I got married three months ago, and wanted to share some thoughts around marriage: What should someone think about before they take that big step between dating and getting married? What are some common challenges? What did I learn myself?
Just know this isn’t “guaranteed results in 7 days or money back!” advice. These are things I’ve learned — from books, articles, and courses, supported by personal experience. Naturally there’ll be situations where these don’t apply to you. And someone might say “Oh, but I did everything completely different to you and it still worked out.”
That’s great and I’m happy for you. The truth is every relationship is different. Everyone has their own path. But are there general pointers that will be helpful for many people? I think so. I’ll try here.
These are the things that have been true for me.
1. Meeting People in Today’s World
The first one isn’t even about marriage at all. It’s something to think about before you get serious. If you’re already in a committed relationship, feel free to skip this. But if you’re wondering why everyone seems to be getting laid while you’ve run out of shows on Netflix, read on.
For most of human history, the main way people met potential partners was through their social circle. It could be your sister’s best friend, your office colleague, or even the hot princess from the kingdom next door. Which kinda made sense — having a friend in common, or at least an organization you both belonged to (e.g. a community, a company, or a royal family) — was insurance this new person wasn’t someone crazy, and might be a good fit for you.
Social circle kinda “worked” for thousands of years. It’s great if you’re well connected and have diverse groups of friends. But if you’re not — let’s say you’re shy and not very sociable — it’s hard to find a potential partner. Like your annoying uncle I’d love to say “Go out and meet more people then!”, but I understand it’s tough.
Which is why I think online dating is amazing, and still underrated.
It Used to Be Harder
Maybe you think it’s creepy. Maybe you’re embarrassed to use a dating app. And I know, there’s a ton of shittery like people ghosting you, unsolicited dick pics and “freelancers.” You’ll have to figure out how to make the apps work for you.
But technology gives us tools to make our lives better. Check out this stunning graph, showing how online dating has changed the way people meet:
It could just be an old timer talking, but when I think about how people used to meet, I remember how we used to embarrass ourselves using Facebook to try talk to girls. I recall awkward first conversations where you were 1% focused on the topic, and 99% on figuring out each other’s intentions. But mostly, I think about dear friends and family who never found someone — not because they weren’t great people — but because they never had the opportunity to meet others.
Today, if you really want to meet people, you have the wide ocean of the Internet at your fingertips. Don’t waste it.
2. Take Your Time — The Two Year “Milestone”
How long should you date before getting married? I say at least two years.
Why? Because time changes everything, and chemicals, bitch. At the start it’s all exciting and new — all exhilarating feelings. Your new partner is perfect, and even if you detect red flags, the feel-good hormones in your brain quickly convince you that everything’s rosy.
But after the “honeymoon phase,” you start to see more of each other’s flaws. You start to see differences in your views about children, money and politics. Then, you start to fight. That’s when the real test of a relationship begins.
Everything may “feel” perfect to jump into marriage right now, but if your relationship is still new — you’re likely making an emotional decision, not a rational one. Romantic, but not practical. Face the phase where you need to work out your fundamental differences first. It’ll be challenging. But it’s meant to be challenging.
If you can survive that; if you’re still going strong after 3-5 years — then your chances are better.
3. Have a Good Reason
There’s a bunch of reasons people will tell you to get married for, like “Who will take care of you when you’re old?” (pretty selfish eh?) and “I can’t wait to play with my grandchildren.” I also understand there might be cultural and religious elements asking you to get married quickly. While I’m respectful of that, I invite you to step away and consider if you strip away everyone else’s wishes: is this something you really want?
I don’t think anyone should go through any major life decision without careful consideration. Sure, when you were 12 — you weren’t mature enough to choose which school to go to. But you’re an adult now. And yet, people often make huge decisions without questioning. As if life were a linear Lemmings game where you didn’t have any choice but to follow a fixed path.
Understand that statistically many (popular myth: as high as 50%) marriages fail — leading to a lot of pain for everyone, especially any children involved. Better to be very sure, before you take the plunge.
To me, there’s really only one good reason to get married: because I want to commit to this person for the rest of my life and build something special with them.
So take your time to think about this step carefully. Discuss it honestly with your partner: is this thing really gonna work or not? I was 35 and she was 34 when we got married. Neither of us regret focusing on other things in our twenties.
Don’t get pressured into getting married. Do it for you.
4. The Acid Test: Growth
I’ve always believed that if a relationship is not growing, it’s deteriorating. Some shortcut questions to help figure out the health of your relationship:
- Is your relationship stronger today than it was last year?
- Is your relationship growing in the right direction?
- Do you actually resolve issues together, or bury things, hoping they’ll go away?
Don’t make the common mistake of thinking all your current problems will disappear when you “upgrade” and get married.
Because marriage doesn’t solve existing problems. It usually amplifies them. So if your potential husband drinks too much, getting married isn’t gonna magically make him love lemon-infused water more than Corona Extra. Instead, you’re probably gonna be more irritated with the drinking — because while there was some distance before, now you get all that sweet drunken breath in your face.
One of the worst things you can do is cross into marriage territory with a barely-functioning relationship. If you’ve got issues, deal with them now.
Extreme but true: it’s better to be single than in a toxic relationship.
5. Make Peace With Your Past
You don’t have to be best friends with your ex. You don’t even need to wish each other “Happy Birthday!” once a year. But what you do need is to make peace with whatever remaining feelings you have, then leave them forever.
Harboring any type of bad feelings just poisons your life, and prevents you from giving your best to your current partner. Forgive your exes and forgive yourself. It’s time to move on.
6. The Truth About Commitment
Be prepared to lose some freedom when you get married. I wish there was an easier way to say this, but you’ll have to give up living like a single person.
This was actually one of my biggest fears going into marriage. Would I become a whipped husband — the uglier, older version of the friend who disappears once he gets the girl? Would I lose a part of myself? Especially since I’d been living alone for almost 10 years now. If you’ve gotten used to leading a solo life, it’ll be hard. The longer you’ve been independent — looking at you people in your 30s and 40s — the harder it’ll be to adjust.
George Clooney was one of my heroes growing up. I once thought I’d lead a fabulously single life till older like him.
But along the way I’ve learned that unlimited freedom isn’t always the best. The older I got, the more I understood this. You may not be able to go out at midnight three nights in a row anymore, but you get the chance to raise a happy family. One is short-term pleasure, the other is long-term investing.
Because all the important things in life have an expensive price: commitment. Sacrifices must be made. Commit to the right things, and while you may not always be happy in the moment — you will have meaning in life.
7. Learn to Fight Well
Good times are easy. What will test you are the hard times.
You will fight. You should fight. Remember this if you’re someone like me who avoids conflict: If you don’t discuss what you’re unhappy about, it’ll lead to resentment. And it’ll eventually kill your relationship.
The key is not to avoid fighting. The key is to choose your battles, but more importantly: to learn to fight well.
Understand that two people — no matter how much they love each other — will have different backgrounds, beliefs and principles. Never show contempt for your partner’s beliefs — meaning never act as if you’re the superior one and they’re beneath you. We’re all human; we’re all imperfect. Even if you disagree on things and can’t come to a compromise, at least acknowledge each other’s views and feelings. Respect.
(Pro tip: Your partner’s family and friends become yours too. Remember that well.)
Not every disagreement can be solved in a relationship. In fact, most old couples will tell you the same things that annoyed them 20 years ago still happen. As long as they’re not dealbreakers, you’ll have to live with them.
Don’t aim for perfection. Aim to be understanding.
8. Money Will Test You
One of my favorite scenes from the Academy Award-winning movie “Parasite,” is when the servant Kim family talks about how money is an iron. It irons out all the edges in a rich person. Money allows you to be nice.
Think about it: if you’re rich AF, you can be the type of person who doesn’t get upset about anything. You can donate tons of money to charities — make yourself and others happy, and be publicly seen as a saint. Even if someone spills black coffee on your favorite white shirt, it’s okay. You don’t even do your own laundry, plus you can easily buy another five shirts tomorrow.
“Money smoothening” is also true in relationships. Guess what’s the #1 reason for divorce? Yup, when money is short, couples face incredible stress. You’re likelier to fight when you’re tired and hungry, but there’s no food in the fridge and your credit card bills are due.
Which is why I believe everybody needs to get good with money. You don’t need to be rich; but mastering the basics — things like saving, budgeting, investing, and financial planning — will at least keep the money part of your relationship stable. Achieve that, and everything else will be easier.
9. Invest In Your Relationship
Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Invest both time and money into your relationship. Understand your partner’s love language for best effect, but here’s some suggestions: go for vacations, buy gifts for each other, and share new experiences together. They don’t have to be expensive; consistent effort is the important thing here.
When you get married, you’ll vow your lives to each other. But people often forget things without structure. Set dating time for every week and say “no” to everything else.
If you’re too busy to plan a vacation every year together, send a calendar invite to each other and book it in. Formalize it, like how you’d set an appointment with your CEO. Guess who’s more important than your CEO?
Finally, before I got married, we went for a pre-marriage course. It was one of the best things I’ve ever done, and greatly strengthened our relationship. We discussed potential problems that would have never come up without a structured course and wise counselors. Now, we have clearer expectations for each other, and can deal with conflict better.
I’d recommend anyone who plans to get married to sign up for one too.
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Those are my random thoughts around getting married. As for the process itself, how we planned, budgeted for, and executed the wedding — I’ll save that story for another day.
Happy to answer any questions you may have. Especially if you’re a younger guy who’s afraid of commitment. I can tell you now: The bachelor life can be amazing; it was for me, but family life is even better. When you’re ready to take that step, let me know.
It took us a while, but we’re happily married now. I look forward to writing about our 10th anniversary someday.
May you find, love, and always cherish that special someone too.
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