Are We Getting Married Too Soon?

Dear Anthony,

My pastor is skeptical that long distance relationships can have the personal and practical growth to move toward marriage. My fiance lives in California, and I’m in Canada. He first wrote me on AMS nine months ago. We met the first time two months ago. A month ago I flew to California for our second in person meeting. He proposed. I flew home to pray about it and a few days later said yes. We believe we have the maturity, love, and shared spiritual life to begin marriage. We would like to cooperate with our pastor, however, it does seem that Father already has some preconceived ideas about long distance dating. Do you have any advice we can share with him?

It’s obviously you are both deeply in love and want to share your life together. But I can certainly see why your pastor has concerns.

Only the two of you can make this decision. Not even your pastor’s concerns can stop either of you from your fundamental right to be married if you so choose. I, too, certainly have no way of knowing if this is what you should or shouldn’t do, nor advise you either way. It is your decision, and whatever decision you make should be supported by anyone in your life who loves you, and will definitely be accepted by the Church under the permissible canonical conditions which I assume are in place (i.e., both free to marry in the Church, both baptized, etc.)

Your pastor’s concerns, I believe, are not so much your long distance relationship, but the short length of time knowing each other and only meeting twice.

I’m sure for the two of you, the nine months you have known each other seem like a lifetime. No one can fully understand how two people can have such deep love and commitment in such a short time. It’s natural for others observing from the outside to consider factors of the situation and be skeptical. They have no connection or participation in your mutual love experience, so it’s impossible for them to know the full story.

However, their opinions regarding the facts are worth hearing out and considering, because it’s not uncommon that the love that develops so rapidly clouds and blinds prudence and reason. So having an open mind to what those you love or respect have to say from their observations and experiences is a good practice.

There are a few points I would like to share with you as food for thought that perhaps you have not considered and might find helpful as you continue toward your intention to marry.

The length of time you have known each other is a serious concern. No matter how much you know each other right now, it’s not as much as you think when it comes to a decision to marry. Sharing things about each other is not enough. Experiencing each other in person in all kinds of situations and with all kinds of other people provides a great deal of important information to know about the other.

Many common marriage problems are due to behaviors and attitudes: how you both react in uncomfortable situations or under stress, how both of you behave around or treat each other’s family and friends, seeing what gets both of you upset or how you work through an argument, what issues of your past come up and under what circumstances, and how you communicate with each other and work together to resolve problems or make important and not so important decisions.

Then there is non-verbal communication, which is what makes up the majority of how we communicate with other human beings. It’s impossible to experience body language without being together in person. Therefore, it’s impossible to know how you react to each other’s body language.

Responding to the call of love and deciding to marry must include an acceptance of anything negative about each other, including all bad habits, personal scars, behavior patterns, etc. You can’t fully know what these are unless you experience them first hand and share them as they come up. And when shared, there is nothing that can replace eye contact and hand holding and the like when it comes to accepting.

My concern is that the two of you have not had enough in-person time to experience so much of each other that needs to be experienced before deciding to marry. Have you spent enough time with each other’s friends and family? Have you determined that you both accept each other’s friends and have shown you are not jealous or possessive? Whoever is doing the moving to the other’s country, have you had enough time to help the family members process that?

Only the two of you can answer this, of course. If you are ready and fully accept each other, then wonderful! Let no one’s concerns, including your pastor’s, prevent you from moving forward.

However, long distance relationships are very challenging. You want to make sure you know what you are doing as far as possible. Another three or six months of getting together in person can only help.

I would suggest you consider telling your pastor you will make a short term commitment to spend more in-person time together before getting engaged, then meet with him several times together. He will feel a lot better and be impressed that you would make such an effort.

Anthony Buono is the author of Would You Date You? and founder of Avemariasingles.com. For thousands of Catholic singles, Anthony offers guidance, humor, understanding, and practical relationship advice.  Visit his blog at 6stonejars.com