Two essential questions to ask before you say “I do”

Recently I caused a minor facebook frenzy with the following comment:

 

It is my observation that marriage for my generation is irrelevant and represents the death of love. I have a few examples in my life that prove otherwise, which is beautiful and wonderful. What about you? What’s your experience?”

 

I will admit, I did this partially to provoke people. I knew it would strike a chord and married people would get defensive. I was curious to see what that defense would be, because honestly, I would rather my observation be inaccurate. No surprise, most responses had a lot to do with romantic notions of forever, family, and devotion. Those that said their marriage was thriving sited communication, honesty, and respect. This, though, was my favorite response of all:

 

“Marriage is not just a piece of paper. It is not a piece of paper to prove love. My husband proved that to me well before we got married — which is why we got married in the first place! However, it does open up a lot of options legally – think about health care decisions, financial combinations, term life decisions etc…”

 

Why my favorite? Because this is real. This has a purpose.

 

Since my divorce in 2009 I’ve kept a close eye on my views on marriage, observing any changes and fluctuations that might occur and why. In the midst of my divorce, I felt fairly certain I would never get married again. Not because I was bitter and jaded, and not because I didn’t want to have a family, but because marriage had lost its meaning to me.

 

I got married very young (age 25), and though in love, we hadn’t really spent any time discussing our motives for taking such a huge next step in our relationship. There was the practical consideration of me being able to stay in the U.S., and the idea of wanting to be together forever. Beyond that, we didn’t really look at the deeper currents of why, and consequently nor whether this move was truly in the greatest good for either of our lives.

 

Whether consciously or not, I think many people get married to hold on to that relationship and that person forever, no matter what, even if there are massive gaps in values, vision, and priorities. As though somehow, having that official certificate guarantees your idealized vision of love and that the person will be yours forever. Clearly, divorce rates indicate otherwise, but people still seem to think, for them it will be different.

 38 Dress

What happens all too often though, for my generation at least, is the paper gets signed and the relationship takes a nosedive. I know that is not the case for everyone, but it is strikingly common. I could probably write a 1000 page essay on this topic, there’s so much to it. But I am going to stick my neck out and say the main reason this occurs is because despite our social evolution, we still cling and grasp onto the romance saturated view of marriage that is fed to us through fairytales, both classic and contemporary. Our starving mind (our hearts are usually wiser) latches on to that idea and laps it up voraciously. Then we get married, and our socially evolved self revolts, does not want to accept the illusion of this arrangement, and suddenly, desperately, wants out.

 

Last year, I had the honor of officiating a wedding for a beloved student and friend (yes, that’s right, minister Sash). I had to be very thoughtful about it because I didn’t want to be a fraud standing up there, guiding two people into an institution for which I hadn’t yet made peace. So I asked the couple tying the knot to answer two questions for me (an assignment they had to do separately, without consulting each other).

 

Question #1) Why are you getting married?

 

Seems straight forward enough, but many people answer this question with something basically along the lines of, “I love this person, I want to be with them forever, and I want to build a family and life with them.” That is awesome! I say go for it, but guess what, you don’t need to be married to do any of those things (at least not in the Western world). Love and commitment are beautiful and wonderful, but you can be married and completely not committed. You can also be fully devoted and not married.

 

Dig deeper. What are some REAL reasons for making this massive commitment? I find the answers that are deeply spiritual, deeply traditional, and/or deeply practical to be the most compelling. If you and your spouse-to-be have those reasons in common, then there is a much more substantial backing to walking down the aisle than simply the forever story. You have no idea what life is going to hurl your way, but if you have super strong convictions about why marriage is essential to the progress and evolution of your relationship and life together, then you have a firm foundation to stand on.

 

Question #2) Why are you marrying this person?

 

Ok, here is where you get to be romantic and gushy. Still though, I encourage you to dig deep. What makes this person so highly unique and dear to you that you are willing to make a lifelong commitment to them? Get it all down. Be extremely personal, reflective, and specific. Then, when you hit those rough spots in your relationship, come back to this document and remind yourself what a precious being you have the privilege of sharing your life with.

 

Of course, there are many more questions to ask oneself, but this is not intended to be a guide on finding the right partner (when I figure that out I’ll get back to you ;). My intention is simply to draw your attention to two basic questions whose answers are often taken for granted rather than sincerely discussed.

 

Yes, I do believe in Love. I believe in commitment, I believe in family, and I believe that humans are meant to live their lives in togetherness, not isolation. I want love, I want babies, and I want to experience the crazy journey of being with someone for a very long time. Would I get married again? Only if the reasons for it truly make sense, and that if I decide to take that step with someone, that we have been openly thoughtful about it and see eye-to-eye and heart-to-heart on the why.

 

Take action now:

1)    Share your reaction to this article in the comments below.

2)    Send this to someone preparing to embark on the marriage journey. It might offer them a little guidance before taking the plunge. And share it on facebook! Maybe you can start a frenzy too (share button below).

 

Lots of Love,

Sasha

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Published by Sasha Marie Stone

Happiness Engineer at Automattic, work-from-home wellness expert, life coach, and dog mom.

9 thoughts on “Two essential questions to ask before you say “I do”

  1. Awesome post. I too got married very young (age 23). I told my husband when we pray started toying with the idea of “getting married” that I firmly believed that humans were not meant to be monogamous, and that I did not want to get married because signing my name on a piece of paper that would grant me rights that my uncle and countless other homosexuals do not have did not settle well with me. Eventually, we decided that although humans might not usually be monogamous beings, we did love each other and our relationship enough to claim that we were married under common law, as we had been living together for years and could benefit from it, so might as well give it our best shot. Laws started passing allowing homosexuals to marry and obtain those same rights, which helped me feel better about throwing a wedding I celebrate. Our wedding was a giant outdoor party and I can’t believe I almost did not have one. Another reason we got married is because we wanted to have kids, and it’s far more convenient in society to “be married” and have kids. Though, I did not take my husbands last name, which in my eyes is absolutely an outdated tradition that is NOT for me. I wasn’t giving up my family to join his, and denouncing my last name felt so wrong. We decided that neither of us were giving up our family to join the others, but that we were creating our own. SO it made the most sense to make up our own last name, which is just what we did. In Texas, it’s very expensive and difficult to change your last name legally if you’re a man. I guess they just can’t fathom why a MAN would change his last name (eyeroll). So for now, our daughter has our new last name, and eventually my husband and I will legally change ours. Sorry for the novel. Short story: I don’t much believe in marriage. Then i met Eric :-). Giving it our best shot. Sometimes we talk about certain scenarios where we break up, and what would happen. But I’ve never been in a more loving and pure relationship with anyone. I can imagine my life without him, but I sure don’t want to 🙂

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    1. Thanks so much for sharing your story. It sounds like you both have been very present throughout the course of your relationship. I’m so happy you have someone in your life you love and love to be devoted to. Very inspiring!

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  2. Olivia Harrison, George Harrison’s widow, said that when people asked her, “What’s your secret for a long marriage?” she answered, “Don’t get divorced.” Obviously, there are many situations where divorce is the best or only option, but I think what she meant was that any successful marriage requires sticking it out through thick and thin. Before I met Mike, I was in a ten-year relationship that I considered to be the same as a marriage, but there was a reason we never got married — we weren’t truly committed. Saying the vows in front of everyone and signing that paper can be that extra level of commitment, the public declaration that you are in this for the long haul. For Mike and me, it has not only made the tough times easier, but the good times sweeter as well.

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    1. Thank you for sharing Patty! I’m so happy that you and Mike found each other, and that you are equally committed. I believe in the significance of the ceremony and the vows as well. I suppose what’s important is to be with someone that believes in it as much as you do, because if not, it can easily fall apart. Your relationship is inspiring.

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  3. Hi Sasha: Life without love, isn’t worth living. I don’t “worry” about growing “older” and not being married. Managing my money right now, is more important. Money can buy friendship but money does not buy love. Love comes after two people develop a deep and understanding friendship. I have a woman I knew for three years, we have an open relationship. We’re romantic, and it gets very spiritual. When someone is so deeply in love with your body and soul, it seems like there is suffering that has to be dealt with. She prefers her independence, and I have to respect that. With physical love, there is suffering. I read some books from Osho about love. Love I think comes with respect and trust. Respect that you don’t need to worry about everywhere the other person goes. Trust that the other person will not “run off” on you and take everything you have. My older cousin told me “expect little or nothing from people”.

    Best,
    David

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    1. Thank you David for sharing your thoughts. I agree that respect and trust are essential in deepening love and intimacy.

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  4. LOVE this subject and your thoughts on it!!! As you know, I am on my second marriage. The first time I married for what I now think were the wrong reasons. Yes, I was in love, but I was also pregnant. There were red flags all over the place but I chose to get married because I wanted our daughter raised in a “traditional family” whatever the hell that means. In retrospect, I would have had a much happier nine years if I hadn’t gotten married but I also wouldn’t have had my son who came almost five years after our daughter. THIS time around, I chose very different. My now husband and I felt married long before we made it legal. He is my best friend, my lover and my partner. He makes me laugh and he has my back. Yes, we communicate incredibly well and we are also realistic about the ebbs and flows of a marriage and have made it a priority to “bottle” that feeling we had when we first fell in love. It takes A LOT of work but we do it and it’s worth it. I can totally see why your favorite response on Facebook was from the person who wrote about the practicalities of marriage. I 100% agree. If something were to happen to me, my husband would not be considered immediate family if we weren’t married. Being legally married makes life easier in a lot of ways when it comes to health insurance, travel, raising my kids, etc. Marriage, just like life, is a work in progress. Just because we are married doesn’t mean we’ve stopped being two individuals. Fundamentally we share the same values, political views, hopes and dreams. But we aren’t attached at the hip nor do we HAVE to agree on everything. It’s definitely nice to know that I have someone to grow old with…especially now that I’ve turned the big 5-0 and for the first time am actually thinking that far in advance. I don’t believe marriage is for everyone though, and it is something that should be discussed and negotiated before signing that marriage license and taking those vows.

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    1. Wendei!!! So great to hear from you and thanks so much for sharing your perspective. I remember your story as I found it inspiring when you shared it. I love what you say about how you and your current husband “felt married long before you made it legal.” In that sense, there are no expectations that the marriage is somehow going to solidify it and take things to the level you want them to be. You’re already there before making the formal and legal commitment to each other. Blessings to you! I hope all is well with you and your family.

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