As a woman, I have been told from a very early age to date a man for several years before getting married. My family has warned that you cannot truly know a man until you have dated him for an extended period of time. “The longer you date before tying the knot the more likely your marriage is to succeed” I was reassured. I get that, but I also had an epiphany tonight on why it is so important to date for X amount of years before marrying.
*Before I continue with this idea of mine I’d just like to add that my sister and her wonderful husband got engaged and married extremely fast. They met, became engaged, and got married within a year if I’m not mistaken. I think their marriage is beautiful, special, and the exception to the rule. They were absolutely made for each other.
So here are my thoughts: Yes, it is important to date for several years before marriage so you can get to know someone. Not get to know someone in the way that you know how they take their coffee and eggs, but deeper. You know how that person will react in certain situations, their worst habits, and downright disgusting traits. You learn their fighting style, love style, and accept their sometimes unfortunate clothing style.
While all of these things are important, I think there is something even more important: working through problems and issues while you are still dating. A couple is going to have a lot of things to work through in the early stages of a relationship. If you don’t, maybe a truly deep level hasn’t been reached yet. When two people come together, they bring baggage. Some may come with a cute little carry-on that can be neatly stowed beneath the seat. Others bring the 20-year old haggard suitcase stuffed to the max. No wheels on that bad boy for easy transport, it is uncomfortably carried for years and eventually hurled onto the lap of the significant other.
So every couple is going to have issues to sort out, and inevitably decide whether or not they want to put up with the other persons baggage. It is easier and more fulfilling, in my opinion, to do this while dating. If you get married after a few months of knowing each other, you will run into that baggage after you are already committed (read: stuck or trapped). No animal, including humans, likes to feel trapped. If you’ve already got that ring on your finger when you realize that Sally likes to throw screaming tantrums, it’s going to be difficult. You may have doomed and helpless feelings of “this is my life for the next 50 years” or “this is who I married, this won’t change.” Crazy Sally may also be less inclined to change her attitude. She may be thinking “we are married now; I don’t have to change because THIS is who he married.”
When you are dating, you make a decision every day to stay with that person. As bad as it may get, you are choosing to stay and work through your deep-seeded issues. There is no court contract saying you have to stay with Crazy Sally, you do it because you love her and want both of you to grow together, not apart. Both parties want to improve themselves, become more balanced, and emotionally healthy. If this can’t be done, it is easy to walk away from a dating relationship, logistically speaking. Usually there are no kids, joint bank accounts, homes, cars, or pets to tie you down.
I think it is important to come to a place where you can comfortably coast on the dating plane. Baggage is in the open and sorted through, no matter how old or unsightly it may be. Of course once married you still have problems to work through and a lot of room to grow, but to me this makes sense as a setup for a lot of honest and resentment-free years of marriage.