Get married right now. Or don’t! It’s up to you.
Blogs need listicles, right? That’s the key to success? Well, here we go.
This post was inspired by an article titled “If Your Guy Has These 21 Habits, Marry Him Right Now.” Maybe I’m just a bitter single lady, but I thought that list was pretty superficial. I could apply most of those things to my best friends–but I shouldn’t run off and propose marriage to any of them. So I propose this alternate list:
If Your Relationship Has These 9 Traits, Get Married Right Now… If You Want.
It’s Really Up to Y’all. Do What Works for You.
Featuring my favorite couple, Marshall and Lily from How I Met Your Mother.
9. You’re master communicators.
You don’t have to text, email, call, and talk for every second of every day. Maybe you check in with anecdotes or “thinking of you’s.” You send silly faces during boring conference calls. But if one of you doesn’t respond “promptly,” you don’t immediately assume that your partner has died and/or run off into the sunset with a celebrity from their Guilt-Free Three.
You understand each other’s communication style, and you aren’t afraid to talk about the tough stuff. You’ve adapted to each other–and you don’t use your knowledge of his or her weaknesses to fight dirty. You’re just honest with each other, and you’ve figured out how to speak freely. There’s no passive aggression in your Grown Up Relationship™.
And maybe your eyes don’t roll anymore when you get a message from him that’s nothing more than an eggplant emoji and a question mark.
8. You trust each other.
Everyone has a history, but it’s not possible for two people to know everything about each other. If she wants to have dinner with an old friend from college because he’s in town on business, you trust that she isn’t going to run off into the aforementioned sunset.
You don’t go through each other’s phones and emails and Snapchat’s and 10 years of tweets looking for something to prove infidelity. Again, this comes back to communication. A little bit of jealousy is completely normal in a relationship, but possessiveness and constant suspicion are not. You have to trust each other to be functioning adults who have friends (male and female and every other possibility under the sun!) outside of the relationship, or you’ll just end up resenting each other.
There’s a quote that runs around that says something like “Loving someone is giving them your heart and trusting them not to break it.” While this isn’t all love is, it’s definitely a factor.
7. You’re still surprising each other (in good ways).
A friend of mine once had a crush on a girl he met in a summer program where they weren’t allowed to date fellow attendees. They never talked about it, but the chemistry was there. A few months after the program ended, he asked me if he should fly out and surprise her even though he had zero confirmation that she actually had feelings for him. I, being a 20-year-old hopeless romantic, told him in no uncertain terms that absolutely he had to go.
He showed up on her doorstep in 2010, and they got married in 2013. Needless to say, it was a big risk with a big reward.
Is this kind of surprise scalable to a lifelong relationship? Can you constantly be orchestrating these kinds of events? No. You can’t buy diamond rings or cars or houseboats or puppies for every occasion (unless you just won the Powerball, in which case, I’ve got some student loans and the ultimate surprise would be getting those suckers paid off!).
Small surprises are just as meaningful, and are much more realistic in the long run. Subtle, quiet moments in your life can be just as meaningful (or more so) as the moments that go streaking by with trumpets.
6. You can live together in (semi-)harmony.
Can he not live without his giant, 100-pound dog, but you have a cat that would fit in said dog’s mouth? Can she not sleep without the windows thrown wide in winter, but you refuse to sleep with a heavy blanket? Is one of you a borderline hoarder?
A former roommate of mine put an ad on Craigslist for a roommate when her boyfriend moved out (lucky for me). Five months later, she was moving out of our apartment to move back in with her boyfriend. They’d decided they shouldn’t live together because (surprise) they hated living together. But they realized this when they’d been together for four years, and they didn’t want to call it quits.
They broke up for good shortly after moving back in together. Why? Because they were incompatible as permanent roommates, and they couldn’t make it work.
5. You don’t take it out on each other.
Couples fight. Couples have arguments–whether it’s about where to go for dinner or why your potential mother-in-law is still trying to set him up with his high school sweetheart. Or maybe she just had a bad day, and when she gets home the fact that you watched the new episode of Sherlock without her is the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. (Seriously–those episodes come out once every two or three years and you couldn’t wait a few more hours?)
But you don’t throw below-the-belt punches. You don’t get passive aggressive and take your anger out at each other.
Be honest: If you’ve come to the point of considering marriage, you probably know more about each other than anyone else. This means that you know how to make him tick. You know all of her insecurities. But you’re in a Grown Up Relationship™, and that means you know better than to employ the tactics that got you past the high school bullies.
4. You challenge each other to be better.
…but you don’t actively want to change him or her.
If you can’t stand the fact that she still eats meat when you’re a vegetarian, you can’t think that this is going to change just because you decide to give her a ring. That’s not what this point is about. If you hate that he plays video games for three hours a night on the weekends and you think that’s going to change just because you get married, I’m sorry to tell you that you’re wrong. Just pick up a controller and embrace it.
You encourage and support each other’s hobbies and interests, even if you don’t understand them. You’re each other’s cheerleaders when one of you is up for a promotion, or when there’s a huge project at work and stress levels are high. If he loses his job, you’re not going to jump ship or play the blame game–you’re going to be right there with him to help him find his next adventure. Maybe it’ll suck, but you have to be in it together.
Believe it or not, growing old together involves a lot of growing. You’re both going to change a lot in your hypothetical lifetime together. You’re going to develop new habits and quirks, have new favorite flavors of ice cream, or even hate things you loved before (like coffee–not each other, hopefully).
Don’t marry someone now thinking they’re going to be the same person in 5, 10, 20, or 50 years, or that you’ll be the same. Be committed to growing together in addition to growing old.
4. You’re your own couple.
Yes, Bryan took his husband on the most romantic vacation imaginable for their 10th anniversary. Yes, Claire and Emmett already have two kids and you have none. Yes, Sarah and Alex moved in together after a year and you’re still in your solo apartment after two and a half. But they’re other couples.
You are not in anyone else’s relationship, and both of you know and accept this. You’re in a Grown Up Relationship™, so you’re not comparing your timeline (or your Facebook feed, or Instagram feed, etc.) to anyone else’s to measure the “success” of your love.
And you certainly don’t issue ultimatums to your sweetheart based on where you think you “should be” based on the 10-year-plan you wrote when you were 15.
3. You enthusiastically agree about hypothetical children and hypothetical parenting.
Kids aren’t for everyone. Are kids for you? If so, they should be for both of you before you say “I do.” Don’t go into “forever” thinking you’re going to change his or her mind about the prospect of children.
If a childless future is a dealbreaker for one of you, have you discussed what would happen in the face of fertility issues? How do you feel about adoption? Surrogacy? Or, if both of you are adamantly against kids now, what will you do if one of you changes their mind sometime in the next 20 years? (It happens!)
If you’re both thrilled about kids, great! Can you openly communicate (buzzword!) about where your kids will be raised, religion, schooling, etc.? All of these things don’t have to be figured out when the kid is still hypothetical, but if there are potentially life-altering factors involved (maybe he grew up in Oregon, but your family is in Vermont, and you both live in Florida. Will you move to be closer to one of your families?), it’s good to have an idea.
2. You both take space.
No one–not even a married couple who have pledged their lives to each other–can spend 24/7/365 together.
Coming back to trust and communication, you both can take space from each other. She can take a vacation to Las Vegas with her girlfriends, he can go back to his hometown for a week to hang with his old crew. You have friends outside of each other, and you make time for them. Your Venn diagram of friends is an actual Venn diagram–not a circle.
Or maybe you don’t even have to be outside the house. You can be in the same room while still giving each other space. If her favorite author just released a new book and she refuses to come to bed because she needs to read the entire thing in one sitting, you’re not going to pick her up and drag her caveman-style to the bedroom.
1. Your partner is actually your partner.
In an ideal relationship, no one “wears the pants” (har har). He or she isn’t your “ol’ ball and chain.” No one is forcing you to be in a relationship, or to even get married–and if they are, you’re not in a healthy Grown Up Relationship™.
At the end of the day, you’re committing to each other for the rest of your lives. You’re in it together–all in–and you’re partners. You make decisions together, you acknowledge and accept (and maybe even embrace!) each other’s flaws. You understand that there may be times when you really, truly don’t love your partner, but that you’re partners all the same, and the love will be there for you to find if you take the time and make the effort.
Your relationship is built on a foundation of trust, communication, and mutual respect–and you’re ready to take on the world together in a major way, for better or for worse.
Bonus Point: You don’t need a listicle to tell you whether or not you’re ready to get married.
Let’s be real: If you need strangers on the internet to tell you whether or not it’s time, it’s probably not.