It doesn't matter if you've been dreaming about the big day for ages, or only recently started entertaining the idea of getting hitched — there are definitely some things to keep in mind before getting married. Because of all the decisions in life, promising to spend it with another person is pretty much as big as it gets.
Of course, the decision to get married means different things to different people, so the first step in thinking about the whole process is deciding what it all means to you. If you're currently single, or dating, then congrats! You have tons of time to pause for a little reflection.
But once you get closer to the big day, it's obviously going to be important to include your partner in the convo, as well. "Ask your partner what their needs and expectations will be after your are married [and] verbalize your needs and expectations for after you are married," says licensed clinical psychologist Kim Chronister, PsyD, in an email to Bustle.
You guys should feel comfortable talking about everything and anything. And once you are, it's a mighty good sign that moving forward is a good idea. But until that day, here are a few tips to keep in mind, should you see yourself eventually tying the knot.
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1. Don't Settle
It may feel like the right thing to do, especially if you're falling victim to societal pressures to marry by a certain age. But whatever you do, don't settle. It's way better to be alone, or lonely, than it is to be with someone who isn't a good fit, causes you problems, or doesn't share your beliefs. As Marcus Geduld said on HuffingtonPost.com, "... don’t marry someone who, in some important way, makes you unhappy now — hoping or trusting that will change. Assume the problem that exists now will always exist." And if it's too much to deal with, move on.
2. Make Sure You Feel Complete On Your Own
Going off that first tip, make sure you feel OK being on your own, before you go off seeking companionship. Speaking about someone who is ready to get married, Chronister says, "They feel secure with themselves, have a full life, and feel centered even when their partner is away." Only once you have that down, should you consider getting hitched.
3. Give Living Together A Try
If you can, try living together before walking down the aisle. It's an excellent way to test your compatibility, and see each other in your grossest (read: truest) forms. It's also a good way to test your relationship, especially if it doesn't go well. As Geduld said, "Some people work as housemates; others don’t — even if they love each other." The choice to move forward is up to you, but shared living space woes are definitely something you want to work on sooner, rather than later.
4. Consider Your SO's Family
When you get married, you aren't just getting a new husband or wife, but an entire extended family. And, of course, everything that comes with them. "You're inheriting the obligations, stresses, and, yes, benefits, of a whole new family," said Melanie Pinola on Lifehacker.com. Make sure you're OK with adopting these new people into your life, because you're going to be seeing a lot of them.
5. Think About Their Future Personality
People get set in their ways as they age (think about your parents real quick). So use your imagination and picture what your partner might be like in ten, 20, or 30 years. "If your partner is somewhat of a curmudgeon now, he or she will probably only become crankier and more stubborn as the years go by," said Pinola. "Conversely, the best things you love about a person could hold you steady through the inevitable tough times."
6. Figure Out How You Both Deal With Stress
As a couple, you're going to go through a lot of stress together —deaths, births, job changes, moves. That's why it's incredibly important to see how your partner handles stress, as well as how you guys handle it together; do they use exercise as a form of stress relief? Prayer? Something else entirely? As Chronister says, "... it is imperative to know how someone reacts to stress before you step into marriage. Stress from work or loss can create havoc on a relationship if a partner is unwilling to utilize appropriate coping mechanisms."
7. Be Ready To Change
You shouldn't marry someone expecting them to change, and you shouldn't let someone alter your own values or opinions. But being part of a long-term couple means being willing to bend a bit. "The two biggest things are learning how to fight more productively and how to communicate in ways that might not be natural to you, but make more sense to the other person," Pinola said. In other words, be ready to adapt, for the sake of your relationship.
8. Get Ready To Get Gross
Like I said above, being married means being your fullest selves. And that includes dealing with each other when you are looking, and feeling, less than great. "You might ask or be asked to evaluate a nose hair or pull off a blackened fingernail — things you would never do or ask while dating — because now you two are one and almost nothing is embarrassing anymore," Pinola said. It's a closeness level that is definitely cute, but may take some getting used to.
9. Figure Out If You Like Sharing Everything
I'm sure there are couples who have agreements about time apart, or separate living arrangements. But usually, getting married means sharing everything, because it's a partnership. Speaking about healthy couples, Chronister says, "They feel comfortable revealing a great deal of personal information to their partner and feel supported as a result." Make sure whoever you end up with is down for all of the above.
10. Decide Now If You'd Like Kids
Again, every couple is different, so it's not always necessary to figure everything out before marriage. But big things — like whether or not to have kids — should probably be discussed. Not everyone wants to make babies, so if you end up with someone who desperately doesn't want to procreate, then you might have a problem on your hands. So figure this out for yourself beforehand, and know whether or not your partner has done the same.
11. Think About Sharing Money
If you want to move forward with a relationship, lots of boring topics — like money — will surely come up. And when they do, you should be ready to express your opinions. "Couples should make sure they are on the same page in terms of financial caution or recklessness," said Eleanor Stanford in The New York Times. It may not be fun to talk about, but it is entirely necessary.
And with that, you have some things to think about before you get married. How's it all sound? Good? Bad? Be honest with yourself, and it may just help you figure out what step you'd like to take next.
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