As I recall my pre-baby days, the idea of marriage prepared me for a pretty idealistic view on love and children (I’m excluding those who enter a marriage with children). I thought that once you’re married, everything falls into place, you are allowed to become comfortable, you fall into easy routine and you naturally have children. After all, no sane person goes into marriage hoping or planning to divorce.
I was once right at the threshold of marriage. I decided to stay single for reasons exhaustively documented in this blog. It also wasn’t my time.
If I ever decide to get married in the future, here are some lessons I hope to take with me:
1.) Love is a beautiful thing. It’s also a fickle and uncertain emotion. True love is built on a foundation of honesty, open communication and mutual respect. Without those three things, a walk down the aisle is doomed for a walk into an attorney’s office.
2.) Never lose your sense of self. Joining in matrimony does not mean two people must completely intertwine every aspect of their lives. In fact, healthy pursuit of separate interests can keep you creative, evolving as a couple and lead to re-discovering your partner.
3.) If your children are what keep you together, or the idea that another child will keep you closer, that’s never going to be enough. Children are very perceptive. Treating your significant other as a roommate is not the healthiest way to demonstrate what love and commitment means to a child.
4.) Fear of uncertainty or fear of being alone is never a valid reason to enter into a marriage (what I learned the hard way). Chances are you will end up where you started. And who really wants to start from scratch?
5.) Weddings should always be about the couple, a means to the end, but not the end. Building up to a wedding, with all the celebrations, pomp and merriment can quickly slam a couple into a harsh reality of: so now what? Don’t lose sight of why you want to marry beneath the lace, flowers and seating arrangements. I hope my future husband can deal with a quiet ceremony in a courthouse with no more than 20 friends and family.
6.) Your children come first. ALWAYS. Partners may come and go, but your children are life investments. Never bank on your partner to always be there for you and your children. You, however, can ALWAYS bank on being there for you and your children.
7.) If you want to become a stay-at-home mom (unlikely for me) stay skilled. Volunteer, go back to school, take training courses or something! If the unimaginable happens, how will you make ends-meet when you’ve been out of a career for 10-15 years? I may get a ton of backlash for this one, but I’m being 80% realistic and 20% feminist. Spousal support/other support is often temporary and does not pay ALL the bills.
8.) Treating marriage as a contract is NOT a bad thing. It does not signal eventual divorce, lack of trust, lack of love, or hesitation. It does signal defined expectations and the consequences of a split. It’s never a bad idea to protect yourself if an unforeseen change occurs seven years later.
9.) Don’t settle. Just don’t do it. Plenty of marriages are lonely.
10.) Before signing the marriage license, understand that you will evolve as a person. Your partner will too. Your shared love will evolve with time. As long as #1 & #2 are firmly in tact, you both will evolve towards positive and productive places.