In case you've been living under quite the giant sized rock, it will be of no surprise to you that the number of men and women getting married in this country has fallen dramatically over the last fifty years or so. With a vast societal and cultural shift happening, the costs of not only weddings, but marriages on the rise, and subsequent divorces skyrocketing, more of an acceptance of those out of wedlock both living together and having children, marriage seems less and less something people are doing these days, but for the ones considering taking this leap of faith, there are probably some questions you should deal with first before you decide to tie the knot.
1. Are you under the age of 25?
(Yes=read)(No=Go to number 2)
I know, right, you and your partner are so young and sexy and full of love for one another, and no one is going to tell you you can't make it work because you know everything...except maybe that divorce rates for individuals under the age of 25 are not the 40-50% of the rest of the populous of married people, but at a staggering 60%. If you haven't already guessed why, it's because you really are young and you really don't know everything.
When you're young you're still trying to figure stuff out, you're a lot of times financially unstable, you're busy with school/work/trying to establish yourself in the world which can take a whole lot of time, money, and patience for a partner and yourself, and you have a lot of opportunity to stray. It can be extremely problematic for one or both of you. It's not impossible for you to make it work, but you may want to seriously consider holding off a bit until you figure a few things out and establish yourselves more before you tie the knot. Going into a marriage where you already have so much on your plate can be tough, but if you're willing to weather the storm, you can be part of that 40%. Read on.
2. Are you still dealing with the traumatic divorce of your parents, your own divorce, or issues with an ex?
(Yes=read)(No=go to number 3)
You cannot go into your own new, or second, etc. time around marriage holding onto all the issues of your past or childhood trauma related to divorce. A lot of times people who have this type of baggage with them will use anything their partner does or does not do that to them even remotely resembles something that happened with an ex, or with their parents, as a reason to end their marriage "before they get hurt," or to sabotage their new relationship.
Saying you're over it, and actually being over it, are two different things. Take to heart someone that says I don't want to end up like my parents who got divorced or that they are still bitter over their ex, because their internal issues may spill over on to your relationship and potential marriage and manifest in so many different ways. This is not to say you can't be bitter over something an ex did, or not marry because your parents divorced, but if a partner doesn't seem like they can move forward or they treat you like an ex or constantly compare you negatively to an ex when things go wrong or you're fighting rather than focus on the here and now, you may want to hold off on giving or accepting that ring until they've dealt with their personal issues with their past. Read on.
3. Do you feel safe enough to be honest with your partner?
(I'm unsure=read)(Yes=go to number 4)
If you are in this moment afraid to tell your partner something about you now, or your past, or anything, really consider why that is and conversely if your partner seems to be holding on to something and closed off whenever you are speaking intimately to one another, there is a reason for that. This is a person you are about to spend the rest of your life with presumably and there are going to be so many times where its going to need to be you and them against the world having each others backs and supporting each other through tough times as well as the good, and that can't really happen if you're failing at being honest and failing at communicating with one another.
No couple is perfect at this, but consider if in the good times, you can't speak to them openly or vice versa, what happens when you're in the bad times and the sh*t hits the fan? If you're struggling with opening up, at least let your partner know why. It may be some trauma or issue that you need to work out before you can feel safe with them, and you do need to feel like you are safe with them and can trust them. Don't get married thinking that a ring is going to solve your communication and trust issues! Read on.
4. Are you being seriously pressured by your partner/parents/culture/society to get married?
(Yes=read)(No=go to number 5)
To clarify, your partner asking you on occasion if you want to get married, is not pressure. Pressure is when your partner (or others in your life) are relentless about it, or constantly making you feel bad or guilty for not proposing to you or for you not wanting to marry them. They may place a heavy burden of guilt on your shoulders often accompanied by statements like, "if you loved me, really and truly loved me, you'd marry me, not just wait around forever." "Or my parents were already married for 5 years at our age, and we should be doing the same now." Your partner shouldn't be doubting your love or comparing you to a couple who is not you in the first place. If you've expressed your own desires to wait or that you aren't sure yet, and your partner quickly dismisses or refuses to entertain your reasons why except to press for a ring or your hand, beware!
It can be hard especially if you truly do love each other to except that for whatever reason, your partner is not ready for marriage. You should not try to force or pressure someone or basically bully someone to walk down the isle for you because if they truly aren't ready, again a ring, isn't going to solve the problems that existed before the marriage. Feeling like, oh, I'm getting older and therefore I must get married now, or your parents wanting grandkids, or the sky falling...still not reasons to get married. This is YOUR life, and you need to be ready for you, not because a hundred other people tell you you're ready for marriage. Read on.
5. Are you pregnant/your girlfriend is pregnant/a random woman you had sex with that one time, pregnant?
(yes=read)(no=go to 6)
Yes, it still happens. No birth control was used, no condom was used, pregnancy happened and somehow a couple is surprised they're pregnant and decides the brilliant thing to do in this haze of bewilderment is to...get married? It's the makings of one prolonged afternoon special where Timmy and Le-anne learn that bad decisions are bad. A baby has never in the centuries that have existed on this earth, made any parent's life...easier.
Babies add a level of difficulty to a new marriage of factor 2,890,456. Add to that if you've never had kids before, you think you know, but you really have no idea what it's going to be like and if in those hectic crazy moments, if the only glue holding you together is the very thin smear of, we shared some DNA, it is going to be rough on you and it's only going to end in fighting, anger, and an inevitable divorce where now you have decide who gets the kid for Christmas. Being pregnant or getting someone pregnant should never be the actual reason you marry someone because that does not a marriage make. If you're in this predicament, deal with the new life that is coming first or at least know in your heart that you love the other person more than just that you're having a baby together before you tie the knot. Read on.
6. Do you get along with most of your partner's family?
(No=read)(Yes=go to 7)
This can be a real sore subject and a really tricky one if your partners family in particular does not approve of you, your lifestyle, or how you are as a couple. You'd like to think that this won't matter, but family is forever and his or her family may love them unconditionally, and s/he them, but you may be another story. That family dynamic can play heavily into your marriage and can affect it in so many ways especially on down the line when you have kids. One of my friends for example was thrown out, yes thrown out, of her husbands father's funeral because the family in their ongoing vicious hatred of her mainly due to their religious differences, did not consider her worthy of being there. Her husband did defend her, but she left out of respect to the father.
Stuff like this happens in families all the time and it can end very badly for those that constantly have to deal with added stress from family. You have to know if you can live with that level of crazy or that your partners family actually does love and respect you because you will have to deal with them and the dynamics can be sticky especially if your partner feels like they always have to choose between them and you and who will they defend and of course, you feel like it should always be you. If you love your partner and you know they have your back, you can, though extremely difficult, weather the storm, but it is something to definitely consider because the ramifications of an ongoing life long war with your partners family may not be something you want to have to deal with for the rest of your life. Read on.
7. Are you sexually compatible?
(we're struggling=read)(Yes=go to 8 )
Is a true relationship more than just the sex? Absolutely! Is sex important to a marriage. Absolutely! I've given this analogy a lot to people about clothing and sex. If you're in the dressing room trying something on and a sleeve is way too tight or the material is making you itch, what makes you think if you buy the item, suddenly just because you bought it, it's going to improve? Yeah, that's kind of the sex between you and your partner. Just because a set of rings are on your fingers, doesn't mean your sex life is going to go from bad or mediocre to good sex or the best sex of your life. If you're a virgin before marriage, just know that there is a risk that you may enter into a marriage where you aren't compatible and have many issues that will stem from that lack of knowledge. It's your choice obviously to hold on until the big day, but you do run a bit of a risk of it not working out or having to settle in that department.
If you're having pre-marrital sex and you find yourself consistently unsatisfied, as much as some people like to say sex isn't all that important, it very much is. Intimacy is not just in the mind, but it's very much in the body. You want to be able to enjoy your partner and them you and not constantly feel like something is missing or you or they have feelings of inadequacy. There are going to be a few off days here and there, happens to just about every couple, but off days should not be every single day. Deal with your intimacy issues up front before the marriage or evaluate if you can really live your life knowing you may never be able to be satisfied with your partner sexually. Read on.
8. Have you gotten technical with your partner (how many kids, where are we going to live, what's your religion, why do they hate cheese with a passion?)
(Yes=go to closing)(No=read)
Does your partner want you to become a Scientologist? I mean, have you asked them? One of the huge things that causes marital failure is that the basics of a conjoined life between you were never ever discussed. Before you tie the knot is the time to go through financial decisions, living arrangements, your religion, your political views, how many kids you do or do not want, if you're willing to relocate for your partner, their likes and dislikes, your schedules, everything. It helps if you live with the person before marriage because you can kind of see how you work together and live together as a unit and deal with all those little pings and pangs of having to share your life before you find out they have some sort of insane baseball collection that NEEDS to take up your entire bedroom or that they can't sleep without 5 fans blowing.
This is really where honesty and knowing what you want out of the marriage comes into play. It's not the time to lie and say you love cats when you have serious allergies, or that you do want kids, when you don't, or that you are financially sound, when you are actually thousands of dollars in debt. Lying won't help you or a potential marriage--but you can deal with your issues before you get into a marriage or work out a plan with your partner about how your future life can work. Read on.
There are a lot of other factors and questions to ask and to consider when weighing your decision to get married or to stay single that aren't listed here, but the main gist is that you shouldn't be afraid to ask those deep questions, to talk openly with your partner about fears and past trauma, to truly understand why you do or don't want to get married. The biggest advice I can give is to ask those questions right here, and right now with your partner before you get into something legally binding, something financially binding, and something emotionally binding for all the wrong reasons, as opposed to discussing as much as you can with your partner and figuring out if your love is more than just a wedding day, or a pregnancy, misplaced lust, or something you feel pressured into doing.