Certainly, there is no decision more important or more consequential than in choosing whom to marry. In fact, it is the single greatest factor in determining our overall success and happiness in life. I don’t care how well everything else might be going in your life, if your marriage is struggling, my friend, enduring happiness eludes you. In such circumstances, marriage will ultimately serve as a kind of albatross around your neck as opposed to a buoy. You will feel more like you’re drowning than that you’re floating as you navigate life’s rough waters. For this reason, if you’re already married, please, I beg you, don’t be so foolish as to think there is another investment of your time, money, and effort more important than your marriage. There isn’t. And if you don’t figure this out sooner, I promise you will learn this lesson later . . . the hard way.

Let me say this as plainly as I can: If you think something or someone (other than God, of course) is more important than your spouse, you’re doing it wrong! How do I know this? Because I was once doing it wrong, too. Perhaps we’ve all found ourselves doing it wrong at one point or another in our lives. In fact, it’s a lifelong goal/struggle of mine: Don’t do it wrong, Jeremy. But hopefully, we are sufficiently aware and mature enough to recognize that there is no earthly relationship more important than our relationship with our spouse.

Okay. Now that we’ve established a baseline understanding of just how important marriage is, let’s consider how we can ensure we marry the right person.

Of course there are many questions we want to ask not only ourselves but our prospective spouses as well. For our purposes today, however, I just want you to ask yourself two foundational questions.

1) Does your prospective spouse inspire you to be your best self?

Look, if your partner brings out the worst you in you, then that’s not a partner, that’s an accomplice. Marriage should inspire the best in us, not the worst. If your relationship makes it easier to engage in behavior that is unhealthy and/or immoral then it’s high time you find someone else. In fact, you should feel uncomfortable in the presence of your prospective spouse every time you do something you know is wrong. Why? Because disappointing her should cause you emotional and mental pain. Losing her respect should frighten you. You want every day to serve as an opportunity to make your spouse happier, not sadder. And if you don’t care enough about your prospective spouse’s opinion to comport yourself accordingly, then, in truth, it’s more than just her opinion that you don’t respect.

It is said that we become the average of our five closest friends. Although I believe in this axiom, I recognize that not every friend is weighted equally. Our spouse will have more influence upon us and the person we become than any other person in our lives. Think about it. We live with them. We make important, life-altering decisions with them. We raise children with them. Heck, if we’re lucky (men), we even get to sleep with them. In order for this to work, we must want to be our best selves for them. Otherwise, when life gets hard, which it inevitably will, rather than sticking together we’ll end up turning on each other.

2) If absolutely nothing changes about your prospective spouse, will you be happily married to him for the rest of your life? Or are you hoping marriage is somehow going to magically ‘fix’ him?

The purpose of this question isn’t to predict the future. It’s to identify serious red flags. And in this case red means ‘STOP! You’re about to crash.’

Far too many people enter marriage naively thinking that marriage is some kind of a magic pill. Like it’s going to fix our partner similar to how Viagra ‘fixes’ erectile dysfunction. It’s not. Trust me. Whatever problems existed before you were married, simply multiply them by at least 10 and that is what it is going to look like once you’re married. Marriage is hard enough. Don’t add to it by marrying someone you have to fix in order to be happy.

Besides, most likely, you’re going to fail anyway. And, in the process, you will find that your efforts to fix your spouse have backfired. You will be resented, not respected. Tolerated, not loved. In short, you’ll be unhappy.

With that said, if your significant other inspires you to be your best self; if he (or she) makes you want to reach higher, do more, and be better than even you can imagine at this point in your life; if you would be happily married to him if nothing fundamentally changed about him, then the foundation for a successful marriage has been laid. You’re on your way to a fulfilling, meaningful, successful, happy, and, just as important, enduring marriage.

If that describes your situation, then congratulations. The day you say “I do” will be one of the happiest days of your life.

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