Divorce rates are high…ask anyone and they 'll quote you the ol’ 50%-of-marriages-fail statistic. It’s a staggering number and one you see play out all around you. Maybe your parents are divorce…or your friends…or some of your co-workers…or all of the above. It’s just really rampant in our society.
I think the scarier prospect is when people stay in marriages that should have never been marriages in the first place. The best way to bulletproof your marriage is to make sure you choose the right partner. A lot of marriages fail, because people don’t take care to really choose their partner. Their choice is based on unsupportable variables.
Poor decisions for marriage:
- The Next Step: The couple has been dating for years and this is the logical next step. They think that because they’ve cohabitated and been together so long that they should get married. They’ve invested so much time/energy and that will be wasted if they don’t end up together. But, time is never wasted. We are always growing. Living with someone for long-term only shows that you can live with that person for long-term. Marriage takes more than just cohabitation.
- Because Love: An emotional decision based on love. You love this person so that means you should get married, right? Wrong. Emotions are fleeting and blinding. They are not indicative of compatibility. You can love someone and be incompatible.
- The Fear: This is fear of staying single. You see getting married as "starting" the next chapter of your life. You don't want to be the Old Maid Aunt or The Bachelor Uncle for the rest of your life. Unfortunately, this is usually a decision made out of desperation and the person you end up with is also equally desperate. Once life and marital stressors start to hit the marriage begin to crumble. There is no real foundation to lean upon.
- Clock is Ticking: You want to have a family and children and to do so in your mind you must be married. This is more often the case for women. Maybe you don't want to be an "old" Mom. Or you are advancing into your 40s and realistically only have so many viable eggs left. What usually happens here is that the couple has children, the children become the focus of their world, the marriage deteriorates, and they divorce when the children are in high school or go off to college.
- Pregnant: Perhaps a pregnancy results and the couple thinks they should get married. Or, maybe one of the partners purposely "on accident" gets pregnant to coerce the other into marrying them. Either way...one of the partners did not fully choose the other. Affairs often take place in the marriage as one spouse is not satisfied with their partner and they feel trapped.
- Financial Support/Security: Usually one of the partners is afraid to be on their own...or they're tired of supporting themselves. They want someone else to take care of them. They want to be a stay-at-home-spouse/parent. Another spouse may want to have someone to take care of...wants someone to be dependent upon them. More often, the couple stays together for 10 years and then they divorce...and one ex-spouse is supported for the rest of their life by the other via alimony.
- Escape from Home: One of the partners has a bad home life and the only way they think they can escape is to get married. The marriage is based on need. For some reason, the spouse they choose is often controlling and abusive...similar to the home life they were escaping. They then have to escape their marriage.
- Rebound: The avoidance of pain and anxiety is a strong motivator for many people. They are driven into a relationship with another to stop the discomfort. They get short-term relief. The relationship seems great, but really is seems so great because they are able to avoid the hurt from their previous breakup. They mistake this for "great." In addition, this new partner has all the love and attachment transferred onto them from the previous partner. They didn't earn this love and attachment, but they get it nonetheless. The problem is that the marriage is based on a ghost...an illusion. In time, it dissipates and the person you're married to becomes clearly visible and they are not the person you want.
- It’s Time: There is a certain point most men hit when they're ready to get married. It's different for everyone. Many men are focused on establishing themselves in their career and gaining financial stability before they start looking around to get married. Once they do, they choose whomever in their vicinity that would make a good wife. This good candidate is usually not someone that will satisfy them long-term.
The decision to get married should be based on more robust variables than any of the above. Divorce is excruciating. The choice to get married should be based upon so much more if it's going to be able to weather the storm of life and continue to feed and grow you. Choose well...and choose carefully.
By Delicia Mclean Ph.D., MHA