Thursday, June 23, 2011
Link Thursday: How Not To Marry The Wrong Guy
I'm particularly drawn to the first 'rule' - Don't just dismiss his past. Like the naive, green romantic I was back then (and for God's sake, I was 17!), I thought I'd be the one who'd change him, make him settle. And would you believe, like the article says, that lasted only 18 months before we started falling apart at what I then realised was botched-up seams? Too late though, at least for me...
So I learned by experience - but that doesn't mean you also have to! Neither does your heroine if you're writing one. And this article is a great primer for finding out how and why a couple should mesh - great tips for conflict and characterization in your book.
The article is from MSN Love & Relationships, and is written by Celeste Perron. You can find it online here.
Read on and open your eyes, ladies!
How Not to Marry the Wrong Guy
You've met a great man — wahoo! — and it's serious enough to imagine getting hitched. But is it possible to know if it'll last forever and (almost) always make you happy? Experts reveal six key factors you should consider.
By Celeste Perron
Lately, it seems like you can't open your Web browser without seeing some headline about a famous married couple calling it quits. And while it's no surprise when Charlie Sheen's latest union implodes, you'd think that super-together stars like Sandra Bullock and Kate Winslet would be able to pick winners. How is it that a woman can pledge eternal love in front of all her family and friends and then discover that she's mistaken about the man?
In a recent Cosmo survey, nearly two-thirds of readers reported being worried about making a bad choice and winding up divorced. But experts say you can protect yourself from that fate if you evaluate your relationship pre-engagement according to a few important elements. "There absolutely are ways to judge if a man is marriage-worthy and reduce the chances you'll pick the wrong partner," says marriage and family therapist Terri Orbuch, Ph.D., a sociology professor at the University of Michigan. "Considering these points will help you understand whether you and he have similar underlying values and whether you'd be getting married for the right reasons." Here are six things you should do to help determine whether your boyfriend is the love of your life or possibly your future ex-husband.
Don't Just Dismiss His Past
Is there a chapter of your boyfriend's history that bothers you because it so doesn't sound like the guy you know? Then you need to decide if your relationship could survive a repeat, because odds are good that old habits will return.
"The best predictor of his future behavior is his past behavior," says Orbuch. If his relationship history is a sordid tale of flings and bitter exes, it's tempting to think that you're the one woman fabulous enough to reform him.
"But when a man acts poorly in multiple unions, it's usually for deep-seated reasons that are going to persist," says Elizabeth Lombardo, Ph.D., a psychologist in Wexford, Pennsylvania. "He might be able to treat you well during the 'passionate love' stage, which usually lasts about 18 months, but after that, he'll likely start slipping into his old ways."
That said, people can change -- many of today's family guys wearing Baby Bjorns at the farmers market were serious players at 22. But here's where it gets tricky: You need to figure out if the sleazeball chapter of his past was specific to that stage of his life or if the traits he exhibited then are hardwired into his personality and just buried for now. "To find out, ask him what behaviors he considers to be a violation of trust, and tell him what your expectations are," says Orbuch.
If he's done things in the past that don't meet your standards for marriage, grab the bull by the horns and bring it up. Ask him to explain why he did what he did. If the reasons he gives are related to specific situations that no longer apply (say, he used to party too much because he lived with a bunch of his frat brothers after college), that's a strong sign that it was just a temporary thing. But if the triggers for his past bad actions could easily be present again once you're married -- he used to party too much because he was stressed -- it might mean that those habits are part of who he will always be.
Own Up to What You Need
So you love that your guy is a foodie or a stylish dresser. That's all great, as long as you're not so dazzled by those qualities that you overlook the fact that he's lacking more important ones.
"I tell my clients to draw a big circle with a smaller one inside it and then fill the inner circle with four or five qualities they absolutely need a husband to have, like sharing their views of religion, family or money," says Lombardo. "Then they fill the larger circle with nice-to-haves. You should look for a partner who has all the inner-circle qualities and a few of the outer ones, not the other way around."
As you look over his qualities, consider whether they have downsides and if you can handle them. For instance, you might love that he has a hot career as a consultant, but if his job requires lots of travel, will his success compensate for his absence from your life? If you have a huge group of friends, it might not be an issue, but if you're a homebody who prefers to end each day snuggled on the couch with your honey, you won't be happy with a marriage in which he is always traveling.
Take Off Your Future-Goggles and See Him as Is
Say he's an MBA student with big plans to become a CEO. Will you feel just as lucky to have him if student-loan bills are the only concrete result of that degree? "Remember that you're marrying the guy he is now, not the man he might be one day," says couples therapist Jennifer Gauvain, coauthor of How Not to Marry the Wrong Guy. "It's great to be attracted to his passion, because that will stay consistent, but don't get attached to a certain potential career or financial outcome."
You need to be okay with the possibility that the rest of the world won't be as convinced of his talents as you are. "This is key because frustration with the difference between what you expected and the reality you got is one of the leading sources of marriage unhappiness over time," says Orbuch.
And if money worries are driving your quest for a ring, slam on the breaks. According to Gauvain, the desire for financial security is one of the main reasons women get hitched to the wrong guy. "Many women have told me that they were attracted to marriage because they felt like they were floundering and thought a joint income would help," she says. Adds Lombardo, "But there are plenty of wealthy couples who aren't happy."
Beware His Family Dynamics
Depending on how close he is to his family, it's not just him you're marrying. And while you might be able to ignore them now, his family will play a big role in your life once you're hitched. Remember that these people will be not be just at your wedding but also at roughly half your future holidays, at the hospital when your children are born and quite possibly on your sofa for extended visits.
"You don't need to love each other's families, but you need to be on the same page about how much you'll include them in your lives," says Gauvain. "Take a hard look at his family traditions and how often he and his family see each other and communicate." If your family gathers for dinner every Sunday night but his has only a spotty record of celebrating Thanksgiving, your very different ideas of what family means will probably cause some problems.
This doesn't mean you have to rule him out, but you do need to talk about it and find a compromise. "Lay out expectations ahead of time so you understand what you're getting into," says Orbuch. If he has his family on a pedestal when the only raised platform they belong on is Dr. Phil's stage, that could be a problem. "It's okay if you don't see eye-to-eye with them all the time, but he can't put his family first or always side with them in disagreements," says Gauvain. "You should put each other first."
If There's No Spark, Forget It
With all this talk of shared values, don't forget this primal truth: There needs to be a sizzle. "In such uncertain economic times, it's easy for women to tell themselves that stability is more important than attraction, but you need chemistry for a relationship to work," says Gauvain.
Of course, if you've been together for years, you're not necessarily pinning each other down the minute you get in the door. But the urge to rip off each other's clothes should still strike on occasion. "Being successfully married means being more than best friends," says Lombardo. "Great sex won't make problems go away, but it can really cushion your relationship during the inevitable tough times."
Tear Up Your Bridal Timeline
"If you nudge her, a woman will often admit that there's a magic age she thinks she should be married by," says Gauvain. Whether your number is based on beating your biological clock or more random factors, like how old your sister was when she got hitched, it can hold power over you and put you at a high risk of marrying the wrong guy as that birthday draws close.
"When women feel they're falling behind on their bridal timeline, they are more likely to settle for Mr. Almost Right," says Gauvain. "They're scared of having wasted precious time, so they stick with guys they normally wouldn't." To make sure that such fears aren't driving your decision, ask yourself if you would still be with him if you were younger. If your answer isn't a strong "Absolutely!" then recognize your urge to put a ring on it for what it is: fear of falling behind on your timeline and being alone.
If a desire to have kids is freaking you out, know that the traditional marriage sequence has gone the way of the VCR. Now, few people bat an eye if you get knocked up by a BF or have a baby solo. "Women should trust that kids will happen for them one way or another, and marrying the wrong guy isn't the best way to get there," says Gauvain.
Are Your "Cold Feet" Normal or Not?
How do you tell if your jitters are just a fleeting thing or your intuition trying to tell you you're making a mistake? Pay attention to when your anxiety strikes -- is it during wedding talk or when you're talking about him? "When you're about to be married, talking about your fiancé should fill you with calm and happiness," says Lombardo. "It's natural to be nervous about the wedding but not about the groom."
And another thing: "You should not be asking yourself or your friends 'How do I know if he's The One?'" she adds. "If after giving it thought you're still not sure your guy is The One, he probably isn't."
A Cool Sign
A recent study found that couples who laugh and smile when they retell how they met are statistically way less likely to end up divorced.
SOURCE: University of Washington Study
From Mauritius with love,