MARRIAGE: I do, I don’t or I don’t know

Some women get excited about the prospect of getting married while others feel totally terrified. Then there are those who would like to get married “someday” but prefer not to rush that day into existence. So when it comes to waiting, how long is too long? How will you know when you are ready? And whether you marry sooner or later, how can you up the odds that your marriage will last?

How soon is too soon?

As for timing, couple’s therapist and author Ian Kerner suggests dating at least one to two years before getting engaged. During this time, couples are encouraged to ask each other (and themselves) some key questions so there are fewer surprises – and disappointments – down the road.

Love’s all that matters, right?

The popular website marriage.com provides a good checklist for couples thinking about taking the plunge. A quick skim at the list leaves you with one main takeaway: marriage is not just about love, and love is not just about butterflies; turns out practical matters need consideration, too.

Some of the bigger questions that will let you and your partner know if you are on the same page include “where do we see ourselves living, apartment or house? Do we merge bank accounts? How many kids do we want? How do we expect our sex life to change after kids? In fact, experts advise you ask yourself these questions first, and dig deep for honest answers, before discussing them together.

What about counseling?

While we’ve all heard of people getting counseling after problems come up in their marriage, most relationship therapists today recommend pre-marriage counseling or pre-marriage classes, mostly because many people go into marriage with unrealistic expectations. And some people get married for the wrong reasons.

In counseling sessions with clients, therapist Dr. Stephen J. Betchen has heard a lot of those ‘wrong’ reasons, from not wanting to be alone or being afraid to hurt their partner’s feelings to getting married because their partner treated them well or shared the same religious beliefs; even though in many cases they were not attracted to their partner.

“I have argued for years that most people do not take relationships and marriage seriously enough, and neither does society,” wrote Dr. Betchen in a recent column. We reduce it to something as easy as learning to ride a bicycle. In the most bizarre examples, some couples marry for the flimsiest reasons.”

Getting a professional shoulder to lean on

But in all fairness, he also points out that nobody taught us about marriage in school, so it’s up to each of us to take the lead, find the right resources, and do some honest soul-searching before we make such an important commitment. And if you need a bit of help navigating the topic, there are plenty of classes and therapists available to help you figure it out.

By asking yourself key questions on your own or with a counselor – and trusting your gut – you’ll markedly increase the odds of making the right decision. In the meanwhile, focus on having fun with your partner or on your own, because time spent happy is time well spent.

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