Authors of a New Book Advocate Waiting to Wed
By Natasha Burton
Marriage takes patience, dedication and compassion, among other things. Given the rate at which couples divorce, not to mention break their wedding vows in ways that would compel them to split-up, it seems that not everyone is suited for the wedded lifestyle, or at least not at the time (or with the person) they decide to marry. Marriage takes work, as well the maturity that goes along with such a commitment. Pretty romantic, huh?
But perhaps the way to make a marriage last is simple: Don't get married until you've made it out of your twenties. That's the advice licensed marriage and family therapist Shannon Fox and divorce attorney Celeste Liversidge advocate in their new book Last One Down the Aisle Wins. The experts, and good friends, talked to us about their marital philosophies, as well as the most important relationship a woman can cultivate in her younger years: the one with herself.
How did inspiration for this book come about?
For the past 15 years, we've been working with women who are in relationship crisis: women who are struggling to keep their marriages together and others facing divorce. As we heard these women's stories, we started to notice a theme. Time and time again we heard women say, "I got married too young. I never would have chosen the same person if I had waited. I didn't know who I was when I got married — I changed so much in my twenties." We began to talk about how many marriages could have been saved before they even began if women would only have taken their twenties to focus on themselves and the key areas in their lives, rather than rushing to the altar.
Why is it so important to wait to get married?
It sounds lovely to grow with your spouse and, believe us, you will definitely grow together once you're married. But the type of growth that you need to do in your twenties — discovering your passions and talents; gaining independence; figuring out your relationships with your body, your finances and friends; and coming to grips with your family influences — is a very personal type of growth that flourishes in the fertile soil of unfettered singlehood. It is the type of growth that changes how you view yourself and the world, and helps you zero in on what you really want and need in a spouse.
What's most detrimental about getting married too young?
The statistics clearly show that getting married too young puts you at greater risk for divorce. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, if you wait until after the age of 25 to get married, your chances of staying married more than double! The old "50 percent of marriages end in divorce" statistic is literally cut in half if you just wait a while longer to take the plunge. But even if you don't divorce, by marrying young you're inviting marital struggles that could be avoided or lessened by allowing yourself to mature and develop in important areas of your life. Another huge danger in marrying young is that you will make an unwise choice in a spouse. You're likely to marry someone you would never have chosen if you had waited. If you view marriage as a long-term prospect, it only makes sense to give yourself at least the majority of your twenties to get to know yourself better before you choose a partner. Not only will you make a better choice, but we guarantee you'll be a better spouse.
How should women spend their twenties instead?
In our book, we've identified the 10 key areas in a woman's life where she needs to be on solid footing before marriage. Over the past 15 years, we've worked with hundreds of women who regretfully confess that they got married too young and wish they had waited to marry. If these women had it to do over again, they would spend their single years traveling, becoming independent, focusing on their careers and education, developing female friendships, gaining a strong emotional footing and having some great adventures. We advocate all of these things (and more!) because we've seen how crucial these areas of a woman's life are and how they will impact her future marriage.
Do you have any advice for these women as they watch their friends get married?
First of all, it's completely normal to be envious of the beautiful bride as she floats down the aisle. She's the center of attention, surrounded by her closest family and friends, ready to start a whole new life chapter kicked off by two weeks on an exotic beach! We want women to be excited about their future marriages, but also to understand that there is so much you can do in your twenties to ensure that your beautiful married life doesn't come crashing down around you a few years after your big day. Put aside your daydreams of marriage for a while and embrace your twenties as a time to grow and become the woman you were created to be. If you do, you will be setting yourself up for a happy and long-lasting relationship.
What about this idea of "settling" for a Mr. Right Now — should young women still hold out for "the one"?
What a depressing message to send young women: You'll never find “the one”, so you should just settle for the best one who'll agree to marry you. Horrid! We not only urge women to hold out for Mr. Right, we also encourage them not to settle for themselves in their twenties. When a woman spends her single years becoming the best version of herself, what she's looking for in in a guy/husband/father to her children will inevitably evolve. She'll naturally begin to value character over charisma, connection over charm. This evolution will lead her to be attracted to a man with whom she can build a great life ... voila ... Mr. Right! But she simply won't be able to spot him until she's Mrs. Right. And that takes time.
Do you have any advice for those who are about to be married?
Take a step back and make sure you are being brutally honest with yourself about whether this is the right time and the right person to be marrying. Don't be afraid to examine your reasons and motivations for getting married: Are you in a good place emotionally, financially, etc., to take the plunge? Have you dealt with issues in your past that could have a negative effect on your marriage?
What makes a relationship last and thrive?
Everyone remembers the famous line in the movie Jerry Maguire when Tom Cruise says to Renee Zellweger, "You complete me!" Well, as sweet as it sounded, it's nothing more than a big fat recipe for disaster. A lasting and happy marriage is made up of two whole persons, who are complete on their own: They know who they are and what they need in a partner. If you wait to marry until you have done the work to become a solid partner, you will inevitably choose wisely.
What will you tell your daughters about marriage?
"Read Mommy's book." Beyond that, we want our kids to know that marriage is an incredible partnership and adventure that should never be entered lightly. Take the time to know yourself, like yourself, and love your life. You'll be better able to find partner for life once you have a life.
SHOP NOW: Last One Down the Aisle Wins by Shannon Fox and Celeste Liversidge, $17
The authors' book is available now on Amazon.comCourtesy of St. Martin's