The concept of marriage puzzles many people. Many readers and people have approached me looking for more insight on this subject. As summer creeps up on us, I’ve met more people about to tie the knot. It’s surprising to me how forthcoming people are in telling me that they do not necessarily believe in the concept of marriage but decided to get married anyway. The main reason most people offer to me is their partner’s worry of what it will mean for their relationship if they don’t move to the next stage in life from simply cohabitating. The magic of marriage can seem alluring but fairytales don’t depict who stays in the castle if Cinderella and the prince decide to call it quits.
The average age for people to marry is increasing in Canada and people are having children at a much later age. People are choosing to live with their partner longer before marriage as well. Cohabiting is often the step before marriage and for many this is essentially the “test run” to see how well your partner measures up for marriage.
Even for those cohabiting, the cost of separation can be severe. It affects all areas of our lives leading to increased stress, lower work productivity and financial strains. The process of separation for divorced or common law partners often makes spouses into adversaries. Each partner has to prove that the other was the cause of the breakup.
For those who have children, the process of divorce can leave bitterness that affects their ability to co-parent their child past litigation. By the time it’s all over both parties are often inflicted with emotional wounds and are usually burdened by the financial cost of the litigation process. For this reason, many have chosen to end their relationship with their partner and continue to cohabit due to financial constraints. For others, the protection of assets is usually integrated into the process of marriage through the form of pre-nuptial agreements.
It’s important to think before you leap because not doing so may cost you more than the heartbreak of not attaining the happily ever after. The institution of marriage is more than just loving someone. You are also tying yourself to a person financially and a financially irresponsible partner can lead to stress, a sense of isolation, resentment and eventually separation.
If love were truly unconditional, the dissolution of once loving relationships and marriages would cease. But current trends are challenging the notion of unconditional love, and without boundaries how will you know if your needs are being met? It can be easy for partners to get trapped in a routine. When you live together the need to romance your partner can sometimes slip away because you know they will be there as you enter the door or when you go to bed.
It takes more than saying “I do” and making promises for a long lasting marriage. When you believe that your partner will always be there no matter what you begin to lose sight of the importance of your partner. You stop focusing on what you are doing to contribute to the marriage and focus on your partner’s inactions. At this point, couples often use scorecards to mentally track all they have contributed to the marriage and the shortfalls of their partner. I think the late Steve Jobs said it best when he said: “When it comes to my actions, I always ask myself if this is my last day to live would I want to do what I’m about to do.” Those are powerful words because it allows us to put into perspective what we ought to focus on.
The one thing I have learned personally in my own relationships is the power of staying connected with those you love. Success in marriages means discipline that builds on staying focused. Those who are mutually appreciative and compassionate will thrive. The three words that have shifted my relationship are not “I love you” but rather “May I call?”
Amy Yew is a researcher and therapist. Tell us what you think and submit any questions you have to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also tweet your thoughts on Twitter @AmyYew.