The answer to that question used to be when you’d hit certain financial and social milestones; when you had a home to your name, a set of qualifications or a few cows and a parcel of land in your possession.
But after a while the focus shifted to emotions. It came to be thought important to feel the right way. That was the true sign of a good union. And the right feelings included the sense that the other was ‘the one’, that you understood perfectly and that you’d both never want to sleep with anyone else again.
These ideas, though touching, have proved to be an almost sure recipe for the eventual dissolution of marriages – and have caused havoc in the emotional lives of millions of otherwise sane and well-meaning couples.
As a corrective to them, what follows is a proposal for a very different set of principles, which I think would indicate when two people should properly consider themselves ready for marriage.
WE ARE READY FOR MARRIAGE…
- WHEN WE GIVE UP ON PERFECTION:
We should not only admit in a general way that the person we are marrying is very far from perfect. We should also grasp the specifics of their imperfections: how they will be irritating, difficult, sometimes irrational, and often unable to sympathize or understand us.
However, we should also note that we are equally imperfect and our partners are tolerating our imperfections. For this realization to sink in, we should appreciate the next person who has accepted your imperfection.
Vows should be rewritten to include the terse line: ‘I agree to marry this person even though they will, on a regular basis, drive me to distraction.’
- WHEN WE DESPAIR OF BEING UNDERSTOOD:
Love starts with the experience of being understood in a deeply supportive and uncommon way. They understand the lonely parts of you; you don’t have to explain why you find a particular joke so funny; you dislike the same people; and enjoy the same outdoor activities. But do note that this will not always continue.
We shouldn’t, therefore, blame our partners for failing in their assignments to interpret and grasp our internal workings.
They are neither magicians nor superheroes; they would not always understand our thoughts, our words or our actions. The only person who can understand You is You, they can only try.
Another vow should read: ‘However we seem to get along, there will be times when we would not be on the same page and we would misunderstand ourselves.”
- WHEN WE ARE READY TO LOVE RATHER THAN BEING LOVED:
There is profound difference between “to love” and “being loved”. The key word is SACRIFICE.
Being Loved is actually selfish mindset where we picture someone who will understand our needs, bring us what we want, be immensely patient and sympathetic to us, act selflessly and make it all better.
While To Love is the complete opposite of being loved, in this case we become someone who will be willing to sacrifice and subordinate our own demands and concerns to the needs of another.
A third vow should state: ‘Whenever I have the strength in me to do so, I will imitate those who once loved me and take care of my partner as these figures cared for me. It is the only kind of love really worthy of that exalted word.
- WHEN WE ARE READY FOR ADMINISTRATION:
The Romantic person instinctively sees marriage in terms of emotions. But what a couple actually get up to together over a lifetime has much more in common with the workings of a small business. They must draw up work rosters, clean, chauffeur, cook, fix, throw away, mind, hire, fire, reconcile and budget.
None of these activities have any glamour whatsoever within the current arrangement of society. Those obliged to do them are therefore highly likely to resent them and feel that something has gone wrong with their lives for having to involve themselves so closely with them. And yet these tasks are what is truly ‘romantic’ in the sense of ‘conducive and sustaining of love’ and should be interpreted as the bedrock of a successful marriage, and accorded all the honour currently given to other activities in society.
A central vow should read: ‘I accept the dignity of labour and hardwork.’
- WHEN WE UNDERSTAND THAT SEX AND LOVE DO AND DON’T BELONG TOGETHER:
The view that love and sex will be aligned. But in truth, they won’t stay so beyond a few months or, at best, one or two years.
This is not anyone’s fault. Because marriage has other key concerns (companionship, administration, another generation), sex will suffer.
We are ready to get married when we accept a large degree of intimate resignation and the task of sublimation.
The ability to understand how to never objectify each other is key to deciphering the thin-line between the dynamics of having sex and making love. This understanding can be only brewed from depth, nowhere else.
Both parties must therefore avoid making the marriage ‘about sex’.
One is ready to get married when two very difficult things are in place: one is ready to believe in one’s partner’s genuine capacity to separate love and sex. And at the same time, one is ready to believe in one’s partner’s stubborn inability to keep love and sex apart.
Two people have to be able to master both feats, because they may – over a lifetime – be called upon to demonstrate both capacities.
- WHEN WE ARE READY TO BE TAUGHT AND CALM ABOUT TEACHING:
We are ready for marriage when we accept that in certain very significant areas, our partners will be wiser, more reasonable and more mature than we are.
We should want to learn from them. We should bear having things pointed out to us. We should, at key points, see them as the teacher and ourselves as pupils.
At the same time, we should be ready to take on the task of teaching them certain things and like good teachers, not shout, lose our tempers or expect them simply to know.
Marriage should be recognized as a process of mutual education.
- WHEN WE REALIZE WE ARE NOT THAT COMPATIBLE:
The Romantic view of marriage stresses that the ‘right’ person means someone who shares our tastes, interests and general attitudes to life.
This might be true in the short term. But, over an extended period of time, the relevance of this fades dramatically; because differences inevitably emerge.
The person who is truly best suited to us is not the person who shares our tastes, but the person who can negotiate differences in taste intelligently and wisely.
Rather than the idea of perfect complementarities, it is the capacity to tolerate difference that is the true marker of the ‘right’ person.
Compatibility is an achievement of love; it shouldn’t be its precondition.
Please note that feelings may run diarrheic, but love isn’t sick; perfection is overrated, but rhythm is a more realistic mainstay; selfless depth, not self-censoring shallowness, is companionship’s gold; sex starts on the bed and ends there, (figurative), but love-making has no life-cycle; all these,
Living in love and happiness in marriage is real hard work, not telemundo, Africa Magic or Zee World!
My name is Ab.Isong
for free relationship counseling, Inbox me
God bless you