There are as many reasons to get married as there are marriages — a desire to build a family together, to take care of each other through sickness and health, to run a business together; the list goes on. That’s not to say all these reasons hold equal weight, however. We’ve all known at least one person whose reasons for getting married make our eyebrows shoot skyward — and sometimes you aren’t aware of it when this person is you. If you’re planning to get married, take a second to take stock — if any of these things apply to you, you may want to reconsider.
1. You don’t feel willing or capable of being “messy”
It’s easy for us to imagine marriage as the ultimate reward for finally getting it together — being free of “baggage,” finally having any issues “under control,” and having molded ourselves into a solid partner who’s easy to be around.
While most of us fantasize about this eventuality, the difficult truth is that making a marriage work actually requires a willingness to be “messy” — to be fully vulnerable and authentic in your relationship, even during times when you feel lost or uncertain and not at all under control. When people share aphorisms like “marriage is hard work,” this is what they’re talking about. If the idea of committing to being truly unvarnished and vulnerable even during the moments you’re least proud of, forever, sounds like nails on a chalkboard to you, you may not be ready for marriage.
2. You primarily identify as an “independent” person
Independence is a positive trait! It’s good to be capable of taking care of yourself and having your own vision for your life. However, there’s a difference between being independent and being someone whose whole sense of self is based entirely on their “independence” — the latter person will be unwilling to engage in the kinds of reciprocal vulnerability and caretaking that a healthy marriage requires. Pride in your ability to be independent is one thing; viewing intentional practices of interdependence as weak is another.
3. You know you have “toxic” relationship habits
None of us are perfect, in relationships or in life, and you don’t need to be perfect to get married. But if you’ve been told by partners, friends, loved ones, therapists, family members, etc that your relationship behaviors seem toxic, or if you know you struggle with issues around keeping conflict respectful and healthy, jealousy, possessiveness, or control, you need to work on getting to a different place with those issues before you commit to building a marriage and a home with someone.
4. You aren’t willing to work on or change an unhealthy relationship with substances
Addiction isn’t a moral indicator, and past or present addiction issues don’t mean anything about who you are as a person. You don’t even need to be in “perfect” sobriety to be in a relationship — is there even such a thing? However, if you know you’re in active addiction — or if you don’t use the term addiction, but know that your relationship to alcohol or other substances isn’t healthy — you need to have a plan to address this in a genuine way before building a life with someone. Sometimes we can get into relationships as a means toward sobriety, thinking that the stakes of wanting the relationship to work will help us get our priorities together — this isn’t a fair thing to do to your partner or to your own recovery journey. Most recovery programs suggest avoiding intimate relationships until you’re on solid footing with sobriety; while there’s no one blueprint for living in recovery, it’s something to think about.
5. You haven’t actually thought much about your personal take on marriage, but you know you’re supposed to
We live in a culture obsessed with marriage and all it signifies — we have an overriding shared narrative of finding “the one” and settling down, and are often told our adult lives aren’t complete until we’ve done so. This is before even factoring in your family’s desires or your religious values! It’s shockingly easy to get swept up in the momentum of feeling like marriage is just what you do next at this stage in life. Do you, personally, have a desire to get married? Why? If you can’t answer those questions, it might be good to take a beat and consider before jumping in headfirst.
6. You think therapy or self-work is great for other people, but not for you
“Everyone needs therapy” may be a little reductive, but it’s incontrovertibly true that we all have work to do. No matter where you came from or what your life has been like, you have some baggage — and part of your job as a partner and a spouse is to take on the work of continually examining and working with that baggage, being aware of how it’s impacting your relationship and taking accountability for that. If you aren’t prepared to do that, either because you think it doesn’t apply to you or because the prospect seems too daunting, you may not be able to handle the emotional responsibilities of marriage.