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Before you say ‘I Do’…

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It has been over 7 years since I broke up with my ex, but I have been afraid of commitment for the longest. Of course I did ‘see’ someone here and there, but whenever I thought about becoming a wife I shuddered.

Well, while there are a plethora of reasons as to why I did not want to commit, one of them stands out: I WAS NOT READY.

First, I became a mum at a very young age and thus did not get the chance to mature fully – some of my character traits were left hanging, but I thank God who has continued to mold my character and to this end, my son has been fundamental in helping me find myself as well as go through the modeling process smoothly.

I had struggled with anger, for instance, for so long that I had to ask for my son’s help. Though very young, he has a very different temperament from me and so he played his role very well – even as I looked up to God for help.

Deep inside me, I knew that there was no way I could become somebody’s wife with such a temper. However, in God’s time I overcame it and now I thank Him for setting me free.

Besides my shortcomings (anger was just one of them), there were many things that I felt needed to be in place before I could consider marriage. There were times I would close my eyes and imagine a marriage situation, and I can tell you those moments were not the best. It felt like a burden to me – having to wake up to prepare your husband for work, coming home faster after work to make supper and all.

You might ask; isn’t that what you do for your son? Well, you are wrong! In my nine years of single parenting, I can tell you keeping a son is not the same as keeping a husband!

I grew up with no mum to mentor me, and for the ten years I stayed with my parents, their marriage was dysfunctional before they eventually separated – but came back together later.

However, their reunion has taught me that you cannot leave God out of your marriage – especially if you want Him to keep it intact. It was His design in the first place, and so He will do anything to make it achieve its purpose – as long as you allow Him to.

Recently, God brought me some people who have helped mentor me on relationships. I did not go looking for them, but because God owns seasons and times, He knew it was time for me to learn about marriage. I can say my mind is completely changed, and am thankful for everyone who has contributed to this mind shift.

Basically, these are some of the things you need to do before walking down the aisle:

Learn self-control

Self-control is a wide topic and can help determine if someone is mature enough for marriage. For one, you need to learn how to delay gratification.

As Drs. Townsend and Cloud put it in their book ‘Boundaries in Dating,’ “If someone is able to respect the limit of hearing no for sex, then that is a character sign of someone who can say no to their own desires and hungers in order to serve a higher purpose, or to love another person.”

Yes, abstaining from sex during courtship is a great indicator of a healthy marriage in days to come. You do not want someone who cannot wait for you to come back from a trip because they are ‘burning with passion.’

This is the same person who will sleep with every Tom, Dick and Harry (or should we say Faith, Eunice, and Njeri) because they ‘looked sexy’ or had great abs/legs.

You do not want someone who falls to every seductive trap of every flirty eyes or seductive cleavage.

If you are to sacrifice your hobby, money, and/or friends for the sake of the family, you have to first learn how to delay gratification.

Patience is another aspect of self-control. Love is always patient. If you lack patience, you cannot handle marriage. Patience helps you to deal with anger, and to wait – for that child to be born, for that food to be cooked, for that partner to answer your call, to win the acceptance of in-laws, and to correct your children.

Patience does not give up easily. As one of my mentors taught recently, “If you give up easily, don’t get married- you will give up every day.”

If you have a resigned spirit, cannot wait in the queue, you need to work on your patience before you say ‘I do.’

Set proper boundaries

Boundaries with yourself, family, colleagues, and friends will help you to set priorities right, and respond to situations with wisdom. It will also help you to respect others, and earn their respect back.

Learn healthy conflict resolution mechanisms. The other day my friend asked: “Do you know why some couples can go for days without talking to each other?”

Not talking to your spouse does not mean you are poor communicators. You have heard that silence is golden, and to some extent it is true.

Silence does not kill marriages. Poor conflict resolution skills do, and pride is a major factor in this.

If you are too proud to say sorry when you are in the wrong, you are not fit for marriage. In the same manner, if you are not mature enough to confront your partner when they are wrong, do not get married.

Learn to bring everything to the table and talk about it – in a healthy manner. Your partner should be your best friend, and for this reason, you need not be afraid of saying anything.

If there are things you cannot share with your partner, you are not the right match.

Friends strive to keep their relationship and are always there for each other. If you are the kind that goes quiet when wronged or in the wrong, do not get married – unless you want to torment your partner for the rest of their lives.

Work on your spirituality

Man is a religious being, and so you have to look up to some higher authority for guidance.

A Christian understands that God is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and end of everything. If you want your marriage to last, invite God to be the bond that keeps you together.

He is the One who will ‘service’ your marriage when it threatens to break down. Learn to acknowledge His place and authority over your union, and you will succeed.

For this reason, it is important to establish the spiritual maturity of your partner before settling down. If they cannot submit to God, they will always ‘Lord’ it over you.

Learn how to give

First, you need to understand the needs of your partner. In a recent conversation with one of my mentors, I learned that a man has 4 main needs namely; respect, food, information, and sex.

Yes, men ought to be good listeners so they can be able to pick relevant information from their wives’ conversations.

On the other hand, a woman needs; love, affection, appreciation, and approval.

Remember you can be the right person with the wrong person or vice versa. As you work on becoming the right partner, make an effort also to pick the right partner.

It is better to break a courtship than to break a marriage. Take your time to prepare for marriage, and demand the best from your partner.

However, do not expect your partner to be perfect; just find out who they are inside, and learn to handle their flaws.

You cannot change them, but as long as you understand and accept them as they are, you can forge a formidable union in marriage.

As someone once told me, marriage is not a competition. You do not get married because others are getting married, or because you are growing old.