A LINE ON LIFE
Don't Marry That Person! *
David A. Gershaw,Ph.D.
Many advice columns let you know what qualities to look for in a
spouse. However, we are going to turn this around to give you warning
signals for potential failure. If you — or someone you know — are
planning to get married, it is important to be aware of potential
pitfalls in relation to the prospective partner. Essentially we are
saying, "Don't get married IF..."
- you don't have a good relationship with one of your
parents and your prospective spouse seems to be "just like"
your troublesome parent.
- you don't know or understand each other very well — or don't
accept each other's ideas -- even though you may spend a lot of time
- you spend most of your time together disagreeing or arguing.
- one or both of you frequently asks, "Do you really love me?",
"Are you sure it's me you love?", or some similar question. This
type of insecurity tends to lead to unreasonable jealousy.
- your decision to get married has been strongly influenced by your
future in-laws. Ironically many people have found themselves at the
altar, having been seduced by the warm acceptance, flattery, wealth,
or even cooking of a potential in-law. Remember, you are not marrying
- you often think, "Things will be better after we're married,"
or your partner keeps promising, "I'll straighten out after
we're married." The trouble may involve the careless use of money,
sex with other people, violent behavior, and/or an alcohol or drug
problem. Marriage usually makes such problems worse — not better —
since your expectations are higher once you are married.
- your partner doesn't respect your intellectual abilities.
- your partner has traits that you hate (unsafe driving, violent
temper, unclean grooming habits), and you avoid raising the issue for
fear of offending your partner.
- your partner insists that you both forsake all your old friends
and agree to have only those friends who are mutual.
- your partner cannot tolerate being alone and resents the time that
you wish to spend alone reading, pursuing a hobby, or just thinking.
- you are not able to spend an entire day with your partner —
without turning on the television — and still enjoy yourselves.
- after doing some soul-searching, you discover that you are
marrying a "sex object." If there is little else about that
person that appeals to you, the appeal of a "centerfold" or
"beefcake" soon wears thin.
- there has been violent behavior between yourself and your partner,
and you believe there is any possibility that it could occur again.
Your partner may promise, "I'll never hit you after we're married,"
but such vows are rarely kept.
- though you enjoy some of your time together, you feel in
significant ways that your partner is selfishly motivated. In other
words, your partner seems to consider his/her welfare more than yours
in most situations.
- you are unable to agree on where you are going to live or under
what circumstances you would move -- for example, what if one of you
got a job in another city?
- you are considering an intermarriage (marriage to someone of
another religious faith or race) and are unable to agree on how the
children should be raised — or are unable to agree on whether or not
to have children. (Lack of agreement in this area is a potential
problem whether or not you are intermarrying.)
- your materialistic values are radically different. For instance,
couples often have tremendous conflicts because one spouse is
comfortable with a modest, middle-class standard of living — but the
other insists on lavish furnishings, fancy vacations, and a steady
climb up the ladder of success.
This list is far from complete. Also, just because one or more of
these conditions exist does not mean that your marriage will
definitely end in divorce. You may still enjoy a well-adjusted,
interesting married life. However, if you have several of the above
conditions in your present relationship — and do not deal
constructively with them — your chances of marital success are very
In many unsuccessful marriages, it is not that one or the other
(or both) of the spouses are bad people. Too often it is merely that
they neglected to carefully examine the key elements of their
relationship that will greatly influence their future lives.
If you and your
partner can't deal effectively
with the relationship problems you
it probably will only get worse after you are married.
If any one or more of the above problems exist for you, they need
to be dealt with before you get married. If you can't successfully
deal with them now, the chances of effectively dealing with them
after marriage are slim to nonexistent.
* Adapted from Sol Gordon & Craig Shyder's Personal Issues inHuman Sexuality, Allyn & Bacon, 1986, pages 28-30.
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