If Your Man Is Missing These Things, Wait Before Marrying Him

There's more to making a marriage work than being in love. The following 10 things should be in order too.


Not too long ago, I penned a piece for the site entitled "What Should You Do If You Feel Like You Married The Wrong Person?" Ultimately, I did it for two reasons. One, I think it's a topic of conversation that isn't addressed nearly as much as it should be. Secondly, although it does indeed happen, my own work with couples has shown me that, when a lot of people feel that way, it's because they realize that while they may have loved their partner, they simply didn't know enough about them before saying "I do" (hence other pieces like "10 Things Married Couples Wished They Paid More Attention To While Dating" and "Ask These Sex-Related Questions BEFORE You Marry Him").

I say it often because it can't be said enough—going out on dates shouldn't only be about romance and spending quality time. Once you get past around the third one and you both decide that you see a potential future together (I can't tell you how many women I know who made this kind of decision all on their own; yes, you can think you are in a relationship all by yourself), the time spent really should be about getting to know each other way past the surface level.

Then, if after a few months or a couple of years, it looks like you guys are headed towards that stroll to forever, there are definitely some things that your man needs to have in place before you put on an engagement ring. For starters, things on this list that, if you take them seriously, can significantly decrease your chances of regretting marrying him later up the pike.

If I need to put all of this more plainly, I don't care how much you love a man, if he's lacking any of these things, do you, him and your potential future together a favor and wait until he gets these issues handled.

1. Clarity Concerning His Purpose


Please allow me the opportunity to use the Bible to illustrate the first two points because, whether you follow Scripture or not, I think you'll get where I'm coming from. If you read Genesis 1-2, you'll notice that before Adam was joined to his wife, there are two things that he already had—a relationship with God and a purpose/job. What this means to me is that a man is not in the position to provide, protect or lead any woman if he's not clear about why he was put on this planet. Plus, it's going to be really difficult for you to be a vessel of support and encouragement if he doesn't know what the heck he is doing with his life.

This is why I'm not big on people putting pressure on each other to get all serious in college. College is the time to figure out what your life path is going to be with as few distractions as possible. Then, once you know, it's easier to figure out who will be a great complement for you.

Your purpose, by definition, is "the reason for which something exists or is done, made, used, etc." I know a few grown men who have no clue what their purpose in life is. Not only does this bother them, but they tend to get involved in counterproductive habits—lots of women, etc.— to cope with the frustration that they feel. I get it too because there's a bit of an identity crisis that comes with not knowing what you're put on this planet to do. Do you really want to marry a man who doesn't really know himself yet? Especially since, once he finds out what his purpose is, it could totally change him as a person? Don't answer right away. Give this one some real thought first.

2. Healthy Boundaries with His Parents

Even the Bible says that once a man and woman are joined in marriage, they should leave their parents and cleave to one another (Genesis 2:24). Unfortunately, there are a lot of folks who seem to miss the memo, big time, on this. Parents are still co-signing on loans and paying their bills. Women are going behind their husband's backs to get daddy to buy them things (SMDH). And, a lot of men are mama's boys.

How can you know if your man is one of them? Does it seem like his mother is constantly at his beck and call? Does she seem to know more about his current life than you do? Does she do things for him that he really should be doing for himself (cooking, cleaning, etc.)? Does she offer you unsolicited advice without him telling her if/when she's crossed the line? Does he always seem to take her side even when she's dead wrong?

I've got a friend who is married to a mama's boy. She has told me on more than one occasion that while she loves her husband, had she known how dependent he was on his mother (and how much he allows his mother to manipulate him), she would've never said "yes" to his proposal. That's a pretty heavy statement.

A man who loves his mom is endearing. But if he doesn't have established and consistent boundaries with both of his parents, don't assume that will miraculously change after the two of you jump the broom. That's something that needs to be discussed on the front end. As soon as possible too.

3. A Spiritual Foundation


The word "spirituality" comes from the Latin one spiritus which means "breath of life". If you think about the fact that the Scripture tells us that God "breathed life" into Adam's nostrils (Genesis 2:7), it makes total sense why most of us associate spirituality with having a relationship with a higher being.

When you think about the fact that there is plenty of data to support that having a sense of spirituality makes us more humble, compassionate and forgiving, that it makes it so much easier to deal with life's trials and challenges, and that it also makes us more optimistic and self-aware—why wouldn't you want a husband who comprises all of these attributes? Someone who relies on something bigger than himself?

There's another benefit of being with a spiritual person. Author Henry Ward Beecher, "Spirituality without morality is rootless." Although spirituality is not automatically synonymous with morality (it should be but that's another message for another time), someone who makes their spirit a priority tends to be more sensitive when it comes to their conscious and life choices. This is definitely important when it comes to honoring their marriage vows on day one—and fifty years later.

4. Good Credit

I already know. This is the discussion that people try and avoid like the plague, but if they want their marriage to go smoother, they really shouldn't. According to reports, nearly a third of Americans have a credit score that's lower than 601 (although the current average for 2019 is sitting at around 695). 30 percent have bad credit. We all know that credit is important, especially when it comes to making major purchases like a home or car. Yet, you'd be amazed by how many dating or engaged couples don't share their score with their significant other.

I once heard a financial consultant say that our credit score says a lot about our character. The reason why is because if we say that we're going to do something, including pay a bill, we should keep our word; that it speaks to our level of integrity. While there are extenuating circumstances that can sometimes make this challenging, for the most part, he's right. I know the times when my credit has been jacked up, it's because of late payments or tax issues; things that I could better control if I had been more financially proactive and responsible. Ask any wife in the world and they will scream from the rooftop that you definitely want a man who is financially on top of things.

So yeah, mostly definitely, credit scores should be a topic of discussion. If his is under 700, I'm not saying don't marry him. But I do think it's a good idea to give the relationship time for him to get those points up (you too, if need be).

5. A Financial Plan


Fail to plan. Plan to fail. Since one of the leading causes of divorce is financial stress and strain, it's also a good idea to see if you're dating the kind of man who makes financial plans for his future; that he's not the type of guy who is a financially irresponsible individual. And just what does a financially irresponsible man live like? He doesn't have any money in savings; he borrows money a lot; he has little, if any money after paying his monthly bills; he uses his credit cards more than cash; if you even remotely bring financially planning or retirement up, he changes the subject; he is always spending money on things that depreciate in value (like clothes, electronic "toys" and even cars), and he doesn't give you the impression that he pays his bills on time.

The reason why a lot of this stuff doesn't matter, nearly as much as it should, when people are dating is because, for the most part, their partner's money issues do not spill over into their own world. Oh, but once you are husband and wife, they most certainly will. Daily.

It can't be stressed enough that if your man is crazy with money, you should pump the brakes until he can get that under control. You know what they say—love is a wonderful thing, but it doesn't keep the heat on. So true, so very freakin' true.

6. The Ability to “Keep House”

A couple of days ago, I was talking to a wife who has been with her husband for many years. For whatever the reason, cleaning up came up. One of the things that she said has consistently been a point of contention in her marriage is her man sucks at making up the bed and picking things up off of their bedroom floor. His lack of cleanliness in that way made it hard for her to sleep; it has even affected their sex life because she "can't relax in mess".

When I give advice to people in new relationships, if there are two rooms of their partner's house that I recommend they check out, it's the bathroom and the bedroom. If the toilet and bathtub aren't clean and/or there's a stench in the bedroom, you're going to be in for a very uncomfortable ride in marriage; even more so if he's the one with the jacked up home and, when you bring it up, he's got an "that's what I've got you for, babe" attitude.

There are plenty of studies that support that couples who do chores together are happier in their relationship. You know what else? They have more sex too. That's why I don't care how fine he is, how well he dresses, even how great of a line-up he has—if there are always shavings in his sink, his appearance is gonna fade real fast if you make him your husband and you're always the one cleaning up after him.

7. Resolved “Baby Mama” Issues


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are 13.7 million single parents in the United States. Studies also reveal that 59 percent of Black American women have children with more than one father and 24 percent of single-parent homes are led by men. All of this is enough data to make this point a relevant one.

There's one guy who I once considered "forever" with. In hindsight, I'm glad that I took a pass because he had four children by two different women. With one woman, I could never really tell if they are fully over one another. With the other, because their child came from a one-night stand, there was always profound tension between the two of them. Between hearing about the "bond" with the first one and the drama with the second, it started to get draining—to the point of being a deal-breaker.

Being a stepmother is a beautiful thing because it is an awesome responsibility that a woman chooses to do. But if your man isn't co-parenting in a healthy way with the mother of his children, ask any woman who minimized the importance of that before marrying her husband. I bet she has days' worth of stories that will make you rethink getting married until he has peace and resolve—or at the very least respect—with the mother of his kids.

8. Being Civic Service-Minded

I don't know about you, but there's nothing sexier to me than a man who sees a cause and puts his own time, effort and resources into them. Not only does it display a certain level of selflessness and sacrifice, it also shows that he cares about his community and humanity, at large.

Case in point. I recently read an article about 50 Black men who were honored several years ago for the contributions that they made to their community. Keith Young teaches youth how to design and develop their own video games. Chris Rabb teaches entrepreneurship to low-income individuals. Rashuan Williams teaches youth how to care for their environment. Norman Hurns has a youth camp for young men to develop necessary life skills. Wayne Jacobs assists ex-offenders.

I have no clue what any of these men look like. I don't need to in order to already recognize something that's very beautiful about them. There's something that is just so good about a man who gives back. It can only improve the quality of your marriage if you choose a husband who has this in his character.

Tip: If you suggest to your man that he should volunteer or contribute to his community and he gives a lot of push back, don't sleep on that either. You want a man who is giving. It helps him to be a good partner for you.

9. A Desire to Be Intimate Without Always Being Sexual


I remember a wife once telling me, "Shellie, getting married isn't about sex so much as it is about cuddling. You realize that so long as you get that, you won't need sex quite as much." First, speak for yourself, sis and two, I should've asked her husband if he echoes those sentiments. Because sex is one of the main things that makes a marital union different from any other type of relationship, I 100 percent believe that it's important, exponentially so, in a marriage (see "10 Wonderful Reasons Why Consistent Sex In Marriage Is So Important"). I also believe that if two people are physically capable of having sex and they don't, something is very wrong in the relationship (also see "What You Should Do If You Find Yourself In A Sexless Marriage").

At the same time, I will say that it's a pretty significant red flag if you're in a relationship with someone who only comes close to you if he thinks or expects that sex—any type of sex—is about to go down. A man (especially a man who is preparing to be a husband) should be mature enough, romantic enough and self-controlled enough that he doesn't think that every kiss or even make-out session should result in nakedness.

Any married couple will tell you that there are ebbs and flows in sex. That's why it's critical that you get with someone who knows how to pull you close and be intimate without sex having to be on the menu each and every time he does so.

10. Wanting to Be Married Without You Prompting Him

Have mercy, y'all! Without a doubt, a HUGE mistake that far too many of us make is getting involved with and emotionally attached to a man who doesn't desire marriage when we most absolutely do. Unfortunately, a lot of us assume that just because someone is a great guy and has feelings for us that it will eventually blossom into a marital union. It's an epidemic, just how much that is absolutely not the case.

Yeah, never ever ever assume that. Personally, I am a huge supporter of someone saying three dates in that they are interested in a long-term relationship. Wait, let me be more specific; if what they mean by that is marriage, they should say marriage. Although some people say that bringing this topic up comes off as pressuring a person or desperation, what I think is it separates the men who want the same thing from the commitment-phobes.

I mean, don't you want a man who desires to marry you without any prompting on your part? If you can't say that's what you have right now, it's perfectly OK—encouraged even—to wait before hinting, throwing ultimatums or whatever other ideas you've got that you think will convince him to marry you. You deserve a man who wants to all on his own. Don't marry "him" until you know for a fact that he does.

Want more stories like this? Sign up for our newsletter here and check out the related reads below:

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ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.


We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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