Long before I ever started my psychology degree, I was a wedding/event planner. I have seen women of all ages take the trip down the aisle with various ideas of what their life will be like post-marriage. To avoid a huge mistake, I invite anybody who is thinking of getting married to read this article. Make sure you know your motivation for getting married before you walk down the aisle.
What’s the Goal of Marriage?
According to Kenrick, Neuberg, & Cialdini (2010), our interactions with other people are goal-oriented. That means that we are attracted to people based on our belief about how that person will affect our goal. It sounds harsh, but we interact with people all day based on how they will affect our current goals. It would make sense that we are attracted to people based on what we think they can contribute to our goal. Somewhere someone will say they married for love but, under that idea, there may also be a goal. The goal may be to not be alone, to be loved, or to have a family. We may love the person we are with. However, they also help accomplish a goal.
This puts divorce into a whole other perspective. People tend to leave each other in the middle of a financial crisis; hence their goal of obtaining financial stability is no longer being sustained by the other person. Of course, that is only the perspective; in reality, a person’s ability to provide may only temporarily be hindered.
Now let’s put this in terms of “who” you are about to marry. Over the years, I have seen countless brides rush down the aisle for the wedding. They do not really love anyone, they do not see the commitment, and they want a big party where everyone brings gifts; they want to be told how beautiful they are, and how happy everyone is for them. This situation is doomed for divorce. Marriage is full of tests that you will endure and overcome. The last of these tests are infertility, financial loss, health issues, children (who are sometimes born disabled), addiction, infidelity, and in-laws. These are not situations to take lightly. When you see people who have been married for 20 to 70 years they have been through most, if not all of these things.
1. Is Marriage Your Life Goal?
Now, look at your life. What is your goal? Is your goal to be loved by someone, anyone? When we are young we base how we feel about others on how they make us feel. This does not always last. Men settle into a relationship and they tend to take less time to tell you how they feel about you, they bring home flowers less, and they basically do all the courtship activities less. Marrying because of how someone makes you feel during courtship is not a good idea.
Life is long and this type of “feeling” fades. You have to have your own sense of self going into a relationship. You have to know who you are and be OK with who you are. If you are not, you could be headed down the aisle of co-dependency. This is the same truth for men and women. Men also get married because they are holding up their egos. Is that how you want to live?
If you have a life goal that involves your career, is this person going to support that goal? Are you already having problems with your soon-to-be spouse being supportive of your desire to live in a certain place, have a career, or have children? These are important life goals that should be supported by your life partner. Marrying someone who does not support your goal is like dragging an anchor to a swim meet. You will be fighting just to keep your head up. Do not marry someone who doesn’t support the life you want. By support, I mean to encourage you and make concessions to support the goal.
Likewise, if you think you cannot support the goals of your soon-to-be spouse, you should be honest with him or her about your inability to be supportive. It is not fair to either of you to have someone who intentionally or unintentionally sabotages goals. In a marriage, you work on things together.
What are your life goals;
- Marriage. Your marriage should have goals as to what you want that relationship to be.
- Career. Where do you see yourself in five, ten, or twenty years?
- Family. Do you want kids? How many?
These are things you should discuss and agree upon before marriage.
2. Are You Marrying Just for the Wedding?
How do you know you are marrying for the wedding? This is an easy test; if you spend more time picking out your dress than you do talking to the person you are engaged to, it may be time to back out. The dress, the cake, and the wedding are only a moment in your life. Believe me when I say that they will not mean much to you ten years from now. If you can, in your mind, see yourself marrying this person on the courthouse steps with no one else around, then you may be on the right track. If you can see the marriage without the big wedding, then save your money. Instead of buying a wedding, have a great honeymoon. It will mean more later. You can always get professional photos taken as a couple.
3. Are You Trying to Find Financial Stability Through Marriage?
Financial stability is a fallacy. It doesn’t matter what two people do for a living, there will come a time when they lose everything. It happens to almost everyone. Financial stability is never a reason to marry someone. In fact, I would encourage all women to have their own degree in something, be educated, and be able to support themselves. The freedom to support one’s self eliminates codependency and the ability of a spouse to walk over you when it comes to money (not that all spouses will do this). The worst marriages I’ve ever come across were created out of monetary dependency.
4. Do You Simply Want a Family?
Think about the statement “I want a family”. One would think that wanting a family would indicate that any man/woman would suffice. I would caution any young woman/man that you do not just want a family; you want a “good family.” What that means is that not just any man/woman will do. You need a man that wants to be a good father, a man with morals, and principles that can be passed on to your children (the same is true for a wife). Choosing just any spouse that takes an interest in you, will lead to fights over the children, money, and even you.
Think this out. All these girls/women who are having babies young think they are creating a family but, they are really creating a broken family (don’t make me reference “16 and pregnant” to prove a point). There is a difference. People who raise children will tell you it is not easy. You have to have the same basic morals as your spouse. Ask yourself what is this man/woman going to teach my children and does that align with what I believe and how I behave? If wanting a family is your goal, use caution!
Every good relationship, especially marriage, is based on respect. If it’s not based on respect, nothing that appears to be good will last very long.
— Amy Grant
5. Do You Just Want to Be Married?
Many people get married out of fear of being alone. We all know the story about the cat lady. I know a woman who was widowed in her forties; she spent her life traveling and meeting people. She never remarried. She was a great person and never owned a cat. We define our lives by what we want. Just because someone is single does not mean that they are lonely or sad. Life is to be lived regardless of if you are single or married.
Being married is work. Marriage requires communication, cooperation, problem-solving skills, understanding, and love. That sounds easy right, well it’s not. At times it can be downright frustrating. Being married comes with its own set of problems. People who go into marriage believing it will solve their problems will be disappointed. Marriage takes a lot of time to perfect. Once you get to that point it can be the greatest thing ever, getting to that point is not so easy. Just like a job, marriage is a learning process and work.
6. Are You Trying to Cover Up a Pregnancy or Something Else?
Here comes some blatant honesty; because people are raised with certain religious ideas they tend to get married to cover or to justify behaviors that were unacceptable by the standards in which they were raised. In other words; sex or even pregnancy. In the mind of a girl, if she marries the boy she committed “sins” with, they were meant to be, and it erases the sin. If you believe that sex before marriage is a sin then nothing ever erases that for you. However, you can avoid a lifetime of hell by not then marrying someone who does not respect you. (Did you flinch?)
I said, “men/women who compromise your standards do not respect you”. This is reality. Furthermore, if you believe that sex before marriage is a sin and you do it anyway, you don’t respect yourself. That is correct; you do not respect yourself. Think about it, you compromised what you believe for some guy/girl. Does that sound like someone who is stable and ready for marriage? I know it’s harsh but, it’s absolutely true. What it means is you are about to marry someone who cares very little about how you feel or your standards.
All that said, this does not apply to people who do not share any type of paradigm in which premarital sex is a sin. It’s never a good idea to have premarital sex but, if you do not feel it is a moral issue then by your standard no one has compromised your beliefs or been disrespectful. Every person should own their mistakes. If you let this happen, own it. Do not make a greater mistake to try to cover the previous mistake. I can tell you it is better to live and learn than it is to let the mistake take over your life.
7. Are You Marrying Your Cheating Partner?
Here is an interesting idea, a person uses you to cheat on a spouse, and then you marry them. Good idea or bad idea? People who cheat are what psychology refers to as passive-aggressive. What that means is that the person may be mad at their spouse but, instead of having an adult conversation, they cheat. Cheating is not always the result of bad relationships. Cheating can come from a person’s inability to handle a life crisis. If you are the other person… what are you thinking?
I have seen countless women cheat on a married man because they see the other women’s lives and they want it. One person can never get the complete picture of another person’s life from the outside. It may look like a man is a loving father and husband. If that is true then why is he/she cheating? In reality, people have weaknesses. They act on those in moments when they should walk away. You will never know who someone is until it’s too late.
If a person cheats it is an indication they have some growing up to do. If you marry that person you are going to be in for a rude awakening when they use you as part of their growing experience. Countless affairs turned marriage end the same way they started, with infidelity. Respect and trust are not a factor in a relationship that started with secrets and broken trust. If someone wants a relationship with you, make them end their current relationship before you consider dating them. You deserve better.
It is not a lack of love, but a lack of friendship that makes unhappy marriages.
— Friedrich Nietzsche
Happily Ever After
After all this, you may feel that there is never a good goal for marriage or that there is never a good relationship. I can tell you that is not true. People mature at different ages. There are people who married young and have had wonderful lives together. You have to expect there to be some tough times in a relationship. Do not marry thinking that the wedding party continues. Get married loving that person, accepting them for who they are, accepting that you have a goal together, and you are both committed to each other and the goal. Most importantly, be on each other’s side.