So You Want to Get Married

How do we know when we have found “the one”?

When I ask my patients and friends who are dating or engaged I often hear many of the same responses:  I feel happy when we are together, It is finally legal to get married, we have the same sense of humor, my kids like her.

However when I ask married couples what they think they should have addressed before the big wedding day I hear: finances/debt, religion, family of origin issues, in-law expectations, how involved he/she is with the ex, child rearing practices, how many pets is enough and honestly; none of these issues sound romantic but when they inevitably come up in the course of the marriage; these same issues and more can profoundly affect romance.

George Bernard Shaw described marriage as an institution that brings together two people “under the influence of the most violent, most insane, most delusive, and most transient of passions. They are required to swear that they will remain in that excited, abnormal, and exhausting condition continuously until death do them part.”

Stephanie Coontz  states: For most of history it was inconceivable that people would choose their mates on the basis of something as fragile and irrational as love and then focus all their sexual, intimate, and altruistic desires on the resulting marriage. In fact, many historians, sociologists, and anthropologists used to think romantic love was a recent Western invention. This is not true. People have always fallen in love, and throughout the ages many couples have loved each other deeply, but only rarely in history has love been seen as the main reason for getting married. When someone did advocate such a strange belief, it was no laughing matter. Instead, it was considered a serious threat to social order.

After the Industrial Revolution in the United States it was less important to marry someone who will birth many children to work the fields and a mate who cooked for the family and cleaned the home and tilled and harvested the land. Often coupling was based on basic survival. Although many cultures continued with arranged marriage; the idea of marrying for love reared its unique head. And with that a host of issues arose. What happens with infidelity? When there is a union solely based on desire and celebrating the qualities of one person above others, infidelity stings a mate to the core. It is not an intellectualized action of a basic fulfillment it is a betrayal to the very ego.

What is the truth about good marriages? Many couples who have passed their silver anniversary state such seemingly mundane behaviors such as compromise, listening, encouraging the mate to individuate while remaining committed to the marriage. Where are the hearts and flowers now?

Maybe between picking out the perfect wedding venue and tasting the best cakes and little bacon wrapped scallops a couple could make times for premarital counseling.

We are living in the age of prevention. We wear fit-bit bracelets to count our steps and track our sleep; we have yearly physicals to stay on top of any changes that could explode our health: what about giving a few sessions to the benefit of a lasting union.

When is last time you spent a Saturday night with your fiancé discussing debt resolution or what your mother expects the two of you do for the holidays. When did you look at each other over a nice glass of wine, candle light flickering in your eyes and discuss how the ex-mates factor into your daily lives.

Here are some of issues that will be addressed in premarital sessions: step kids, parenting styles, addictions, what does money mean to you and more.

In the state of Georgia, a letter from your premarital therapist offers you a discount on your marriage certificate and in every state it offers you a chance to look at that one person you chose above all others without the rose colored glasses.

A couple of good reads:

The Good Marriage: Judith S. Wallerstein and Sandra Blakeslee

Lies at the Altar: Dr. Robin L. Smith