When I was younger, marriage was an inevitability.
It was on a bucket list containing other “musts” like a great career by 20, a house and car by 25, and children before 30.
But as I grew older, I started questioning the value of these social conventions.
Life is unpredictable. And you don’t get what you want exactly when you plan to have it.
I’ve dated enough times to know that there’s a heck of a lot to go through before you get to “happily ever after.” More importantly, I realized that happily ever after doesn’t mean you’ll always be happy.
Love is messy. It’s a constant and conscious decision to keep choosing to be with someone. I believe marriage is the same.
I’ve realized that marriage shouldn’t be an inevitability.
Marriage should be a choice—a subjective one. And you shouldn’t marry just because it’s the way things are “supposed to be.”
In fact, you should put a lot of thought into it:
Why get married?
Why not get married?
Hear me out as I explore what I think are the six reasons why marriage is a (big) mistake and five reasons why it’s a brilliant idea.
6 reasons why getting married is a TERRIBLE mistake
1. You’re afraid of being alone
So many people enter mediocre or even downright toxic relationships out of fear of being alone.
I get it. Being alone is frightening.
But you know what’s so much worse?
Marrying someone—anyone—just to avoid being alone and finding out that they’re terrible for you.
No one wants to grow old alone. But that shouldn’t be the only reason why you marry someone.
I know this has been said a lot of times, but it’s still very true:
You need to be a complete person if you want to have a genuinely happy and healthy relationship—much less marriage—with anyone. You can’t make anyone happy if you can’t make yourself happy.
And sometimes, being alone for a while gives you the chance to do just that. It gives you a chance to know what kind of life you want for yourself, and live that life without having to depend on someone else.
Marriage won’t complete you. Only you can do that.
2. You want to solve your relationship problems
Getting married will not fix your relationship problems.
But somehow, that’s what a lot of people seem to think. They think that marriage is the remedy they need so the fights will stop and the spark will come back.
If anything, marriage only intensifies the problems.
It may be all sweet and magical at first, but what it does is only putting band-aids on a festering wound.
You’re still the same people, married or not.
That means that you’ll be carrying the same baggage when you enter your marriage. And that means you’ll still have the same problems.
A wedding is only a day. Marriage is your whole life.
3. You’re only doing it to prove something
Our society paints a very specific picture of a fulfilled life:
It’s a wedding. It’s kids. It is a white-picket-fence house.
As a result, we’ve always equated marriage as a sign of prosperity and maturity. No wonder why we get married just to get that validation.
People marry to prove that they have it together. They marry to prove to their ex that they can live without them. They marry to prove to everyone else that they’re happy. Heck, they even marry just to have a dream wedding.
I’ve always believed that you can’t and shouldn’t convince yourself into anything. If you don’t feel it, that’s because you don’t. It’s as simple as that.
And it’s the same with marriage.
Convincing everyone else that you’re happy will not make you happy.
Get married because it feels right for you, not because you want to prove a point.
4. You want someone to take care of you and vice versa
Yes, marriage is about caring for each other. It’s about giving someone the security of your love. A partnership is about looking out for each other.
But if you use it as an excuse to depend on someone for everything, that’s not marriage—it’s using someone for your own benefit.
What’s more, co-dependency in relationships results in many toxic dynamics.
According to clinical psychologist and relationship expert Jill P. Weber:
“You have to be a fully functioning, separate individual to be in a healthy union. Otherwise, you will start to get confused and overburdened by what is their baggage to carry and what is your baggage to carry. Before you know it you’ve become co-dependent with your partner and you, your separate, unique lovely self, will cease to exist. Happy marriages are true partnerships in which each member can take care of themselves and better the team.”
5. You’re trying to fill a hole
We’ve all had traumas from the past. And these traumas manage to snake their way into every life decision we make.
Childhood trauma, especially, can be difficult to overcome. Many victims end up having the fantasy of a complete and happy family to compensate for the abuse and neglect they experienced as a child.
Others simply get married because they have nothing else to look forward to in life.
Unfortunately, marrying for these reasons doesn’t lead to any good.
You cannot build a good life with someone else if you continue harboring your old wounds. These are things you need to deal with on your own.
No one is going to fix your life for you. Marriage will not be a cure for your suffering. It is absolutely crucial that you take time before you commit to look inside, understand yourself more, and heal.
6. You feel pressured
Another classic reason why people get married even when they’re not ready yet—they feel pressured.
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They’re getting old. They want to have kids. Everyone else is starting a family.
And that’s completely normal. You don’t want to feel left out.
But you have to realize:
Marriage is not a requirement for a happy life.
We have been culturally programmed to believe this. But it’s not true.
According to relationship therapist Natasha Sharma: “Despite the fact that many marriages may not be happy marriages, society still tends to place greater value on being married or with someone than not. And in our efforts to please society and be met with social approval, we endeavour to get married.”
I’m not saying marriage is wrong. It’s far from that. Marriage is a beautiful way to express love and commitment—if your reasons are right.
So take the time to reflect if marriage is something you want for yourself, and not something you’re supposed to want because it’s a tradition.
5 signs you should get married
If none of the reasons above has got you running for the hills yet, good for you!
But you’re not out of trouble yet. Sure, you may feel completely ready to get married. You may have the right reasons to think so, but you have to consider a few more things.
Below, I’ve listed a couple of signs that prove you’re getting married for the right and valid reasons:
1. You are both “complete” individuals
Yes, marriage is about two people coming together and building a life with each other. But marriage doesn’t mean giving up your individuality.
Don’t forget, you’re still going to be yourself when you get married. Your partner won’t suddenly complete you. And they shouldn’t be your whole life either.
Marriage is about two completely whole and separate individuals sharing their life together.
According to Liz Higgins, a licensed marriage and family therapist: “It’s really important for you to focus on you — not in a selfish way, not in a way that disregards your partner, but in a way where you understand taking care of yourself is going to help you bring your best self to your relationship.”
You should come into a marriage as two happy and fulfilled individuals.
2. You completely trust each other
I know it’s been said a lot of times, but trust really is one of the most important foundations of any relationship.
It’s something that is extremely hard to build and rebuild.
Remember, you and your partner will make mistakes. You will inevitably hurt each other, hopefully unintentionally.
That is why trust in each other is crucial. You have to trust the fact that yes, you will end up being hurt by your partner in varying degrees, but at least you should know one absolute thing:
That they don’t mean to hurt you deliberately. That they have your best interest at heart. And they respect your choices and decisions.
If you feel like this is someone you can trust completely, it’s a good sign your marriage will be a successful one. If not, then you know there are issues you still need to handle and it’s not the right time to marry yet.
3. You fight ‘well’
Conflict will always be there.
How you handle it determines the future of your marriage.
You have to know how to fight well and fight fair. Both of you should be able to resolve conflict in a healthy and mature manner.
Some couples never argue, which is just as bad as couples who fight all the time. Take a look at your relationship and how you handle fights and disagreements.
If you believe that you both manage conflict productively, then you know you already have the right skills to be together for the rest of your lives.
4. You’ve spent some time to truly get to know each other
How much time do you need to get to know someone enough to marry them?
Time is subjective and only you can judge that.
But I believe it’s important that you know someone enough that you’re comfortable being your true self with them, and vice versa.
At least enough time to know them deeply—their innermost thoughts, dreams, life goals. But also know their fears, shame, and how they react when the world is not kind to them.
These are things that could probably take a lifetime to know from a person. And you shouldn’t wait until you know everything single detail about their life. But at least get to know the most important things first.
5. You express love freely
Have you heard of the “magic ratio” that makes love last?
Dr. Gottman and Robert Levenson came up with this groundbreaking discovery when in their lifelong study on how married couples make their relationship last.
The ratio is 5 to 1. For every negative interaction during a conflict, a healthy and stable creates 5 or more positive interactions.
Dr. Gottman explains: “When the masters of marriage are talking about something important, they may be arguing, but they are also laughing and teasing and there are signs of affection because they have made emotional connections.”
You don’t need to be extremely sweet. You just need to have deep intimacy and be able to laugh together as a couple.
Essentially, freely expressing love and affection is the key to a long and happy marriage. If you don’t have enough in your relationship, then it might be necessary to look into the reasons why.
At the end of the day, it all boils down to two things:
Do you want to get married for you?
Or do you want to get married because it’s what you’re supposed to do?
We all have different ideas on love and relationships.
Essentially, if you do want to get married someday, it should be for all the right reasons—meaning it should feel right for you and for the life you want.
Don’t get married just for the sake of it. Marriage isn’t the only way to express commitment and loyalty.
In all honesty, you can love someone your whole life, build a future with them, and be their partner without signing a piece of paper. In fact, many people do.
If you do want to get married, marry because it’s for the two of you. Marry because it’s the most beautiful and truthful expression of love that you can show.
Marry because you’re so sure that you can share an authentic and happy life with this person—through the good times and the bad.
Originally published on Ideapod.