I’ve been reading Karl Pillemer’s 30 Lessons for Loving. The writer interviewed 700 elders and summarized their advice into this easily digestible volume. The book offers some great advice for those trying to decide whether to get married.
#1. Pay attention to the ‘In-Love’ feeling. It’s an intuitive and almost indescribable conviction that your partner is the right choice for the future as you can imagine it. It is important to feel that there will be no endpoint to the relationship. In fact, you should never get married without this feeling. Conversely, pay attention to a nagging sense that something is not right, that ‘you should be excited and happy’ – but you’re not. Run!
#2. Think clearly. Being in love should not mean parking reason at the door. If your love cannot withstand some rational scrutiny, question your love. It’s important to consider the following:
- Money. Will your prospective spouse be able to make a living? Is he or she conscientious with money? Marriage is an economic institution, and your spouse’s ability to earn money will affect your own financial viability. Look for a hard worker, a person with strong work ethic. “Imagine what two people would be able to accomplish if both were filled with the same drive. But if one has to be carried all the time, that’s hard.”
- Children. Does your partner have strong feelings about having or not having children? Will your partner likely be a good parent?
- Personality. Is your partner well-liked by his own circle, as well as by your family and friends? Does he or she tend to have an explosive and disproportionate anger – whether at you or at anything or anyone else? What about an addictive streak in their personality – do they sometimes lose control and, for example, drink much more than would be appropriate for an occasion?
#3. Check if your fundamental values align. By ‘values’ they mean what matters to each of you, what you think is right and wrong. For example, are you looking for a comfortable, middle-class lifestyle, or something more? Is having time more important than having money, such that you would be willing to have less in order to work less? Core similarity makes marriage flow so easily that you may not even notice it.
Sense of humor can be a bit of a shortcut to the values. What does each of you find funny? If there is a lot of disconnect, it’s a bit of a red flag.
#4. Adopt their family. While dating, most people are too focused on the interactions with their partner alone, and don’t think much about in-laws. Yet your partner’s relatives will be a lifelong ingredient in the recipe of your married life. If there are serious negatives, don’t ignore them. You may spend the rest of your life trying to navigate a minefield and getting over disappointments, with your partner trying to defend his family. Is your future partner truly worth it?
#5. Test your partner. Spend time in a challenging or unusual circumstances, such as camping or a long trip. Watch how your partner plays competitive games. Babysit a friend’s child together. These situations will show you how the person deals with pressure, with loss, with his team, and with success. If you are just talking about things, in some ways you can pretend. All pretense falls off in real-life situations.