Should You Marry?
Long before I ever started my psychology degree I was a wedding/event planner. I have seen women of all ages take the trip down the isle for various reasons and with various paradigms of what their life will be. Three times in the last two days in casual conversations, I have had someone mention the idea of meeting a life partner at a wedding. To avoid a huge mistake I invite any and all people who are thinking of getting married to read this article. Know your motivation for getting married before you walk down the aisle.
Goal of Marriage
According to Kenrick, Neuberg, & Cialdini (2010), our interactions with other people are goal oriented. That means that we are attracted to people based on what our belief is about how that person will affect our goal. It sounds harsh but, we interact with people all day based on how they will affect our current goals. It would make sense that we are attracted to people based on what we think they can contribute to our goal. Somewhere someone will say they married for love but, under that idea there is a goal. The goal may be; to not be alone, to be loved, or to have a family. We may love the person we are with however; they also help accomplish a goal.
This puts divorce into a whole other perspective. People tend to leave each other in the middle of a financial crisis; hence their goal of obtaining financial stability is no longer being sustained by the other person. Of course that is only the perspective; in reality a person’s ability to provide may only temporarily be hindered.
Now let’s put this in terms of who you are about to marry. Over the years I have seen countless brides rush down the aisle for the wedding. They do not really love anyone, they do see the commitment, they want the big party were everyone brings gifts; they want to be told how beautiful they are, and how happy everyone is for them. This situation is doomed for divorce. Marriage is full of tests that you will endure and overcome. The least of these tests are infertility, financial loss, health issues, children (who are sometimes born disabled), addiction, infidelity, and in-laws. These are not situations to take lightly. When you see people who have been married for 20 to 70 years they have been through most if not all of these things.
Now look at your life. What is your goal? Is your goal to be loved by someone, anyone? When we are young we base how we feel about others by how they make us feel. This does not always last. Men settle into a relationship and they tend to take less time to tell you how they feel about you, they bring home flowers less, they basically do all the courtship activities less. Marrying because of how someone makes you feel during courtship is not a good idea. Life is long and this type of “feeling” fades. You have to have your own sense of self going into a relationship. You have to know who you are and be OK with who you are. If you are not, you could be headed down the isle of co-dependency. This is the same truth for men and women. Men also get married because you are holding them up. Is that how you want to live?
If you have a life goal that involves your career, is this person going to support that goal? Are you already having problems with your soon to be spouse being supportive of your desire to live in a certain place, have a career, or have children? These are important life goals that should be supported by your life partner. Marrying someone who does not support your goal is like dragging an anchor to a swim meet. You will be fighting just to keep your head up. Do not marry someone who doesn't support the life you want. By support I mean encourage you and make concessions to support the goal.
Marring For the Wedding
How do you know you are marrying for the wedding? This is an easy test; if you spend more time picking out your dress than you do talking to the person you are engaged to, it may be time to back out. The dress, the cake, and wedding are only a moment in your life. Believe me when I say that they are not what will mean something to you ten years from now. If you can, in your mind, see yourself marrying this person on the courthouse steps with no one else around, then you may be on the right track. If you can see that, then save your money and instead of buying a wedding, have a great honeymoon. It will mean more later. You can always get professional photos taken as a couple.
Financial stability is a fallacy. It doesn’t matter what two people do for a living, there will come a time when they lose everything. It happens to almost everyone. Financial stability is never a reason to marry someone. In fact I would encourage all women to have their own degree in something, be educated, and be able to support themselves. This freedom to support ones self eliminates codependency and the ability of men to walk over you when it comes to money (not that all men will do this). The worst marriages I've ever come across were created out of a monetary dependency.
Wanting a Family
Think about the statement “I want a family”. One would think that wanting a family would indicate that any man would suffice. I would caution any young woman/man that you do not just want a family; you want a “GOOD FAMILY”. What that means is that not just any man/woman will do. You need a man that wants to be a good father, a man with morals, and principles that can be passed on to your children (same is true for a wife). Choosing just any spouse that takes an interest will lead to fights over the children, money, and even you.
Think this out. All these girls/woman who are having babies young think they are creating a family but, they are really creating a broken family (don’t make me reference "16 and pregnant" to prove a point). There is a difference. People who raise children will tell you it is not easy. You have to have the same basic morals as your spouse. Ask yourself what is this man/woman going to teach my children and does that align with what I believe/behave? If wanting a family is your goal, use caution!
Wanting to Be Married
Many people get married out of fear of being alone. We all know the story about the cat lady. I know a woman who was widowed in her forties; she spent her life traveling and meeting people. She never remarried; she was a great person and never owned a cat. We define our lives by what we want. Just because someone is single does not mean that they are lonely or sad. Life is to be lived regardless of if you are single or married.
Being married is work. Marriage requires communication, cooperation, problem solving skills, understanding, and love. That sounds easy right, well its not. At times it can be downright frustrating. Being married comes with its own set of problems. People who go into marriage believing it will solve their problems will be disappointed. Marriage takes a lot of time to perfect. Once you get to that point it can be the greatest thing ever, getting to that point is not so easy. Just like a job marriage is a learning process.
Marrying to Cover Behavior
Here comes some blatant honesty; because people are raised with certain religious ideas they tend to get married to cover or to justify behaviors that were unacceptable by the standards in which they were raised. In other words; sex or even pregnancy. In the mind of a girl if she marries the boy she committed “sins” with, they were meant to be, and it erases the sin. If you believe that sex before marriage is a sin then nothing ever erases that for you. However, you can avoid a lifetime of hell by not then marrying someone who does not respect you. (Did you flinch?)
I said it “men/women who compromise your standards do not respect you”. This is reality. Furthermore if you believe that sex before marriage is a sin and you do it anyway, you don’t respect yourself. That is correct; you do not respect yourself. Think about it, you compromised what you believe for some guy/girl. Does that sound like someone who is stable and ready for marriage? I know it’s harsh but, it’s absolutely true. What it means is you are about to marry someone who cares very little about how you feel or your standards.
All that said, this does not apply to people who do not share any type of paradigm in which premarital sex is a sin. It’s never a good idea to have premarital sex but, if you do not feel it is a moral issue then by your standard no one has compromised your beliefs or been disrespectful. Every person should own their mistakes.If you let this happen, own it. Do not make a greater mistake to try to cover the previous mistake. I can tell you it is better to live and learn than it is to let the mistake take over your life.
Marrying Your Cheating Partner
Here is an interesting idea, a person uses you to cheat on a spouse, and then you marry them. Good idea or bad idea? People who cheat are what the psychology refers to as passive aggressive. What that means is that the person may be mad at their spouse but, instead of having an adult conversation, they cheat. Cheating is not always the result of bad relationships. Cheating can come from a person’s inability to handle a life crisis. If you are the other person… WHAT ARE YOU THINKING???
I have seen countless women cheat with a married man because they see the other women’s life and they want it. One person can NEVER get the complete picture of another person’s life from the outside. It may look like a man is a loving father and husband. If that is true then why is he/she cheating? In reality people have weaknesses. They act on those in moments when they should walk away. You will never know who someone is until it’s too late. If a person cheats it is an indication they have some growing up to do. If you marry that person you are going to be in for a rude awakening when they use you as part of their growing experience.
Countless affairs turned marriage end the same way they started, with infidelity. Respect and trust are not a factor in a relationship that started with secrets and broken trust. If someone wants a relationship with you, make them end their current relationship before you consider dating them. You deserve better.
Happily Ever After
After all this you may feel that there is never a good goal for a marriage or that there is never a good relationship. I can tell you that is not true. People mature at different ages. There are people who married young and have had wonderful lives together. You have to expect there to be some tough times in a relationship. Do not marry thinking that wedding party continues. Marry loving that person, accepting them for who they are, accepting that you have a goal together, and you are both committed to each other and the goal.
In my own marriage there have been times of unbelievable happiness and unbearable pain. There have also been times of joy. We are older and settling into the contentment stage of our relationship. We appreciate each others company, the kids are almost grown, and we love each other more than ever. I have never seen money bring happiness. We have had a great family. Our goal was just to be together. Which may be the best goal of all.