Should I Get Married Based Simply on the Desire to Be Married?

Should I Get Married Based Simply on the Desire to Be Married?

My boyfriend and I have been dating for almost a year and a half. We are 33 and 35 and live in separate cities. We have never been a fireworks love story, but we love each other and enjoy each other’s company.

The time has come to take the next step as we both want kids, a house and a future. It’s just that we have been single for this long for a reason. I am overly critical and impatient, and he’s overly sensitive and lacks emotional intelligence. We have fallen into the habit of this tit for tat bickering, and I’m starting to find him unattractive.

He recently stayed at my house for 3 days, and we didn’t have sex once. I could barely bring myself to cuddle him. We got better as time went on and had a really enjoyable last day together, but I think we are kidding ourselves that this is a match made in heaven.

What I’m asking, though, is can a couple who acknowledge they are not head over heels in love with each other build a life together and make each other happy? My parents divorced, and I am very scared of repeating my parents’ mistakes and getting married for the wrong reasons.

I guess in this situation we both acknowledge we are not madly in love with each other and have a lot of personality flaws that we need to work on but still want to build a life together. I just don’t know if committing to this relationship will make either of us happy in the long run, but I also don’t want to miss out on an opportunity that could makes us blissfully happy. –Nikala

I’d like to think that I’m pretty predictable as a writer. And, by predictable, I don’t mean “boring”, but rather “consistent”. Even when some readers think I’m contradicting myself (because they think in black and white rather than grey), I can usually find a thread that connects all of my advice logically.

You should not get married based simply on the desire to be married with children.

Which brings me to your question, Nikala. I have spent many years pounding the drum of kindness, commitment and values over mind-boggling chemistry. I have spent many years defending my point of view from people who misinterpret it.

And that’s why I’m SO glad I can answer your question for you today.

No.

You should not get married based simply on the desire to be married with children.

This is completely consistent with everything I’ve ever written and is why it’s so important to see the nuance in each individual situation. Allow me to elaborate.

We have never been a fireworks love story, but we love each other and enjoy each other’s company.

This is okay. You don’t need fireworks to have a great marriage, especially since those initial fireworks generally simmer down after 2-3 years. I would say you were on the right track, except for, well, the rest of your letter:

The time has come to take the next step as we both want kids, a house and a future. It’s just that we have been single for this long for a reason. I am overly critical and impatient, and he’s overly sensitive and lacks emotional intelligence. We have fallen into the habit of this tit for tat bickering, and I’m starting to find him unattractive.

He recently stayed at my house for 3 days, and we didn’t have sex once. I could barely bring myself to cuddle him.

Marriage and kids does not FIX your relationship issues; it MAGNIFIES them.

While I want to give you kudos for your self-awareness, it’s kind of obvious that you’re not that self-aware at all. You’re actually thinking of marrying a guy that you don’t find attractive, don’t feel affection for, and don’t want to have sex with.

I just don’t know if committing to this relationship will make either of us happy in the long run, but I also don’t want to miss out on an opportunity that could makes us blissfully happy. 

Do you really think that this opportunity will make you blissfully happy, Nikala? It seems painfully obvious that, if anything, marriage will make you miserable.

And that’s our teaching moment for today:

Marriage and kids does not FIX your relationship issues; it MAGNIFIES them.

I have a few friends who married due to some combination of timing (we’re in our mid-30s!), fear (what if I let this go? I have to start over…), and inertia (we’ve already spent three years together). NONE of these friends have happy marriages.
 

In fact, their marriages are just like their relationships – but worse. My friend’s wife who is insecure and sensitive is still really insecure and sensitive, except she now lives with my friend 24/7 and is bound to him by a contract. Another friend married a decent looking stable man with no discernable personality. You could tell on her wedding day that she wasn’t enthusiastic and 7 years and two kids later, she’s no happier with him (although she’s glad she has kids).

So for all the talk from us relationship experts about what’s important in a relationship, it’s essential that we make a distinction here.

When I say that you need to have a man who is consistent, kind, and commitment-oriented, a man who is a giver, a man who shares your same long-term goals and values – that is true. But that’s not ALL there is to a relationship.

You need to have some measure of a sexual connection because if you don’t, your sex life will come to a grinding halt the second you have kids.

You need to really LIKE each other. You need to really GET ALONG with each other. You need to fight RARELY and when you do, get over it FAST. And you do need to have some measure of a sexual connection because if you don’t, your sex life will come to a grinding halt the second you have kids.

The reason I give the advice I give is because millions of women choose men who are NOT consistent, kind, selfless and relationship-oriented. So I have to remind them about what’s really important.

You can have what’s really important – a nice, marriageable man – but if you don’t enjoy his company more than anyone in the world, he’s not your husband.

For all the people who’ve ever told me that I “settled” on my wife because we don’t have a fireworks love story, you don’t really get it. She’s my favorite person in the world, we never fight, we laugh a lot, I trust her with my life, AND we have a good sex life. I know no happier couples.

Anyone can have this – as long as you don’t waste your time on selfish jerks, or, as in your case, Nikala, trying hard to fit a square peg in a round hole just because “the time has come to take the next step.”

The time has come, my friend. Dump your guy and find one you WANT to marry.

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Comments:

  1. 1
    Fusee

    Amen! Great advice as usual!
     
    Letter Writer, there are so many reasons why NOT to get married in this scenario:
    1. You should not get married just because you want to be married
    2. You should not get married if you do not like your partner
    3. You should not get married if you are overly critical, overly senstive, or have any other personality flaw that is incompatible with building a long-term intimate relationship
     
    Now, I understand the temptation. You want to get married and have kids + he wants the same + you are in your thirties. But if you do get married now, you will be a single mom well before you turn 40. I agree with Evan: do not waste time, end your relationship, work on yourself to become a better partner, and then go find yourself a suitable partner that you truly like and with whom you stand an acutal chance at building a happy and healthy life-long relationship.
     
    Blissfully happy is not random. Either you have what it takes to create it, or you don’t. You guys obviously do not have it. Only personal development followed by the learning of solid relationship skills would help in your situation, not taking a short-cut directly to marriage, hoping that happiness will magically fall upon you at the other side of the aisle.

  2. 2
    Kay

    Really good post today.  Cannot believe there are no other comments yet.  Am I the first?  It seems like you’re really talking about the nuance/balance between fireworks chemistry – not love – and just being with a person because they are the right age, height, weight, color, ect and the timing is right – which feels like settling.  Hence why women like me, hot and 40, get asked all the time, why are you NOT married???!!.  I really don’t have an answer for them (my parents/friends) and the question is usually fired off like an indictment.  Like I really must be fucked up.  The problem must be me.  Truth is, I’ve had the lackluster “timing is right but I’m not wild about you” relationship – and I chose to say “no” to moving forward.  But who knew it would be so tough to find the right man at this age.  But everything you say about marriage and all those I know in marriages now indicate that I am cool right where I am.  Single. Available.  No kids.  Yes.
    But it’s that sweet spot in the middle that you seem to have found with your wife that makes sense. 
    By the way, thank you for being so generous in sharing the intimate details about your wife and your relationship for the purposes of your audience’s education.  I read alot of dating guru advice and there are some straight posers out there who don’t know what it means to be in a healthy relationship and couldn’t lead a fish to water.  You’re the only one I know that is actually married and practices what you preach.  So thank you.

  3. 3
    starthrower68

    I was married for 12 years and it did not make me happy. I was thrilled to have my children. I am a good mom; I was not a great wife. I still have work to do to be a great girlfriend. While marriage can bring us blissful happiness in some moments, most of married life is learning to be emotionally content.

  4. 4
    Amydk

    maybe op should work on her perceived flaws — being overly critical and impatient..
    Sounds like she’s afraid no one will have her, afraid she’s missing out, afraid to be alone. My parents were divorced so i held onto a  lot of bad relationships, afraid to trust my intuition that these guys would never be my husband. 
    No, there’s nothing that says blissful happiness here.

  5. 5
    Candace

    Wow I really enjoyed reading this blog entry! Love Evan’s advice, been following his blog for years, and apply it to my relationship. If you can barely cuddle with your man but feel you should get married because its naturally the next step it doesn’t sound like its going to be a happy relationship. She sounds defeated and is giving in because it’s what she SHOULD do not because it’s of the best interest for both parties. Great advice Evan!

  6. 6
    Rose

    No, things will only get worse with kids.
     
     

  7. 7
    Zann

    You nailed it, Evan. Honestly, when will people give up the delusion that The Cure for a crappy relationship is marriage. And then when that’s not working out so great, Part 2 of The Cure (the sequel) is to have a baby. It’s 2013! You don’t have to be married to be considered “normal” anymore. On the other hand, to enter marriage as “meh, why not?” really devalues the whole institution of marriage. You want blissful happiness? Go get it for yourself! Make your own life, take pride in whatever work you do, take care of your health, and if home ownership and kids are important to you, it’s actually possible to have both of those things without being married. To expect marriage, kids, and a household to bring you blissful happiness when you can barely stand to be in the same room with your boyfriend is not only naive, it’s lazy. You can’t upcycle your current lackluster relationship by choosing marriage as the next “logical” step. It just doesn’t work. 

  8. 8
    Allison

    Great post, Evan.  There’s a big difference between “no fireworks” and “don’t even want to cuddle.”  Liking the person is always a good place to start!

  9. 9
    Henriette

    You love this guy, so wouldn’t you rather see him happily married to a woman who is attracted to him?  And he loves you, so I suspect he’d want to see you settling down with someone with whom you have a real shot of a long and positive union.  Really, the most loving thing to do in this situation is to break up ASAP.  Follow Fusee’s advice and work on developing qualities that will make you are more content person and, as a result, better partner.  I wish you the best of luck.
     
    And yes, I’d like to echo Kay’s thanks to Evan for sharing details of his successful personal life with us.  Too often, people stop telling us the story of their marriage once the wedding has happened – as though “finally getting hitched” was the end-goal rather than creating a healthy life-long partnership.  You’ve reinforced to me what I already learned from watching my parents’ successful marriage; love and shared goals are great but plenty of other traits are necessary, too.

  10. 10
    Ruby

    I’ve met several divorced men who’ve told me they married because “it was time”, they’d already been dating the same woman for a couple of years, or because everyone else they knew was married. A happily married friend of mine recently told me that “relationships should be easy”, not angst-ridden, drama-filled, or just meh.
     
    I find it interesting that the OP says, “It’s just that we have been single for this long for a reason”, as if there were something wrong with her for being single at 33. Actually, I’d consider that a prime age to find a partner, as well as a great time to work on your own issues. And no one is perfect. Perhaps she’d be less “overly critical and impatient” with a more compatible partner? If she really wants to try and save the relationship, though, then couples counseling would be the next logical step, not marriage. 
     
     

  11. 11
    js31

    I used to be in a fireworks relationship with a guy who was a liar and a cheat. He was mean and incosiderate, but we had such a chemistry. After 3 years I broke it up. I thought time was running out for me and was afraid to start out again and fail. But miraculously I came across Evans blog while googling why do men cheat and lie (lol). It’s the best relationship advice out there. I learned that I cannot blame and distrust all men because of one toxic man, he does not represent the whole male population. And I learned also how to avoid toxic men. I met a great guy shortly after. This new guy was no sparks but he is the funniest person I have ever met. He is down to earth, has values, has goals in life and the best thing is that he is in awe of me:). We have been courting for two years and will be marrying in less than two months time. Like Evans said about his wife, he’s my best friend, I trust him with my life. We have a good sex life and on days when not having sex, we still love each others’ company and play around a lot. He used to think all women are crazy and bitchy, I changed that. I used to believe all men are liars and cheats. He changed that for me. I can’t imagine anyone else in my life. It’s never too late Nikala, there’s someone out there for you.

  12. 12
    Anonymous

    Lets keep it real, (or keeps it realer!, like Dave Chappelle, about the unspeakable) and look into the future with both options. Should you get married to be married? Big ‘pull’ motivations to do so; virtually almost all adults do- for love, social approval, conferring status,  fitting it, kids, tax breaks, companionship, sex, affection, insurance, bill split, . etc. Or,  (push factor -get out of- motivation) because single life has become utterly unbearable?  Many women do this- some in their early twenties, some in their early thirties. If Mr. Right doesn’t come along, they start “right-sizing’ (wink/wink) their expectations, so that it does happen.  I’m middle aged, and I’ve witnessed (and probably so have you, at your reunions, church, etc.) many people get married just to get married and have kids.  I’ve seen non self-aware couples with kids who are chronic  alcoholics, rage-a-holics, unemployed, cheaters, embezzlers, marginally employed, average and below average, they all do it. Society tends to judge them first as married and parents, before judging their bad habits, it serves as a smoke screen of societal approval.  Yes,  high quality people also get married, this is the type of man we are yearning and holding out for so long.  If you are an emotionally balanced, successful, productive, and educated person, watching less deserving people marry and rear sensitive children, this bugs you.  So, if this underwhelmed, not really in-love poster decides to marry within her dysfunctional relationship, (she at least has the self awareness to know its not perfect, so that’s good) and have a child or two, and then split up, she will still be seen as normal- within the present 50% divorce rate.  ”That’s Not ideal!”!you may say, but she is still  (as seen by society) as being in a ’better spot’ than the perfectionists who continually improved themselves and waited–with diminishing returns, until the clock ran out.  I would not do it, (settle or marry just to marry) but by taking the road less traveled, I am in a tiny minority, as I found out too late. What if you ‘do the right thing’ by constant self improvement, and not settling, and then end up never married, no kids. I’m sure you’ve seen this played out in real life.  Goodness- just  see the  prior post on  this blog titled ‘when is it too late to have kids’. Google never married, no kids.  Society today (or human nature itself)  is just not set up or ready for people who take this route, it isn’t. Evan, I remember you using “Donna’ an ex – as an example of some one who waited too long and is now single and childless at 41.  Don’t wait too long to roll the dice. Lori Gottliebs book “marry him” has also been touted here, since we ARE the first generation to have waited so long to get married, and, for some, the price tag is pretty huge- growing old alone. Most people cant do that. Even if it (settling) is not perfect,  you will  have some one (kids) to fill the last four decades of your life, because in old age what is there besides kids and grandkids.  For this (selfish?! right?) reason, you will find that most (all)  people who were not really in love, or great at relationships/parenting, GO FOR IT. We don’t know if they had good intentions or not, but they got (imperfect)results-but results nonetheless, and now they are not alone.  Nobody will give you a medal or social approval for “doing the right thing, working on yourself and never settling”  and day to day life will be hard, with no family.  People will instead say- well,-  what Evan said about Donna;  ”how sad, it never happened for her”.   Pls. forgive me Evan for bringing that up, twice, I just remember it, obviously. The majority of advice columnists that write about relationships- have gotten married and had kids.  You will find that just about every where you go, most people are married, and do not pass up these huge important events. Puffed up with pride, and gratitude, that they did not mess around with that deadline.  Its up to you what to do- but you will have to live with the consequences either way. Pick your poison-or wait-or hire Evan as a dating coach. 

  13. 13
    Ruby

    Anonymous #12
     
    “…you will  have some one (kids) to fill the last four decades of your life, because in old age what is there besides kids and grandkids.”
     
    I’m also in that “tiny minority”, middle-aged, no kids, never married. So what? These days, with so many divorced people out there, I don’t feel like I stand out, and if someone wants to judge me, that’s their problem, not mine. If I’d had a strong desire for kids, I’d probably figured out a way to have them or adopt them. “The last four decades”? So for you, old age starts at 40 or 50? Sorry, but I still date often, am still hopeful about meeting a good guy, and and I’m in a much better position to do that than are my divorced or single friends who’ve given up.
     
    33 is hardly to old to find a partner. There is nothing pleasant about being miserable in a bad marriage or going through a divorce, not to mention the trauma that it inflicts on your kids as well.

  14. 14
    David T

    Anonymous #12

    Like Ruby, that line about “kids and grandkids” filling your life sent up red flags.  That is not their duty or job.  Their only job is to grow, learn and eventually live their own indepedent lives. Period. I have to fill my own life myself.

    My job is to raise my kids through high school and do my best to fund them through college (that  is my personal ethos; others feel differently)  or however they decide to start out. Kids occupy a bunch of time and energy and I have received some positive emotional rewards from mine, but that is an incidental bonus. After that, they live their own lives.  They are their own people. Period.

    Will they still be a positive part of my life later?  Probably, if I have established a good relationship with them, but in no way are they obligated.  No children are obligated in any way to fill my life for my in old age. I am making my life full for myself. 

    God willing, we have happy partner relationship to help fill our later lives if that is what we want for ourselves. I believe even Evan will agree there is no guarantee anyone will have this, just a high liklihood if we play our cards right. So be prepared to thrive on your own projects, friends and the community you build around yourself. If children or a partner are a part of that community, bonus.

  15. 15
    Anonymous

    David; I was pointing out the red flags as the bogus reason many people have kids. Hence the (selfish, right?!) in parenthesis. I, of course, wasn’t selfishly motivated, and find both settling and bringing kids into the world without ideal circumstances unconscionable,  I WILL have to fill my present (past and future) with my own hobbies (substitutes?). I am judged negatively for this (doing the right thing). The red flag, do not stop, do not pass go majority, well, they will be praised for their choice to follow the crowd.  Nobody admits to it, but I believe a lot of parents had kids because ‘everyone does it’ and they didn’t want to grow old alone.   

  16. 16
    Kiki

    I personally would prefer to be a part of a couple, even if my partner is less than ideal. Just my choice, and I am not saying anyone else is better off married than single, this is a very personal thing.
    I understand what the original letter writer has in mind as the logical next step for her and her boyfriend after dating for two years.  Based on my experience and observations, however, she has no chance to marry the guy even if she were desperate to do it. Three days at her house without sex is a huge red flag that he is already moving out of this relationship, so any considerations should she get married are a waste of time; he would not.

  17. 17
    Rose

    Healthy relationships are based on interdependency not co dependency or being independent.
    Failure to be feel socially obligation is not a good sign and is classed as a coding disorder in the same family of disorders and dyslexia, autism and ADD.
     

  18. 18
    WhatsGoingOn

    If she had described at least some mutual friendship and affection for each other (other than “love”) I would say 50:50 chance you could go for it but there seems to be not a lot of personal connection here.  You need that sense of connection to get you through the tough times – that deep sense of friendship and having each others back.  It lets you give each other the benefit of the doubt.  Otherwise you will start to feel very alone in your relationship and become sitting ducks for infidelity when you meet someone else that can secretly fill this emotional void.  The letter writer can do a trial period to see if she can reconnect with her partner (there are quite a few great books out there by Dr. John Gottman to do this) but if the four horseman of the apocalypse signs are already present in the relationship then it’s doomed (94% predictive value) and she might as well move on.

  19. 19
    Lafoi

    I enjoy reading Evan’s posts as I find them insightful.  The comments which follow are often a helpful extension of each theme. I was surprised by the second part of Rose’s comment (#17).
    I work in a field which empowers people of all educational backgrounds and to list and lump people under a group of descriptors with the damning, ‘Failure to feel social obligation’ feels a little harsh.  
    We all deserve a fair chance – without being reduced by a label – especially in the world of dating/relationships, don’t you think?

  20. 20
    Scott

    Best practices for romantic relationships:
    1.  Do not get married to someone if you don’t like having sex with them.  You will likely be unhappily married, and that is not fair to either of you.
    2.  Do not have kids with someone if you don’t like having sex with that person.  You will likely end up divorced, and that isn’t fair to the kids.
    You don’t have to marry the best lover or most attractive person you ever met.  But you shouldn’t marry someone if you dread having sex with them, and don’t enjoy it when it happens.

  21. 21
    judy

    I am overly critical and impatient, and he’s overly sensitive and lacks emotional intelligence.
     
    Oh dear, so he’s lacking in emotional intelligence, is HE? I fell about laughing when I read this. Sounds like she needs some too!
    No, No, No – don’t marry him.
    I’m thinking of two couples I know who went straight ahead and married:
    Couple No. 1 – she’s a successful, classy physiotherapist and he’s a handsome attorney.  She loves him.  He (as he told me) did not love HER, but he loved the family, the being in a committed relationship and married because that’s what the family wanted.  Ending? She learned that he didn’t love her and got angry and wouldn’t make love to him.  He became an alcoholic.  They had two children, and the children learned how to lie and cheat to both parents (that’s what they had been taught, right?)
    Couple No. 2 – she is beautiful, classy and adores him.  He’s not sure he wants to be married to her.  She says, hm, I know he isn’t totally convinced, but I am.  They have 2 adorable children, she suffers post natal depression and tells a man about it.  They end up having an affair – guess who found out? And now, although they’re still married, that marriage is a living hell. 
    Geez, it can be tough being married when you love someone.  If there are no fireworks, and you’re already being crabby, guess what happens when the kids don’t sleep at night, you’re sexually frustrated, or one or the other starts cheating.
     

  22. 22
    Evan

    While I think there are some wonderful points in this article, I think you give some very bad advice.   No one, not even in the best marriages, think their partner is perfect all of the time.  The person said, “I am overly critical and impatient, and he’s overly sensitive and lacks emotional intelligence. We have fallen into the habit of this tit for tat bickering, and I’m starting to find him unattractive.He recently stayed at my house for 3 days, and we didn’t have sex once. I could barely bring myself to cuddle him.”  Every person has their quarks.  The question is, do you like this person? When you’re not being critical, can you connect with this person?  You mention a lot of surface level concerns, but don’t address whether there are any red flag issues.  Also, the amount of sex you have is not always a barometer for the quality of the relationship (some of the most unhealthy relationships women have include lots of sex and some of the best include less sex).   I don’t think there is enough substantial information you have given us here to accurately say that you should not marry this person.  If you truly want to be married and think that this man could be a good partner and teammate, and there are not red flag issues like alcohol or physical abuse, lying, cheating, etc., then this sounds like it could be a solid relationship (but more information is needed).  You sound like you’ve exited out of the honeymoon phase of the relationship and are starting to really see your partner without the lens used in Hollywood romantic comedies.  Also, the comment that couples should “fight RARELY” is somewhat misleading.  All couples fight and it’s a natural part of a relationship.  There are variations to this.  If you’re throwing punches and saying hurtful things, that could be an issue, but if you’re arguing over the dishwasher or whether your partner is wearing an ugly sweater, then this is less concerning.  Don’t walk away from a good, solid, committed relationship with a good man just because there are not butterflies every time you see each other and because you find him annoying at times.  
     

  23. 23
    Karl R

    Evan said: (#22)
    “I don’t think there is enough substantial information you have given us here to accurately say that you should not marry this person.”
     
    Nikala has begun to find him unattractive, to the point where she can barely bring herself to cuddle with him. That’s a red flag. It’s far more serious than infrequent sex. It’s far more serious than a lack of butterflies.
     
    They have gotten into the habit of tit-for-tat bickering. That’s another red flag. It’s not just a matter of frequency. It’s how they’re fighting. (The description of “tit-for-tat” gives sufficient insight into how they’re fighting.)
     
    You can’t just downplay what Nikala said (by watering down her descriptions) then act like it’s not serious. Your watered-down descriptions wouldn’t be cause for concern. The situation she’s living with … that’s the kind of relationship she should end.

  24. 24
    Ges

    I’m tired of reading people who say that single life can be great, it’s not dso bad, etc. etc.
    It needs to be said that for a person who is not cold and distant, single life is BAD and painful! However a bad marriage is still worse. Now I think that most marriages are neither good not bad, but somewhere in between. This can be an alright solution for someone who wants to have kids and doesn’t want to be alone. It all depends what you want out of life. Some people get married to the wrong person and then divorce, lets say 20 years later. Their marriage wasn’t great but gave them the opportunity to have and rear great kids they’re greatful for. Love marriage is only a very recent phenomenon. Before it used to be the parents who chose the spouses for their children and people got married for other reasons. So there are pros and cons to everything. I’m 44 and have been single for the last 26 years, because 10 years ago I couldn’t cope with men who weren’t looking for  stable relationships and who played with my heart. I decided not to simply have children alone because I thought that would have been selfish and irresponsible. If I had been married and then divorced I might have had one or two children I would be grateful for.

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