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How to Choose the Right Spouse

By Anthony St. Louis-Sánchez
Tribunal Judge for the Archdiocese of Denver

Is there an app for that? Today, it seems that apps and technology have given us many ways to improve our lives, including through planning, scheduling and finding the right person for the job. AI is proving valuable for many human tasks. But could an app help find the perfect spouse? Dating apps may help find a romantic partner, even one with similar likes and dislikes, but the process of discernment of marriage is uniquely human and cannot be outsourced to technology or AI.

Discernment of marriage is a complex process of evaluation and consideration of many factors. It’s important to find someone with similar interests, likes, and values for a strong and healthy marriage. But this is not all there is to discernment of marriage. First, every individual must ask a fundamental question: Is God calling me to married life? Marriage is a life-long vocation. The vocation of each individual, whether to the priesthood, the diaconate, religious life, the single life, or married life, is a unique invitation by God to embark on the road to holiness and ultimately reach heaven. Each vocation is designed to lead the person to greater holiness and to fulfill the unique plan that God has for each one of us. Does God want me to grow in holiness and find my purpose in life through the vocation of marriage? Everyone must discern and answer this question for himself or herself.

Once this specific question has been answered, there is still much discernment to do. Even if I know that God is calling me to married life, the individual choice of a spouse requires more particular discernment. Can I imagine myself waking up next to this person for the rest of my life? Can I foresee being committed to this person for the rest of my life, no matter what? Can I see myself being faithful to this person alone, for the rest of my life? These are the difficult questions which must be answered by each individual.

This process of finding the right person to marry and considering whether this person would make a good spouse is fraught with many difficulties stemming from the fact that we are fallible creatures who cannot see the future. If I could see the future, it would be easier to discern whether I want to be united to this other person for the rest of my life. However, life has a way of throwing curveballs which cannot be anticipated. That said, these curveballs do not necessarily doom a relationship.

Choosing the right spouse to marry is not a decision to make lightly, but as long as the couple seeks God’s will and strives to grow in holiness together, God’s desire for them will become more and more clear.

Marriage does not promise happiness as the world defines it. Marriage may include suffering and great difficulties. Marriage does not make us immune to the hardships of life, but it does provide a partner who will accompany and help bear the burdens of life. Thus, both spouses must practice daily the gift of self to the other. If I enter into marriage seeking my own happiness, I will likely be frustrated. But if I enter into marriage seeking the happiness of my spouse, willing to lay down my life, my interests and my desires in service of my spouse, I will find what my heart desires. In this regard, Christ is the perfect example of a spouse. Jesus poured out his life for his bride, the Church, even to the point of death on a cross. Am I able and willing to selflessly lay down my life for my spouse, just as Jesus demonstrated?

The discipline of the Church states that Catholics should marry Catholics. A common religious commitment by both spouses is a sure way to find the necessary grace to persevere in the commitment of marriage. By keeping Christ as the foundation of married life, the spouses are equipped to endure whatever life may throw at them. Even if your spouse is not Catholic, it’s important to share a common faith in Christ, which is why Catholics can be allowed to marry a baptized non-Catholic. Jesus can be the foundation of marriage, even if both parties are not Catholic. It becomes more difficult, but not impossible, to foster a life-long marriage between a believer and a non-believer. With a dispensation, a Catholic can be allowed to marry a non-baptized person. If a Catholic marries a non-baptized person, it is important for the baptized spouse to keep Christ central to the relationship. Through prayers and a good example, the baptized spouse may lead the other to experience the love of Christ, and perhaps serve as the catalyst for their conversion.

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The discernment of marriage requires the evaluation and consideration of all these aspects. It also requires that the couple has freedom from external and internal pressures and influences. The choice to enter into the sacrament of marriage belongs uniquely to the individuals involved, not to family, friends, nor society. Thus, the parties must be free from the undue influences of others.

Choosing the right spouse to marry is not a decision to make lightly, but as long as the couple seeks God’s will and strives to grow in holiness together, God’s desire for them will become more and more clear. Above all, keep prayer at the core of your relationship, and you can’t go wrong!

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