When I travel, I occasionally pick up a light-reading romance novel that I can leave behind in airplanes or hotels. After reading one, I notice I am feeling resistant to the popular notion of “instant relationships”. It is the norm in these books for the couple to be physically intimate after barely being introduced and to be discussing marriage after a couple of weeks of intense physical activity. How about a reality check? Perhaps pace your relationship instead.

Hugely lacking in the popular approach to marriage are vital success factors:

• Character issues will play out over and over again throughout your relationship and marriage. Can he be compassionate when you are going through a rough time? Can she be patient and avoid bossiness while you assemble a bookcase? Is he consistently truthful? Is she responsible with her employment? Can you trust each other to be faithful? Gentle? Flexible? Courteous? Generous?

• It is unlikely you will end up living completely isolated from each other’s families. Do you and your family members get along with one another? Will the parents be good grandparents? And, do you like how your relationship partner treats the parent of the same gender as you?

• Being parents (or step-parents) together is often a significant part of marriage. Do you both want children? What are your philosophies about parenting? Can you cooperate together, or will you always be at odds with each other? If you will be stepparents, have you gone through courses on the topic together?

• Money is a frequent source of marital challenges. Do you know your partner’s history with making, spending, saving, and managing money? Are you comfortable and in agreement with your mutual approaches to these?

• How do you each respond when there are problems? Can you talk through issues peacefully and reach positive resolutions and decisions? Does one of you dominate discussions and decision-making instead?

There’s a theme going here. It takes time and a variety of experiences to thoroughly know someone well enough to consider marriage. This is especially true when it comes to character. You can get clues early on. Perhaps you experience courtesy and respect but spot the opposite when your partner interacts with a restaurant server. You learn you can trust your partner to be on time for dates. You hear an attitude of love and caring when he or she talks about family members. But, this is all just the beginning…

Marriage is a major commitment. It takes many experiences and conversations to determine whether you can make such a promise to one another and keep it. Do you know what each other’s expectations of marriage are? What are you willing to do to create a strong and happy marriage? Marriage preparation takes time and effort. It is a wise investment in your future. You will be more knowledgeable, skilled, and confident in your ability to succeed at marriage. It’s all about focusing on pace your relationship and not race your relationship.

Will you be able to do the compatibility dance together in the kitchen, bedroom, living room, and out in the world with others? Participate in PREPARE assessment and educational coaching with Susanne M. Alexander, Relationship & Marriage Educator/Coach. (Note: ENRICH coaching and education is available for married couples). Susanne is the author/coauthor of All-in-One Marriage Prep: 75 Experts Share Tips and Wisdom to Help You Get Ready Now, www.allinonemarriageprep.com and Marriage Can Be Forever—Preparation Counts! (www.marriagetransformation.com).

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