Jen Juneau
October 12, 2015 6:00 am

There is no right or wrong algorithm to when someone should and shouldn’t marry another person. I’ve known people who’d been together for almost 10 years and were married for less than a year before getting divorced. My in-laws met, were married a year later, and have been married for over 35 years. I have friends who married right out of high school and are still married 12 years later, and others who waited until their thirties to get married but it didn’t work out.

The point is, there are factors that can deduce the statistical likelihood of a marriage being successful, but no blanket formula. If there were, the divorce rate in the United States wouldn’t be so high – and the wedding industry might also take a little bit of a beating. The side of me that knows it can be a little over the top might appreciate that, but the side of me that loves weddings wouldn’t.

But regardless of the fact that there isn’t a When to Get Married for Dummies book out there (as far as I know, anyway), there are still some signs pointing to you not being quite ready that you may want to consider before taking this really big step. Here are some of the biggest ones I missed in hindsight, after my first engagement fell through, that I wished I’d recognized before I said yes.

You haven’t had a REAL fight, or faced any really big obstacles together

I know this seems a little bit counterintuitive to living in unadulterated bliss, but hear me out: If you’re past the honeymoon stage in your relationship and you haven’t had a disagreement with your partner that turned into something that made the situation at least moderately uncomfortable, you’re probably not ready for marriage. The quintessential marital vows do, after all, have “in sickness and in health” in there – and while sickness is not the same as a fight, it is a big challenge. And you should know how you handle big challenges jointly, including disagreements, before promising to spend forever together.

Also, having no fights can sometimes (though not always) mean that one person just always agrees with what the other wants. This can work for some couples, but usually only temporarily. One of the points of being in a relationship, and a marriage, is to grow together. And if one person is never pushing the other beyond their comfort zone to help them do just that, it will bug them one day, even if it doesn’t now. Having a partner who lifts you up is so important, but being a one-sided grower is no way to live.

Your goals (or dedication to those goals) just don’t line up

Have you always dreamed of being high up on the ladder in your career, having a big house, and traveling the world? Is your partner more low key, content to go to an OK job with less pressure but more time and emotional freedom and happy to take domestic road trips here and there? This type of situation can, and does, work – especially when the two individuals in a relationship are independent enough to be able to pursue their own interests outside of each other (which is always a healthy thing that I not only encourage, but insist upon).

But where it gets hairy is when one person feels like they are the one making everything happen and resentment starts to breed – or when A, B, or C pillar of either person’s life feels disrespected by X, Y, or Z pillar from the other’s. If one of the bricks that make up the foundation of the person you are at your core feels stunted by the other person’s or vice versa (even unintentionally), that is a big sign to me that it might not be time to really consider taking the marriage step.

You find yourself thinking more about a wedding than a marriage

The wedding industry (and Pinterest) can make it really easy to start planning your big day from even before the ring goes on your finger. But regardless of how much you’ve dreamed about this day, the reasons you should say “Yes” to spending the rest of your life by the side of another person should be 99.9% about how happy you are to live that life and .1% about flower arrangements and whatnot. Of course wedding planning can take up a lot of time, but if you’re spending way more time on that and a minuscule amount of time discussing what marriage means with your partner, something might be off.

So make sure, deep down, your priorities are in order – and then have that dream wedding, if you want it. What’s that saying about having your (wedding) cake and eating it too?

You don’t agree on the big things

While I don’t think that disagreeing on big household stuff like children – whether or not to have them, how many, schooling, etc. – religion, and rules about who gets the last Oreo (kidding!) are necessarily deal-breakers, especially early in a relationship, I do firmly believe that sweeping those things under the rug until “after we get married” is a huge no-no. When you sign your name onto a contract to take on life together as a team, it is crucial to ensure you are on the same page with stuff like this.

If you’re with someone you think you may want to marry, couples counseling could help you work through any discrepancies in your beliefs about the biggies. Counseling isn’t just for couples who fight all the time! In fact, the class my husband and I took before we got married was hugely beneficial, for the communication-skills-building aspect alone. I highly recommend it.

There’s someone else

This is kind of obvious, but for me it wasn’t, because the “someone else” was my best friend and we had a very complicated start to our relationship (and, consequently, very confused emotions). So listen up: If there’s someone else you have feelings for – strong feelings that keep creeping up – it’s a good sign you’re not with the right person. Even if the “other” person isn’t “the one,” strong feelings toward someone else is usually a sign that the one you’re with isn’t satisfying an integral need you have.

So while this isn’t necessarily a sign that you should never marry the person you’re with, listen to it anyway. Figure out what it means, and if you really want to be with the person you’re already with, be honest about your feelings and use it to work on your own relationship. What are you missing? Is it something you can live without, or that you and your partner can work on improving together? If so, that’s awesome; time could erase the feelings you have for that person outside your relationship.

But if not? Don’t get married – and let the other person know you’re out as soon as possible. Your future self (and eventually, your partner, even if not out loud) will look back and say, “Wow, we’d be divorced by now.” You know in your heart what you need, so listen to your instincts. You only live once, and you owe it to both you and your partner to make sure that life is the most fulfilling it can possibly be.

(Image via Sony Pictures Classics)

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