It’s a dream so common it’s become part of the shared American mythos: falling in love and getting engaged; touring wedding venues, selecting the “big date” and mailing out carefully-chosen invitations; planning a big reception and a delectable menu; deciding on theme colors and décor; selecting the perfect tuxedo and the ideal dress; inviting close friends and loved ones to be best men and maids of honor and to occupy other places of prestige; and finally, to declare your mutual love at a wedding, in front of your family and friends.
If only these well-planned ceremonies were the last word on marriage. Unfortunately, we know that a very large percentage of marriages end in divorce, as least in part, because people don’t ask themselves the hard questions before taking the plunge.
Take a moment to read through the following information. If some or most of it seems to apply to your life, you may want to take the opportunity to consider whether marriage is a good option for you right now.
You and your partner haven’t known each other very long.
There’s something so alluring about falling in love with someone new. It’s easy for a new lover to seem intriguing and perfect, simply because there hasn’t been an opportunity to become familiar with each other’s irritating habits, serious personality quirks, and major foibles. When the relationship is young, it’s unlikely that you will have had enough time to understand your new partner’s history. Maybe your new love has a spending problem, bad credit, a history of addiction or domestic abuse, or a criminal record. Without adequate time to investigate, you and your partner won’t really have a chance to get to know each other and decide whether you can still love each other in spite of any underlying difficulties.
You’re only thinking about the wedding.
If you’re engaged and solely focused on fantasizing about what the big wedding day will be like, you might not be ready for marriage. Marriage is about a lot more than throwing a big party to celebrate your wedding. It’s about tying your life to another human being—including merging your finances and your feelings about faith and family—and doing so forever. If you aren’t thinking about the colossal commitment that marriage entails and all that’s on your mind is whether the place settings are a perfect match for the centerpieces, you may want to reassess your intentions.
You haven’t thoroughly discussed the most important things in life.
For most people, marriage is about starting a family and building a financial future together. If you and your partner haven’t fully disclosed your financial history and discussed your goals—for example, whether you’d like to buy a house in the next few years—or if one of you wants children in the near future, while the other person either doesn’t want children at all or wants to postpone parenthood—then you aren’t ready to marry.
You’re not getting married for the right reasons.
If you’re allowing someone to emotionally manipulate you into marriage, or if you secretly feel like you’re being forced into marriage, call a full-stop. You’re not marrying for love; you’re marrying for all the wrong reasons.
You or your partner are keeping secrets from each other.
The main benefit of marriage is that you are committed to a person who you can entrust with everything about you, good or bad, and that you can be reassured that this person will love you no matter what. If you’re keeping secrets—no matter how serious—before the wedding, then you’re not ready to enter into a permanent relationship based on trust.
If you or your partner have children from a prior relationship, and you’re unwilling to act as a parent or fully include that child in your new family life.
Nothing is more important than a child’s well-being, and that includes your new relationship. If your partner has kids and you just can’t see yourself putting in the time and effort, or making the sacrifices needed, to be actively involved in the children’s lives, then you shouldn’t get married. The converse is also true: if your partner isn’t favorably inclined toward your kids, getting married may not be in everyone's best interests.
Your values and goals don’t align.
It may seem like thorny political or moral issues can be overlooked in the beginning, when you’re consumed by love for one another. But the first time you’re confronted with a major moral dilemma, and you can’t agree about a good solution, you may feel like you made a mistake in committing yourself to a life partner who doesn't share your ethics or wold view.
You’re worn out by dating and you want to settle down.
Don’t marry someone who seems “good enough” just because you’re exhausted with dating, and you don’t think you’ll ever find someone who meets your high standards. The solution to this problem is to take a break from dating and maybe see a therapist for some advice, not to lock yourself into a legal and spiritual framework that you can only escape through divorce.
You or your partner try to avoid the other person’s family.
When you get married, you’re marrying your spouse and not an extended family network. Still, as part of the compassion and enduring love you feel for your partner, you should be willing to spend time with your spouse’s loved ones. They may be irritating, but they’re important to your spouse, and unless they’re overtly abusive or cruel, you should be willing to spend a reasonable amount of time together. If you’re not willing to do so because your future in-laws are truly impossible to get along with, you may want to reconsider whether your marriage will work over the long run.
It’s all been too easy.
If you and your partner haven’t really faced adversity together or had a major argument that you had to work through together, then you’re probably not ready for marriage. You need a well-established track record of being able to handle the tough parts of life together and to constructively resolve any disputes you might have.