Marriage is no longer an inevitable and somewhat mandatory milestone but a matter of choice, for both sexes. Both men and women now have the liberty to decide when they want to be married. Most men want to be financially stable and women want to be independent, before they feel ready for a commitment.
However, that is not the only factor that defines marriage readiness. Financial stability and independence are an important variable in the decision process but not the only one. Mental readiness is also, if not, 'the most important' factor.
So how does one know that one is ready to make a commitment? Does one get married due to loneliness and for want of a companion? Should one commit for financial stability, emotional intimacy or sexual gratification? Or should one take the plunge because one is growing older?
Technically, one can get all of the above needs met in a series of temporary relationships or a committed live-in relationship.
Readiness to commit is a culmination of a complex matrix of variables.
In my practice, I meet many couples with idealistic or over-the-top romantic notions of a relationship. Most of these ideas fall apart within the first few months of the relationship. Marriage is not about unending sacrifices and compromises but neither is it only about red roses and candle-lit dinners. The notion of a marriage lies somewhere in the middle. Any committed relationship needs some basic ingredients: respect, trust, acceptance and love. A healthy respect for each other's attributes, implicit faith in the partner's actions and motivations, acceptance of each other's differing needs and expectations and of course, love is what makes a relationship work.
Marriages and committed relationships bring about significant changes in our lives. So it's important to assess your readiness.
Assess your readiness
Should you live in before you commit?
Living together prior to tying the knot is beginning to get accepted in the Indian society—at least, in large metros. While this arrangement can raise a lot of hackles, it does have its share of advantages.
- Living with each other allows the couple to test waters and get to know each other better.
- Staying together allows the couple to understand respective opinions, habits and routines and know whether they are in for it.
- It provides an opportunity to get used to sharing space with the prospective marriage partner. This can significantly streamline the transition into a married arrangement
There is a downside to it, as well.
- Living together is not an acceptable arrangement in most families in India. If the living arrangement does not culminate in marriage, it could make things awkward for the concerned individuals and their families in the future.
- A perceived lack of compatibility could lead to the couple walking away from the legal commitment, causing a lot of heartburn.
- On the other hand, over familiarity could dampen the spontaneity and exuberance in the early marriage days, later.
Living together prior to marriage should not be treated frivolously. It is a serious step towards a more permanent commitment. Unless the two individuals are mature enough to understand that living together prior to marriage is not a game that one walks into one day and walks out of the other, it's a workable concept. It should be looked at from the perspective of convenience of the two individuals to 'be together', not for ease of getting out.
- You will become answerable to and accountable for someone else. Once you get married, many of your actions will not only reflect on you but on your partner as well. This is an added responsibility. Are you game to take this on?
- Your time is not just your own anymore. You will have to put some time aside for your partner and his/her needs—many times at your personal cost. Are you ready to let go of a substantial chunk of your 'me time'?
- You will have some shared responsibilities towards each other's families. Your duties towards your own parents will not necessarily decrease, though they could change. How do you feel about this added obligatory duty?
- Success of a long-term commitment necessitates little sacrifices and many compromises. From big decisions like career choices to seemingly small compromises like sharing your personal space and belongings with another person—there is a whole spectrum of changes that one needs to make. You can take them in your stride or look upon them as impediments to a happy life. How equipped are you to handle this change?
- If you stay in different cities, career sacrifices could be a part of your marriage. How willing are you to let go of your current job or potential promotion to support your partner's career decisions?
- Having and raising children is a significant part of marriage. It involves time, effort and another round of adjustments to your life. What is your outlook on having kids?
When you answer these questions, remember, that there is no right or wrong answer to them. It's your view and you are entitled to it. However, if you find yourself mulling over these questions and responding to most of them in the affirmative, then you are probably ready to take the plunge!
The most significant sign of marital readiness is when you brood about: Do I know myself?
Are you aware of your attributes, weaknesses, values? Most of us are ignorant about our own beliefs. They live in our subconscious. Unless faced with a situation that demands a conscious response, majority of us aren't even aware about our own opinion about different issues that
we could face.
A self-exploratory journey is the foundation for marital readiness. It becomes easier to choose a partner because the knowledge of self will bring a lot of clarity to the process. You know who you are and what you expect. As a corollary to that thought, you will also know if you want to be in a committed relationship.
Finally, mental readiness is a frame of mind and only the person herself can know if she is up for the commitment. It is important to assess the readiness before starting off on the process of finding a marriage partner or committing to an existing one. Nothing could be worse than getting married and finding you would rather be alone.
This was first published in the June 2012 issue of Complete Wellbeing.
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