Mailvox: On Marriage

Gypsy asks: Does anyone out there feel that marriage is worth it?

A marriage to the right person is worth it. A marriage to the wrong person is not. How does one decide who the right person is? Aye, there’s the rub.

This is not to say that the question is impossible to determine, only that it requires a certain amount of analytical detachment about the relationship that is difficult for most people. Some of the more important factors for a man to consider, in my opinion, are as follows:

1. Is she a woman of genuine faith? A woman who seriously believes that marriage is a sacrament, be she Christian, Jew or Muslim, will have a very different view of the commitment and the institution than a secular or casually religious woman. As a Christian, I would not consider marrying a non-Christian woman for a moment. For the irreligious men, I see no purpose in marrying whatsoever – why put yourself at serious risk for a sacrament in which you do not believe? If you’re doing it simply because she demands it, you’re starting the relationship off down two touchdowns already.

2. Does she accept the notion of personal responsibility? A woman who is constantly blaming others for her problems in life will soon begin to see her husband as the source of all her problems. These women always blame whoever they are around the most instead of themselves – if she’s constantly complaining about her coworkers or her family, don’t even continue to date her. If you do, you’ll soon find her bitching about you.

3. Are you comfortable with her? Space Bunny got a little annoyed with me when I once compared her to an old shoe, until she realized that I refuse to give up my old shoes until the soles have been replaced three times, they have holes everywhere and at least one is missing laces altogether. And even then, she has to throw them out over my protests. If the two of you can’t contentedly spend several hours in the same room together without talking or otherwise interacting, you may not be comfortable enough with one another.

4. Can she entertain herself? Men need their downtime. This becomes problematic if she sees your free time as a violation of her time with you. Space Bunny doesn’t want to see or talk to me before 10 AM and she always requires two hours alone in the evening. I am delighted to provide her with that time… it should be obvious when I get much of my writing done. The time we spend together is then mutually enjoyed, even if it involves watching a ridiculous chick show on E! or a diatribe about Greenspan’s latest idiocy.

5. Does she genuinely put the interests of others first? I love a beautiful, self-centered drama queen as much or more than the next guy, but I would NEVER want to marry one. They’re fun to watch… from a distance. Keep your distance.

6. Do your friends and family think she’s good for you? All of my friends were very pro-Space Bunny, even the ones who didn’t have much use for her personally. My mother shouted “I got my girl!” and pumped her fists when we told my parents we were getting married. Those around you are not blinded by the rose-tinted lenses of infatuation and will often have a better read on her true personality than you do. If you find yourself defending her by saying things like “oh, but you just don’t know her” you are flirting with long-term trouble.

7. Does she attempt to control you? This tendency will only get worse with marriage, so any sign of this in a dating relationship is a red flag. Women have a strong maternal instinct and have a hard time grasping that men loathe being mothered; can she back off when you need her to?

8. Does she treat you with respect, in public and in private? If she does, this is an excellent sign. If she’s always putting you down, just “giving you a hard time”, “keeping you in your place” “just in fun”, find someone else. Marriage is not a buddy cop movie.

9. Are you in agreement in the larger issues? If she wants kids and you don’t, forget it. If she wants to keep up with the Joneses and you want to save for the future, there is a seed of much future conflict already embedded in the relationship.

10. Finally, do you know her? Really, truly know her? Do you know why she overreacts to stupid little things, why she wrinkles her lip in contempt at the TV screen, and why her favorite movies – appalling though they might be – appeal to her? Do you know what she hopes her future will hold, even if she can’t articulate it? It’s not always about a mansion on the sea, it can be something so mundane that the mere knowledge that was her dream will devastate you.

Marriage and family are definitely good things. But they are important things, and not to be entered into lightly. If you are so fortunate as to find the right woman, don’t let shallow concerns get in the way, pursue her and see it through. If neither you nor those close to you have any serious doubts, it is likely the right decision.