know that simply being older and living longer doesn’t automatically equal adequate growth and preparation. So what exactly does being ready entail?
Just like in the book “The Missing Piece Meets the Big-O” by Shel Silverstein (follow the link and read it!), I’ve come to understand that the best relationships aren’t about two incompletes making each other whole, but instead, two wholes enjoying each other’s company. Nobody is ever completely whole, but as long as we are striving to be we can come pretty darned close.
Here is what I think it means to be ready, sufficiently mature, or whole (I don’t claim this list to be comprehensive in anyway, please let me know if there’s something you disagree with or you think I’ve missed something):
- You have a good (accurate, realistic and positive) understanding of who you are, your defining personality traits, as well as how you may be perceived by others.
- You know your strengths and how to use them. You find fulfillment in exercising those skills and talents.
- You acknowledge your weaknesses with humility, and honestly believe that you can overcome them. You have faith in the atonement and apply it in your life. You are a perpetual project of self-improvement.
- You recognize your own thoughts and feelings, acknowledge them and take responsibility for them.
- You know what you want out of life and have an idea of how to get it.
- You love yourself and know just what you have to offer your future spouse that would enhance his life.
- You take responsibility for your own happiness. You know what it takes for you to be a happy person, and you are actively working on attaining what is best for your well-being. You do not expect circumstances or other people to make you happy.
- You have a high sense of self-worth. You know that you are valuable and why. You are secure in that knowledge and it is not easily influenced by others.
- You do not let your past affect you. You recognize and work on resolving issues that affect your happiness and your relationship with others. You do not carry baggage around, nor expect to find someone who will carry your baggage for you.
- You have a positive outlook on life. You make decisions based on faith and hope, not out of fear or desperation.
- You enjoy your life and love being you!
Be An Adult
- You have the ability to take care of yourself and your own needs, emotional, physical, spiritual, financial and social.
- You have the room and the ability in your life to take care of another person.
- You are able to make good decisions carefully and not impulsively on your own with conviction.
- You trust in your decision-making skills and don’t question them in hindsight or constantly look back in regret.
- You have the courage and ability to “stick it out” through the tough times and resolve issues instead of jumping ship/burning bridges/running away every time problems arise.
- You are able to exercise good self-discipline and self-control.
- You have experienced life long enough to have a mature sense of time and have seen through personal choices and commitments that have spanned a long period of time.
- You are willing to stretch yourself and learn to exist outside of your “comfort-zone”.
- You are committed to living righteously and making good choices, even if those choices may be more difficult than the alternative.
Have Positive Relationships
- Love is a part of your life through healthy and positive relationships with friends, family, and with God.
- You are actively loving and serving those around you.
- You take ownership of your thoughts and feelings and are both able and unafraid of communicating them clearly.
- You are able to relate to and understand the thoughts and feelings of others, as well as see things from their perspective.
- You know how to say you’re sorry first as well as how to freely forgive.
- You know how to interact positively with those of the opposite sex
- You allow your life to be greatly enhanced by those around you.
- You are not afraid of emotional intimacy.
- You have an environment where you know you are loved unconditionally despite your flaws and where you love freely, despite their flaws.
- You understand how and why loving another (not just being loved by another person) will greatly enhance your life.
How do you fare in comparison to this list?
Don’t let this list daunt you. You don’t have to be perfect to be in a relationship, but you do need to be working toward it. Don’t confuse maturity and wholeness with flawlessness.
However, like taking a class that you don’t have the prerequisites for, without the proper preparation, you will face a steep learning curve in relationships and will have to struggle hard not to “flunk out”. Whether you learn them now, or you whether you learn them later, these things must be learned.
Regardless of whether or not this preparation and growth will lead to a relationship, constantly working on achieving this wholeness will greatly enhance your life in general. On the other hand, if there are things on the list that you neglect or struggle with, you will invariably find that they will be the source of much unhappiness in your life and subsequently, your relationships.
After all is said and done, married life is still life. If you’re not happy with your life, you’re not going to be happy with your marriage.
Think about where you are in your personal development. Look at the list carefully, and take note of the things you struggle with. You may find examples of why certain relationships had not worked out for you in the past, or you may discover why you are so happy with the relationship you have right now.
Do you have anything to add to the list?