Choosing a spouse is the most important decision you’ll ever make. Because your spouse isn’t just a co-parent, they’re also your most important friend. Who’ll spend huge amounts of time with you. Thousands of days and nights, meals, journeys and events. And your retirement.
Unfortunately that choice often goes wrong, which is why so many marriages are unhappy.
Partly that’s because when you’re single, it’s impossible to imagine what marriage is really going to be like. You only find out by experiencing it yourself.
Endless books and films lead you to expect that you’ll find your future spouse from within your circle of friends. Or just bump into them, by some sort of romantic good luck. But that can take forever.
Our biology also causes lots of problems. Because marriage means forming a connection deep enough to last a lifetime. Instead, your body’s built for speed. So the moment you feel that buzz of excitement with somebody new, you’re flooded with “Go for it!” chemicals. But they’re designed to produce children, not happiness. And so, swept along by a roller coaster of lust and infatuation, you end up engaged.
Your family and community put pressure on you – and give you advice that no longer matches our modern world. And you yourself feel all sorts of weird fears. Like you’re scared you’ll be the last single in your social group, or you’ll be an “older parent”, or you’re being talked about and judged. And so you settle for a not-so-great relationship.
Or maybe you start dating someone with a personality disorder. Who’s totally charming at first, but later turns into a nightmare. Or someone who really doesn’t want to leave their single life. Who just wants you for company when they’re lonely, rather than for a genuine relationship. Or someone who’s so self-absorbed, they really just want you for an admirer. Or someone who really only wants a housekeeper, or a roof over their head, or a convenient lover… So how can you avoid all that?
Start by getting to know yourself really well. Think about why you behave the way you do, and understand your emotions. What makes you angry or happy. Recognise your faults, and do something about them.
Regard all your early relationships as training. Where you learn what you need in a partner. And how to make them happy. And how to spot the people who would only make you miserable.
Figure out your goals in life, and develop the self-confidence to stand up against your family and friends, if ever they try to push you in the wrong direction.
And meet loads of people! Because the more people you meet, the more likely you are to find a real match. Screen them with some purpose driven small talk – and don’t have even a first date with anyone who doesn’t get a tick in every box.