Don’t Get Married Without Knowing These 3 Things

I tend to hate lists that substitute as articles. Buzzfeed may be fun eye-candy, but bullet points can never go particularly deep, you know?

But because this is a dating/relationship blog and because I vow to only give you the most thought-provoking and useful content from around the internet, I was struck by this short piece on Relevant Magazine (which is doing much better now that it’s rebranded from Obsolete Magazine).

It’s called “3 Things I Wish I Knew Before We Got Married” and, like most lists, it packs a good punch for its length.

1. Marriage Is Not About Living Happily Ever After

“Although happiness is often a very real byproduct of a healthy relationship, marriage has a far more significant purpose in sight. It is designed to pull dysfunction to the surface of our lives, set it on fire and help us grow.

Any dating advice that talks about how to do well with the opposite sex by being difficult, aloof, unpredictable, or intentionally challenging misses the mark. Give and ye shall receive.

When we’re willing to see it this way, then the points of friction in our marriages quickly become gifts that consistently invite us into a more whole and fulfilling experience of life.”

I do like to emphasize the happiness part of marriage, because that’s what gets you into it – the promise of being with someone who gets you, accepts you, and loves you despite your flaws. But what this author is saying is that you can never entirely escape yourself – and your flaws are never more exposed than they are in marriage. If you want to be a good partner, you have to own your flaws and work on being the best partner you can be, instead of pointing fingers about how your partner is always “wrong”.

This is why it’s SO important to choose a good, self-aware, communicative partner BEFORE you get married, instead of marrying out of love and HOPING you chose wisely.

2. The More You Give to Marriage, The More It Gives Back.

“For 31 days, I intentionally put my wife first over everything else, and then I tracked how it worked…Notably, on the days my wife genuinely felt valued, I observed her advocating for me to invest deeply in to my work. She no longer saw our relationship and my career pursuits as competitors for my attention, and as she partnered with me in my career, I have experienced the benefits of having the closest person in my life champion me.”

The more you give to marriage the more it gives backThe more you give to ANYTHING, the more it gives back. Put 50 hours a week into your work, and you’ll likely be very successful at work. But while we have the best intentions, we’re not always consistent with our time allocation. People with meaningful careers spend far more time at work than with their partners. People with kids spend far more time on their kids than together as a couple. To be successful at any endeavor in life, you have to prioritize it and give it some well-deserved time and attention. Which is why any dating advice that talks about how to do well with the opposite sex by being difficult, aloof, unpredictable, or intentionally challenging misses the mark. Give and ye shall receive.

3. Marriage Can Change the World

“Gary Ezzo and Robert Bucknam, the authors of Babywise, say it this way: “A healthy marriage creates an infused stability within the family and a haven of security for a child in their development process.” They go on to sum up their years of research by saying, “In the end, great marriages produce great parents.”

I’ve read Babywise and I read the John Medina book quoted in the article as well. And I’ve seen it play out in real life as well. When kids see their parents love each other, go out socially, show affection, quickly resolve conflict, and create an environment of stability, they internalize it as normal. When kids see parents yell, slam doors, call names, give the silent treatment, and break up, they internalize it as normal. Healthy relationships produce healthy children. Healthy children are more equipped for healthy relationships of their own when they’re adults.

While this list is far from comprehensive, I thought it was a thoughtful microcosm of what marriage is really about, instead of the dream of having sex and playing house that so many people seem to think it is.

Your comment below, as always, are appreciated.


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  1. 1

    Imagine that. Marriage is about more than how can I get what I want. Go figure.  Good stuff. :-)

  2. 2

    Wow!  A down to earth perspective on an over-idealized institution.  Awesome stuff.  Hoping this content reaches a wide circle.

  3. 3

    Wow, great points! My relationship with my now-fiance did exactly that: bubbled up the “true” me, and it wasn’t always a pretty picture. God bless my then boyfriend, he had trust that I will be the self-aware partner who is willing to work on her sh*t and get over my issues with trust, love and anger. Took me a few years – and I’m a much better person now, even though I’m still a work in process. I realized that I can either keep pointing fingers at my partner and give him a list of what’s “wrong” with him, or take a better look at myself and change the only thing I CAN change: my own behaviour

  4. 4

    Evan, good points and great start! Would love to see more articles like this. Now if we could only get the general population of single women (and men) to read, absorb, apply, then rinse and repeat .. :) I’m a firm believer that here are only types of people who enter a relationship: Those who ask “What will this relationship do for me?” and those who ask “What do I bring to this relationship?”. And we all know which one typically succeeds.  :) 

    1. 4.1

      How about first asking: “What are relationships about (?)”
      I don’t get the sense that a lot of people on this blog are very clear about that . . . 

      1. 4.1.1

        Maybe part of the reason is nobody wants to call it a relationship or dating. Nowadays it’s just hanging out because any other term might imply some level of commitment.

      2. 4.1.2

        Interesting question Malcom, but I think it’s sort of self-defining.
        A relationship is nothing more than a single term describing how two people relate to (interact with) one another. How they do this defines the relationship – hence the idea that the more each participant focuses on contributing the healthier the relationship.
        A healthy relationship requires that both people are contributing/healthy.

  5. 5

    I agree with much of what you said, but there are definite exceptions. If you are in a relationship with a narcissist, the more you give will be self-destructive and will not get you what you want. If you are in a relationship with a basically healthy person and you are a basically healthy person yourself, your advice can be sound. If you are a giver in a relationship with another giver, that’s great. However, takers look for givers and when this happens, the giver loses big time.

    1. 5.1

      I absolutely agree. if you give unselfishly to a narcissist, they view it as weakness and take more and more from you until you are an empty shell of a person. And divorcing a narcissist is pure hell. They will hurt their own children in order to hurt you.

  6. 6

    If you’re in a relationship with a narcissist, you should probably just get out of it…

    1. 6.1
      Karmic Equation

      I think women toss out the term “narcissist” and “emotionally unavailable” way more often than warranted. Men are selfish, so are women. When women want to “control” men they’re exhibiting a form of “narcissism” but we women don’t want to cop to that. And “emotionally unavailable” in men is equivalent to “needy” in women. But it’s okay for women to be needy?
      Unfortunately, most needy women end up with narcissistic men, or so it seems. I tend to think the men are simply being “selfish” and the needy women finds their selfishness intolerable, and hence he becomes a narcissist in her eyes.
      I do think most men are selfish, much more so, and in a much different way, than women are. Men who are selfish tend to think the world revolves around them. Whereas women who are selfish feel they’re entitled to whatever they desire. I can deal with some amount of selfishness in men as long as the guy is overall kind and good hearted (my ex-husband). I just roll my eyes and SMH when they go off the deep end with their self-centeredness. I’m not sure how men deal with entitled mentality in women. I think an entitlement complex is much more difficult to ignore than self-centeredness.

      1. 6.1.1
        Evan Marc Katz

        “Men who are selfish tend to think the world revolves around them. Whereas women who are selfish feel they’re entitled to whatever they desire.”

        Great observation, Karmic!

      2. 6.1.2

        I think men and women can act pretty entitled. Hell, look at the commenters here. Too many 50 year old men who feel they are entitled to a partner 20-30 years younger than them. Too many women feel they are entitled to a man who pulls 6 figures.

        Entitlement is not a gendered emotion. 

        1. SparklingEmerald

          Yes !  It’s a human thing, not a gendered thing, but since most people date members of the OPPOSITE sex (unless you are part of that 10% who are bi or gay), we only see these things in the opposite sex.  
          However, I think sometimes a desire for something gets called an “entitled” attitude, and that’s not really an accurate assessment.   Most people naturally have a desire for love, and will seek that out.  That is normal.  When that desire is not fulfilled, it’s disappointing.  That is normal.  People generally pursue what they desire, be it love, a career in music, a high end home, etc.  Sometimes people put their best efforts in their pursuit, and still don’t get the love, lucrative career, or whatever it was they were pursuing.  When their best efforts fail, they are naturally disappointed.   Just because someone feels DISAPPOINTED, doesn’t mean they felt entitled, just disappointed.
          Sometimes it makes sense to stop pursuing something, if it constantly eludes you and leads to endless disappointment.  It makes sense to find something else to pursue, perhaps something that’s more  in your reach, something that won’t leave you endlessly frustrated and feeling like a failure.  Perhaps something that’s akin to your original desire, but not exactly it.  
          I  think that thinking in terms of “entitled” is ineffective.  I think sometimes accusing someone of having an entitlement attitude is mistaking their disappointment for entitlement.
          If someone studied music for years, played low paying gigs in clubs, followed up on endless leads,  and finally decided that it was time to stop pursuing a career as a music performer and maybe get another career in the music industry, they would be disappointed.  Doesn’t mean they felt ENTITLED to be a famous rock star or whatever, but they do feel SAD that even with all of their best efforts, they just couldn’t make THAT dream come true and ended up settling for a lesser or different life path.  It’s rather cruel IMHO, to frame that person’s disappointment as an entitlement attitude, or to tell them that it’s their own damn fault that they never made it as a musician because they did this, that, or the other thing wrong and that they should STFU.

        2. Karmic Equation

          You’re doing your usual bit in making strawman arguments. Disappointment is disappointment. Entitlement is entitlement. You’re making the argument that I don’t know the difference between disappointment and entitlement. I happen to have a great grasp of the English language and know the distinction quite well.  You need to save the English lesson and lectures for the person who continually, and wrongly, substitutes the word “weather” for “whether”.
          Of course men and women can both act entitled. That doesn’t negate the truth of how men are “narcissistic” versus how women are “narcissistic”. Men and women TYPICALLY are selfish/self-centered in the way I described in 6.1.
          But women RARELY even own up to be being narcissists because they feel that the ONLY qualification for narcissism is in the “world revolves around him” attitude. Women do NOT think “feeling entitled” is being selfish. All I’m saying is that yes, acting/feeling entitled IS a form of selfishness. Taken to extremes, this is the FEMALE form of narcissism.
          Until women stop acting/feeling entitled, she needs to stop throwing stones at the male narcissist’s glass house. She needs to recognize that she lives in a glass house herself.

        3. SparklingEmerald

          KE, I wasn’t talking to you, I was talking to Julia. I was responding to her post, and then giving my general thoughts, and they had NOTHING to do with YOU.
          It’s not always about you, the world does not revolve around you.
          Please stop responding to my posts.  I wasn’t trying to start an argument with YOU, I was generally responding to the discussion, and I was really thinking about the general comments I hear from MEN, about how women feel entitled to this that or the other.  (Such as “post wall” women still feel “entitled” to sexual attention from men) and also women talking about how men feel “entitled” to younger women, when really, some men just desire younger women, so naturally pursue that.
          Your vitriol towards me is ridiculous.  And your assumption that everything I say is about you indicates that maybe YOU are the big narcissist on this board. Take your hate out on someone else.

        4. Karmic Equation

          SE,I’m not the one with vitriol, Darling SE. We both know who threw the f-bombs at whom with PM in the Forum, don’t we? On this blog, I NEVER ALLUDE to you in any of my posts. When I think you’re wrong or when I feel you’re casting unwarranted aspersions on me, then I have every right to address you. And I’m not afraid to do so DIRECTLY. Nor do I put words in your mouth. NOR do I twist what you write. Yet you have done that to me MULTIPLE times, indirectly as well as directly. And I let most of those posts pass. I didn’t feel like letting this one go.

          Let’s get something straight. I have never “agreed” to not to respond to your posts on this BLOG. I OFFERED to not to respond to your threads in the FORUM. That promise I’ve abided by. So again, please do NOT twist what I promised. I keep my promises.

          You may ask me not to respond to your posts, but if I disagree with your position, I have as much right to disagree as you have to post your original position. In other words, you’re not entitled to my silence even if you believe I’m a narcissist.

        5. SparklingEmerald

          If you thought I was talking to you, you were wrong.
          I was giving my general thoughts on entitlement, a word and issue that gets discussed in this blog ALOT, on dating forums in general, not something that you have been the sole opinion giver on.
          So because you  wrongly THOUGHT I was talking to you when I wasn’t you get to bully me ?  Don’t think so.
          And next time you think I’m talking to you, think again. I’m not talking to you, unless it is to respond to one of your frequent personal attacks against me.    I don’t respond to your texts, but I will NOT refuse to give my thoughts on a subject, just because YOU may have given your opinion on a subject that many others have given an opinion on.  
          I give my thoughts on random subjects, that come up time and time again, in the collective consciousness of the dating blog universe.  Just because you are ONE of those many voice contributing to the collective conversation online, doesn’t mean I’m talking to YOU.
          The world doesn’t revolve around you.

        6. Karmic Equation

          Oh…So now I’m a bully in addition to being a narcissist?
          Can you not debate nor defend yourself without resorting to ad hominem attacks?
          Whether or not you were addressing me in your post is not the point, but of course that is the point you want to stick to because that is the only leg you have to stand on and the only part of my reply that allows YOU to continue to attack ME and DEFLECT from the fact that created a strawman argument.
          I asked you to stop twisting my words and putting words in my mouth many times. A perfectly reasonable request. Yet you are STILL doing it right here! I’ve NEVER said you couldn’t provide your viewpoint. Your responses have implied that I’ve “bullied” you against that. Please show me any post I’ve made to anyone to tell them to stop posting. And I can probably point out at least two threads where you’ve told ME to “stop” writing. A very UN-reasonable request on an open blog.
          Just because you don’t like to have your posts challenged doesn’t make the person challenging your position a bully. If you don’t want a person to defend themselves passionately or strongly, you ought to consider refraining from ad hominem attacks that incur that kind of passionate response. Debate or defend the points. Ad hominem attacks don’t strengthen your position on the topics being debated, but definitely ensures bad blood, and puts to question your maturity and character even while your strawman arguments puts to question your intelligence.

    2. 6.2

      Preferably before you have children. I am in co-parenting hell with a narcissist who earns a good six-figure income and doesn’t even want to pay his half of our child’s orthodontia bill which is the law. I had to email him with a link to the court document that explains the law and the consequences for not following the law in order to get him to pay. 

  7. 7

    I meant to refer to 5, although guess 6 may be the outcome related to it, its easy to label, its far less easy to understand when you truly care for the other person and they just don’t see or can’t change. I’ve done lots of research, talking, listening, giving and it just never gets better. But the article is on point… know and expeerince don’t just love n hope.

  8. 8

    Evan, while I don’t believe you would agree with Mr. Walsh politically, I think you would agree with him on this point. I wish I had been taught this before I was married.  I know my mother respects my father but I was the kind of kid who was always hiding and keeping to myself so I can’t say I was very observant.  Anyway I believe this goes along with what you have been saying to women.

    1. 8.1

      Very good article Starthrower.  Thanks for posting it.  I don’t share Matt Walsh’s religious views, but I think what he writes about marriage is excellent.  (I have read lots of his stuff) Personally, if anyone thinks their significant other is not worthy of being respected or cherished, they shouldn’t get married to begin with. 
      When I used to work a second job at retail, I would see women treat their men with utter disrespect at the check out line, then give me a look, like I’m supposed to join in their disrespect and together  “we girls” can gang up on her man. 
      It took every ounce of strength I had to not roll my eyes at HER, as I was ringing up their purchases.  Usually, if the wife would say something bitchy like, “I have to come with him to buy his shirts,  if I let him pick out his own clothes, he’d dress real dorky” (or some such thing).    I’d usually just blank stare her for a moment, and then ask, “Will this be cash or charge ?”.   I think I even caught a glimpse of a thank you look on the disrespected spouse’s face. 

      1. 8.1.1

        SparklingEmerald, while it’s commendable that you didn’t fall into the “joke” at the husband’s expense, you’re doing the classic “I’m a better woman then other women because I get men” that kind of drives me crazy. As a woman, we shoudn’t support the use of words like “bitch or bitchy” since they are words ment to degrade women just as thet spouse was degrading her husband.  
        “Us girls” shouldn’t gang up on men but we shouldn’t gang up on each other either.
        Also, you do understand that Walsh’s views on marriage are in direct correlation to his relgious beliefs right? Alot of what Walsh talks about around marriage is stuff they teach in the church. Not to say that you have to believe in the same belief to follow the relationship advice. It’s simply to point out that it’s thoughts on how we should be treating each other are rather deeply connected to his religion. 

        1. Karmic Equation

          I disagree AllHeart.
          “Bitchy” is a behavior. Men can be bitchy too. We just don’t use that term, but rather “jerk” or “douchebag”…or the ever popular’ “emotionally unavailable”. Some adjectives have female connotations, others have male ones. But the adjectives are unisex, unless one is too focused on gender issues.
          I think women should focus not acting/being bitchy…rather than worry about the words, because a the language is wonderful…a new word will be invented to take it’s place.  
          Stop the behavior and the adjectives magically disappear from the vernacular.

        2. starthrower68

          Well that would make sense as believers are called to “love one another”.  Unless it only counts if it’s a secular idea. :-)

        3. SparklingEmerald

          Allheart asked me  . . .
          “Also, you do understand that Walsh’s views on marriage are in direct correlation to his relgious beliefs right?”
          and now I would like to ask Allheart . . .
          You did read the part of my post where I said  ” I don’t share Matt Walsh’s religious views, but I think what he writes about marriage is excellent. ”
          If I happen to agree with a particular point someone makes (such as treat your spouse with respect)  then I agree with that particular point, even if I don’t share that person’s religious, political or philosophical views.  I also don’t care what gender is doing the disrespecting.  Disrespect is disrespect no matter which direction it flows.

  9. 9
    Misty Gilbert

    loved these two thoughts:

    Although happiness is often a very real byproduct of a healthy relationship, marriage has a far more significant purpose in sight. It is designed to pull dysfunction to the surface of our lives, set it on fire and help us grow.

    When kids see their parents love each other, go out socially, show affection, quickly resolve conflict, and create an environment of stability, they internalize it as normal. When kids see parents yell, slam doors, call names, give the silent treatment, and break up, they internalize it as normal. Healthy relationships produce healthy children. Healthy children are more equipped for healthy relationships of their own when they’re adults.

    This is why I have stated dating is a growth process.  You learn more about yourself than anything.  You learn more about communication, no matter how good of a communicator you are.  You learn more about giving.  You learn more about being patient.  You learn more about what is important and what isn’t.  

    Enjoyed this post a bunch!!!

  10. 10

    A Christ centred relationship leads to a godly happy and healthy marriage  producing godly  happy and healthy children. AMEN…

  11. 11

    My advise would be to wait years before you marry a guy or have a baby with him. You never know how things might change so wait a while. And marriage IS about living happily ever after.

  12. 12

    The more you give the more you get back….hmmm I don’t know so much.  If you give, and the receiver is willing to receive that graciously and with return, then yes.  But I suspect there are many many people on this website who have given til they had nothing left to give and got nothing in return.  Giving is a two way street. My lesson: if I’m giving and the emotional bucket is continuing to keep emptying, then I need to STOP GIVING

    1. 12.1

      Yes, but you have no control over whether the other person is going to give…you can only control your own behavior. Your options are to give conditionally, or give unconditionally.
      If your partner isn’t reciprocating, then there’s a problem. To paraphrase something Evan has often repeated – If it can’t be resolved then you need to LEAVE THEM. Don’t allow takers to stay in your life.

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