“A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person.”
~ Mignon McLaughlin
I don’t know if there is any concrete way to tell that you are ready for marriage; its similar to parenthood in that you can read all the books you want, but there is nothing quite like it until you actually experience it.
You will also encounter challenges that are unique to your relationship and whose answers can’t be found in a google search.
However, there are some signs to look for within your relationship and within yourself that will let you know if taking the next big step is a good idea.
- Do you share the same values as your partner?
- Do you share the same belief on children?
- How easily do you compromise?
- Is there a balance of responsibility in your relationship?
- Are you willing to give up some things for your partner, big and small?
- Are you able to make someone else a priority in your life?
- Are you willing to sacrifice your holiday family time to spend holidays with your partner’s family?
- Is your partner your friend?
- Does your partner support your goals?
- Do you support your partner’s goals?
Marriage is all about compromise and growth.
Your relationship should enhance your well-being and help you become a better you. When most people consider marriage, it is not done with the intention of divorce, despite the fact that many end up in that place.
Answer the above questions honestly to really determine if this is the person you truly want to spend the rest of your life with.
Brynn Cicippio, MA, LMFT – www.therapywithbrynn.com
When we are in love and considering getting married, we usually don’t want to think about the reasons why or why not, as it’s just enough that we are in love. It’s also impossible to really know what it will be like, unless you have lived together for many years already.
However, you will build a stronger and more sustainable relationship if you consider the following questions:
What is your motivation for wanting to marry?
Is it because this is really the right man for you or are you feeling lonely and think this will solve all your problems? Will he make a kind and caring husband and father or do you just want to have children?
Be honest with yourself and examine if you want to get married because all your friends are and you don’t want to be left out.
You may be scared you are getting older or won’t find anyone else. Is he actually free to marry you or is he still sorting through a divorce? Are you getting married to avoid or escape something?
Don’t just jump in, because you think you should.
Know that you really want to spend the rest of your life with this person.
- Think about, do I know enough about him and his history?
- Can I trust him?
- Are we emotionally and sexually compatible and share some similar goals, values and interests?
There could also be historical factors in his past that may cause you major problems and stressors in the future.
You may feel that you have gone ‘too far down the track with him’ to consider saying ‘no’ to marrying.
Your family and friends all expect it but, deep down, you know that he’s not the one. In that case, follow yourself and leave rather than feel pressured to marry. It’s true some people feel nervous and get ‘cold feet.’ Know the difference between that momentary anxiety and that he’s really not for you, long term.
Talk about your needs and expectations together and also what is unacceptable to you both.
Don’t confuse unconditional love with not having appropriate boundaries. We can love someone and it’s still healthy to say no to certain behaviors. I say to many couples; ‘love is not the issue here, but the behavior is.’
Any abuse is not acceptable, emotional, physical or sexual. Don’t dream that now he’s with you, he will change. Chances are, if he has cheated on someone else, he will probably do the same to you.
If you have spent a lot of time together and feel that you are really good friends as well as being in love and can sort through difficult as well as good times, these are good signals that you can build a happy and lasting marriage together.
Just be certain that you are compatible and can deal with disagreements between you. Then, the odds are good that you will stay together, forever.
Sherry Marshall, BSc, MAA – www.naturaltherapypages.com.au/connect/sydneyprocesscounselling
I am going to tell you why NOT to marry right now.
There are lots of lovely things to be said about love and marriage. It can be a beautiful thing if you are in love, being loved right back, and are emotionally mature.
If you are thinking with a level head about your life and the future compatibility with your special someone, imagining being together forever will feel warm and good.
But I want to be blunt and list some reasons why not to get married right now.
If any of these apply to you, I suggest you wait and think more on this very important life choice:
1. All your friends are getting married and you feel left out.
2. You are itching for a pretty wedding (a wedding is neither a marriage nor the reason for one).
3. It’s the next step in Your Plan.
Just because you finished college, got a job, had some fun being single, and are a certain age does not mean you marry so you can finish the puzzle you might be thinking your life should look like.
4. You are lonely. We all get lonely.
And honestly a part of why a lot of folks marry is because they want to be coupled and not spend their lives single (and a bit lonely). But don’t let it be a big part of why you are marrying. You might be clouded by fears of being alone rather than judging your compatibility or the quality of your commitment.
5. You are afraid of losing him if you don’t tie it down right now. (Fear is not a good place from which to make decisions. Especially big ones)
6. Your family thinks you should. This is YOUR LIFE.
7. Your friends think it’s time. (Ditto.)
8. You are pregnant.
This may be an arguably good enough reason to marry given many other factors. But marrying someone who isn’t right for you, isn’t kind, or doesn’t love and respect you – just because you are pregnant and planning to have a baby – is not good enough reason alone to marry.
9. You are engaged.
Yep. You heard me. Just because you are engaged and have been planning to get married, doesn’t mean you should go forward if things aren’t going well. I hear people say it a lot, “We already told the family, bought the rings and everything, so I felt like I had to go forward.”
This is not a good reason or place from which to start a lifelong commitment.
If the relationship is showing distress, seek counseling or postpone the wedding. Figure out if it’s right to marry this person for a lifetime, not if you will be embarrassed in the short term by changing course.
10. Just because you are invested.
This is a term I hear too much. We do invest. We invest our time and labor and love into lots of things. If you think you are invested now, just imagine 15 years from now after your heart wasn’t in it from the start.
We spend time with people, we love, we share joys and sadness and live our lives in relationship to others.
Sometimes that ends. It doesn’t mean what we shared wasn’t or isn’t important. It also doesn’t mean it must last forever if the elements for continued shared joy and commitment are no longer present. Move on if this is the main reason you are deciding to move into marriage.
It might seem from what I have said that I am against marriage. I am not.
However I see a lot of folks get clouded as to why they are marrying and what is motivating this huge decision.
So let’s face facts:
A large percentage of marriages will end in divorce.
I know I may sound cynical, but I work with clients going through divorce and let me tell you, you want to choose your next ex very carefully.
I am serious. If you marry and divorce this person, chances are you are going to have to negotiate the most important aspects of life with him or her: children and money.
You don’t want to do this with an unkind, deceptive, uncaring or disrespectful person. It will be hell. Choose marriage wisely, as you may very well be also choosing your co-parent during a divorce.
And last, we live a lot longer than ever in human history.
Marriage was so very useful, and in many ways imperative (especially for women) in days past. The factors that made marrying as vital as it once was have changed. Today we can marry for love, and to add value to our lives. We can take our time and choose wisely.
Just think, you can wait until age 30 to marry and still spend easily 5 to 6 decades with this person.
Don’t you think you should be very clear about why you are choosing this person, and if you are ready before you promise yourself for the next 50 +years?
Kris Gooding, LCSW – www.find-within.com
Finding a great relationship can happen immediately for some women. But for most others, you will be dating many men, for many months, before you find “the one.” In fact, it may take a while for his true character to be revealed to you.
And then, much to your surprise, his laughter, broad smile – even love handles – start to become endearing and actually sexy. This means that the good stuff is really great, and that the two of you are headed in the right direction.
When that happens, you are going into this relationship from a position of strength, not insecurity.
By gaining awareness about the multi-faceted aspects of a sound relationship, you will become more confident, educated and selective in choosing a partner. The end result will be a match that you want, feel good about and know is right for you.
Your “Keeper” Checklist
While dating, you may meet many men who hopefully will be your Mr. Right.
Here is a checklist to make it easier for you to identify the ideal love match for you.
- He does nice things to make me feel special
- He is easy to talk to
- He shares many of the same interests as me
- He makes me feel very comfortable around him
- He shares a similar vision for the future
- He is a genuine nice guy and a “good friend”
- He and I share similar quirks
- He has some good insights into making a relationship work
- He supports and encourages me
- He is attractive and finds me attractive
- He has most of the criteria in my “must-have” list
- He makes me feel happy when I’m with him
- He appreciates my individuality and autonomy
- I am a better person because of him
- I feel invigorated, not exhausted when I’m with him
- He is romantic and loving
If he possesses most (all) of these, sounds like you’ve found a keeper.
How do you know you are ready to move forward — and get married?
- If you know you have a good thing and you want to spend the rest of your life with him, then you are ready.
- If he expresses his desire to be with you forever, and you don’t get scared at that thought, then you are ready.
- If losing him would be devastating and being with him is exciting and fulfilling, then you are ready.
- If you’ve stopped looking for someone better and are satisfied you found “the one,” then you are ready to take the next step – Marriage!
Amy Sherman, M.A., LMHC – www.yourbabyboomersnetwork.com
To know if you are ready for marriage, you need to ask yourself why you want to get married.
There are generally two scenarios to address. One scenario is generic; you aren’t dating anyone, but you are feeling that the time is right to begin looking for that person. The other scenario addresses an existing relationship, and the question is whether the time has come to take it to the altar.
In both scenarios, I think it’s important to assess your reasons for wanting to marry.
Most little girls fantasize about getting married. It has traditionally been a ritual of adulthood- you grow up, meet Mr. Right, get married and have children.
Although today there are many women (and men) who don’t choose that route, marriage is still a ritual that is embedded in our collective psyches, and there are probably few women who don’t experience some anxiety as they approach the age where marriage becomes a reasonable option.
That being said, women really do have many choices today that don’t have to include marriage.
That’s why it’s important to examine your reasons.
If you know you want a lifetime commitment with someone and you really want children, then it’s important that your social choices are made with that outcome in mind. Don’t date a rock star or someone who is still living with his mother.
If, however, you are feeling insecure and unsure of what you want, marriage can look like a safe haven.
You can throw yourself into your wedding, your honeymoon, your husband’s life and eventually your children’s lives, avoiding the sometimes difficult, but necessary step of personal development and self-definition. These marriages are almost always fraught with problems.
Marriage under the best of circumstances is challenging.
It really takes two mature people to manage marriage and children well. Marriage is for people who know who they are, what they want and can stand up to the pressures that come with sharing your life with another person.
The scenario where you are in a relationship and begin to wonder if it’s time to take make that ultimate commitment involves a serious look at yourself and your partner.
Don’t lie to yourself about things being good when they aren’t. Marriage will never make a shaky relationship better. If however, you feel confident that your partner is a good choice for a life partner, then have that conversation.
The decision to marry is personal but also deeply relational.
When both partners are secure about who they are and what they want, it’s probably the right time to get married.
Sally LeBoy, MS, MFT – www.sallyleboymft.com
As such, I want to start with a nearly clean sweep of how this question has been asked traditionally. You do not need to reinvent the wheel as you consider this (a great deal of advice from the elder members of your family or friendship circle will stand the test of time), but start from scratch and pull in the “spokes” of wise advice that support your and your partner’s values and goals.
Let’s start with:
1. Do you want to be married?
If so, why is this true? If not, why is that the case?
In traditional settings, it used to be that getting married was the way people decided that they were ready to start a family.
Not always true anymore. More of my clients are choosing to have children whether or not they are married and/or whether or not they stay with the parent of their child.
But before I advise or march my clients away from “the altar,” I regularly explore issues around how well they communicate with their partners.
I make it a transparent litmus test of their compatibility and emphasize that we all deserve to lead a happy life with people who love and support us.
If my clients’ answers to my informal assessment neither inspire confidence nor assuage my clients’ or my own concerns, I invite my clients to ask their partners in for a session so I can witness how they discuss important issues.
And, in those cases when the partner of my clients would prefer someone who they believe would be more neutral, I refer the couple to one of my colleagues.
2. What are your individual goals in life?
- Do you want to pursue a career?
- Do you need or want to devote significant time to your hobbies or friends?
Being married can bring either a supportive partner or a partner who resents the time you need to pursue your individual needs.
My partner and I wrote our own vows 26 years ago and pledged to help each other along the way in two distinct ways.
I started out as a person who was always able to aim my arrow towards a target and get there. And my partner started out as a person who would always enjoy life by relaxing or jumping into his free time with abandon.
On our wedding day, because we really knew each other, my husband promised to remind me to enjoy the process along the way and I promised to remind him to develop and pursue goals while he was enjoying life.
His wedding ring has two colors (two shades of gold) and my engagement ring (thanks to his grandmother!) has two colors (a diamond and a sapphire).
Our rings represent the duality of our relationship because we are individuals with strong drives and a couple with an equally strong commitment to one another.
3. Is your partner a keeper?
There is so much to consider! Do you see this person as being of healthy mind, body, and spirit? The truth is that the words “’til death do us part” – when taken seriously – might be more than you want to accept.
- Why bother getting married if you don’t know how healthy your partner is?
- Why bother getting married if you haven’t weathered some major challenges as an unmarried couple?
- How does your partner respond to adversity? Your less-than-strongest self?
- Can your partner join you and work at things and then also laugh at things when life gets difficult?
4. If thinking about these first few issues is getting you to think, perhaps setting up a time to meet with a counselor to discuss these issues (and any others that come up) is your best bet.
Don’t toss this premarital counseling idea out the window as an “extra.”
Raising the important questions you are facing together with a caring professional will likely send you rolling towards the union you’ve been excited about for some time.
But, if you learn that you don’t want to get married, you’ll be in fine company. Many people march forward towards all the things they wanted in life as happily, unmarried people.
Dr. Annie Ready Coffey – www.replenishmentandchange.com
Knowing that you would like to get married someday is perhaps just one-step along your life path that prepares you for marriage.
Taking conscious actions to get ready for marriage is yet another step along the way.
But how do you know when you’re ready to reach your destination called marriage?
First, let’s get clear about what is a healthy marriage.
A healthy marriage has an essential element, which is emotional responsiveness.
Emotional responsiveness means that there is enough trust and emotional connection between the two of you – that you trust each other enough that even though you fight and have differences you know how to turn towards each other and reach for each other when it really matters.
If you have a safe and secure emotional bond with your partner then you can deal with almost anything.
This kind of marriage also has health benefits because it makes you stronger as a person. You feel better about yourself, you are more confident in the world, you’re more able to deal with stress, and you’re more resilient.
How emotionally responsive couples are is a powerful predictor to the future of their relationship.
The difference between a happy and an unhappy marriage in the end isn’t that you fight and miss each other – everyone does that. In happy marriages partners can turn and reach each other and repair moments of emotional pain, panic and disconnection.
I would say that you are ready for marriage when you are committed to the process of being in a life-long relationship that is based on love and bonding.
We need love more and more as we live more and more in an isolated world. Not understanding healthy relationships and the essential element of emotional responsiveness can result in being unsuccessful in our love lives.
Teena Evert, LMFT, LAC – www.teenaevert.com
You’re in a serious relationship. You’re happy. He’s happy. You know each others quirks, and still love each other. He may be “The One.” But are you ready to take the plunge and get married?
It can be overwhelming to think about and every woman’s magazine will give you the top then signs you’re ready. Or five signs you’re not. Or twenty ways to tell if your love will last.
However, the single most important thing you need to do before you get married is to be 100% happy by yourself.
Really get to know yourself, what makes you happy, what you’re passionate about, things you want to avoid in life, experiences you yearn for.
When you are a whole and complete person on your own, not searching for anyone to complete you, you can build a relationship that is NOT based on need.
Instead of approaching a relationship from a place of lack, where you need the other person to make you happy, or to have fun, or to feel secure, think about approaching a relationship from a place of abundance.
You need only yourself to feel complete, to feel joy, to feel love, and to feel secure.
When you learn to rely on yourself to cultivate these feelings you will never be needy of anyone else. This translates to a marriage based on love and equality. These couples complement each other rather than engaging in power struggles stemming from feelings of inadequacy and insecurity.
Marriage can be a wonderfully fulfilling piece of your life. But before you say “I do” and devote your life to someone else, commit to yourself first and foremost.
Once you fall in love with the amazing person that you are, you’ll be ready to build a marriage where you enrich each others lives in ways you never knew were possible.
Jessica Bronner, LMHC – www.counselingservicesassoc.com
With so many opportunities available for women these days, from career choices, lifestyle options, academic goals, to relationships, marriage, and children, it can feel overwhelming at points deciding which path to take.
Almost every woman comes to a fork in the road at some point and has to prioritize where she wants to focus her attention.
For many women living the single life, the fun, adventure, career responsibilities, and dating life can be all –encompassing.
Yet, as the years go by, and friends and family move on to the next stage of life, the call to look for a life partner, or start a family can be strong for some, and quite muffled for others. Readers ask how will they know when they are ready for marriage.
The famous psychologist, Erik Erikson, spoke in great depth about the eight stages of psychosocial development that all human beings go through.
The one that twenty to thirty-nine year olds experience is called intimacy vs. isolation.
At some point within those nineteen years, usually around 30, according to Erikson, a healthy individual should feel the desire to look for a companion to share their intimate lives with. This is generally the time we date, find a life partner, get married, and start a family.
There really isn’t a specific age, day, or hour that you should feel ready to get married.
It varies naturally along this spectrum. Also, one may feel ready, but have trouble finding a spouse during this stage. If it happens a little later, that is ok too.
The problem for one’s future growth and happiness occurs if there is no desire to move from the nuclear family to starting a family of their own, or if they are not able to maintain relationships.
Then, they can remain stuck, and according to Erikson experience isolation and despair. If one goes through this stage of development during this time period, then they will successfully reach the next stage of emotional growth and development.
The question about when you are ready for marriage usually answers itself.
At some point, just naturally, women will perhaps be influenced by their peers or family, meet someone they want to spend their lives with, or feel their biological clock ticking.
If you are concerned that you are reaching the end of this developmental stage and you have no desire to get married, you may want to speak with a therapist and see what type of pain, unresolved issues, or baggage is inhibiting you from sharing your life with someone.
Alisa Ruby Bash, LMFT – www.alisarubybash.com
1. You are already a complete and whole person.
That you have the ability to meet your own financial, spiritual, emotional, and physical needs without a mate. It is not the responsibility of marriage or your partner to grow you up. You should arrive at the wedding altar having lived life.
2. You have realistic expectations about marriage and your partner.
Realistic expectations mean accepting that your partner cannot meet all your needs all the time or that you will not always be happy in your marriage. Likewise, unrealistic expectations, believing in “happily ever after” or “love is enough” can have disastrous results.
3. You can accept that you alone are responsible for your own happiness.
As a grown up, you take full ownership of not blaming your partner for your unhappiness or losing yourself in the marriage. Your partner can certainly add to your happiness, but it is not his or her responsibility to make you happy.
4. You can give unconditional sacrifice.
Marriage isn’t always “fair”. Unconditional sacrifice is the willingness to adjust your personal desires and priorities for your partner’s sake.
If your sacrifices are not unconditional, resentment and regret can rear its ugly head and destroy your marriage. Unconditional sacrifice does not mean neglect your wants and needs; it means they might be put on hold for a while.
5. You share similar or same core values.
Core values are your fundamental beliefs. Core values are usually rooted in childhood and/or pass down from your parents. Core values determine how you and your partner will live your life together.
For example, you both share similar views on how to raise your children, religious beliefs, political affiliation, or lifestyle. Core values can change over time so stay connected though communication.
6. You are brave enough to go to premarital counseling.
Most of the couples that come through my door do not know how to be married. Whether we like it or not, being married is a skill. It is a job that requires you to be actively engaged in the process in order for it to be successful.
Start your marriage off right and learn valuable skills and strategies to have a healthy happy and honest relationship.
Dr. Ella Dixon – www.drelladixon.com
For some women, marriage and children is something they anticipate their whole lives. But to really appreciate the stage of life that marriage and family brings, it’s best to know yourself.
Many of my single clients start to feel as though they are searching for a partner and skipping over themselves in the process. I advise them to stop and date themselves first.
Knowing who you are, what you want out of life will help your marriage be successful.
Merging a life with someone before you are ready leads to marital and life dissatisfaction. To those deciding if marriage is right for them, I recommend they answer these three questions:
1. What are your goals for your career and your life?
If you are right on track to getting where you want to go. Great! Marriage now may be right for you. If you aren’t sure what you want to do with your life, you may need to sort that out first. Marriage doesn’t bring direction. That comes from within you.
2. Have you discussed desire for and timing of children?
Many couples just never have that conversation before marrying and assume their partner feels the same. Make sure to be clear and honest about your vision of your life together with your partner.
3. Do you have your own friends and own interests apart from your relationship?
Having a support system in place when you marry can help relieve the pressure of marriage as you adjust to the changes.
Couples who have outside interests and continue to learn new skills are more engaged in their marriage and are seen as more interesting by their partner.
When considering marriage, first consider yourself.
Are you clear on who you are, what you want out of life and able to set expectations with your partner? Then you are probably ready for marriage.
If you aren’t sure, then wait.
A great marriage isn’t about finding “The One.” It’s about feeling good with who you are and choosing the marriage every day.
If you feel you need support with deciding, seek support from a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. They are specifically training to work with couples and individuals dealing with relationship issues.
Teresa Petersen Mendoza, MS, LMFT – www.familysosinc.com
While there are no guarantees even if you do everything “just right”, you can certainly increase your chances for a long happy marriage if you pay attention to some key issues.
1. Is this infatuation?
If the relationship was quick and/or intense then it is probably infatuation and the relationship will change significantly within three years.
If this sounds like you wait to see if you still like each other three to five years down the road before marriage. If you are going to spend the rest of your life together, what is the harm in waiting?
2. Were you happy and content before meeting him?
Happy healthy marriages are based on two healthy complete partners joining to share the experience of life. Take the time to work on yourself so that you are content with you and not looking for a partner to complete you.
3. How well do you communicate about tough issues?
Having a happy marriage is not about how good you feel when you are together! It is about how well a partnership is formed.
The most important aspect of a good marriage is communication.
When you argue is there name calling, yelling, silent treatments, threats of leaving, or belittling. If so don’t marry.
These are clear indicators that divorce is in your future.
Of course discussions can be heated but they always need to be respectful in tone and words. And when you do argue, do you both feel as if the issue was resolved or swept under the carpet. Healthy communication is the key to long term success!
4. Do you or your partner blame each other for things?
“It is all your fault”, “you make me so unhappy”, “he always….” Blaming partners for anything will drive a wedge between the two of you and will eventually destroy the marriage. Instead it is very important to take responsibility for your own buttons and work to figure yourself out rather than blaming him.
The above list is a sign of emotional health and maturity.
If you are still needy, reactive, judging and blaming then do yourself a favor postpone your wedding.
Work on your self to the point of having a certain level of emotional freedom and are able to take responsibility for your own happiness. In doing so you will be blessed with a lovely partnership.
Cynthia Pickett, LCSW, LADC – www.cynthiapickett.com
Such a big question for which there are no simple answers.
Knowing one’s self is a very good start. Being able to trust and know yourself and to hold onto your self in an intimate relationship as well as being able to trust and know your partner are essential pre-requisites to marriage.
If you search your heart with courage and a willingness to be real then you should have some answers of your own.
No one else can tell you are you ready for this lifelong commitment!
However, it might help to know your own patterns and your partner’s tendencies around conflict.
Research shows it’s not the absence of conflict but how it’s managed that is the most telling indicator of success in long-term relationships.
- How do you repair after a fight?
- Do you have no-go zones in the relationship? Or
- Can you talk to each other even about difficult subjects?
Building a strong marriage takes work and commitment and a capacity to care for the relationship as well as for each other. It will test you and it may well be your best teacher in life.
Margie Ulbrick, LLB/BA/GD SOCSCI – www.margieulbrickcounselling.com
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