To have a Successful Courtship, three things you need to consider
WHETHER a marriage will be happy or not is often determined during the first few years. In 1979, 52,000 couples in the United States were divorced before completing their first year of marriage. And in each of the next several years of marriage, a much greater number of couples got divorced.
How is it possible for two people to contemplate building a lifelong relationship and then, in just a few months or in two or three years, determine that their marriage is a failure?
“Most marriage failures are courtship failures,” explains Paul H. Landis, a respected researcher on family life. “This point cannot too often be repeated.” In lands where individuals customarily choose their marriage mates, courtship is the period of time wherein a couple get to know each other better with the possibility of marriage in view. Why is this period so critical?
A Time for Examination
A happy marriage requires painstaking effort. After counseling many unhappily married couples, author Nancy Van Pelt, in her book The Compleat Courtship, asked: “Why do so many marriages fail? There are many reasons, but the main reason is a lack of preparation. . . . I feel anger because of their ignorance regarding the complexity of the task.”
A husband and wife make a sacred vow to be faithful to each other for the rest of their lives. On an impulse a person may make a solemn promise but later realize that more is involved than was bargained for. But the time “to make examination” is before making the vow, not afterward.
Courtship gives a couple the opportunity to make such an examination or investigation. When utilized properly, courtship not only can help a couple determine whether they are really suited for each other but can also prime them for the challenges of married life.
Courtship is a time for a person to search his own heart, to sort out just what his important emotional needs are. When Steve began to court Barbara, she began to reflect on her background and concluded: “I would need a man that would be very patient with me.” She added: “Steve was so patient, putting up with so many things I did to him, and he was very considerate. He always listened to me regardless of what I said. Because of this, my interest in him kept increasing and deepening.” Because each satisfied the other’s emotional needs, their courtship led to a happy marriage.
So during courtship, ask yourself: What kind of person am I? What are my important emotional needs? Also, what are the personality strengths and weaknesses of me and my partner? For instance, one young man said of his girlfriend: “She has a certain stability that I need. I’m restless and flighty. I feel that she has a steadying, calming influence.”
A landmark study of a thousand engaged couples, many of whom were questioned further after several years of marriage, found that the fulfillment of such emotional needs “appears to be of primary importance in today’s marriage.” (Courtship, Engagement and Marriage, by Burgess, Wallin, and Shultz) While love is important, having similar goals and the ability to satisfy each other’s emotional needs are essential for a lasting relationship.