Although the wedding season is pretty much over, the proposal season is about to start! However, what determines if a couple should or not get married? Of course the obvious consideration is whether or not they love each other. However, most studies that include world marriage statistics indicate that even the traditional “mad passionate, would die without her, cannot sleep if I don’t smell him, can see our kid’s smiles in his eyes” kind of love doesn’t hold up. In fact arranged marriages have a higher rate of success than traditional “love” marriages. As has become evident in the new hit TV reality show Married at First Sight. Here four experts, a rabbi, a sexologist, a relationship counselor, and a sociologist find each person their “perfect” mate, and they meet at the altar. It’s a hit! It works.
So what determines if a couple should get married? In the 20th century Western culture dictated that if a couple loved each other, felt a need to communicate with relative frequency, was ready to start a sexual relationship, and the man could financially provide for a family, then the couple should get married. After all there are only so many hours a parent, grandparent, or chaperone could sit in the parlor room keeping an eye on them, and only so long could the couple stand to hear the snoring.
Now these are different times, and couples in Western society usually have “permission” to date for a year, or 5 years, and no one seems to give it a second thought. Additionally, couples very often have a sexual relationship during the courtship, and many times the extended family members are not even aware that the individual is in a relationship until months after they are dating.
Experts agree that the primary considerations for determining if it is time to be married have a great deal to do with what marriage means to the couple.
Different cultures, family traditions, and religious upbringing will define what is acceptable to immediate and extended family. Families can be accepting, or critical, and that can have a huge effect on a long term relationship. Couples that choose to have children usually want to raise their children with a consistent message regarding pre-marital sex, birth control, and religion. If a couple plans on raising children in a Christian home and attend a traditional Christian church, the couple should be married. Otherwise the message to the children at home is “we don’t practice what we preach”. If however, the couple is more liberal about premarital sex, and does not participate in a church that teaches abstinence until marriage, than the question becomes one of commitment. It’s not that religious families don’t hold this dear to their heart, but if a couple is considering marriage from a purely sentimental perspective, and then the question of commitment stands alone. Why get married, if the couple knows in their heart that they are committed to each other, at least until the children grow-up?
It becomes a matter of what the current society and extended families or community consider a marriage? In some cultures a wedding is just a promise to the father of the bride, and a gift to the family. There are no legal papers used and no minister is present to solemnize the ceremony, just the two families enjoying a meal.
So what does our current society seem to take into account before they marry?
These are the considerations that seem to prevail in our community:
1.) Has the couple had an opportunity to date or relate to each other physically for a few months and become aware of all significant past relationships?
2.) Does the couple have a thorough understanding or knowledge of each other’s financial picture, wages, credit, etc?
3.) Does the couple agree on what religion the children will be raised in, or do they agree to respect each other’s beliefs?
4.) Does each one believe that divorce is only an option after marriage counseling is first attempted?
5.) If it is a second marriage and children and stepchildren are involved, is the new stepparent willing to raise the child fulltime as his/her own if circumstances were to dictate? (Biological/custodial parents sometimes die, or custody changes).
6.) Does the couple agree on what financial or material property each brought into the relationship, and if a divorce is considered, what each one would take with them? Would each one sign a pre-nuptial agreement if either one has significant assets?
7.) In the case of different ethnic backgrounds or different cultures, religions and holidays, does the couple agree which will be shared with each side of extended family? (Hanukkah with wife’s family, and Easter with husband’s family)?
8.) Does the couple agree on whose career will come first if either of them has to move for work?
9.) Do both have an understanding of what monogamy means to them?
10.) Have privacy issues been addressed? This is especially true in older couples. Sometimes children will need their parent’s confidentiality. Will the other partner accept that?
So in summary, be communicative in advance, seek advice from family and friends, consult your spiritual guide/clergy, and let love prevail!
Zailyn Eugenia Prada is a mother, grandmother, counselor, relationship expert, and author of the book “A Girl’s Guide to Greatness: Mystical Paths for Magical Women”. You can contact her through this site or on her website www.girlsguidetogreatness.com