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“Ask a Priest: Should We Wait Another 7 Years to Get Married?”
Q: I have been in a very loving, Christian relationship for two years now. We want to get married but have to wait another seven-plus years while we finish med school/grad schools. We have been saving ourselves for our entire relationship, but it seems impossible to continue another seven years. I know I want to marry him, but I’m not sure what to do. – M.
Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC
A: While it is prudential to try to plan ahead, we want to avoid the trap of thinking we can plan everything in life. Remember the parable of the man who wanted to build bigger barns (Luke 12:16-21).
What is more important is learning to rely on God’s providence and not just our own resources and skills.
Jesus took a natural institution and elevated it to a sacrament for baptized Christians, so their love and holiness will be aided by a special sacramental grace.
That means marriage wouldn’t be just between you and your spouse; rather, Our Lord wants to be in the center of the relationship. You would have God on your side.
Being together intimately is one aspect of marriage, but it shouldn’t be the only motivation for marriage. Marriage brings many benefits beyond marital intimacy, including the spiritual good of the spouses.
It is good to keep things in perspective, too. Many graduate students do marry and start families while completing their studies. It’s not impossible.
If you marry but have serious reasons for delaying the start of a family while completing graduate studies, there are resources such as NaProTechnology that could help you live married life more chastely.
These resources could also help you conceive when you discern you are ready without violating your health (through artificial means) or your Christian convictions.
That said, a prolonged courtship isn’t always recommended. Remaining chaste is a relationship isn’t easy, and the longer the courtship, the tougher the challenge.
Also, be wary of thinking that you need to have everything “perfectly” in place before marriage. Six years from now you might face a situation that tempts you to put off marriage even further.
In any case, it’s impossible to discern what the future holds. Plan as you might, marriage will bring its own surprises, not all of them pleasant.
Perhaps it would be to take some of this to prayer and see whether the Holy Spirit might be inviting you to have more faith in God and less on human planning.
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