When I was in my mid-teens, my peers were saying things like "I want to get married by the time I'm 23." I always thought that this was an odd way of talking about marriage. It wasn't about compatibility; it was about getting married.
As I got older and into the present, I would talk to someone – usually a young woman – who is about to get married and I ask her "Why are you going to marry this guy?" The typical response? "I love him!"
What an absolutely nutty reason to get married. I've spoken with many women that when asked about the possibility of leaving their men, reply "But I love him!"
Let me make this crystal clear – one of the stupidest reasons for getting married or staying in a bad marriage is love. Period!
The best reasons for getting married
You want to get married because you are compatible: you have similar goals; he will be a good friend and supporter; that you are of similar nature; that you enjoy many of the same important things; you both want (or don't want) children; and that you love each other. You don't get married just because of love. That is dangerous, infantile and immature. Yet countless, supposedly mature adults marry every year for this one reason.
Mature healthy love is certainly a necessary ingredient in a good relationship, but it is not sufficient in and of itself.
First off – and please don't shoot the messenger – but it is virtually impossible to give something that you don't have and self-identity is finished forming around the 27th year of life. How can you get married and give of yourself when you marry early and your self-identity has yet to form?
Page 1 of 2 – Are you and your partner compatible? Find the answer on page 2.
The pitfalls of marrying young
If you get married (or something similar) before your identity as a separate autonomous human being has formed, you interfere with this process. And even many older adults still struggle with who they are.
Profound incompatibility often just doesn't occur. Examples could include a strict orthodox Jew marrying an atheist or someone who wants six kids marrying someone who can't stand children. Their differences are so severe that the match is not likely to occur in the first place. If it does, one (and sometimes both individuals) are likely to become very dissatisfied.
Another type of incompatibility occurs when one partner (if not both) is behaving "neurotically," unhealthily or immaturely.
If you are depressed, anxious, angry, insecure, jealous, picky, controlling, passive, obsessive or compulsive, someone else (i.e. your partner) will pay the price for your behaviour. This will interfere with the possibility of a good, healthy relationship. If any of these describe you or your partner, seek professional assistance in dealing with these issues sooner rather than later.
Another area of compatibility to consider when choosing a mate (or deciding to stay with one) is the issue of lifestyle. Do you like the same movies, restaurants, types of vacations, healthy style of conflict resolution, money management, long-term goals, child rearing style, etc? There is a lot of compromise in the best of relationships. Each time you compromise, one or both of you get less of what you want. After a while, if this is excessive, it can become tiring.
How about personality? Are you similar in character, curiosity, vitality, intellect, appearance, sexual passion, artistic interest, adaptability, self-concept, moods, communication, kindness, autonomy/closeness, humour, sociability, energy, ambition, education, spirituality, values, morals, and ethics?
This list only scratches the surface but it is a guide for you to consider. The greater the similarity between two people – including emotional health and maturity – the better the chance of your relationship working long term.
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