Are you getting married for the right reasons
People are allowed to get married for any reason they choose, but are you choosing the right reasons. As a marriage therapist I see many couples in my office anywhere from 2 months to 10 years after getting married and they are not sure why they got together or what the purpose of being together. They are stuck in a marriage that neither of them and they don’t know how to create one version of the marriage they both want. It is not a fun place to be.
When making the decision to get married, too many people do not consider the long term ramifications of their decision. People often make the decision to get married based on how they are currently feeling and do not think about or understand how the decision they make today will play out in 10, 20 or 30 years. The implications of a bad decision on marriage has impacts on your personal finances, your potential children, family, mental health and the future state of society. It is really important to consider and think about the purpose to get married.
Making Someone Else Happy
When people come in for marriage counselling, one of the common reasons people give me for getting married are because they want to make someone happy. Wayne Self, a writer, neatly explains why it is a recipe for marital unhappiness and failure:
“If you love someone, you want them to be happy. And it’s very nice to think that you can make another person happy, but it’s also very arrogant. What really makes a person happy? Lots of things: family, friends, hobbies, work, and more. It will be your job to add to their lives and help them be even happier. The way to do that is to be happy yourself, with hobbies, friends, and work of your own. And when those things aren’t going so well in your lives, you can each help the other through the bad times. Together, two happy people can create an even happier couple, but if you make someone else’s happiness your mission in life, you give them the power to make your life a failure.”
If you want to make someone happy, think about how impossible this is. Marriage is about SHARING happiness. In order to share happiness, you need to be happy yourself. People need good mental health to be able to do a healthy marriage. If you are looking to make someone else happy or hoping they can make you happy, you may need to do some work before you are ready for marriage.
I love the Person
Another reason that brings people into my office is that a couple will state that they love each other but that cannot get along, they cannot agree to important decisions on money, parenting, sex, couple time and they are just don’t like each other’s way of doing things. Marriage is an incredible practical institution that has very little to do with love. People can love each other tremendously but do not want the same things or have the same agenda.
An analogy to marriage is that of building a company. To build an effective company you need to have a business plan, a mission statement and you need to know what you are going to sell. Without these things your company will fail.
People too often enter into marriage because they “are in love!” and have not discussed their goals for the future and what is the purpose to be together. Often these couples will say “I don’t know! We are in love, we’ll figure it out!”
Figuring out it often happens in my office or in the horrible fights couples have at home. The decision to get married means couples will have many repetitive serious talks about what kind of life they want to build together.
People too often decide they are in love and then they stop collecting data about their partner and actively working through differences. People tend to give “love” a magical quality that it can somehow solve difference. When people decide they are “in love” they ignore serious conflicts of values or wants and just “hope they go away or work out.” However, hope without behaviors behind it is a recipe for disaster.
Fall in love is not a good enough reason to start ignoring differences between you and your partner. You need to see if those differences can be worked out or if they are deal breakers. It is much easier to do this before you are married with kids and debt than after.
Couples need to discuss differences to see if there is one version of a marriage both people want. While compatible is helpful, no one will want exactly what you want and healthy conflict is a part of a intimate relationship. It is the only way we can merge the differences of 2 people into 1 version they both want.
I often find with couples that one person likes to spend a lot of time alone or with friends and the other person likes to spend time with their partner. This creates conflict. Another person wants to live overseas and the other person wants to stay in their home country. Another person wants start a family right away and the other person wants to wait. People will see these differences during dating but ignore them or hope that after they are married their partner will change.
Marriage doesn’t change people into something they were not while they are dating. You need to know the person you are marrying because they do not become a whole new person after marriage. Marriage is not magical.
Getting effective relationship skills to be able to have healthy effective conflict is so important. People do not learn these skills. Romantic relationships require unique skills to create.
e a win-win in dealing with solutions. Too often couples confuse compromise with giving-in. Giving-in is where only one person is happy and the relationship loses. Win-win is when both people in the relationship are happy with the solutions. Learning to do this in a romantic relationship is different than the skills you use as a parent or a boss.
Dating person since you were a Teen
Many couples come into my office because they are stuck in a marriage that neither person wants nor do they don’t know how to make it better. They often find the person they are married too doesn’t have much in common with them and that married life is different than when they were dating.
Many couples do not make the conscious decision to get married but instead stumble into marriage because they have been dating each other since they were young teens in high school. They don’t think about what they are doing but instead “sorta feel” that because they have been together so long that it is the next natural step and they SHOULD get married. They may also face family pressure to do so as well.
From a developmental standpoint, it takes 25 years to grow a human brain. Until you are 25 years old you are going through a period of figuring out who you are, what you like and don’t like and what you want for yourself. The needs and desires and hopes of a 15 year old are very different from that of a 26 year old.
To have a successful marriage, each individual really needs to understand who s/he is as a person and know what their individuals likes, wants and preferences are so that they can negotiate effectively with their partner. If you get married still trying to figure out who you are as a person and the person you find yourself is not compatible with the person you married, you can make for a difficult marriage.
Today, many careers require much longer periods of education and training. Making the decision to marry someone because of habit of being with them or familiarity is not necessarily the best decision process. You need to evaluate if the reason you were dating in high school will sustain you for the next 50 to 60 years in a marriage. The requirements of dating and the requirements of marriage are quite different. Are you two still the same people with compatible visions for the future. These are important conversations to have BEFORE you get married.
Afraid to Lose Your Partner
Some times people are at a turning point in their relationship and may see that they are drifting apart or are wanting less and less of the same thing. Some people give marriage a magical quality quality thinking that marriage can save their relationship and keep their partner with them. If you are using marriage as a way to reinvigorate your relationship there may be other more important decision you need to have first. Marriage is not magic and will not make two people who don’t want the same things magically want them. Marriage is a natural outcome of people deciding they want to build one version of a life together that they both want.
Have your Dream Wedding
Many people get married because they want the wedding, not necessarily the marriage. A wedding is a 24 hour event but a marriage is a life-long commitment. If your focus is more on the party than on what kind of life you are planning to build with the person you may need to look more closely at your decision making process.
Getting Married to get an HDB
Another common reason people decide to get married is so that they can buy an HDB condo. Making a decision on a single platform of home ownership minimizes how many things are required to make a successful marriage. The best house in the world won’t make a happy marriage if two people cannot agree on how to manage finances, family planning, parenting, time together or apart, career and many other issues.
If the sole reason to get married is based on home ownership, you should seriously think through if this platform is stable enough to support you for the next 50 years. What will happen after the novelty of home ownership wears off and is replaced by the admin of life in paying the bills, cleaning the house, saving money and all the other mundane tasks of life. Is the person you’ll be doing this with someone you want to spend the next 50 years with? Are you going in the same direction?
Marriage is a process of interweaving two people’s values, wants and needs into one version that both people want. This takes more than momentary love or lust but a thoughtful evaluation of what is the purpose to merge your life with another person. You will need to both want compatible future and the tools to handle the differences. Counselling can help you in all of these areas. Call us to learn more. Or visit our PreMarriage Counselling Page
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