I performed an Internet search for topics related to marriage and specifically the term “marriage” and the vast majority of the pictures were of weddings and all of the things we associate with weddings, like engagement and wedding rings, cake and cake toppers, wedding gowns, bouquets, bridal parties, etc. I decided to do a little digging through social media and blogs to see what people are saying about marriage and what they seem to be focused on when the topic is addressed. Interesting enough the focus is overly directed towards the engagement ring, wedding ring, ceremony and reception, bridal party, and then there’s a gloss over of the actual union of marriage. Even when I typed in “same-sex marriage”, nothing but pictures of weddings appeared. I really had to dig to find content that focused on couples and family, not on the pomp and ceremony that leads to marriage.
Which means that wedding industry professionals have done an awesome job of marketing and selling the wedding to us, while the embarrassing divorce rates prove that our families and society as a whole have done a lousy job of embedding the principles, practices, and expectations of marriage—so that we don’t enter and exit it so casually.
Ring the alarm! Weddings versus marriage. There is a huge difference folks!
Pictures 1 through 4 above represent weddings. While pictures 5 through 8 reflect the layers of marriage.
Some of you are overly consumed by the wedding ceremony but aren’t ready for the long-term commitment of marriage. It’s not the ring, it’s the union. It’s not the cake, food, dj, choreographed dances, bachelor and bacherlorette parties, or the gifts. It’s about the union. It’s not the titles you will earn as a “husband” or “wife”, it’s the union. Some of you want the glitz and glamour but don’t plan for or want to put in the work required for marriage. You want romance novel cookie-cutter, special, dynamic, and/or unique, but think it’s going to be effortless.
Disillusioned are we?
Spend some quality time (several months) in premarital counseling (and checkups every few months after you’re married) and work out the kinks, connect the dots, explore the possibilities and unknowns, and dive deep into what you BOTH need and want in marriage. It’s important to discover how you both see and define marriage and your respective roles within it.
Prepare yourselves for the biggest commitment of your life. Walking blindly into it is one reason why millions of us are now divorced.
Don’t take the stance of “we’ll figure that out when we get to that bridge”. The problem with that is you may find yourselves not able to even cross the bridge when that time comes, or at least, not together. Put everything out on the table upfront, before you say “I do”.
Want kids or not? If so, how many and when? What are the expected household and career roles you two will assume? What will your social life be like as a married couple? What are your views about relocating to another state/country? Do you expect your family to follow your religious beliefs? What’s the rules about in-laws? Who’s the best money manager between the two of you, and how will your money be managed? How will you deal with infidelity?
Get it all out there so you can truly see if you’re compatible, equally yoked, and have what it takes (and are willing to invest what is needed) to thrive in your marriage. Don’t just rush for a bridal magazine or zoom over to your dream store to set up a bridal registry. Sit down and have a partners meeting with the person who you’re planning to be a life partner with, and plan for your future together, not just obsess over a 1-8 hour event that will put most of you in debt and fighting!
And if marriage isn’t a partnership in your opinion but it is to your significant other, the two of you need to seriously sit down and talk because that’s a recipe for a short and/or extremely painful marriage. If you don’t want children but they do, neither of you will win trying to convince (or manipulate) the other to change their mind. If your significant other refuses to show you how they are doing financially, show you their debt and assets, then something is wrong. That’s a red flag pointing you in directions that you surely don’t want to explore. If you’re big on monogamy but your significant other thinks that it’s not normal to be faithful in all ways to one person, Houston you have a problem. If you’re expecting to receive an engagement ring and/or wedding ring that costs and looks like the amount spent to purchase a luxury car or house, but your significant other thought it would be more symbolic and romantic to give you an heirloom ring their mother or grandmother wore, you may not see eye to eye about this and other financial matters.
Address it now.
I see people starting their marriages eyeballs high in debt from a wedding that both of them probably didn’t even eat at because they were too busy entertaining everyone else to really enjoy themselves. That’s ridiculous. Guess what? It’s usually one of the first huge fights you have as a married couple. That’s because from the very beginning you both weren’t on the same page, thinking and planning as partners, and preparing for a long future together. You got caught up in the wedding storm and lost your everlasting mind.
Those magazines, wedding registries, wedding vendors, and your twenty-plus member bridal party will still be there after the two of you have had some serious grown folks conversations. Remember, the magazines, registries, vendors, and your bridal party members won’t be there to build your marriage—and they can’t do anything to save it when it takes a hit. It’s going to require the two of you to fight for your marriage, and that first starts with you defining what marriage means and will be for you as a couple.
We need to learn to take marriage seriously, enter it with our eyes wide open and fully aware and fully informed, and committed to whatever terms that we agree to with our significant other. If we can’t or won’t do that, then what’s the point in getting married? If all you want is the image of marriage (the material and symbolic things) then play house (the adult version to our childhood game) but don’t get married. Let’s stop making a mockery of something so powerful and beautiful.