The man of your dreams has asked you to marry him. But something feels wrong. Is it the “right” man? The wrong dream? If you can’t put your finger on what’s wrong with the relationship, you better hold off putting a ring around your finger! “My view is that people should have a sense of what it takes to have a happy marriage long before they get serious about a relationship,” says Jeffry H. Larson, Ph.D., author of Should We Stay Together? (Jossey Bass, 2000), a book that outlines factors predicting whether a marriage will work and helps readers evaluate their relationships.
Many relationships fail because people have preconceived notions of what marriage is all about and how they are supposed to feel about their partners based on societal myths like “love is all you need,” “you can be happy with anyone you choose to marry.” But social scientists have dispelled the myths about marriage by studying what couples must do to prepare for the challenges that such partnerships bring. Are you ready for marriage?
You want happiness? Debunk the marriage myths!
It’s important to understand how each of the myths listed in the survey can ruin your chances to find marital bliss and to know what you should do to dispel them.
Myth: There is only one right person in the world for you to marry.
Many people, said Larson, blow off all kinds of good matches because they are expecting some magical feeling when they meet the “right” person. But there are several people with whom you could be happily married so choose carefully.
Myth: Don’t settle for anything less than perfection.
“There are no perfect people out there to marry,” warns Larson. His suggestion: Choose a mate based on qualities that are most important to you, but learn to compromise as well.
Myth: You should feel totally competent as a future spouse.
“You always feel somewhat anxious when you are making the most important decision,” Larson explains. A successful marriage requires cooperation and effort by the two people, not perfection.
Myth: You can be happy with anyone you choose to marry if you try hard enough.
“Some people may drive you crazy or burn you out, and this could lead to divorce no matter how hard you try,” Larson says. “Often times, people keep thinking they are not trying hard enough and continue to do more of the same in hopes that some day the person may magically change.” Evaluate the person’s similarities, differences, values, goals and expectations before you commit to marry.
Myth: Choose a mate whose personal characteristics are opposite from your own.
Marrying someone with totally different traits will lead to conflict. The traits that attracted you at first may turn you off later on! Marriages work better when the people have more in common and are willing to compromise on their differences.
Myth: Being in love with someone is enough of a reason to marry.
“It takes more than love to be happily married,” says Larson. “Although romantic love is important in a relationship, marital success is based on other factors like similar values, background, age, personal readiness and realistic expectations.
Myth: Choosing someone to marry is a “decision of the heart.”
If your head isn’t in it, you can bet on a broken heart! Marry someone you love, but use your head to figure out whether the two of you share similar goals, priorities and values to ensure a lasting relationship.
Myth: Living together will prepare you for marriage and improve your chances of being happily married.
Evidence shows, Larson says, that you may get to know your partner better by living with them first but that won’t increase your chances of being happily married. In fact, “serial cohabitators” have higher divorce rates because they have less conventional ideas about marriage.
Myth: Choosing a mate should be easy.
Changing sex roles, high divorce rate, effect of inflation on family and higher expectation for marriage make choosing a mate and marriage preparation much more complicated than 50 years ago.
Myth: Preparing for marriage “just comes naturally.”
Nobody is born with mate-finding savvy. Preparing for marriage is a learned skill based on sound, scientific information and personal assessment, says Larson.
Myth: We know practically nothing about what predicts a happy marriage, so just take your chances.
Social scientists have learned many things about predictors of marital satisfaction that can help you have a happier marriage. To do it right, you have to study, study, study!