“By all means marry; if you get a good wife, you’ll become happy; if you get a bad one, you’ll become a philosopher.” – Socrates
So, it’s February… A lot of you are excited about this month. At the same time, most are about to make the biggest mistakes of your lives in the name of love. Marriage proposals are common in this month, and I blame St Valentine (…this is a whole block on it’s on).
What I have come to realise in life, especially in my generation is marriage for the wrong reasons. Yet at the same time, there are good reasons for people to marry and have a healthy and everlasting marriage. So to kick off this love month I am going to breakdown these 2 lists as far as I can.
Terrible Reasons to Get Married
Most of these horrible reasons to get married will probably seem obvious and maybe even a little ridiculous. For most of us, it’s hard to take a look at our motivations and see them for what they are.
Sometimes, your real intentions are hidden a few layers deep. And you just need someone to lovingly shake them to the surface for you.
So here, let me help you with that.
1: To Solve Your Relationship Problems
For some reason, a lot of people seem to think that something magical happens when you get married. And that all the fights and toxic cycles of behavior disappear.
This is tragically misguided.
Committing to someone by getting married amplifies all facets of your relationship. So if you genuinely love and respect one another, that love and respect can grow and evolve in a married couple.
But the same is true for the problems you have in your relationship. If you’re bad at communicating in your relationship, miscommunications will only get worse in your marriage. If you don’t have respect for one another, you won’t gain it by getting married. You’ll probably lose it even more.
Basically, when you get married, things can get even better if they’re already good, but they only get worse if they’re already bad.
2: Because you’re afraid of being alone
Being alone can really suck. What sucks even more, though, is marrying the next person who comes along simply because you’re tired of being alone—and then they turn out to be terrible for you.
You’ve probably heard this before but no one is going to be happy being with you if you can’t be happy being by yourself. I’m betting nobody ever told you how to go about doing that though. After all, it seems like a catch-22: you need to be happy by yourself before you can make someone else happy, but you’re not happy because you don’t have someone to make you happy.
The problem is the way you’re judging and valuing yourself. You’re valuing others’ opinions of you more than you’re valuing your own opinion of yourself. You think your value as a person is determined by who you’re with. Just think about how messed up that is for a second.
Develop yourself into who you want to be first. Get healthy. Leave your dead-end job and get serious about your career. Get your finances in order. Then find someone who is excited to be with you because you kick so much ass already. I had a heartfelt conversation with a confidant of mine, I asked them why they smoke? Their response was so personal yet at the same time so general. I dug into them, to find out what was it about a ciggy that couldn’t be replicated by meditation or a run or a walk in a garden full of yellow flowers.
In the end, we both realised, we are who we are because of our happy moments and our bad moments, but it is up to us to choose how we access our best.
3: To prove something
Maybe your crazy aunt keeps telling you about how “the clock is ticking” and you’re not getting any younger. Maybe your father thinks you need to “grow up already. Or maybe your parents got divorced and you’re determined to show the world that you’re better than them. All your friends are married now and you want to show them. You’re not just the third or fifth or eleventh wheel all the time. I call this the social media syndrome. You just want to wear a “better dress” than your best friend, by any means necessary.
Sometimes it’s a little more subtle but just as messed up. Like, some people see marriage as a status symbol. So they get married thinking they’ll parade around town with their spouse and people will bow in their presence like they just conquered Westeros or something.
Whatever it is, getting married to prove something to someone—or yourself—is a god awful reason to do it. STOP!
The fact is that a marriage isn’t going to work unless both people are in it for each other and no one else. The world doesn’t care if you get married. Billions of people have done it. You don’t get a gold star and extra warm cookies on the plane just because you’re married. You also don’t get to rub it in anyone’s face for more than a few months, tops. And then what?
I’ll tell you what: then you’re stuck in a marriage trying to figure out if it was worth it after all.
So if any of these terrible reasons to get married apply to your situation, well first, don’t get married. Second, work on your relationship skills. Learn about healthy and toxic behaviors in relationships. Familiarise yourself with how emotional needs work so you can better get yours met and meet the needs of others. It takes a lot of time, but it will save you a lot of pain and maybe a divorce or three down the road.
On the other hand, if you can take an honest look at your relationship and say that none of these terrible reasons to get married apply to your situation, then great.
Let’s move on.Sometimes we need to endure the rain in order to appreciate the sun. Tweet Me
Should We Get Married?
Alright, so you’ve determined that you’re not thinking about getting married for the wrong reasons, but you’re not out of the woods yet, my friend.
I am out here in the rain, watching people and the weather writing this, and below are some of what I’ve determined to be the most important aspects of a relationship that bode well for a healthy and happy marriage.
I’m not saying that this big of a decision can be boiled down to a few “yes/no” questions and that’s it. But if your relationship doesn’t have these things already, let’s just say that it’s going to be pretty hard to make a marriage work in the long run.
1. You fight well
A healthy relationship is not a relationship without arguments. A healthy relationship is a relationship with healthy arguments. What I mean is that not only are fights inevitable in even the happiest marriage, they can actually be a good thing for the relationship if they are fought in a healthy way.
That means that, when you do get upset and argue with each other, you try to get to the root of the issue itself and you don’t attack the other person for who they are.
So, for example, maybe your partner blew you off when you really needed them and you felt hurt by it. Instead of telling them that they’re heartless and only care about themselves, you should probably try to understand why you’re so hurt in the first place and address that with them. Are you afraid of being left alone in times like this? And if so, do they actually understand that? Is there some way you can communicate when you really need them and are they willing to work with you on it?
Most arguments in relationships come from a misunderstanding of emotional needs. But that also means there’s an opportunity for you both to a) figure out what each other’s needs are and b) learn how to get your needs met and meet the needs of the other person.
And so, when done from a place of mutual respect for one another’s needs, this is how arguments can be a healthy part of a relationship.
And when you do fight, it’s important that, ultimately, you forgive each other and you forgive yourself. You don’t keep bringing up old issues but instead, you acknowledge when someone messes up and you accept their apology (and they own up to it and change their behavior). But you also admit when you’re wrong and forgive yourself for it instead of continuing to beat yourself up.
Again, fights are inevitable, so you need to make sure you’re fighting well before you get married. Otherwise, be prepared to deal with either a very short, tumultuous marriage or a very long, miserable marriage. Sometimes we need to endure the rain in order to appreciate the sun.
2. You have similar worldviews and visions for your future
Stop and ask yourself this about your relationship: are your lives going in the same direction and do you share similar values? Or is there friction when it comes to big life decisions? Do your career aspirations and/or lifestyles mesh well with one another?
If one of you wants to be an actor and live in Los Angeles and one of you wants to live a quiet life on a farm in Zimbabwe, well how exactly is that going to work? One of you will have to give up on your dreams, creating a downward spiral of resentment and regret. And then no one “wins.”
Similarly, if one of you wants to spend your money on traveling and seeing the world but one of you would rather buy a nice, big house and stay home to take care of it, that’s also a recipe for conflict down the road.
Essentially, if one of you has to give up on your dreams, your career, your purpose, it’s just not going to work. One or both of you will wind up miserable and resenting each other.
And if one or both of you have to suppress or change your values in some way, you’re also in for a rocky marriage. Things like how to raise kids (or if you want them at all), religion, how you handle money issues, and so on. A lot of these things aren’t sexy to think about, but again, any issues you have now in your relationship will be magnified in your marriage. And the bigger the issue, the harder it will be to ignore it for long.
3. There’s a strong friendship that underpins the relationship
A fact of any long-term relationship is that romance dwindles, sexual desire comes and goes, and life just happens sometimes. So it’s best to have someone you can count on in other ways when these things do occur. You should be marrying someone who’s not just an ideal romantic partner for you, they’re also your friend. I have a saying, “homies first, always”.
A good friendship involves accepting one another unconditionally, flaws and all. They might annoy you in some ways and piss you off in others. At the end of the day, you still want to be there for them and you want them to be there for you.
You don’t get sick of each other. When you do need your space, neither of you takes it personally and you give it to each other.
And maybe most importantly, you think in terms of “we” and “us” and not “you” and “me.” This is a product of having shared values that manifests as a solid, loving friendship. Of course, you recognise and respect one another’s autonomy. But you’re also a team, working towards the same goals.
If instead, you feel like the other person is always interfering with your independence, then you either have a mismatch in values (see above) or you have some avoidant tendencies you need to deal with. Either way, you need to work this out before getting married.
4. You see marriage as an exciting option, not an obligation.
Last, you shouldn’t see getting married as something that you have to do for whatever reason.
And I don’t just mean someone giving you an ultimatum—“we need to get married or I’m leaving”. Although that’s definitely one giant red flag not to get married. But you shouldn’t also feel like you have to get married because “that’s what people do” or because you’ve been with someone for a long time and feel like you owe it to them.
A marriage—and any relationship, really—is something that is created by two people. It’s a project, not an obligation. I was taught that when the universe wants you to have it, you will know and no one will tell you you are ready. You will know. From that I derived the statement “when the student is ready, the teacher will appear“.
But like any project worth doing in life, it can be challenging at times, but it should also be exciting and, in the end, worth it for both of you.
This is just the first of what I am calling the “Love Bites” series of February. Hope you enjoy it, and as always share with us your thoughts and comments via email or the comments section. I hope and pray you and yours are safe. Let’s Go!