Many of us start planning our wedding at a young age, from the dress (perhaps a trendy mermaid silhouette or a princess-style ball gown), right down to the guest list (does that long lost cousin get a +1?). Some of us have planned every detail of “the big day” before we even have a ring on our finger. But what about all of the things that come before walking down that aisle? Do we ever stop to think about how we feel about marriage itself? Or what it means to us to be married? You might not realize that you think about these things, but in reality, we all come into relationships with ideas of what marriage should be like.
Whether you are in a relationship or not, it is important to check in with your beliefs about marriage. Research shows that these thoughts influence our behaviors when it comes to romantic relationships. Being aware of our marriage beliefs can help us understand what we expect. We do not need to think about a specific relationship. Instead, think about your beliefs towards the general idea of getting married and being married.
This might seem like a tall order and you may be wondering, how am I supposed to do that? Here are a few things you may consider when checking in with your beliefs about marriage:
Timing. We all move at our own pace. What is your ideal timeline to date, get engaged, and get married? This could be related to your age, or the length of your relationship. How many people do you think you might date before finding the right partner? How long would you like to be in a committed relationship before getting engaged?
Circumstances. When making big decisions, we usually have a list of requirements in mind. Are there certain boxes that need to be checked off in order for you to choose a partner and feel that you are ready for marriage? Maybe it is important to you that you and/or your partner have finished your education or have a stable job before you are willing to say, “I do.”
Interaction. Once married, you will be spending a lot of time with your husband or wife. How do you expect you and your partner to interact with one another on a daily basis? Who will handle money and bills? Who will mow the lawn or do the laundry? What do you think your sex life with your partner should be like? How will you handle conflict? Will you avoid it? Have an intense discussion? Or try to understand the other person’s perspective? Do you plan on spending all of your free time with your partner? Or will you hang out with your own friends?
Commitment. In every relationship, there are good times and rough patches. Do you expect everything to be perfect right away? How much effort do you need to put in to make a marriage to last? What are acceptable reasons to separate or get a divorce?
Now that you’ve checked in with your beliefs, feel free to continue thinking about color schemes, flower arrangements, and cake toppers!
Willoughby, B. J., Hall, S. S., & Luczak, H. P. (2015). Marital paradigms: A conceptual framework for marital attitudes, values, and beliefs. Journal of Family Issues, 36, 188-211.