We asked Christina Steinorth, a licensed psychotherapist and author of Cue Cards for Life: Thoughtful Tips for Better Relationships (Hunter House, 2012), for insight on how to tell when you’re ready to get married.
1. You've dated for a year and have been engaged for at least six months
Time counts if you want your marriage to work. "I always recommend that couples know each other for at least a year and have a long engagement. The reason for this is because most people, when they enter into a relationship, are typically on their best behaviour for the first year," Steinorth explains.
She adds that after that time, the real person starts to make an appearance. "Once this happens, you truly learn what your partner is like and whether or not you have a viable future together," she says. "Eighteen months is usually enough to see people at their best and their worst. So if you've made it this far, your marriage will stand a good chance of surviving the test of time."
2. You trust each other
Trust is a huge factor in both relationship and marriage success. In other words, if you don’t trust the person you’re with, you’re not ready to get married. "If you're checking your partner's phone, email, Facebook messages and any other things to see what he has been up to, you are definitely not ready for marriage," Steinorth says.
She describes marriage as a partnership and explains that the happiest couples function as a team, rather than work against each other. "Teammates trust each other to look out for what’s best for the team, so if you don’t trust your partner, you won’t make a good team and your marriage probably won't survive."
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3. You've discussed your future in detail
It's absolutely imperative you discuss your future as a couple in as much detail as possible in order to successfully move forward. "If you're able to do this effectively, you're ready for marriage," Steinorth says. "I always tell couples I work with who come to me for premarital counselling that if all couples put as much effort into discussing and planning their futures as they do their weddings, divorce rates would be at an all-time low." Here are some of her must-discuss items.
• Children: Discuss whether you both want children, how many you would ideally like to have, when you want to start a family and what happens if, for some reason, as a couple you are unable to have children.
• Housing: Discuss where you will live, whether you will buy or rent, how bills will be divided and what chores each of you will handle.
• Pets: Discuss whether you want pets and, if so, how many you want, whether they will be indoor or outdoor pets, who will take care of them and who will cover vet bills.
• Families of origin: Discuss whether you will you live near your families, how often you will you visit each other’s family and how you will divide holidays between families.
4. You argue well
No couple is immune to disagreements, but there are right and wrong ways to go about arguing. "If you're able to have a disagreement with your partner that doesn't end in a temper tantrum or a character assassination, and if you're able to respectfully agree to disagree when you can't meet your partner in the middle, then you're ready for marriage," Steinorth says. "Staying mutually respectful during disagreements is a sign of maturity, and if you possess the ability to argue well, your marriage will most likely last a lifetime."
5. You've actually met and spent time with each other’s family
When you marry someone, you also enter into a relationship with that person’s family, so it’s important to know what you’re getting into. "Regardless of how in love a couple is, I can't stress enough how important it is to meet one another's family before you get married," Steinorth says. "Even if there is only minor tension between either one of you and your in-laws, I urge you to come to terms with how you will handle the difficulty as a couple prior to getting married," she advises.
Marriage is so much more than a dress, a party and a cake: That’s merely a wedding. Marriage is a partnership and, ideally, you and your significant other will know each other well enough and have similar enough goals to make your marriage work for the long haul.
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