“More men than women describe being married as their ideal state, and men who remain single fare far worse emotionally than do their female counterparts.” (Stephanie Coontz, marriage researcher and author, teacher at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington)
It used to be so simple. Most people got married because they wanted to have sex (in a non-clandestine sort of way), have a family (or had sex, and a family was on the way), and, in general, live life the way they knew it, and the way it was expected of them.
The Sexual Revolution made sex without marriage acceptable, or at least acceptable enough, when confronted with the incentive of lust. And if a man can take his girlfriend away for a weekend, why, exactly, should he marry her, given the many disadvantages of marriage? Financial commitments, the possibility of alimony and/or child support should the union fail, forced monogamy, in-laws, the constant presence of a demanding and emotionally mercurial wife – just a few of the disincentives to tying the knot.
Once the sex has lost its novelty, and becomes a habit or an obligation rather than a fantasy – and this process moves long distressingly quickly – a man should hope that he has chosen a lover who is a good partner for the long haul of life; first and foremost, a friend whose company he enjoys. And the question to ask may be – if you were never to have sex with this person, and had no obligation of any sort to them, would you regularly seek out their company?
Some other questions to ask? Why are we getting married rather than simply living together? In what way does the bond of marriage add to the value of the relationship?
Is this person a good partner for the business aspect of living together? It’s hard to be happy if you’re always arguing about money, or living in poverty or debt. Does the way this person spends money reflect a set of values which you both share? Are you being used as an ATM?
The most important thing a man and a woman do together is to create additional lives, yet it is amazing how many people get married without having clear ideas as to their expectations for becoming parents. How many kids do you want, if any? When do you want them? How will you raise them? What will each parents’ responsibilities be?
You’ll probably want to make sure that you share similar tastes in movies, TV, books, and music – after all, you’ll be spending thousands of hours with your mate in the same environment. And you’ll dine together at hundreds, perhaps thousands, of restaurants – doesn’t it matter if you like the same type of food?
Do you like cats? Dogs? Any allergies? Will they join you and your spouse in your new environment?
While I could touch upon much more esoteric questions, the day to day business of life boils down to, well, the day to day business of life – raising kids, making a living, shopping, walking the dog, fixing dinner. If you can’t enjoy doing these things with your partner, why, exactly, are you considering marriage?
Two final questions. Do you respect her? Do you like her? Think about all the marriages that you have known – your parents, your friends, co-workers – everyone you know. Ignore all the other possible factors – in marriages that have worked, did each spouse like the other? Respect the other? In all the ones that failed, was there an element of respect missing on each side? Did the husband and the wife genuinely like each other as people?
She can be the hottest babe in the world, with a joint inheritance from Bill Gates and the Sultan of Brunei. But if you have contempt for her, it won’t work in the long run. (Although the short run may be marvelous, and the eventual divorce quite profitable.)