My first marriage was all about the wedding. I was 21 and it lasted 3 years. Planning a wedding often overshadows planning a marriage and recent celebrity break-ups have been disheartening to those who secretly believe in fairy tale love.
But when we look more closely in many cases the problems began before the commitment was made and could have been avoided with some serious forethought. I believe in what I now call "practical love," deeply intimate and lasting but it requires more than just love.
Here ae 10 points you must consider BEFORE you tie the knot:
1. Know yourself and your pattern in relationships.
No matter whom you are with and how magnetic the attraction is you are still the same person you have been in all past relationships. The common denominator in all your failed relationships is you. Learn about what you did or did not do in past relationships.
2. Listen carefully to what your new partner says in the first hours and days after meeting.
What they say in the beginning is probably going to predict how the relationship will evolve. Ask yourself if there was anything that "concerned" you when you first met. We tend to forget quickly but that moment may come back to you when the relationship ends.
3. Ignore the fact that you have chemistry.
That is the easy part and has no bearing on what this will look like in the future. More important things to focus on would be shared humor, whether you like the person and they like you. Does this person have the capacity to love the way you need to be loved.
4. Ask yourself if you could live with this individual exactly as they are today even on their worst days, for the rest of your life.
We must assume that people don't change who they are. Their love for you will not turn them into the person you want them to be. If you can't accept something now, it will most likely be the reason you end the relationship later.
5. After a few months have passed, notice how you feel about yourself when you are with your partner.
If you feel yourself growing and positive about your own future that is a good sign that this is a good relationship for you. If you feel insecure, needy, up and down in moods, take a better look at where you are going. Remember that the beginning should be easy.
6. Be honest about what this person does not have that you had hoped for in a long term mate.
A commitment to marry usually is meant to be forever. Can you live without that thing you wished for and not resent it later? Maybe you love to travel and your partner is afraid to fly or dancing is your favorite activity and he/she doesn't like to dance. If you had hoped to be free of the responsibilities for children and your partner has three, you need to visualize your life without the freedom you had longed for and be honest with yourself about.
7. Observe your partner's capacity for love in the rest of his/her life. Also observe your own.
Do both of you have the qualities necessary for commitment, monogamy, respect, trust? Have you both had some experience with what is necessary to keep a relationship together? Love does not provide that for you. You will need to come into the marriage with the capacity for unselfish love or it will probably not last or if it does it may be full of conflict and disappointments.
8. Know what your goals and dreams are and commit to keeping them and taking responsibility for your own fulfillment.
Leaving yourself behind in the name of love will not secure a relationship long term. Regrets and resentments can be toxic.
9. Get input from those who know you and listen to their feedback.
If the person you love does not fit in your world as it is now, the relationship will fail. If friends and family can't relate to the person it will require you to either choose between them or endure a life of divided loyalties and distress. Love doesn't conquer all.
10. No matter how confident and secure you are in your life as it is, prepare yourself for change.
When you are in a committed relationship both parties have a greatest opportunity for personal growth that life has to offer. That also means that at times you will both need to change, adapt, accommodate, bend, influence, assert yourself, be honest, let go of control. If you can do that without running away and losing faith, the rewards will outweigh the challenges.
Ann Smith is the Executive Director of Breakthrough at Caron. She will celebrate 20 years of marriage in 2012. Connect with her on Facebook at Healthy Connections.