Marriage is no joke. It changes your life and your relationship in stunning ways that I never believed were even possible until I took that plunge. So it's worth taking some time to be super, mega, unquestionably sure that you should marry the person you're with. I mean, sure, you can get divorced if you're wrong, but that's messy and expensive and hard and hurtful. Nobody wants that. Better to know you're making a good decision than hope you're not making a bad one.
Of course, not all people want to get married. And if that's you, that's awesome. Don't let anyone else's expectations change you. Many of these tips can also help you determine if you're in a good long-term relationship, too.
There are exceptions to every rule, but in general, if these 11 things are true before you put a ring on it (or have a ring put on it), you can go forward with the confidence instead of worry. A lot of couples came to see me when I worked as a Domestic Violence Victim Advocate and Planned Parenthood Certified Responsible Sexuality Educator. And a lot of them wanted me to tell them if they should get married or wait or break up. I had to tell them I couldn't make that choice for them, but I could go over some indicators that their relationship is healthy enough to stand the test of time.
While all the following factors are important, remember that at the end of the day, getting married is a decision you have to feel good about. If you don't feel good about it, or if you're not sure, there's no harm in waiting.
1. You Want To Be Married
A lot of people confuse wanting to get married with wanting to be married. Getting married is exciting. It's a rite of passage with some awesome shopping opportunities and a cool party. Some people dream of their weddings since birth. But that's not the reality of being married. It's just one party. Being married means you want to go through some good times and bad. That you want to build a life together, make compromises and sacrifices, love someone when they're sick or sad or broke or old. It's incredibly challenging at times. It's incredibly rewarding, too, of course, but the first thing you need to do is look at your partner and think, "Do I love this person enough to change their diaper when they're old and sick?" If the answer is "yes," then that's a great start.
2. You've Weathered Some Storms
If you've been through some tough times and come out stronger because of them, there's a good chance you can continue to weather storms together after you get married. You have to know someone, and I mean really know them, before you get married. That means, at the very least, seeing them ugly cry at least once, or flu vomit, or get really angry. Couples who only see each other at their best are often in for a rude awakening when they settle into the realities of sharing in someone's life on a full-time basis. There are bodily fluids. There are bad moods, There are disagreements. It's not all butterflies and gravy boats.
3. You'd Be Fine If You Didn't Marry This Person
This sounds cray, I get it. But let me speak some truth at you. If your partner is absolutely everything to you, the reason you live and breathe, the whole center of your world, and your only motivation to keep on living, you shouldn't get married, and here's why: you need to work on you a little bit first. You need to understand that relationships, even marriages, are made of two healthy individuals. You need to be able to stand on your own, at least in theory, if your partner left or died. You need to be able to be the source of some of your own happiness and to pursue some of your own non-relationship goals. It's a lot of pressure on a partner to be the source of all your happiness and to meet all your needs. Plus, it's not healthy. You have to be able to do some of that yourself.
4. You Have Similar Goals
Wanting kids, wanting to live in a specific place, and wanting a certain kind of lifestyle are important. No matter how much you love your partner, you have to agree on your personal deal breakers. You can't get married to someone who doesn't want kids and hope they'll change their mind someday. You can't plan to live in a camper and travel the world if your partner wants to take a serious job and live in a big city. You can compromise and work through some of these disagreements, but you can't escape the regret and resentment that comes with choosing the partner you want over the life you want. If you think you can't be happy unless you have kids, then you can't marry someone who doesn't want kids, no matter how much you love them.
5. You Communicate Like Rock Stars
Every single thing you do in a marriage involves some form of communication. Poor communication skills may not make or break your chances of being together forever, but if you marry someone you don't communicate well with, you're committing to a long road of heartache, anger, resentment, misunderstandings, and other bad stuff that wears away at a relationship's foundation. At the very least, you need to be able to communicate when you'r angry, talk about things you disagree on with patience and respect, and know how the other person needs to be spoken to when they're mad, sad, frustrated, or happy. You need to feel understood. You need to be able to listen. You need to be able to get serious and direct about your problems, even if it's hard. You need to be able to assert yourself and not just roll over and give in to your partner all the time. If you can't do that, marriage will be a struggle.
6. Your Trust Is An Impenetrable Force Field
You can't marry someone you don't trust. You can't marry someone who doesn't trust you. This is so serious and important. I cannot emphasize trust enough. There are many forms of trust. Being someone your partner can rely on counts. Being honest counts. Not constantly accusing each other of cheating counts. If you don't have this basic foundation of trust, I can guarantee your relationship will fail. It may take years, but it will fail if you don't get that trust on lock. Figure it out before, not after you get married.
7. You Don't Have A Lot Of Nagging Doubts
No person is 100 percent perfect for you. Even if your partner is your moon and stars, you're bound to find a couple of things you don't like about them. That's just reality. And a lot of people get nervous about getting married. It's a huge deal! But if you're weighed down on a regular basis with worries about whether you're settling, or whether you can learn to get used to things that really bother you, this might not be your person. There's not an easy way to say if you just have nerves or if you truly know in your heart that you shouldn't be marrying this person, but if you're having these thoughts, you need to deal with them now, not later.
8. You've Been Together For A While
This one's a little arbitrary, but there is science to suggest that if you're together a certain amount of time before you get married, you're more likely to have a lasting marriage, and that certain amount of time is two to three years. If you're together for at least two years, you have a statistically higher chance of making it. I married my wife after nine months, and my last relationship went seven years with no marriage, so to each their own, but that's what science says, so I felt obligated to tell you. Also, being together for a long time doesn't mean you should either get married or break up. There are no rules. There is, however, some merit to the idea of not rushing a marriage. If you know, you know. But it's OK to wait until you know. And it's OK to know before that two or three year mark.
9. You Don't Have A Lot Left On Your Singles To-Do List
If you wanted to backpack through Europe alone, go on a three-month cross-country toad trip with your besties, live in Bali for a year, study gymnastics in Russia, teach on a cruise ship, or anything else that you feel would get sidelined by marriage, it's OK to wait. Granted, there are ways to do these things and still stay married, but if you worry that your goals would put a strain on your relationship, you can say, "I don't want to get married until after I get back from Bali" or whatever it is you want to do. Even if these are just excuses because you don't truly feel ready, it's OK to lean on them. The course of your life is yours.
10. You're Safe
Safety means freedom from physical abuse. It means freedom from emotional abuse. It means freedom to explore yourselves sexually. It means freedom to live your life without walking on egg shells. It means being free to make your own choices. It means not worrying that you'll lose friends and family. It means never fearing for your life. It means you have a true partner who cares for you and supports you just as much as you care and support them. Anything less is settling, and settling, especially in cases of abuse, can be deadly.
11. You're Happy
You could be with someone who is super hot, super romantic, a great communicator, and a great partner with similar goals, but if you don't love that person, and you're not truly happy and fulfilled, you can't marry this person. If you feel this happiness, this fulfillment, this idea that you're supported, that you're cherished, that you're understood, and that you're safe, the rest is usually something you can work out. But you need to have a sense that your partner truly gets you, and truly makes you happy.
Just remember, no one gets to decide if you're ready for marriage but you. Not you partner. Not your obsessed mother or your married besties. Just you.
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