20 May Words from the Recently Engaged
Two months ago I said “yes” to the biggest decisions of my life, and now both my fiancé and I are extremely happy. But with this one “yes” the wedding planning piñata blew up in my face, and now I’m wading through endless wedding planning, coordinating around everyone’s schedules, and counting down the days. There are many times, amid the stress, I have to stop and remind myself that this “yes” was also the start of us building our future family together and me personally living the things for which I’ve been advocating.
I’ve been told the benefits of marriage over and over again, and could list several of them, but as I look towards my own marriage things take on a different meaning. It’s not an accumulation of research papers any more, it’s life. I will be the one exemplifying what a marriage looks like for my friends and family, and what I accomplish with my marriage will influence many of them more than what anyone else will say.
When I review the progression of our relationship a study from the National Marriage Project comes to mind. They reported that premarital relationships influence marriage quality. In other words the patterns that a couple sets before marriage will continue to affect their relationship once married. One of the items listed is “sliding vs. deciding.” Sliding is when the development of a relationship happens without any real definite decisions. It may seem old fashion, but our relationship progressed with definite decisions. We have clear dates for the stages of our relationship. He announced his interest, we started officially dating, and we got engaged. Each step happened because we both decided to move to the next, the lines were not blurred.
All this has allowed me to look at the patterns that we have set for ourselves and what it is I hope to accomplish with our marriage. As we have started to make our plans I am realizing how important it is to be upfront with each other and create a strong foundation for the family we are going to have in the future.
A commitment to the community
One study discussed the importance of the wedding. Those with a larger public wedding report higher levels of marriage quality. While many factors play into this, one being that a public marriage shows a clear public commitment to one another. In The Case for Marriage, Maggie Gallagher argues that marriage is more than a private decision. She states “when you marry, the public commitment you make changes the way you think about yourself and your beloved; it changes the way you act and think about the future; and it changes how other people and other institutions treat you as well” (p. 43)
John Gottman’s quote “happy marriages are based on a deep friendship,” (p 19), makes me realize the foundation couples need to be developing. Friendship is what keeps couples together as they deal with the stress of daily challenges, and I like to think that this is what we have for each other and what we will continue to develop. For example, he is the first person I want to tell when something silly happens at work. I find myself caring about things I never thought I would, simply because he cares about them. We were friends before we even started dating, and he’s someone I have always thought the world of.
The thing that I’m most in awe about is that this is the start of our own family. The other day I brought up a fear of having a child, and my concern that we get pregnant before we were planning for it. His response to this was, “That wouldn’t be a bad thing. I’m marrying you because I want to someday have a family with you, and if that happens sooner rather than later we will survive and it will be a good thing.” It is marvelous to see that as much as I love him now, I know that part of the love for him comes because I know we are going to grow together. Marriage is more than just the couple, it will extend for generations and the pattern that we establish now, will influence them.
It was once told to me that marriage was just doubling all of your problems, and that may be true. We are going to have to deal with my stubbornness and his forgetfulness; the fact I typically can’t stand movies, but he can name all the new releases for the year; his spending habits and my being a tight wad. We’re going to have to deal with groceries, insurance, children, health care, extended family, pets, dental visits, employment, and the lists goes on and on. But I wouldn’t want it any other way. I want to plan my life with someone who has just as much invested in those plans as I do.
Marriage is the basis for everything that I care about and advocate for, and now it’s becoming real for me. While I realize that I’m naive when it comes to the challenges and problems that we are going to face, I know that it is all going to be worth it; and that marriage will make us better, just as it makes society better.
Gallagher, M., & Waite, L. J. (2000). The case for marriage. New York, NY: Broadway Books.
Gottman, J. M., & Silver, N. (1999). The seven principles for making marriage work. New York, NY: Three Rivers Press.
Rhoades, G. K., & Stanley, S. M. (2014) Before I do: what do premarital experiences have to do with marital quality among today’s young adults. The National Marriage Project.