I have had a girlfriend for four years. Eight months ago she left for [another country] with her mother. Knowing that we are bound by love for one another with wedding plans, she is to return for us to get married. But now she wants us to live in her mother’s house after the wedding…. I have my own house in which I intended to live with my wife. I am not comfortable with the idea of marrying her knowing that it won’t be my house where I will feel at home, and even knowing that her sister lives there. Please give me some advice.

Dear Friend,

You are very wise to be concerned. It sounds like you have some fundamental differences with your girlfriend, and that those differences are certainly great enough to sabotage your future life together. I strongly advise that you hold off on any future talk about marriage until this issue is resolved. Even though you have invested four years in this relationship, it is much better to be cautious now than to live to regret it later.

In long-term romantic relationships there almost inevitably comes a time when marriage begins to be assumed and discussed. One or both of the individuals may not be ready to commit for a lifetime, but the discussion of the future seems harmless. However, it is not harmless at all because expectations begin to build up and an unspoken agreement develops, at least in the thoughts of one of the two. Breaking off such a relationship would seem like a betrayal and could be devastating for one or both of them. So instead of going through the pain of a breakup, many people feel like they are trapped into going ahead with the marriage. But sooner or later they write to us asking how they can get out of a marriage that was doomed before it ever started. Consequently, it is always far better to go through the pain of a broken engagement than to deal with the enormous repercussions of a failed marriage.

Jesus taught that marriage involves a man leaving his family, and a woman leaving her family, so that the two can be a completely new and separate family together.(1) Newlyweds who do not separate themselves both physically and emotionally will encounter a great deal of problems that could have been avoided. Sometimes they can make the marriage work anyway, but frequently their lives are unhappy and unfulfilled. I believe that if a couple cannot financially afford to live separately from their families of origin, then they are not ready to be married.

We live in a world full of imperfect people, so those who follow Jesus’ teachings will still have problems. But if they follow Him closely, He will help them prevent unnecessary heartbreak in their own lives, and they will have in Him a Best Friend to guide them through every difficult situation. Ask God to guide you each day, and follow the teachings of His Son Jesus Christ in all your decisions. His way is always the best way.

We wish you well,

1 Mt 19:5; Mk 10:7