Are you in it for the right reasons?
While marriage is an institution that goes back thousands of years, not everyone should be “institutionalized” and certainly not for wrong or antiquated reasons.
Until 100 years ago, the adage “safety in numbers” applied to marriage and family in a big way, particularly for women.
As an agricultural society, being married and having children was one of the few ways women had a chance for a safe, adequate, and connected existence. Until relatively recently in our history, women were more vulnerable because they didn’t have basic rights. So marriage made good financial, and social sense.
Men needed wives to produce children and share the burden of life because running the farm or family business was not something you could do alone.
So the marriage institution was as much a need as a want for both men and women.
Even 50-odd years ago, women weren’t guaranteed the right to vote, to manage their own money, or to make all their own medical decisions. Even as we were moving away from an agricultural model to a more industrialized one, society hadn’t evolved to embrace independence for women, therefore, marriage simply made sense.
Times have changed though, and today, few people are out toiling in the fields. Women now have ample opportunity to secure their own way in the world, and large families have become a luxury rather than necessity.
With all of that in mind, here are 11 common reasons that people get married (but are actually really terrible!):
- You crave the stability.
I have heard this from both men and women: “It’s time to settle down and get married.”
Settle down, get stable, and get serious about your own life before you even think about marriage.
Marriage should be a lifetime commitment, so it’s important to discover who you are and what you want while you’re still flying solo. While we change throughout our whole lives, making sure you are in the neighborhood of who you are going to be before you get married increases your chances of choosing the right partner and enjoying years of marital bliss despite the many hurdles and challenges life will bring you.
I strongly recommend being financially independent before you get married.
Also, learning to be alone, spending some time traveling, volunteering, and developing your own interests and hobbies help you to become a well-rounded person who is truly ready for marriage.
- He or she is a nice person.
Nice people are everywhere.
Don’t believe me? Then visit your nearest rescue shelter, preschool, or food pantry. These places are filled with nice people doing great work often for the “right” reasons, but that isn’t reason enough to marry one of them.
Yes, you should marry a nice person, but simply being “nice” is not reason enough to get married.
Years ago, I had a friend, Jerry, who announced he was getting married to a woman from his community whom he had been dating less than a year. When he was asked, “Why are you proposing to Nora? You don’t seem that interested in her.”
He responded, “She’s a nice girl.”
They have been married for 40 years and “roommates” is about the sweetest term you could use for them— and even that’s a stretch! They each keep their own schedules, money, and bedrooms.
Build friendships and career connections with nice people. Chances are they will know other nice people and like attracts like, so you will increase your chances of finding someone “nice” who also lights your fire if you know what I mean.
- You love their family and accept your future spouse as part of the package.
I have never heard this from a man, but women do fall into this scenario. In my experience, the woman who gets married because she loves his family is someone whose own family is either in disarray because of divorce, loss, or trauma, or maybe she has no family or is estranged from the one she has.
Often times the husband’s family is large, loving, and fun, and she is drawn more to his family than she is to him.
Yes, when you get married, you are marrying his/her family, but your primary relationship is going to be with the person you are married to.
I had a client who married her husband because her mother had recently died, her father immediately took up with the “neighbor lady,” and her family scattered. Thirty years later, she ended up in my office because, after several affairs and intentional career moves that meant considerable time apart from her husband, she was still searching for love and connection.
I’m a huge believer of loving and connecting with your spouse’s family, but you have to want to be with your spouse first.
If you find yourself tempted to marry someone because of his family, ask yourself, “If he were an orphan, would I still want to marry him?” If the answer is “no,” “Like” his mother and sisters on Facebook and go back to the dating drawing board.
- It’s time.
The “it’s time” argument can be made when it comes to scheduling your mammogram, getting your Christmas cards out, or planning a vacation, but it is never a good excuse to get married unless you are going to approach matrimony with the same zeal you do a trip to the dentist. Sometimes, efficiency is not the answer.
When you are tempted to fall into the “it’s time” trap, ask yourself, “What makes it time?”
Chances are, the answer comes from some preconceived notion that your mother, aunts, or friends have that says more about them and their ideas of what you “should” do … or maybe you’ve been reading too many scary opinion columns.
The “it’s time” argument is always born out of fear of time passing you by. Maybe there is some preconceived idea about some timeline you are invested in that needs to be readdressed. You can’t rush love, so create a life that you love and when the “right” person comes along, you will know it.
This reason is probably as old as time itself.
Today, marriage is hard work so if you are going to put in that much time and effort, invest it in your own career, financial means or opportunities.
Being with someone because of their money brings too many problems to list, but here are just a few: There’s a possibility that if you’re marrying someone for their money, they know it, and that means they are probably using you, too… whether it’s your looks, youth, or the exchange of services you provide, under the best of circumstances, you aren’t going to enjoy fulfilling connections. And at worst, the circumstances will change and you will be traded in for a better model.
On top of that, marrying for money only works if your spouse is willing to share their money with you.
I can’t tell you how many woman and men I have known caught in a situation where the spouse with the money makes it very clear, “It’s my money” — and the “golden birdcage” is not a great address.
Great jobs, big investment portfolios, and financial security that create wealth can and do often disappear, and what you are left with matters. If you marry someone because of their money and circumstances change, you are going to be older than you’ve ever been and miserable about the money, so don’t do it.
Instead, invest in yourself and your own life.
- All your friends are doing it.
Remember your mom asking you if you would jump off a bridge just because someone else did?
The answer was probably “no” then. And taking that jump now “just because your friends are doing it” is likely going to hurt you all the same. If this is your reason for marriage, you will be miserable shortly after the ink dries on your license and divorced within a decade.
When friends call with the exciting news or it feels like your mailbox is exploding with shower, wedding, and bachelorette party invites, don’t panic.
Instead, engage in some powerful positive self-talk. Tell yourself, “I’m happy for them and looking forward to my own wedding someday.” No two people have the exact same journey, so recognize the things in your life that are going well and keep a positive attitude.
- You’re sick of dating.
There is a quick cure for this, stop dating!
Don’t look at dating as a chore that you must endure. Relax and enjoy it.
If you are burnt out or not enjoying it, take a “heart” break just like you take a “carb” break in your diet. Use the time to enjoy your own queen-sized bed, pick up your own tab, and take care of your own needs.
Figure out how many hours a week you were committing to dating-related activities and use that time intentionally to further explore who you are, what you like, and learning to love yourself. This will help you attract a great man who values you like you value you.
Mr. Right is more likely to come along when you aren’t looking, and being a happy independent woman is always a good thing!
- What if this is my last chance?
This fear is just plain silly. People get married in senior citizens’ homes! If your thinking is centered on this being your last chance, chances are you aren’t being too choosy and you could be headed for a crash-and-burn.
Being confident increases your chances of getting married, so if you are struggling with this, do yourself a favor and work on your confidence and put the idea of marriage off until you feel better about yourself.
- You have a fear of being alone.
Let me say this right up front: Being alone and lonely are as different as the Paleo Diet and the Ice Cream Diet; there is simply no comparison.
When you love and accept yourself enough to have a happy, full life, you are quite comfortable being alone.
That isn’t to say you don’t enjoy sharing your life with others, but you do so out of a want rather than aneed. The loneliest I have ever been in my life was when I was with someone that I didn’t have a connection with when a connection was what I really wanted.
In my experience, being in a bad marriage is one of the loneliest places in the world because you expect to feel a connection, have shared purposes and love, values, ideas, and experiences, but you don’t, and it’s a painful place to rest your head after a long day in the big, bad world.
Get happy with yourself and build a full life, then the right person will add to an already good thing.
- The idea that two is better than one
If this is your best idea for getting married, consider marrying your identical twin, because that’s probably what it’s going to take to make it work.
Two people building a life together is a challenge, at best, because now instead of just you, there is someone else to please who has their own history (sometimes better characterized as baggage), preconceived notions, needs, expectations, and ideas about how life should be.
Create a life where you like yourself, can afford yourself, have friends and family that you mutually love and enjoy, and explore your own interests. That is the best recipe for finding that special someone who adds value to your life and makes the marital journey special, in a good way.
- The ever-popular “my biological clock is ticking”.
Talk about a mood-buster and major stressor!
The mind-body connection is a foregone conclusion … what we think about does matter, and sitting around thinking, “I’m going to have trouble getting pregnant,” is probably not in your best interest.
The flip side is, I can’t tell you how many people got a jumpstart on a baby or pregnant in their first few months of marriage because they thought, “it’s going to take a while.” Having children is the biggest commitment you can make.
Getting married because you want a baby places a burden on your children — before they are even born— because they are your driving reason to do something.
Also, I have known many women who felt the children they were meant to mother were actually born from another woman’s womb. If you are struggling with “biological clock” issues, talk to your gynecologist to get the facts about you and your reproductive health.
Spend some time evaluating your fears around not having children and make sure to untangle your ideas about having children versus the reality of having children because believe me, they are as different asLeave It To Beaver and Modern Family.
The idea of marriage versus the reality trips up a lot of women and men. While there is little that can compare to being truly happily married, marriage is hard work, sacrifice, the ultimate in diplomacy and negotiation, and a bit of a risk. Too many women are still invested in the “Prince Charming” or “Happily Ever After” ideas.
These are the stuff of children’s fairy tales, but not reality. When considering marriage, ask yourself how you would feel about this person if they lost their money or their ability to work, became gravely ill or disabled, or even gained fifty pounds… would you still love them and want to be with them?
If the answer is “no,” they are not the right person for you.
As someone who married the first time at age 19, divorced at age 21, spent years as a single parent, remarried at 28, divorced again at 41 and is now very happily married to a man I share a deep connection with, I understand both the desire to be married and the heartache of being in a bad marriage.
In my coaching profession, I have worked with hundreds of people who are painfully unhappy because of their marriage and even tolerate cheating, abuse, loneliness, and isolation because of bad marriages.
While there are no guarantees in life, there are a lot of things you can do to stack the deck in your favor and marry for the “right” reasons. Love, trust, connection, and shared values and morals are the foundation of successful, meaningful marriages that have staying power.
But before you even think about marriage to someone else, lay the groundwork to prepare yourself for marriage and become someone you would want to marry. Decide what you want your life to look like in five years, a decade, and even beyond.
Ask yourself some important questions: Do you want a traditional life/family? How important is stability to you? And what are your long-term career goals? Many people get married without asking themselves and their future life partner these basic questions and find out after the marriage that each partner’s individual goals are not aligned.
It is not my intention to turn marriage into a contract, but shared ideas and goals are a must for a successful union.