I want to give you a few facts about marriage that you should understand before you engage in this institution. This article is broken into two parts; first, we will examine the evidence and review findings from recent research papers about marriage. Next, I will share a few pearls I have learned almost 10 years into my marriage.
THE EVIDENCE SHOWS MARRIAGE IS GREATLY UNDERRATED
MARRIAGE WILL LIKELY INCREASE YOUR LIFESPAN:
Overall, there remains a positive relationship between being married and health, which is consistent across different cultures and countries, with poorer health being observed in those who are widowed, unmarried and single. One caveat, however, is the fact that you are more likely to gain weight as a married couple. (Tatagenlo et al, 2017). However, the age when men and women gain weight may be different. It may even occur in different decades. You have to decide whether or not you are willing to deal with it.
YOU ARE MORE LIKELY TO BE MENTALLY SOUND IF YOU ARE MARRIED:
Although the physical benefits to marriage are often touted, there is evidence that marriage also reduces the risk of poor mental health and thus all-cause mortality. In short, those who are married have been shown to have fewer hospital admissions, shorter hospital stays, and are less likely to move into a nursing home. You are less likely to die alone. (Tatagenlo et al, 2017)
MEN APPEAR TO BENEFIT MORE FROM MARRIAGE THAN WOMEN:
Now, this appears to be counter-intuitive given that women seem more eager to get married compared to men. Evidence shows that men appear to derive greater health benefits from marriage than women. This is likely related to gender roles which are implicit in our culture with women being the de-factor caregivers for the family.
Interestingly young men who suffered early life conditions experienced less mortality when married compared to their unmarried cohorts. However, young women who suffered those same conditions did not experience the same benefit of decreased mortality. I wondered why when I read this and the only reason I could come up with was the fact that women mature a lot earlier than men and are therefore just better equipped to deal with those “early life conditions”.
YOUR CHILDREN WILL EXPERIENCE BETTER HEALTH IF YOU ARE MARRIED:
Previous generations can have a significant impact on the health of future generations. Children of married couples appear to have better health than the children of unmarried couples. Likely because they see these healthy behaviors emulated in their homes at a young age. (Tatagenlo et al, 2017).
WOMEN, SPEAK YOUR MIND!
There is scientific evidence which shows that women who “self-silenced” during a conflict with their spouse have four times the risk of dying, compared with women who did not. (Tatagenlo et al, 2017).
YOUR SPOUSE WILL DISAPPOINT YOU AND YOU WILL DISAPPOINT THEM, GET OVER IT!:
You are not perfect, well neither is your spouse. Give each other room to make mistakes and grow. No one wants a perfect spouse but the beauty of marriage is the ability to grow and learn together.
DON’T TRY TO CHANGE YOUR SPOUSE, CHANGE HOW YOU RESPOND TO THEIR FLAWS:
The challenge with marriage is, the fact that it feels like you are trying to grow and mature under a microscope. The truth is, once you marry someone, they get to know all your insecurities, all your “tells”, all your weaknesses, your strengths, they witness all your screw ups and all your successes.
It is very difficult to trust one person with all that information. Consequently, some people try to withhold some of that information from their spouse in order to protect themselves. My advice to you is to pick someone that you can trust with all that information. Pick someone who accepts and covers your faults until you have matured enough to change them. For some people that takes a year for others, it takes 40 years. Are you willing to stay long enough to get a return on your investment?
YOU WILL BE CHANGED FOREVER:
Marriage is like no other contract because it is not a contract it is a covenant. Covenants are different because they are almost impossible to break. In marriage, I can guarantee that you will be challenged like never before even if you have been in a relationship with this person for a long time. I married my college sweetheart whom I had dated for over 4 years. And marriage was still a shock. “Who is this alien?” I thought. Funny thing is, he thought the same thing.
The premise of marriage is a game changer it because it changes your context. After marriage, you think everything will last forever including vices and weaknesses. One of the challenges I faced when I first got married was the “forever” problem. After I got married my spouse’s quirks which I tolerated before the wedding suddenly became unbearable because I feared I would have to deal with them “forever”. I made the mistake of trying to change these perceived faults as soon as possible. In an attempt to “whip us into shape” as they say. Well, let me tell you how terrible that was. It totally backfired and I ended up having some of my faults pointed out. It was a total waste of time.
Now almost 10 years into our marriage, I can honestly say it just doesn’t matter as much. Some of these faults have changed, some haven’t, others I totally forgot about. Frankly, I just stopped caring about changing him and just focused on changing my reaction to these perceived faults. Truth be told I have more faults than he does and I have been so busy working on my own faults that I stopped obsessing about his.
NEVER COMPARE YOUR MARRIAGE TO ANYONE ELSE’S:
No two marriages or relationships are the same. Never compare your relationship to someone else’s because you just don’t know enough even if you think you do. Perception and reality are usually completely different. Instead, focus on the things about your relationship that you want to change and work on them together (but you both have to agree it’s a problem). Otherwise, just work on you. The better you get at interpersonal relationships the more your marriage appreciates in value.
Marriage is not for wimps, it is hard and it takes some time to find your rhythm. Confounded by this is the fact that life happens in seasons. Some seasons are just more challenging than others. Although you are married, there is no guarantee that you will experience life in the same seasons. Sometimes my husband’s best seasons in his business are my toughest seasons at work but I must have the capacity to be happy for him and support him through that season.
Some people are more committed to their cell phone providers than their spouses. You may know that Sprint sucks but you are willing to tolerate them much more than you are willing to tolerate your spouse. You cannot be more committed to your 401k investment portfolio than you are to your marriage. Sometimes you are up other times you are down. The point is to put everything in context. Some tough seasons last for a month, others last for 10 years. The question is, how committed are you? Sometimes life will throw you some curveballs such as cancer, the death of a parent, depression, joblessness, infidelity, financial challenges, the death of a child etc, etc, etc. Hard times are a guarantee but whether or not your marriage will stand is not.
MARRIAGE IS NEVER 50–50:
This is one of the greatest misconceptions about marriage. Sometimes you will give 20%, other times you will give 70%. All that matters is that your marriage benefits from each spouse’s investment. Personally, my husband has given up so much to support my dream of becoming a physician. He has given up job opportunities, turned down business and deferred certain dreams to make my dream a possibility. Now as I near the completion of my training, we are making adjustments to maximize his opportunities.
LOVE ENTERS THROUGH THE EYES AND LEAVES THROUGH THE EYES:
I once heard this line in a movie “Love enters through the eyes and leaves through the eyes”. I thought it was really interesting. The challenge is finding someone who looks physically attractive and also looks good on paper. My advice is to focus on values more than looks. Yes, I know that you have heard this before but it bears repeating. Love is what remains after emotions associated with lust have worn out.
It is easier to change your looks than it is to change your character. Poor character will wreak your life and that of your children. Pick a spouse that will build you up, that will invest in your children and your family, pick a spouse who loves your parents, one who will stay even if you lost your job.
You need to pick someone with staying power. Staying power is hard to assess when dating casually but you need to ask specific questions about their lives. Ask to meet their friends, meet their parents. Watch how they interact with people less fortunate than them. How do they treat the homeless? , how do they deal with deficiencies? How do they deal with failure? At the end of the day, you cannot build your life with materials or equipment that have been untested. You need to make sure that they can withstand the storm before you use them as an anchor in your life.