This guest article from Psych Central was written by Marie Hartwell-Walker, ED.D.
For many young girls, being a bride is the closest thing possible to living out childhood fantasies of being a princess. The wedding industry and bridal magazines collaborate in spinning the myth. Find the perfect prince, put on the perfect wedding pageant and live happily ever after. It’s an alluring story for almost everyone. How could it not be? For the unhappy, the alone, and the lonely it can be an intoxicating idea. Getting married can seem like the end of all a girl’s problems. Getting married can seem like a way to get a new start.
It doesn’t work that way. Marrying as a solution to painful circumstances almost never leads to a good and lasting marriage. 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.
Here are my top five mistaken reasons that people marry:
1. To escape the family of origin.
Jackey’s parents are brutal. She hasn’t felt loved just about ever. Her mother is constantly critical. Her father scares her, especially when he drinks. Her younger sister seems bent on setting her up to be the target so she can fly under the radar of parental chaos. For Jackey, marrying her boyfriend as soon as they graduate from high school this June seems like a way out.
Yes, some families are abusive. Some parents don’t know how to love and protect. Some are so toxic that the only way to survive is to flee. But flight into an early marriage with a teenage sweetheart or just anybody who is willing isn’t a good enough foundation for a marriage. The fear that spurs flight can cloud a person’s judgment about who would really make a good partner. It’s easy to romanticize someone who offers an alternative to daily ridicule and pain.
2. Because it’s the next logical thing.
Tony and Melody have been dating since they were 14. Neither of them has ever dated anyone else or even considered it. They’ve been best friends and lovers through their teen years, went to the same college, and have been talking for years about what kind of house they’d like to have someday and what their kids’ names will be. Tony’s parents adore Melody. Melody’s parents think Tony is a fine match for their daughter. It only makes sense for them to get married. Or does it?
Neither Tony nor Melody has a clue about who they are without the other. They have never tested themselves as individuals; never been anywhere or done anything significant that didn’t involve the other. Sometimes couples like them can last. But often enough, the growing up that happens in the 20s means growing apart. As they enter careers that introduce them to new people and new experiences, one or the other of them may well begin to wonder if they would make the same choice now as they did when they were 14.
3. To fix the other person.