We’re all waiting longer to get married. In fact, according to the U.S. Census Bureau the median age at first marriage reached its highest point on record: 29.5 years for men and 27.4 years for women last year.
And yes, it may reflect women delaying marriage to focus on higher education and career (with the gender pay gap finally starting to close) but it’s also because people are financially better able to make considered choices about their lifestyles, thanks to more social norms outside of the nuclear family model.
Gone are the days of single women being deemed spinsters or single men being labelled lonely because marriage is now a life choice. So, before you decide to settle down, ask yourself if you’re ready for it.
A 2014 National Bureau of Economic Research study found that marriage does lead to increased wellbeing but even they pinned down the reason to that being thanks to the cemented friendship within the marriage. What does this show? It demonstrates just how important companionship is. These are the questions you need to ask in order to ensure you’ve got what it takes.
1. What do I value most in a partner?
According to Pew Research, married adults said in a 2015 survey that having shared interests (64%) was very important to a successful marriage. While more than half (56%) also named sharing household chores.
If you do not share personal values, it’s unlikely the relationship will last
Psychologist and relationship expert, Antonia Hall says that personal values aligning is key. “When couples have share core values, they are more likely to have a happy, lasting relationship,” she explains. “For example, if you both value honesty, your communications are more likely to be healthy, thus giving you a strong basis in your relationship. Ask yourself what you value, and if that matches up well with your partner’s values.”
Dr. Sheri Jacobson, founder of Harley Therapy in London agrees that knowing your values will help you make the right decision. “Do the work to figure this out,” she advises. “Then be sure that they are shared by your future spouse. If you do not share personal values, it’s unlikely the relationship will last, even if you share outward habits. The same taste in clothes or music does not a marriage make.”
2. What’s your position on family?
“When it comes to having extended family in your lives, it’s important to understand how much you each want and expect them to be a part of your shared lives together,” Hall states. “It’s equally important that you both want the same thing when it comes to starting a family together or choosing not to. How big of a role will your partner’s family play in your lives together, and will that work for you personally? Do you and you partner want kids, and can you see your styles matching up in childrearing expectations?”
“If you’re not sure if you want to have kids, spend time with friend’s children if it helps,” Jacobson instructs. “Some of us simply are not sure. If that is the case, be very clear and honest about your uncertainty. Don’t lie to yourself in order to impress the other person.”
3. What are your career goals?
“One’s career goals can have a strong impact on relationships, so it’s important to have a clear understanding of what each person in the partnership is desiring and how that will play out over the years,” says Hall.
If one of you hasn’t found a career path yet…how will that impact you both financially?
“Is one of you sacrificing short term for a longer-term goal, and what will that mean for you both? Or perhaps one of you hasn’t found a career path yet. So, you need to ask how will that impact you both financially? If you partner is a workaholic, you have to be realistic about how that will impact time together and whether or not that works for you.”
4. How important is money to you?
“You need to know the value that money has in your life,” Jacobson explains. “And also if you are willing to share it, to what extent, and how willing you are to clean up your money act for the sake of your relationship.
“Money issues, such as debt, overspending, shopping addiction, or alternately fear of spending at all, can all cause stress in a relationship. The healthier your relationship to money is the better. So be honest with yourself about your habits and seek help if you need it.”
5. Do you enjoy the intimacy?
61% of married adults said a satisfying sexual relationship was the crux of their successful marriage so this isn’t something to be taken lightly. “If you aren’t satisfied with the sex life you are having with a partner, and you are hoping it will magically change after marriage, think again,” says Jacobson.
“It’s better to work on this before marriage. You’d be surprised how many couples seek counselling over this and pre-marital counselling has become more and more popular.”
6. Do you want things to change?
“Do you expect your partner to change? Do they expect you to change? To a certain extent we all grow and evolve but neither of you should be expecting the other person to change crucial things about themselves as then it’s unlikely the marriage will work,” Jacobson states. “Ask yourself, can I accept and love their flaws? That is the person you want to marry.”
7. Do you know who you are?
“Consider who you are and do work to know yourself and to raise your self-compassion and self-esteem,” advises Jacobson. “How can you expect someone to know and love you if you don’t even really know who you are, or are not sure you like who you are? You don’t have to perfectly understand yourself, or be confident all the time, but at least be working on it. In fact, a relationship is about self-development,” she continues.
“If you are not prepared to learn and grow as a person, perhaps consider your real reasons for getting married at all. If it’s because your friends are, or you want to tick it off a list, or it seems the thing to do, then perhaps the person you need to be in a relationship with for the time being is yourself.”
8. Does your partner make you feel good?
Psychotherapist at clickfortherapy Kruti St Helen advises you to ask if your partner encourages you to be the best self or make you feel insecure? If the answer is the latter, then it might be that you need to reconsider whether you can cope with the constant put downs for the rest of your life.
It may seem obvious but spending the rest of your life with someone who you’re not happy with is not going to help with your mental health and can lower your mood significantly as it will also seep into other areas of your life. “Marrying someone in the hope that [marriage will make things better] is also bad idea,” says St Helen.
9. Are you feeling trapped?
Ask yourself, do you really want to be in this relationship or do you find yourself wanting a way out? Are you staying in the relationship because you have invested time into it? Or because you’re scared of being alone? Remind yourself that the percentages of single Americans has outnumbered married adults, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, so the only one pressuring you to get married, is you.
One of the first questions would be to ask why you want to marry
Clinic director and psychologist at The Chelsea Psychology Clinic, Dr Elena Touroni states that one of the first questions would be to ask why you want to marry. “What is your motivation for wanting to get married? Is this person your life partner? Do you feel that when you are with them you are ‘at home’?
“Or could it be that you feel a pressure to get married due to age? Will you feel defective or consider yourself a failure if you don’t get married? Is it about timing and social pressure and expectations or is it that this is genuinely the person you want to spend your life with?”
10. Can you be completely yourself?
“Another core question to ask is whether you feel safe in the relationship,” says Touroni. “Are you able to be vulnerable and completely be yourself? A good predictor of long lasting, rewarding relationships is whether you fundamentally have a strong partnership, when there is no constant tension, triggers or disagreements that cannot be resolved. This isn’t to say that good relationships are devoid of conflict but rather that they are about the ability to communicate and solve problems as and when they arise by being open and honest with each other.”