My last article highlighted five things I thought every man should know before getting married. I think it’s important for men to direct most of their relationship advice to other men because we don’t have many outlets to learn about what it takes to have healthy relationships. I also know it takes two to create a successful marriage so I wanted to make a similar list for women. Here are five things I think every woman should know before saying “I do”:
1. You can live a fulfilled life without getting married
I think it’s important to start here because sometimes people talk about women and marriage as if a woman’s life is incomplete or unfulfilled if she doesn’t get married. I don’t agree with that line of thinking. Some women have no desire to get married and others may believe they haven’t found the right person. Either way, it is possible to have companionship, experience love, and find fulfillment without a husband. In fact, an extended period of singleness can help you in your process of self-discovery.
Another reason to use this as a starting point is because a woman who feels she must get married at all costs might be more prone to making choices that are motivated by fear and desperation or compromising her standards–especially as she ages and feels like the pool of marriageable men is dwindling. We often say that something is better than nothing but linking yourself to the wrong person can be worse than not being linked to anyone at all.
2. There should be a difference between what you desire and what you require
Unlike many people, I don’t believe most women have standards that are too high. In fact, I think the standards of some women aren’t high enough. That said, it’s important for women, like men, to distinguish their “must-haves” from their “nice-to-haves”. The reason why, is a matter of simple math: the more non-negotiables you have, the fewer eligible men there are. If the only requirement is that he must live in the US, then you’ll have a pretty extensive pool from which to choose. If, on the other hand, he must be African American, over six-foot-five, make six figures, atheist, and live in Madison, Wisconsin, then you’ll be choosing from a much smaller pool. That’s why I think a woman’s list of non-negotiables should focus on the things they believe are most important.
A woman who knows that financial stability is important should probably eliminate potential suitors whose actions show they can’t be trusted with money. Also, women who say that sharing the same religious background is important should not make a habit of seriously entertaining guys that don’t. It is completely normal to have desires but it makes more sense to be flexible with the things you think can live without than to compromise on the things you know you can’t live with.
3. His salary isn’t as important as his character
Whenever I hear about a famous couple splitting over the man’s (generally speaking) infidelity I always wonder whether the woman knew he was that way before committing to him. At times it seems like some women are willing to tolerate unfaithfulness as long as the man is able to support a certain type of lifestyle. Even though it comes up most often with celebrities, athletes, and other men in the public eye, it isn’t confined to men who are famous. One of my previous posts on BMWK included a story about a woman who stated that one of the perks of having a cheating boyfriend was all the nice things he bought her.
A man’s salary should be a reflection of how much he earns, not how much your heart is worth.
The latter is exactly what happens anytime you prioritize his money over your desires. It might seem like a smart compromise at first but very few people can find true joy, love, and contentment in that type of scenario. I believe one of a husband’s roles is to provide for his family but I don’t think a man’s earning potential is as important as his character. A high-character guy can earn more money but a high-earner can’t buy more character. His honesty, consistency, and integrity are what will really be most important in the long run as you face the type of challenges that inevitably come up in marriage.
4. You need to love you before you can love him
I said this to the men in my previous post and the same holds true for the ladies. You need to love and accept yourself, flaws and all, if you hope to love a spouse. One of the first steps to loving yourself is learning and accepting who you really are. This means being honest about your desires, your hurts, your insecurities, the things that make you unique, and everything else that shapes who you are. Doing this type of work before you get married will help in a number of areas. First, it will help you to not look to your husband as your sole source of happiness. Second, it will help you become more self-aware, a trait that is very useful in marriage.
Sometimes our spouses can do things to trigger issues we brought into the relationship but self-awareness can help us distinguish new hurts from past pains. Third, a commitment to self-knowledge and self-love is needed to receive love from others. It’s hard to imagine someone accepting and loving parts of us if we can’t do the same for ourselves. This can lead to the rejection of people who actually want to be with you and the continuation of a cycle of feeling unloved and unlovable.
5. You can’t make a man move before he’s ready
I believe every man makes the decision to marry on his own terms but some guys take longer to get to that point than others. I understand why a woman who has been in a relationship for years might feel like she needs to put a little pressure on her significant other to get him to take their relationship to the next level. I believe both people in a relationship have the right to move according to a timeline that works for them but they should both know that the other person is not obligated to accept that timeframe. My advice? Talk to him about his intentions and the direction of your relationship after an appropriate period of time. Let your desires (e.g., marriage, children, etc.) be known, ask about his, and believe what he says.
You shouldn’t have to pester, badger, trick, or force a person into a relationship with you. That’s not love. If he says he doesn’t believe in marriage and has no desire to get married, you can take that knowledge and choose to stay or you can leave in hope of finding someone whose desires match your own. This is why communication is so important in relationships. There’s no way to know what the other person wants unless you talk. Making assumptions isn’t going to cut it. Just because a guy takes you out, buys you gifts, says he likes spending time with you, and spends the night doesn’t mean he wants to marry you. It doesn’t even mean he wants to be in an exclusive relationship with you. He needs to move forward when he’s ready. Just know that you can move on whenever you’re ready.
There are certainly other things I could say to my single sisters but I think these five are a good start. Marriage is a big commitment and it works best when both people have taken steps in singleness to be their best selves in marriage. Sometimes it means challenging the things we’ve been taught or told by others that might hold us back from truly being in a position to give and receive love. It may feel like hard work but it’s necessary if you want your marriage to be successful. Trust me, your future husband will thank you.
BMWK: What’s the one thing you think every woman should know before she gets married?