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Love and Marriage Article
When Am I Ready To Get Married?

by Dr. Charles D. Schmitz and Dr. Elizabeth A. Schmitz

This morning we had a delightful radio interview with a Pennsylvania radio station about our research on successful marriage.  We have done a ton of these interviews since our book Golden Anniversaries:  The Seven Secrets of a Successful Marriage came out earlier this year, and we enjoyed them immensely. 

It is always a pleasure to share the “secrets” of successful marriage with our interviewer and his or her audience.  Sometimes we answer questions from the listeners, sometimes just from the host of the show, and at times from both.  In this business, you learn pretty quickly to talk on your feet as the questions often come rapid-fire, many of them are questions you’ve never heard before, and the time to answer them is usually quite short. 

Fortunately, over time we have developed the “gift of gab.” And, because we know our subject quite well based on our 26 years of research on successful marriage, most of our answers are easily retrievable from wherever it is stored in our respective brains!

This morning we got a question we have gotten before in some form or another, but not as directly or succinctly as the host asked it.  His question – “When am I ready to get married?”

Over the years we have written about “How will I know I am in love?”  We have waxed on about “the core values of successful marriage.”   And more often than we can remember, we have encouraged those in love to take our scientifically based marriage quiz to determine their “marriage compatibility.”  But the truth is, we have never directly addressed this important question.  So today, we will do our best to share with you what we believe to be the answer to the question, “When am I ready to get married?”

First of all, the foundation of any successful marriage is love.  Oh, sure, there are marriages of convenience, marriages based on religious or cultural customs (i.e., others determine who is married to whom), and marriages based on whim (think Las Vegas!).  But the simple truth is, most all successful marriages that stand the test of time, begin with love.  So ingredient number one is, be in love.  For more information about this notion, read our article entitled “How will I know I am in love?” The answer to the question is more obvious than you think!

The second ingredient is what we have come to call the “core values of successful marriage.”  Successfully married couples must share the same core values of love.  Agreement on the core values is essential to building a healthy, happy, and long-lasting relationship.  All too often, however, folks get married before they have honestly and truthfully determined the compatibility of their core value systems.  Then guess what, they discover that all of the dreams and aspirations they have about their marriage aren’t possible because the foundation of their relationship has cracks even before they start trying to build a life together.  Core values matter and when they are incompatible, marriage should be reconsidered because later on, these differences will, more than likely, cause the marriage to crumble.  Core values such as integrity, trustworthiness and unconditional love do matter.

Our advice is, two adults contemplating marriage should never delude themselves into thinking that their respective core value systems will change over time.  They rarely do.  Don’t overlook the differences.  Don’t fool yourself into believing that you can “change him” or “change her.”  From what we know about personality development, adults are pretty much what they are.  Many marriages that fail do so because the core values are not compatible.  To think otherwise is to set yourself up for heartbreak further down the road of life.

The third ingredient associated with knowing if you are ready to get married or not is very, very simple.  As we have said over and over in our many writings and interviews, simple things matter!  Successful marriage is an accumulation of doing the simple things.

When you are contemplating marriage you should start to pay very close attention to the one you think you love.  Do they do the simple things day in and day out, or not? 

Here’s a question to ask yourself, does he always get in line first at the fast-food restaurant to give his food order even though you, your parents, and others are in line with you?  Does he open doors for you or does he go through the door first while he lets you fend for yourself?  Does she want to tell you about her day but shows no interest in your day?  You see, showing respect is a simple thing – and it is easily observable.  There is nothing complicated about it.  If the one you purport to love is rarely respectful towards you, trust us on this – it will not get better with time.  Observe the actions and deeds of the one you are thinking about marrying.  Actions and deeds trump words every time! 

Simple things matter, and the simple truth is if you do not see the behaviors you want and expect from the one you are thinking of marrying, it will only get worse over time.

Deciding if you are ready to get married begins with love.  Agreement on the “core values” of marriage will grow the love, and doing the simple things day in and day out will sustain the love.  These simple truths should be self-evident.  Learn and understand these simple truths today so you too can celebrate your Golden Anniversary.

Love well!