How To Know When It’s Time To Get Married - How To Win a Man's Heart

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August 7, 2017

How To Know When It’s Time To Get Married

When my best college friend told me just before graduation that she had met “the one,” I thought she was nuts and told her so.   Barely 21 with big ambitions, I couldn’t imagine settling down at such a young age.  I knew I had a lot of growing up, exploring, and experimenting to do, and the last thing I was thinking about was marriage.   My friend married at 23 and is still happily married almost 30 years later.  I too am happily married, but I didn’t tie the knot until I was 42.

This personal story illustrates an essential point about marriage readiness.   Being prepared for matrimony has very little to do with how old you are, what stage of life you’re in, or what others think.  The right time to get married is when the time is right for you.

The six tips below will help you determine when your time has come:

1. You’re ready for marriage when settling down with a life partner sounds like a fulfilling adventure, not a trap.

Had I met my husband before age 40, I probably wouldn’t have been interested in him – because his stability and predictability would have stifled me.  Thankfully, I met my wonderfully reliable husband when I was mature enough to really appreciate him —  after I’d sufficiently played the field,  lived alone and with roommates, climbed the ladder of one career and returned to graduate school to prepare for another, traveled extensively, and worked through my major issues in therapy.  Whatever your burning single woman dreams and instincts, make sure you accomplish them before you walk down the aisle – or you will end up restless and resentful.

2. You’re not more in love with the idea of marriage than you are with your partner.

One reason the American divorce rate is so high is that the happily ever after delusion is alive and well – especially in the marketing world where lavish weddings are sold as the ticket to perpetual bliss.  Before you even think about getting married, imagine yourself waking up the day after your wedding, after the hoopla is over, and looking soberly at the imperfect person lying next to you.  If the day in and day out routine of living with that guy and his quirks for the rest of your life –  with money troubles, sickness, and other inevitable curve-balls occasionally thrown in –  makes you even slightly squeamish, then you’re not ready for marriage.

3. You are absolutely sure you can count on your partner to be a true adult.

I once attended the impossibly romantic wedding of a gorgeous, charming twenty-something couple who had met while volunteering in the Peace Corp. and had a whirlwind courtship.  The marriage ended on their honeymoon when the husband physically abused the wife for disagreeing with him over something trivial.   Had the wife not rushed to the altar in a state of infatuation, she would have seen that this man was very immature with a big anger problem and didn’t respect her.  The moral of course is that you don’t really know another person until you see how they respond when things get difficult.    And the only way to get that kind of insight about a potential husband is to observe how he experiences life challenges – resolving disputes, addressing conflicts, facing disappointments, and motivating himself to achieve tough goals, for example – before you say “I do.”

4. You’re clear where your partner stands on all the big issues.

As a marital therapist, I see couples decide to divorce because they can’t find common ground with parenting or finances.  Most of these couples tell me that they didn’t know they had major differences before they got married because they didn’t think it was important to ask.   Well, it is important – in fact, it’s crucial – to determine before you get married how you will handle money, discipline your children, deal with conflict, cope if one of you becomes chronically unemployed or ill, or address infidelity.  Discussing such pivotal issues before you make a legal commitment will help you determine whether you share enough goals and values to make marriage work.

5. You’re not looking at marriage as way to change your partner.

It’s tempting to believe what Hollywood movies tell us, that Mr. Wrong can become Mr. Right once he experiences the sedating bliss of married life.  It’s easy to get carried away with fantasies about the perfect wedding and an idyllic white picket fence future, but a man who cheats, lies, isn’t sure that he loves you, blames everyone but himself for his problems, or in any other way shows you clearly that he’s a poor marriage risk, probably won’t change no matter how much you hope and wish and cajole him.    Disregarding red flags is a sure way to end up unhappily married.

6. You don’t expect marriage to make you feel better about yourself.

Marriage is an amazing, affirming journey when both partners already feel whole, capable, and confident as single adults.  It’s an incredibly grounding sensation to know that your other half is in your corner and always there for you, and that’s what you can expect to experience if you look at your husband as icing on the cake rather than the cake itself.    There is no guarantee that anyone is ever really ready for marriage because there is no telling what marriage – or life, for that matter — will bring.  But one thing is sure:   if you go into marriage knowing that your happiness is ultimately your responsibility, you will be as poised as any newlywed can be for marital success.

About the author

Dr. Amy Wood

Through speaking, training, consulting, and one-on-one sessions, psychologist Amy Wood has helped countless adults from all walks of life and work to articulate and accomplish their own versions of success. Known for her pragmatic optimism, she believes that every human being is a unique and valuable individual with the inner resources necessary to overcome any challenge. Dr. Wood earned her doctorate from the Adler School of Professional Psychology,  is certified by the College of Executive Coaching, and is based in Portland, Maine.

Dr. Wood is the author of Life Your Way: Refresh Your Approach to Success and Breathe Easier in a Fast-paced World an award-winning personal improvement book that surpasses quick-fix self-help rhetoric with a sustainable program for adapting to our perpetually hectic age.   She is a co-founder of sPeak performance, a speakers bureau comprised of women authors, and is often called on for her expert opinion by media ranging from local newspapers to Parade Magazine.

To learn more about Dr. Wood, visit her websites and