Engagements are a wonderful whirlwind. There is the excitement of telling everyone your good news, there are parties and there is the fun of wedding planning. However, the engagement period is also a time when you should think long and hard about whether you truly are ready for marriage.
To that end, below are some questions you should consider before tying the knot. Be honest with yourself. The decision to get married is one of the most important ones you'll ever make. It is a decision that doesn't just affect you. It affects your potential spouse, your families and possibly someday your children. Without giving this decision serious mental energy, you are doing a disservice to all those people and yourself.
1. Am I willing to make having a happy marriage my top priority? Anybody can get married. It doesn't take much to walk over to City Hall and sign papers legally committing yourself to another human being. However, not everyone can be happily married. Happily married people value their marriage above all else. They put their relationship up on a pedestal and cherish it. Then they boast about their marriage in the same way that some people boast about their 4,000-square-foot house or their Mercedes. But, let's face it. Happily married couples deserve to brag. They are accomplishing something that most people don't. Happily married people are those few who are willing to put the success of their marriage before their professional ambitions and other personal desires. And the payback for those folks is that every night they get to go home to someone who loves them completely and who gives them their undying loyalty. If you aren't willing to do whatever it takes to be happily married, then frankly, why get married at all?
2. Would I marry this person if... Before you get married, make sure that you are making a commitment to a person, and not a lifestyle or an event. Ask yourself: Would I marry this person if there was no wedding, no fancy dress, no engagement party, nada? Weddings have nothing to do with marriage. A wedding is simply a big party. A marriage is created when two people decide to love and cherish each other for the rest of their lives. It is a commitment that they renew every day. Would you marry this person if you couldn't have children? Children are wonderful, but they grow up. And before you know it, it's back to being just the two of you. Be sure that you still would want to be with this person when the kids leave. Would you marry this person if he or she weren't rich or beautiful? To a certain extent, we all look for a particular package of qualities in a future spouse. However, realize that the package you are marrying can change. People can lose their jobs. And all of us age. Even with silly amounts of plastic surgery, none of us can look like we are 25 forever (Christie Brinkley, notwithstanding). So make sure that you want to marry the person behind all the trappings.
3. Am I selfish? There really is nothing wrong with being selfish. You have every right to focus solely on yourself. However, if you are selfish, you need to live alone. Don't inflict yourself on other people, certainly don't get married and for the love of God, don't have children. There is no room in functional family life for selfish behavior. Adult selfishness is subtle. It isn't merely the failure to "share" that we learned about in kindergarten. Let's put it this way. If you sulk around other people when you're in a bad mood, you are selfish. If you allow others to clean up your messes, you are selfish. If you think your bad childhood gives you the right to be irresponsible and have a crummy attitude, you are selfish and delusional. There is nothing wrong with being moody, messy, irresponsible and mean, as long as you hide yourself away in your apartment and don't interact with other people. But if you want to get married, you need to give up being selfish or stay single.
4. Can I be someone else's cheerleader? I am constantly amazed at how stingy people can be with a compliment. Do you suffer from this societal neurosis? If so, you are going to have to rethink how you operate. Happily married people both publicly and privately compliment their spouses. They are quick to tell stories that make their spouse look good, and they are more apt to tell their spouse what they like about them than what they don't like about them. The issue isn't that people are vain and need constant strokes. The issue is that people are insecure, and they look to their spouse for affirmation. If you aren't willing to give your spouse positive reinforcement, he or she is going to look for it from other people, and that is the first step down the road to infidelity.
5. Am I willing to be accountable to someone else? When they say during a marriage ceremony that "two become one," to a certain extent that is true. When you get married you become intimately connected, and as a result, accountable to another human being. Everything that you do affects your spouse, from how many times a week you bathe to how you spend money to how moody you are. As a result, you no longer can do whatever you feel like doing. At all times, you have to consider how your actions (or failure to act) are going to affect the other person. This accountability is a burden in many respects, so if you aren't willing to take it on, don't get married.
A good marriage is a wonderful gift. But having a good marriage requires a great deal of maturity and selflessness on the part of both spouses. So be sure that you are ready and happy to do whatever it takes to be a good spouse before you stroll down the aisle.