Deciding to get married is one of the most important decisions you will make. It is a major milestone in one’s life and should be taken very seriously. And while there is risk involved no matter how long you’ve known someone or how much you love someone, there are some questions you can ask yourself in order to determine if the odds are in your favor. Let’s face it—half of marriages end in divorce. Making powerful choices before you say “I do” will increase your chances of creating a marriage that thrives and lasts. Here are my five factors to consider before taking the plunge.
- How long have you known your mate? I know we have all heard those stories of couples that knew each other for six days or six weeks that remained happily married for 60 years but those are truly the exceptions to the rule. It takes time to truly know someone, warts and all. Believe it or not, we can be on “good” behavior for as long as a year before we show our most wounded and destructive sides. A good rule of thumb is a minimum of two years.
- How do you approach conflict as a couple? No couple deals with conflict perfectly. Dealing with conflict constructively requires an openness to learning more about your partner and sharing more about yourself—as opposed to being right or shaming someone into being wrong. It is less about getting your own way and more about finding solutions that will work for the good of the relationship. If you and your mate argue in a way that leaves you both feeling bruised and battered, then I suggest you wait on the nuptials and get some help from a qualified professional. If you don’t, you run the risk of bigger trouble down the line! A good rule of thumb is making sure you deal with conflict constructively.
- Do you accept each other for who you are? Don’t get married to anyone’s potential! Go into your marriage with the understanding that your mate will not change. If you are still hoping your mate will be someone else in the next few years, think again. If your mate is hoping and trying to change you into someone that you are not, buyer beware. People don’t like to change and people don’t like others to try to change them. A good rule of thumb is to marry and accept your mate as is.
- Have you asked all the important questions? There are some really important areas to cover before deciding if you and your mate will be a good marital match. Some of these include, how to handle finances, having children, raising children, religion, career goals and aspirations, sexuality, and lifestyle. If there are significant differences on any major life issue, it is important to deal with that before you get married. Don’t marry someone thinking that the issue will simply go away down the line or that the differences won’t matter. They do matter and more often than not, the differences don’t go away—they fester, leading to significant marital problems or divorce. Be willing to suffer the loss now as opposed to later. Some differences are deal breakers. A good rule of thumb is to determine your deal breakers now and make sure they don’t exist.
- Do you have realistic expectations of marriage? There are many ways we develop our beliefs about what marriage should be. Disney fairytales, Hollywood Romance, and Classic and Pop Literature, all shape our view and expectations of marriage. Parents, family, and friends provide both positive and negative representations of marriage. The culture in which you were raised will also impact how you approach this institution. Most young people go into marriage with high expectations that may simply be unrealistic or fatalistic. Find wise mentors, role models, and relationship experts who can help dispel any myths about marriage and help you start out with appropriate expectations. A good rule of thumb is to have realistic expectations on what marriage is and what it is not.
Getting married is both an exciting and stressful time. Don’t get caught up in the hype. Take the time to make sure that your mate is the one for you. Starting out your marriage in a powerful way will help you cushion the bumps along the way and prepare you for a lifetime of love and self-discovery.
If you are thinking about getting married and want to help in starting out strong, don’t hesitate to reach out. I’m here to help. I want you to have the best possible outcome when it comes to strengthening your relationships.
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Julie Orlov, psychotherapist, speaker, and author of The Pathway to Love: Create Intimacy and Transform Your Relationships through Self-Discovery
Create Relationships in Your Life That Work — learn more at www.julieorlov.com