This blog post is for people who aren’t married – either by choice or fortune (good or bad is your own interpretation!). What works, what doesn’t, why you should / shouldn’t, etc.
We live in a world where marriage is still subtly (or forcibly, depending on which part of the world you live in) thrust upon us as a ‘logical next step’, and yet the same world affords us enough room to live without it (you still can’t escape the chatting behind your back wondering why you’re not married yet though). Monogamy vs perennial solitude aren’t the only options available to you, although it may seem that way sometimes given how our society is set up.
So let’s get started:
Make your own choice
It’s of the utmost importance that you make your decision for yourself – whether it’s to get married, not to get married, to elope, to get engaged, etc – it must be you making the call and not someone else (parents, peer pressure, demanding partner). It’s not going to work too well if you’re dragged into something against your own wishes.
The key here is in the flip side – unless you’ve made the decision for yourself, don’t be bullied / manipulated / trapped into getting married. I’m not saying it’s a trap but there are so many cases, so many people around us, who’ve let others make stupid decisions for them and are now trying to make the best of a raw deal.
Don’t be a statistic.
Can you do without it?
If you’re going to make the decision, here’s the only question you’ll need to ask yourself – can you live happily, achieve all your life goals, and be successful, without getting married? It’s a difficult question to answer, especially at the age you’re expected to decide to get married, but it’s crucial.
Some people say that marriage makes you a better person – it’s not the marriage, silly, it’s the additional responsibilities on your head that lead you to cut out all the distractions, stop wasting time and focus on what’s “important” in life. Usually that “important” thing is making more money – not a bad thing in itself but not the end all and be all of everything either. If you can get that focus without getting married, half of the problem is already solved.
Some people get married to get laid every night / not be alone. If that rocks your boat, then go for it, and you can curse me later when your married life gets ‘boring’. If that’s not your main criteria / problem, read on.
There’s a strong argument here about kids – do you want them or not? If you do, there’s a very, very good chance that you’re going to have to get married. This is probably more important now than you’d realise – because you don’t want to be 40 when your kids are being born, the generation gap is too much to allow you to enjoy your children growing up. If you want kids and you absolutely must get hitched for it, do it now.
If you don’t want kids (or don’t need marriage to raise kids), have a good grasp on your life’s priorities and you don’t sleep alone, why are you even reading this? You’re in heaven, although you’re probably never going to find deep, long-lasting love and commitment. On the plus side, maybe that’s not for you.
So you’re married (or have no way of getting off the marriage train). Now what? I can only brace you for the first few months but since that’s the formative period, it’s as good a time as any to focus on. Here’s what you need to know:
Stand your ground
Marriage is about compromise, right? Maybe. You need to share, both in time and space, you need to deal with a whole new set of responsibilities, ideals, etc.
It’s easy to get lost in all this and move from compromising on simple things like what you’re watching on TV to compromising on on your work schedule, dreams, life priorities, etc. Stand your ground when it comes compromising on who you are – because if you don’t take a stand on the things that matter, you’re doubling your trouble. You’re not going to be happy, plus you’re going to blame the other person for it. Neither gets you anywhere.
So bottom line – share, work together, support each other, but take care of yourself as well. Sometimes that will mean pissing the other person off. Sometimes it will mean going in a different direction. Do it.
Smile and kiss and smile – a lot
95% of your problems will be fixed with a smile and a kiss. The other 5% need the two of you to talk / fight / thrash it out, with someone giving in or both of you reaching a compromise. Save the headaches and logic for when it really matters – the rest of the time, just do what you bloody want and get on with your life. And smile. And kiss. And brush your teeth
Going back to the point I made earlier about marriage really forcing you to focus on what’s important – it helps if you get a head start on this and eliminate the unimportant stuff from the beginning (before you start tearing out your hair from the stress of having to do twice as much in the same amount of time). Fact is, once you’re married, your spare time is cut in half. If you work from home, your work time is in danger of being cut in half too.
So do less – learn to say no, focus on the good stuff (and this means taking time off for yourself), minimalise, quality over quantity. You should be doing this anyway, but if you’re getting married, this should be near the top of your list.
Work On Your Relationship
Give it (quality) time and attention. Make it one of your priorities, commit to doing something new each week together, plan small surprises – whatever it takes. You don’t need to overdo it, and you certainly don’t have to make it your over-riding life goal, but keep it close to the top. It pays off in spades in the long run, both in the quality of your relationship and your life.
Heaven or Hell?
The truth is, happiness / success are personal benchmarks. Getting married is no more the gateway to success, just as signing up for a gym membership is no guarantee for a fitter, healthier you. It may be one way for you to grow as a person, understand yourself better and yes, lead to happiness and more success in your life. Or it maybe, like most marriages (and gym memberships), a drain on your bank account, an unnecessary life long guilt trip and a complete and utter waste.
The choice is up to you. Don’t get married because it’ll make you a better person, or because it’ll help stave off the loneliness. Get married if you love her / him, and if you like the idea of raising kids. Just make sure you’re ready for the commitment. You should have been ready for the extra responsibilities in any case.
Oh, and if you choose the third path, good for you.