The Marriage Checklist
- Tuesday, October 01, 2002
For most of us, choosing our spouse is the most significant decision we will make. The person you choose to wake up next to each morning has the power to determine the quality of your life. As eharmony founder Dr. Neil Clark Warren puts it, "So important is that one decision that a lifetime of trying to force the relationship to work with the wrong person is usually extremely difficult."
Since August of 2000, eharmony.com has been bringing compatible singles together to create brilliant, long-term relationships. Most of our members want to eventually be married and feel the love and confidence that comes from knowing they have a partner for life. They want a soul mate and a life mate.
But with any decision of this magnitude, "caution" is a wise motto. Even those couples brought together by eharmony's matching technology should take each step with patience and good judgment. We asked Dr. Warren what seven things he would suggest that marriage-bound couples consider before making a life-long commitment. This is what he said:
Make Sure the Decision is Your Own
First and foremost, the heaviest responsibility by far for the selection of a great marriage partner rests with the two people who are considering one another. While eharmony makes every effort to match people effectively, the fact is that many of the 29 crucial dimensions can only be fully assessed on a personal level. Only the two persons directly involved will have to live with the consequences of these choices, and only they are in a position to make a FULLY informed decision about the rightness of their relationship.
Verify Your Partner's Emotional Health
If either partner has ANY concern about the personality or behavior of the other, they should never expect that this concern will simply dissolve over time. I always say that when you choose to marry, you are implicitly stating that you are willing to live happily with the other person for as long as you both shall live-IF NOTHING ABOUT THE OTHER PERSON EVER IMPROVES EVEN A SMIDGEN.
Consider the Advice of Friends and Family
If anyone who knows you well, whether they are a family member, friend, or even a well-meaning acquaintance, has real concerns about your match with a particular person, listen to these concerns with extreme care. Sometimes we have blind spots that can only be seen by others. When another person knows us well, they can often bring a new and meaningful perspective about us and our relationships; this perspective is frequently more accurate than we at first may think it to be. (In this regard, you may want to read Chapter 10 of my book, "Finding the Love of Your Life.")
Don't Rush to The Altar
Do not be overly eager to get married. We all know how exciting it is to find a person we believe to be our soul mate, and when we think it has finally happened for us we want to rush immediately toward the full expression of our love. But I counsel couples to take their time, and I tell them that a bad mistake is a thousand times more devastating than the loss of a few weeks together. If you can avoid this "bad mistake" by moving slowly, you will thank yourself thousands of times for your patience and reflection.
Watch for Changes in Enthusiasm
In making your final decision about marriage, watch especially for signs of internal qualities in yourself or the other person that tend to become obvious when the initial excitement has worn off a little. For instance, after you get to know the other person, do you find them listening less and talking more, being more selfish about money and items instead of generous and giving, or beginning to try to take more control over the development of your relationship? These are crucial signs that need to be carefully heeded.
Get Professional Counseling
Hold out for pre-engagement counseling. Take the Prepare inventory with an authorized counselor. Talk through every area of your future relationship and, striving to be as objective as possible, ask your counselor for their full appraisal of the "rightness" of your relationship.
Be Completely Honest With Yourself
Be willing to search for the TRUTH about your relationship. Remember that the truth is always friendlier than anything less than the truth. Take a step back from the relationship and consider it objectively. Do you "shine" when you're together? Divorced singles often share with me that, deep inside, they knew their marriage wouldn't work, even before the wedding day. You may want desperately to get married, but you need to assess the likely success of your relationship in the long term.
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