I might lose my Man Card for this one…
To preface this blog post, let me be clear that the things I am suggesting are my opinion. I am not a certified marriage counselor or anything like that. However, having been around a little while and paying attention to the world around me, I can tell you that there should be a few more boxes to check off the list beyond the proverbial: “We are so in love”.
Charming, but in my mind, only one part of the criteria for a happy ever after story.
Yes, love can conquer all, and I am a romantic at heart. But…Here are some things to consider first:
A. Get your own life together first
B. You can fix stupid, lazy, unmotivated, low ambition, poor communicator, etc. etc., in a partner.
C. Don’t try to find someone to complete your life, aim to find someone who
Now that we got that out of the way, there are a few other things you should consider. First things first, if your proposal occurs in a Walmart like the photo above, say no. Seriously, think about a couple of things this is indicative of:
3. Setting a tone that you may not want to use as a baseline moving forward.
Ideally, for most people anyway, life is a continual improvement process, inch by inch. It takes time to get things figured out. Life is not going to be easy, and the likelihood of things getting handed to you are very slim. This means you are on your own to solve much of life’s issues and struggles. While it seems appealing to have a partner to share in these struggles, it is my opinion that you need to live and mature on your own for a while before you commit to one person (theoretically) for the rest of your life. The odds of to people getting married right out of college and things being smooth sailing from that point forward are slight, to say the least. Just because something is difficult doesn’t mean you should avoid it, but what I want to do is set up some criteria to help you create a SUCCESSFUL union that has a shot at lasting.
Here are some very logical, practical things that you need to factor into the overall picture of binding yourself to someone. Take this as life advice from someone who has been around a while, learned things the hard way, and wants to help.
1. Communication – If I was going to say that there is a MUST HAVE in your relationship, it is good communication. You must be able to talk to one another about anything and everything. It is your only hope for a successful long run. You need to be able to have adult conversations all the time. You need to talk about money, kids, where to live, life/career goals, sex, and everything else that goes into a marriage. Example: My (now) wife and I talked about whether or not we wanted to have kids on our second date. I fell in love with her right away, but being ten years older than her and not wanting kids myself, I did not want to waste her time in a relationship that was not going to give her what she wanted. Luckily we were on the same page with this topic as well, and we were off and running. As a side note, I was stunned about how many people asked us AFTER we got married if we had discussed having kids yet. WAY TOO LATE at that point, we had that conversation a long time ago.
2. Credit score / Financial fitness – Your credit score is your adult report card. If one of you has a credit score that is in the 500’s, that is a major warning flag. DO NOT IGNORE THIS warning sign. This needs to get resolved before moving forward, otherwise this will be a huge source of stress on the relationship. The number one thing couples fight about is money (or lack thereof) It is a major source of strain on a relationship, especially if you are not on the same page. If one of you is a spender and one is a saver, you need to set some ground rules. If you are the one with the inability to stick to a budget, save and manage your money, pay attention to what your partner has to say. If neither one of you know what you’re doing, get ta learnin’ as fast as you can. There are tons of resources out there, my go to recommendation is to start with Dave Ramsey’s program Total Money Makeover.
Now…here is a caveat to the above point: I was the person that did a poor job of managing money. I learned from the Dave Ramsey program, but mostly by listening to my wife and discussing where I need to change behaviors. I was DEEP in debt at one point, and delayed proposing to her because of it. I felt guilty, I was embarrassed, and I didn’t want this to become her problem too. But we discussed it (that’s what adults do) and together we mapped out a plan to solve the problem.
3. Don’t rush things – If you think you have found someone to spend your life with, there is no reason to rush things. If they are going to “slip away” if you’re not married within a year, they were not the one after all. If they never want to get married, there are not the right one either. You “grinding someone down” to a proposal is a bad move. No where it is written that you need to be married and have two or three kids by age thirty. Yes, some of your friends will do it, and you may feel like they are “winning” or you are falling behind. Stop playing the comparison game, and enjoy their second wedding while you are still planning your first.
Keep in mind, men are idiots. We are simple creatures, over-sized children at best in some cases.
That Frat boy you met in college should be given a year or two out of school to get his life together before you hitch your wagon to him. Personally, I think waiting until you are closer to 30 is a wise move; there is still time to have kids, change careers once or twice to hit your stride, and iron out a few other details common to adult life. If he is still behaving like a Frat boy, partying with his friends, living for the moment and not planning for the future, it may be time to cut bait and move on. If you don’t, you will end up being his new mom instead of his wife. Seriously…think about that.
4. You are not your parents or grandparents – The world is different today, and many of the rules from a while ago no longer apply. You can be completely autonomous now; you don’t “need” a man until you want to have kids. You can have a career path, your own money, house, car, etc., and all of it on your own. In my grandparents’ day, they HAD TO form a union to combine money, effort and a household to make it. Life was much harder back then, and a partner to shoulder the load, and usually early into adult life, was pretty much a necessity. This is no longer true; while the desire to be married and have kids is still engrained in most of us, the reality is that you can do it all on your own if you choose to.
You would be so much better off doing things on your timeline versus what your family, your circle of friends, or “society” says you should do. Personally, I wasn’t marriage material until about 40, and if I had met my wife any sooner than that, she would have laughed and walked the other way when I approached her. I know it, and she has basically confirmed it too. I am glad I waited. I did my own thing for as long as I did, because I know if I hadn’t, I would question if I made the right moves in my life. I waited until I was ready, mature enough, and settled into a career that had legs to it before I ever really thought about settling down. I was happy to be a perpetual bachelor up until then, and no one but the right woman could have changed my mind.
I’ll leave you with this as a parting piece of advice… Do you first. Get your life on track, manage your finances, start a career, and THEN when a guy with potential comes along you can evaluate both from a logical perspective as well as from the heart if this is the right person for you to marry and spend your life with. I know that the heart and the head don’t always go together, but try to put some reasonable criteria behind your life partner decisions, otherwise you will suffer the consequences, literally.
I wish you luck in your endeavors.