I often get contacted my men and women in relationships seeking guidance to help them decide whether to get engaged or not. They’re usually feeling that something is holding them back, but they’re not sure what that thing is and whether or not they should heed their feelings and bail or ignore them and “take the plunge“. I usually tell them that every person and situation is different, and the only way I can advise them is to speak to them in depth about themselves and the relationship. Since they’re often not willing to invest the time and resources in doing that, they’ll press me for a quick answer.
So for those of you trying to figure out if you should get engaged even if you’re feeling unsure about it, I’ve put together a short list of what I feel are the requirements for a successful marriage partner (I go into this in much greater detail in my book From I To I Do):
1. Common Life Goals
This includes whatever you consider to be important life goals that you cannot live without. Make sure you can differentiate between life goals and stuff that you wish you had but can live without.
2. Mutual Respect
You need to respect each other for who you each are right now, assuming that neither of you will change significantly. You can’t marry someone based on the hope that they will change. You need to appreciate them for who they are, now and forever.
3. Care for Each Other Deeply
Marriage is all about giving. If you don’t care enough put your partner’s needs before your own, then find someone who you do care about to marry. There’s a term used to describe “care for each other deeply” – LOVE.
4. Get Along
Yes, you need to like each other’s company and be able to along day to day. You’ll be living with this person for a very long time, and hopefully raising a family together, so you better be able to to more than just stand each other. Ideally, you want your spouse to be your best friend. Once you have kids you won’t have too much time to have too many other friends (if any)!
5. Physical Attraction
I’m assuming that if you’ve been dating this person for a while, you are physically attracted to them enough to be able to consumate the relationship. If you’re not feeling that level of attraction you should probably break up.
If you’ve got these five requirements then I believe you’ve got the potential to have a successful marriage. Of course marriage takes a huge amount of work without which no marriage can succeed, but if you’ve got these basics the odds are heavily in your favor.
But what if you’ve read my list and can check off each item in the affirmative, and you still fell uneasy about marrying this person?
1. You’ve either got the same normal fears that everyone has before they take the plunge, in which case you should focus on the positive and stay the course. You will get over them just like everyone else.
2. You aren’t ready to get married to anyone yet. Marriage is a decision that in our day and age is optional. If you haven’t made that decision yet, you’ll always find things wrong with the people you date no matter how great they may be, and you’ll continue to back out because of your unsure feelings. You’ll keep doing this until you finally do make the decision to marry.
Are you ready to get married?