Folks love to tell single people that they should get married. There are all sorts of reasons for this sociological phenomenon, many of which are comprised of good intentions – and so, they say, is the road to hell.
The next time you feel compelled to tell someone you think he/she should get married, consider this: Research shows that while married people who are satisfied with their relationships generally experience better physical and mental health than their unwed counterparts, unhappily-married individuals report lower levels of well-being than single people. And according to Gregory M. Herek, a researcher and psychologist from the University of California at Davis, “Marital discord and dissatisfaction” can even lead to “negative health effects.”
Many years ago, when I was dating the woman who would become my first wife, two well-meaning friends independently encouraged me to propose. We had a little girl on the way, and these individuals were strong proponents of having children in wed-lock. One person knew me; the other knew her. But neither of them knew both of us well enough to effectively gauge our compatibility over time. As fate would have it, we divorced after years of acrimony and misery.
Don’t get me wrong. I would have married her anyway. I had the same beliefs and was as stubborn as a goat. And I have no regrets about my decision. But if you choose to advise someone on such a serious and life-altering choice, it’s important to first evaluate the chances that the parties in question will be satisfied with each other as spouses. When we blindly advocate for marriage for the sake of children or simply for the “normal” experience, we may unwittingly become accessories to another person’s unhappiness and even unhealthiness. And as for the children, there are many healthy, happy kids with unwed co-parents. And isn’t that better than having two unhappy parents sharing a house?
Thinking about advising someone to take the plunge? Whether you’re doing so because you’re happily married and want someone you care about to have the same positive experience, or because you feel it is the “right” thing for him/her to do in a particular situation, it’s only fair to share the full picture and to accept that the final decision has nothing to do with you. Here are some guidelines:
Admit your own imperfections. One of the people who advised me 12 years ago has since ended his relationship, and the other’s marriage has been “challenged” for some time. If you’re telling people to take a path that you have traveled, even if you have enjoyed it, also warn them about the bumps and bruises you got along the way.
Explain your religious, philosophical and other personal beliefs about marriage. It will help the person you’re counseling (and you) understand your biases and where you’re coming from. After all, your friend may not agree with your fundamental ideas about relationships.
Give your advice and explain if you think these two individuals would make good partners, including why and how.
Offer your support no matter what decision your loved one makes. After all, it’s not your life. What matters to you and makes you happy is not necessarily right for someone else.
If you are considering marriage and are getting advice from well-meaning friends and family members, understand that every relationship is an experiment. There are so many variables involved in your future and that of your mate that it is impossible to guarantee much of anything. Listen to advice and consider how it might apply to you, but at the end of the day, it’s your decision how to move forward. You know better than anyone else what you want and need to be happy. Make the best decision that you can with the information you have, and if you say “I do,” accept that there are no guarantees in love. Doing so will make you a more Powerful Person in a Partnership.
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