Think back to the days leading up to your marriage. Were you young and carefree? Were you desperately seeking Mr./Ms. Right? Were you independent, self-sufficient or still searching to define yourself? Looking back retrospectively as adults to uncover the reasons why our marriages failed is easy, because we can be objective as we reflect upon the reasons we chose the wrong partner. It's a bit more challenging, however, when you're caught-up in the excitement of planning a wedding and building a future with Mr./Ms. Right Now.
As a family law mediator and divorce coach, I'm privileged to be privy to the many discussions between clients describing the reasons for the demise of their marriage. It's cathartic for most, who often need to identify the reason or reasons for their failed marriage. Interestingly, many of my clients come to the surprising conclusion that it's not all necessarily attributable to the other person, but rather, their own fault for selecting the wrong person to marry in the first place.
According to Marie Hartwell-Walker, Ed.D., author of "5 Reasons Not to Marry the One You Love," there are a number of mistaken reasons that people decide to get married. "Marriages that are a conscious or unconscious way out of a difficult situation don't have the staying power that comes with mature love, shared values and a commitment to the future by two mature adults." A happily-ever-after marriage requires "a union of two complete and whole adults who love each other deeply, unselfishly, and respectfully and who share a commitment to keep their wedding vows." Could it be that sometimes we are just too young emotionally to marry?
Kimberly Dawn Neumann created a list of "10 Questions to Ponder Before Saying 'Yes,'" including (1) Is the timing right? (2) Why this person? and (3) Is marrying this person in line with your lifelong goals? Reading through Neumann's list helps to focus on the relationship itself, and evaluate whether the decision to marry is based upon sound reasoning.
While there are many right reasons we marry the right person, there are also many wrong reasons we marry the wrong one. Before you say, "Yes," consider the following top five wrong reasons we decide to marry the wrong person, ultimately resulting in divorce:
1. Next Step. We've been dating a long time, and this is the next step. The length of a relationship is not a measure of it's long-term success.
2. Peer Pressure. All of my friends are getting married ... it's time. Feeling left out of the group may feel awkward, but is not a good reason to jump into marriage.
3. Settling. I don't think I'll do any better. It may sound cliché, but if you don't respect and love yourself, it will be difficult to respect and love another person.
4. Behavior Modification. After we get married, I can force the other person to change. A marriage certificate is not a license to force your partner to modify his/her behaviors!
5. Money. He/She will be a good provider or comes from a good family. There's a lot of truth in the old saying, "If you marry for money, you'll pay for it." Though having money certainly doesn't hurt, it's not the basis for a solid relationship and won't hold together a bad union.
Naturally, most couples planning to stroll down the aisle aren't thinking about consulting with a family law mediator or divorce coach prior to popping the question or accepting the proposal! However, if you see yourself in any of the above "wrong reasons" list, think twice before committing to your betrothed, and save yourself from a lengthy, expensive, and emotionally-draining future divorce proceeding.