In the last installment of this article, we covered the first three items on the checklist. To recap, they were:
1) Do not say yes if you're deeply in love.
2) Do not marry a man you've known less than 18 months.
3) Get a prenuptial agreement -- especially if you're making good money.
Here are the remaining four:
4) Consult your female and male friends before making the final decision.
The Eastern masters say that a knife can't cut itself, a tongue can't taste itself, and you can't see a mountain you're standing on. It's simply not possible.
Similarly, you are too close to yourself to see clearly what you're getting yourself into.
So you need someone else to give you perspective: is marrying this guy the best thing since Nutella, or more like deep-fried Twinkies?
Your girlfriends will give you one perspective, and you should listen to their aggregate voice vs any one of them. One girl could be jealous or vindictive, but the unified chorus has something worth listening to.
But what you should really listen to is what your guy friends say -- especially exes whom you trust (if you have any). We guys notice and know things about other men that women simply cannot see. It's like we're dogs who can hear ultra-high frequency sounds, or honeybees who can see ultraviolet markings in flowers. Women aren't equipped to notice some of the dead giveaways of shady behavior in guys.
So make sure your guy friends spend time with your man and observe him. Then ask for their honest opinion, and listen to it. If your guy friends think your beau is a bad egg, they're probably right.
I know backing out of a promising relationship is hard, but it's your whole life we're talking about here. If he's wrong for you, it's 10,000 times easier to make the tough decision now -- even if you've already mailed out the 300 supercute handwritten wedding invites. Have a girl's night out, a pint of Haagen Dazs and a perhaps a fling and you're good to go. Repeat for a month or two if necessary.
Whereas if you delay until after the wedding, it will involve colossal pain, splitting belongings in half with an axe, fighting over child custody and paying mountains of money to Dewey, Cheatham and Howe.
So consult reliable advisors before taking the plunge. And listen to what your guy friends have to say.
5) Make only promises you can keep regarding monogamy.
Do you believe in Santa Claus? No? Oh, you're no fun. But he's in the mall every December! With kids sitting on his lap! Is that not proof enough?
No, because you know better. Santa Claus is a figment of the imagination, a fanciful mental construct with no basis in reality. You don't believe nor rely on that stuff.
You know what else is a fanciful mental construct without basis in reality? Strict monogamy. As far as anyone can tell, it does not exist anywhere in nature. Anywhere. No, not even in 'swans that mate for life' -- geneticists have definitive evidence that even they do their fair share of flitting about.
Okay, so there is this one species of slug. And when the male and the female mate, they actually fuse and become one slug. If that's your idea of a healthy relationship, be my guest. But other than that, every other species has excursions, technically called extra-pair couplings.
Some have 'em more often than others. Chimpanzees and bonobos, for example, tend to go ape with their voracious sexual appetites. Gorillas, not so much (although each alpha male keeps a nice harem, which isn't strictly monogamy in my book). Prairie voles are primarily monogamous, while montane voles are primarily horndogs.
Keep in mind that only 3% of all mammalian species form any kind of monogamous relationship at all. We are part of that 3%, and fall somewhere between the chimp and gorilla in our appetites. As the scientists would call it, we are monogamous with excursions.
Long story short: there will be excursions. Count on it. For both you and him, with the man slightly more likely to do it than the woman. Think about it: forever's an awfully long time to be sleeping with just one person.
Now I know that conventional wisdom holds that women really want monogamy -- it's the guys who have the problem keeping their dicks in their pants, right?
Except that there's this worldwide genetic study showing that 10% of the people in the world have a biological father different from the guy they call Dad.
That means that if you have 200 friends on Facebook, 20 of them are bastards. Literally.
We're not going to get into all the science of it right now, but suffice it to say that women are just as capable of extra-pair couplings as men. They may do it for different reasons, but they still do it.
So make sure you cover this before you get married -- for both you and him. It is possible to have sex outside of your primary relationship and still love one another and still have a great family life. And it need not be guilty and surreptitious -- or, on the opposite end of the spectrum, going whole hog swinger mode. Just make sure you only make promises you can keep. Cheating is more about betrayal of trust and breaking of a promise than some bodily act.
Other cultures don't get so bent out of shape when it comes to extra-pair couplings. Russian, Japanese, French, Swedish, Brazilian people -- heck, most of the rest of the world -- have such matters already baked into their mores. Figure out what works for them; it may inform what works for you. The Tao is all about seeing the world as it is, not how you wish it would be.
6) Do a thorough background check.
Remember my friend Willow? Of course not, 'cause I never told you about her. Here's the story: Willow's an ultra-successful, exceptionally beautiful doctor who had just finalized the divorce with her nutso husband. She felt unshackled for the first time in a long while and started to date again. She meets this guy Bruce, who in short order professes his undying love for her, gets on one knee and asks for her hand.
Now Willow's 36 with two lovely daughters, so she doesn't want any more kids and is kinda liking this whole freedom thing. Re-marrying sounds eminently pointless. Moreover, she lives in Seattle while he lives in San Diego. No way no how is this gonna happen.
Except that it did happen -- she said yes and moved to San Diego. Within a few months, Bruce started to disappear without a trace for days on end. This is when Willow finds out that Bruce also likes boys -- a detail he had glossed over during their courtship.
Ladies -- in the era of Google and a hundred other online search tools, I strongly encourage you to do a complete and thorough background check on your boy before throwing any party with lawyers invited. If there's anything at all suspicious, dig deeper and get to the truth. Especially if you met through non-friend channels -- the internet, random meeting in a bar, some Roman orgy you happened to drop in on -- hire a private investigator and get the truth.
Your lifetime partnership deserves at least as much due diligence as a routine bank loan.
7) Be extra-careful if you're extra-susceptible.
The statistics break my heart: a lot of women of adult age have had some history of physical, emotional or sexual abuse. It sucks. And if you're one of those women, you need to be extra careful about the men you let close to you. Good men are protectors while bad men tend to prey on the susceptible. If you can't tell the difference between a protector and predator -- well, you probably shouldn't be getting married in the first place. If you're going to do it anyway, consult friends who can help (see #4 above).
Other things that make you susceptible: coming off a long relationship; death of a loved one; low self-esteem (either chronic or from a recent event, like getting fired); coming into boatloads of cash or fame after long privation; recent illness; long dry spell. In short, any kind of major stressor to the psyche, whether positive or negative.
Hope this helps. Just remember: big decisions merit big preparation. Know your own fallibility, seek trusted counsel, and do your homework. The life you'll be saving is your own.
For more unconventional wisdom on having an awesome love life, get The Tao of Dating: The Smart Woman's Guide to Being Absolutely Irresistible, now available as book, ebook, Kindle™, audiobook, and Sinai™ indestructible stone tablet