Recently, I read an article about a couple who've been engaged for—count 'em—11 years. Not months, y'all. Years. While the current average of how long an engagement lasts is close to 14 months, for many, engagements aren't seen as simply the time it takes to plan a wedding. These days, a lot of couples are using it as no more than a way of publicly declaring that their relationship is a little more than the standard boyfriend/girlfriend dynamic.
Personally, if a man were to ask me to marry him and I said "yes," I'm not interested in waiting longer than a year (two, tops and that's really pushing it). I'm not really into big weddings, I'd rather put all of that money towards the down payment on a home or car.
So rather than planning a big ceremony, I'd want to read some books, maybe attend a couple's retreat or two, and get into some counseling—oh, and go through the checklist that I share with the couples I give premarital counseling to: "276 Questions to Ask Before You Marry." Yeah, I know that's a lot but if you're intending to spend the rest of your life with someone, you should know as much as possible about what you're signing up for…right?
Actually, before even getting into all of that, I'd want to ask my own self a few questions because before I can be good for someone else, I need to really know who I am and what I would be bringing to the table. This is essential because something I'm a firm believer of is, marriage is like a mirror and a magnifying glass. Nothing shows you the good, bad, and straight-up ugly about yourself quite like a spouse does.
So, what are the questions I think that every woman (myself included) should ask themselves before getting a ring on their finger?
What Kind of “Baggage” Are You Bringing into Your Future Marriage?
A few years ago, I wrote "10 Most Common Reasons for Divorce." Since my "specialty" when it comes to marriage life coaching is reconciling divorced couples, I have seen infidelity, financial issues, and the lack of intimacy (of every kind) come up. But if there's one overlooked reason why so many couples quit, it's because they brought a ton of baggage into their union. Sometimes without even realizing it.
Baggage like what? Unresolved issues with exes. Boatloads of financial debt. Childhood trauma. Things that not only weigh them mentally, emotionally, and spiritually down but also things that they expect their spouse to fix. That's not only unfair; it's unrealistic.
If there is a person or even a memory that, when they or it comes to mind, you wince, do yourself, your beloved, and your future marriage a big favor and try and address that before saying "I do."
A spouse is designed to be a life partner. Not our personal savior.
Are You Ready for Daily Acts of Compromise for the Rest of Your Life?
I know some people who are married but honestly should've stayed single. I say that because they are selfish. Super selfish. Some of them buy things that totally blow the family budget on a whim. Others keep issues in their marriage going for weeks on end because they would rather hold a grudge than apologize. Then there are those who don't make decisions that are best for their marriage as a whole; they only think about what is best for them. And yes, that is the textbook definition of selfishness because to be selfish is to be self-consumed.
If you know you're not a good listener; if you know that you have an "It's my way or the highway" kind of attitude; if you suck at empathizing; if prioritizing needs vs. wants is way over your head and/or if you'd rather "win" than keep harmony and peace in your relationship—not only are you bad at compromising but you are about to make you and your future spouse absolutely miserable.
There's not one marriage on the planet that doesn't require daily acts of compromise. If the thought of doing that makes your stomach turn, again…do everyone involved a favor and stay single.
Have You Done Everything That’s Not Up for Compromise/Negotiation?
Speaking of compromise, something that my mother used to always say that is a big pearl of wisdom is "Do everything you can't compromise before marriage." I like that bit of advice for a couple of different reasons.
For one thing, it's a reminder that being single is just as much of a blessing as being married. There are things that I can do that my married friends can't because they have to take someone else into consideration. I also like this insight because I know far too many wives that, when they were single, they were so obsessed with getting married that they didn't even stop to think about what they would be giving up.
Getting married doesn't mean you lose yourself. It does mean that you signed up to make a major life transition, though. The things on your bucket list that you know would be easier to do without having a spouse, do those now. Your time and money will not be quite as freed up once you become a Mrs.
What About Your Current Life Will You Be Giving Up?
This one is a biggie. Unfortunately, a lot of times, as single women (I'm speaking of the ones who actually desire to be married), we're so focused on what marriage would bring to our lives that we overlook what we'd be losing once it happens.
One wife has told me that she misses sleeping in the weekends. Another wife has told me that she misses talking on the phone all hours of the night with her girls. Still another wife has told me that she misses being able to spend every Thanksgiving and Christmas with her family.
There's no doubt about it. Marriage isn't just about daily compromise. It's also about making certain types of concessions. If you're not someone who does well with sacrifice and change—at the very least wait. It's not fair to you or yours to get married if you're not prepared to give up some things.
Aside from Being in Love, Why Are You Considering Marriage?
Something I'm notorious for is folks saying to me, "I'm getting married!" and me following up with "Why?" I'm not being a hater. I honestly want to hear the response. More times than not, I get blank looks or something along the lines of "Because I'm in love."
Love is good. But, believe it or not, there are a lot of divorced people who love their ex. Like? Compatibility? True partnership? That's something totally different.
I remember asking one of my once newly engaged male friends why, after watching him make dating look like an Olympic sport, was he ready to jump the broom. His answer has always stayed with me. "She's my best friend, totally incomparable and I know that we're specifically customized to take each other to the next level in life." Yeah. That's some good stuff right there.
Disney and rom-coms have done a real number on us. It's programmed a lot of us into thinking that marriage is going to be like a scripted film rather than a lot of work. Fun, sex, and companionship? Yes. But also a daily concerted effort to provide what is needed in order to make a marriage last. And that, is not always a cakewalk.
When you pull back attraction, sex, idealistic views of marriage and your wedding day, whatever is left, that is what will reveal what your relationship is truly made of. If it's solid, awesome. If it's not, it's OK to not get engaged just yet.
While you are single, you are your top priority. Love yourself enough to be self-aware enough to know if it's truly time to prepare for a wedding or if you need a little more time to work on you.
If it's meant to be, he'll not only wait but give you mad props for pumping the brakes.
If it's not, still consider yourself blessed. You just dodged a bullet. The fact that it may have come in the form of a diamond ring is totally irrelevant. Trust me on that.
Featured image by Getty Images.