You don't need to feel total, utter, absolute certainty that you're ready to get married when you're walking down the aisle. You might be surprised at how many married people will admit, if pressed, that they felt some degree of uncertainty about committing themselves to one person for life before they tied the knot. Whether their questions were about the relationship itself, the circumstances or the timing, feeling a little unsure is quite common. So don't worry about small degrees of doubt; questioning is an important element of any major change we make in life.
But there are a couple of pre-wedding concerns that should have red flags attached to them. If you are thinking about getting married, and feel any of the nine things listed below, consider giving a massive "nope" to any incoming diamond rings. Do not pass GO, do not collect $200, do not risk nasty alimony battles in five years.
Some signs that you're not ready to get married are pretty obvious. If you're cheating on your spouse-to-be right up until the walk down the aisle, you're pretty clearly not at the right stage in your relationship or life to take the leap into marriage. If you have an addiction problem that you haven't addressed, getting married in order to help you "fix it" isn't fair to your partner or yourself. And if you're pretty sure you're actually gay/straight/asexual/any identity that throws a wrench into your current relationship dynamic, but you haven't really discussed it with your partner, well, that's a big red flag too.
But there are other, more subtle signs that matrimony just isn't your bag at this stage in your life, whether you're in a relationship or not. Read on, and make sure that you don't get hitched before you're ready.
1. You Have Complex Ongoing Relationships With Exes
Being friends with your exes is great. Invite them to the wedding, get them drunk, encourage them to hook up with the bridal party. Go wild. But if you've still got on-off feelings for an ex and a severe emotional entanglement with them that just won't go away, you're not ready to fully legally and emotionally commit to another person. It's OK if you're young and haven't learned to draw good boundaries in your life yet — most of us only figure this stuff out through experience. But past relationship chapters do need to be separated from current ones, especially when you're making a commitment this big.
2. You Feel Like You Haven't Finished Exploring
This is a sh*tty one, but a very common one — it has been the cause behind the breakups of several committed couples in my friendship circle in recent months. Even if you're desperately happy with your partner (or even just mostly happy), the idea of settling down forever and ever may set off a small alarm bell in your head. You may start thinking, "But I've never slept with more than X people!" The idea of romantic fulfillment in one relationship for life isn't for everybody — and even if you think it might be right for you eventually, it's still fine if you feel the urge to see what else the world and Tinder have to offer right now. Just don't get hitched now and end up resenting your partner because you feel like they've kept you from exploring sexually.
3. You Have No Vision Of Your Life Together Beyond The Wedding
Weddings are great. I should know, I had four. (All to the same dude — hey, I'm not Elizabeth Taylor.) But if your vision of a life together doesn't go anywhere beyond your Pinterest board, you may have a problem. Could all the joy you get from planning your wedding be supplied by just throwing a really good party ? If so, throw that party instead. Because weddings are the beginning of things, not the end, and marriage is not easy even if you DO have a plan for what happens next — let alone if you don't.
4. You Don't Have Any Time For Compromising
You can be selfish. Maybe you even should try out being selfish for a while in your life — it's fun. Do the things that you want, blow off the things that you don't care about, and don't let anybody make you share your brownie at brunch. But that kind of attitude is not going to be workable in a marriage, because being stuck with somebody for life means having to make room in your life for them. Wives and husbands aren't accessories to your ideas and desires, as you probably well know if you've had a long-term relationship. They have their own sh*t and it needs to be respected and meshed together. If you're not into that, step away from the wedding cake.
5. You Don't Trust Your Partner With Your Secrets
I understand a bit of rationing when it comes to sharing the truth and nothing but the truth with a partner. Does your husband really need to know about the time you wet your pants in fourth grade? Is that really a productive use of your time? But the really deep, nitty-gritty secrets — family dirt, old relationship woes, anything that's a really strong part of who you are and how you work — need to be shared with your partner before you get into a white dress. If you're afraid to tell them for fear of judgement or misunderstanding, that's not a good sign for your future together.
6. You're Trying To Get Out Of A Bad Situation
Do not get married because you hate your life. I repeat: do not get married because you hate your life. You may think this person is going to rescue you and make everything better — but chances are pretty strong that the factors that made your life crap aren't going to change substantially with marriage. Odds are, they'll just follow you right into your new life.
7. You Think Marriage Can Fix Your Relationship's Issues
A Band-Aid marriage is as real as a Band-Aid baby. Many people think that making vows of commitment in a fancy get-up and then eating expensive shrimp platters afterwards will cement an unstable relationship, because it somehow gives a veneer of legal strength to the entire thing. Real talk: if the building's not solid, marriage is not going to build new foundations for it. And if your relationship is having problems because one person wants to get married and the other doesn't, marriage is definitely not going to solve that. It also likely won't discourage infidelity, passive-aggression or disrespect.
8. You Feel Pressured By Everybody Else's Weddings
I know, I get it. Between Anne-Marie's amazing nuptials in a forest and Kelly's sweet church wedding, your social circles have thinned out to "married couples" and "you." But even if it's "the stage" for everybody else you know, you shouldn't get on board with a marriage just because you think the boat is leaving. It's not. You can get married when you're 60 if you like, and nobody should stop you. Marriage licenses don't miraculously expire after 34. Marriage will last a lot longer than any feelings of being left out that you may feel — and dealing with a marriage that turns out to not be right for you will be far worse than just feeling awkward at some couple-filled dinner parties.
9. You Want To Make People Envious
Your wedding is going to be the BEST. It's going to be a spectacle! It's going to be like Cirque de Soleil crossed with a Riot Grrrl performance crossed with a Vogue editorial, and everybody is just going to be green with envy about it.
And that's all very nice, but if that's the only reason to you want to get married, again, just have the party and forgo the joining-with-rings thing. Whether you're trying to make friends jealous over your delicious table favors or aiming to make an ex wildly envious (or, indeed, to stick it to parents), if your focus is more on outside consequences than on the love of your life, you should hold off on marriage for a while longer.
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