Our cultural landscape suggests that marriage is the “next step” for any couple that enjoys a strong and satisfying physical attraction, has sparkling conversations, and likes the same pets. Unfortunately, marriages built on physical attraction and pet choice are not likely to survive long term. Marriage is not easy and it is not always “fun.”
So many young people may assume that a beautiful wedding, replete with bridesmaids, groomsmen, and a cake that costs more than most of us make in a week will secure a happily-ever-after ending. One recent wedding I attended had a Disney theme, replete with princess images and Disney songs supporting the bride as she walked down the aisle. Certainly, this was just a more visible embrace of the “happily ever after” expectation than some other brides might share with their guests.
What Does Marriage Mean?
- No matter how hard you try to prove you are “right,” to keep a marriage strong, you might have to admit that you are “wrong.”
- No matter how much you value beauty, perfection, and social approval, sometimes you might have to accept that life is much less than “perfect” than you had ever expected. And you may be amazed at the ways in which you sacrifice your early expectations about your partner — and marriage as an institution — just to keep the relationship together.
- You cannot stray – or even hang out at the edges of “stray” – no matter how poorly things are turning out within your primary relationship.
- "Fights” are only allowed to be “fights,” not make-or-break moments.
- You are on your best behavior whenever “outsiders" show up at your home, or you and your spouse show up at friends/families/work colleagues’ homes.
Marriage means that this is forever . . . whether you like that agreement or not.
Marriage also means that . . .
- No matter how sick/ill/indisposed you are, there is someone who will support you and love you no matter what.
- When you hate your parents, your colleagues, your old friends, there is someone who will hate them as much as you do – and for the same reasons.
- When you lose your job, screw up a chance, or end a friendship, there is someone who will take your side and take on your opponents as intensely and personally as you do.
So, marriage is about sharing your bed, your kitchen, your bathroom, and all of those personal moments that make us look less than “personable.” But marriage also means that in every battle you face, there is someone who takes it as personally as you do. But remember: That person also may have access to many personal records you may have, such as tax documents, contracts, credit agreements, etc.
Who Should Marry?
If you can look your love in the eye, and know that you would not bat that eye, no matter what document, past relationship, or current anxiety was brought up between you, then perhaps marriage is the logical next step. If sharing a bed, a closet, and a toothbrush do not seem as “cool” as hanging out for coffee or at the bar, marriage may not be the logical next step. Marriage works when both partners are ready to accept, embrace, and then help to shore up the weaknesses of their partners. If you are fearful of exposing your flabby belly, your bad money management skills, or your humiliating family members to your partner, and worry about how it might be to let someone into a 50/50 arrangement in your life, then marriage does not make sense.
Who Should Not Marry?
Love and marriage require a 100 percent investment from both partners — and acceptance of your spouse as a 50/50 partner in all that you do – and if you are not ready to let someone into your life so fully and openly, then maybe marriage is not yet the step you need to take. We have communion and commitment programmed into our DNA, but if you feel that marriage only leads to untenable overexposure, then perhaps it is time to find a new potential mate – or stretch yourself to make room for someone else to enter your life in a way that builds, not detracts, from your identity. When you spend too much time trying to convince someone that marriage is the “next logical step,” then it might be time to ask yourself if it is “marriage” or meeting others' expectations that is the goal that you really seek. Fewer people marry today, and those who do tend to be much older at first marriage than their parents were. Don't rush into a legally binding commitment until you are sure that is what you truly want.