Am I ready for Marriage? How do I know? How did all the people who got married figure it out?
Have you ever asked yourself these questions?
As a culture, most Americans realize these days that marriage in the United States is an out-dated socio-legal institution that needs extensive remodeling in order to revive its popularity. This statement is neither mind-blowing nor ground-breaking, as evidenced by the over 50% divorce rate among first marriages in our society.
Reality is not nearly as simplistic as a two-digit percentage. When we look into scientific data to see what intricacies lie within, we find that many divorces happen simply because the two people involved in these marriages did not even know that their personal lives made it impossible for them to sustain a long-term commitment. In other words, these people just weren’t ready, and they didn’t realize it until they were too late!
Looking back on it, even my husband and I realize that as much as we knew each other, we weren’t ready to get married two years ago; and really, I don’t know if anyone can be truly 100% prepared for a marriage. Maybe this is a cultural phenomenon, but we were so focused on “getting to know each other” that we forgot to ask some very important questions. We were focused on issues like, “Do you want children? How many? When? What will their names be?” rather than simpler yet more important “operational” issues. We have a happy, healthy relationship now of course, but like I said, we got really lucky!
So, what should we have asked ourselves? What will we go on to teach our children when its their time to make this decision? I have a few suggestions (obviously), but I would love to hear from you about how you decided you were ready for this lifetime commitment. Please let me know what you think of these FIVE questions and why I think they are crucial to ask in a romantic relationship:
1. Are you Financially Independent before Marriage?
Anyone who ever gave me any GOOD marriage advice always started off with this topic, and so will I, because this is the most important question you can ask yourself! This makes sense, because statistically speaking, the majority of issues surround divorce revolve around finances. What others might not mention to you however, especially if you are minority woman, is this:
If you cannot answer “Yes” to this question, then you are not ready, no matter what anyone else says. Your answers to any other critical questions also matter, but none of them are as important to the success of your marriage as your answer to this question. Complete financial independence, especial in a yet-to-be-stabilized, wavering economy is crucial for anyone considering marriage. Being financially independent gives you monetary security for the future, and allows you to live a comfortable life-style barring unforeseen circumstances. In addition, it also teaches you the value of hard work, and how to be responsible for you own life! If you are not completely responsible for yourself, you should definitely not accept a responsibility towards someone else, especially one that is going to last a lifetime!
As a couple, there will be an innumerable number of dialogs, discussions, and even arguments about countless topics, however, none of them will ever be as stressful as conversations about finances and financial stability, especially if you have none. The amount of undue pressure added to a marriage due to financial instability and financial insecurities trumps all other factors in, and is often enough to break the relationship entirely.
To recap and reiterate, if you are not financially independent and have not yet implemented any strategies to make yourself financially independent by the time you “tie the knot”, you are not ready for marriage.
2. Are You Ready to CHOOSE Marriage?
This question might not make any sense, so let me explain. Relationships and marriage don’t just happen magically, they are a constant, never-ending choices that individuals actively make. Marriage especially, is THE MOST intimate of all social interactions among humans. Marriage may well be a socio-religious/legal institution, and its creation and continued evolution has undeniably changed the fabric of our society. However, the premise of any marriage, whether “arranged”, “love”, or “something else” has always remained the same: two individuals come together to create a family unit and combine their resources to ensure the longevity of this unit.
This involves: sharing financial AND non-financial responsibilities; commitment of time, money and efforts toward the growth and maintenance of a relationship; opening your body and mind to another person in the most personal, vulnerable ways possible; raising any future children; and, the overall upkeep of this family unit for about 50-80 years! It would utter naiveté to think that people can just “fall into” such a convoluted situation and adjust quickly in a healthy way without any preparation.
I repeat, Marriage is a choice. Unless you are able and willing to allow that amount of vulnerability into your life, you might struggle with your marriage more than usual. The point I want to make is that in order to be even marginally prepared for any type of a relationship, you have to allow yourself to consistently make the effort your relationship needs and deserves. The question is: Are you ready, and are you willing to make this kind of time and effort for the rest of your life?
3. Do You have a Plan/Schedule for your Marriage?
This one might seem counter-intuitive at first, so please bear with me. Do you have a plan about how long you want to “get to know” your partner, how long you want to engaged, how long you want to wait before you have children, etc.? If you do, you are not ready for marriage.
It is without a doubt ambitious, safe, and, intelligent to have a schedule or a plan. The only problem with that is that life has a funny way of being completely indifferent to your schedule! So, whatever schedule you have, please do yourself a favor. Rip it up into tiny little shreds and conquer any anxiety it evokes. Especially after kids, based on whats my friends say, sometimes its tough to even spell the word “schedule” let alone act on it!
Flexibility and adaptiveness to change, and tolerance of ambiguity are two factors in creating a long and happy marriage. People can have as many time management devices, strategies and shortcuts as humanly possible, but the beauty, mystery and reality of human lives is the uncertainty of it.
Making a choice to commit to marriage involves merging the uncertainties in your life with the uncertainties of another person’s life. You need to be able to allow space and tolerance in your life for the changes that will inevitably happen over the course of a marriage. This is because a marriage evolves every single day, for the rest of your life, even if you are not in it anymore. So, can you allow your marriage to evolve naturally?
4. Are you consistently willing to practice HONEST communication?
One of the keys to any good relationship is good communication; we all know this. Marriage requires a different kind of communication tactic, however. It requires an honest communicator — one who is able to stay objective in the face of conflict. This means that you have to be able to talk about incredibly difficult, soul-bearing topics without flying off the handle.
Now, most people are polite and tactful in their communications, especially with strangers. Many people go out of their way on a daily basis to avoid the awkwardness of dramas, confrontations and conflicts. People may even tell little white lies to ensure polite dialog. In fact, this is a very important Asian and Middle Eastern cultural norm to be aware of!
This is not really recommended in a marriage however, because, in a lifelong commitment, your white lies will be brought to surface at some point in your relationship, causing mistrust, grief and unnecessary issues relating to respect and self-esteem. Marriage is a funny little entity however, because while you have to be an honest communicator, you also have to be infinitely more considerate and careful about your communications with your partner.
5. Are you willing to compromise and negotiate?
If you are the kind of person who gets your way every single time, the majority of the time, most of the time, or even about half the time, you might not be ready for marriage. Some people think that this topic isn’t as important, because it is based on dominant/submissive personalities of the individual partners; on who wears “the pants” in the relationship, as the cliché goes.
The reality of the situation is trickier. It involves a complete relinquishment of your control over decision-making. It involves being able to do justice to your marriage by actively putting your spouse and your family on the very top of your list of priorities – ALWAYS! Sometimes it even involves sending your priorities to the very bottom of the list because your marriage needs you.
As a single, unmarried person you are responsible for yourself in every way – biologically, socially, psychologically, religiously, spiritually, culturally, and, legally. As a married person, you will no longer have the liberty to make your own decisions, no matter how petty the decision seems. Every single decision you make has an impact on your spouse and family.
Of course, these aren’t the only questions, or even the only important questions to ask a potential spouse. Questions about their habits, preferences, attitudes and so on and so forth are completely necessary to establish the compatibility of people in a relationship. The five questions I asked today don’t focus on compatibility, however; they are geared towards the day-to-day operations in your marriage, “the nuts-and-bolts” of it, so to speak.
What questions do you think are important to ask a potential spouse, and why? Please let me know in your comments. I would love to start a dialog with men AND women about this!