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Marriage and Mental Health

Marriage is quite the institution.  I believe it is meant to be a union between individuals that have a shared interest in building a life together.  I realize that you don’t need to be married to build a life with someone, and there are many people who believe that marriage is just a piece of paper, but so is cash, your social security card, and your degrees from university, and I’m sure no one is just willing to hand them over.  I believe that your mental health should be considered when it comes to forming any form of partnership, such as a marriage.  Your mental health is something that you carry with you every single second of the day and should be considered first and foremost.  Here are some things that should be addressed with yourself and your partner before you decide on foreva, foreva eva, foreva eva.

First, what made you decide that getting married was the right decision in the first place?  

As quiet as it is kept, you do not have to say yes just because someone has asked you to marry them.  Often people think that this is the natural progression of things if you have been in a relationship for a certain amount of time.  You may also feel pressure from friends and/or family members because you’re “so in love” or you would “make such cute babies.”  While there are so many things to unpack in those statements alone, it is important to know that these are not reasons to get married.  Love is not all that you need to be married.  Marriage is a choice that you make every day, and some days, it will be one star, do not recommend.  However, there are more things that keep you together such as commitment, effort, and even your values.  Furthermore, you do not have to be married or even have a partner to have children.  Thank you science.  You may have been with someone for a long time and are still unsure if you want to make a marriage commitment to them.  There is nothing wrong with that.  However, you should not say yes if you are unsure.  Time spent with someone does not mean that you are beholden to them, or that you owe them in any way.  And if you are entering into a marriage feeling this way, like you owe someone, or that you are dependent on them for your wellbeing, it will likely put a strain on the marriage and yourself.  However, if you are entering into this marriage with your mind and your heart aligned you are already starting off on the right foot.  Thinking about why you are interested in marrying your partner doesn’t automatically mean that you are having doubts.  It means that you are human, and you have decided to take marriage seriously and enter upon the union with the respect that it deserves.  This also means that you have decided to make your mental health a priority because rushing into a significant commitment without processing it can cause inner turmoil which will impact your health, the way you occupy the world, and the way to engage with yourself. 

Ask yourself, how do you feel when you are around this person?  Are you able to be your most authentic self? Marriage is 24/7, and that is a long time to be maintaining a persona or a mask around who you are to please others.  If you feel as though the partner that you are considering committing to is a safe space when you are experiencing the full range of emotions, happiness, sadness, fear, etc, then it sounds like you are on the right track.  Life has its hills and valleys and having someone that you can engage in that journey with and share with them and go to them for shared guidance, is an incredible outlet for stress and a considerable protective factor against many mental health difficulties.  A strong support system can help you to feel less isolated, and when you are struggling in life it can be a very isolating experience.  However, if you are often concerned about being judge or perceived harshly during times of need by your partner, then you may need to reconsider whether marriage is the right commitment at this time. 


Next, how do your values align with your partner’s values?  Your values are your fundamental beliefs that can guide and motivate your actions.  They can be things such as commitment, independence, and compassion.  You are by no means required to marry someone who shares the exact same values as you.  However, you should discuss core beliefs with your partner and how they will impact you in the future.  Values are an integral factor in your life because living against your values or constantly having to go along with decisions that are against your values will likely cause mental distress.  For example, if independence is something that you value highly, how does your partner feel about vacations?  Does every vacation have to be a family affair, or are they comfortable with you traveling alone or with friends?  If there are things that you disagree on, how do you plan on resolving these issues, which brings us to a very important mental health consideration when discussing marriage, disagreements.

How do your disagreements typically pan out during your relationship?  It is impossible to agree on everything in your marriage and to be honest, no one expects you to.  Conflict is a natural part of any relationship.  However, are you able to have disagreements, or does it constantly escalate to arguments?  These are two very different subject matters.  A disagreement is simply when you fail to agree on a certain topic or decision.  However, an argument ensues when the disagreement escalates to include negative intentions or emotions.  Arguments can include name-calling, defensiveness, and blame.  So, it is helpful to think about how your conflicts have typically developed.  Are you satisfied with the way that they ended?  Do you feel that you are consistently giving in to appease your partner?  Furthermore, has your partner ever used negative tactics to make you feel bad about yourself or your point of view during these conflicts?  It is important to address how you will continue to handle conflicts and even identify ground rules during these times.  This can start with discussing ways that you handled a conflict well and a time that you felt that a conflict could have been handled in a better manner. What occurred during each of these events, what would you like to continue or discontinue in the future.  If you feel as though you or your partner cannot handle conflict appropriately you may be less likely to be honest when you disagree to avoid a negative encounter.  By doing this, you will feel as though you are walking across a tight rope during your marriage which is mentally draining, and no way to live.

Above all else, ensure that the person that you are deciding to be with is good for you.  That they respect who you are and that you respect them.  Do not fall in love with the person that you think your partner may become one day.  Love them for who they are today and decide that that is the person that you are willing to make the commitment to at the altar.  But above all else, remember that no one is entitled to keep you from your joy or destroy your mental health, no matter who they are.  And just because you have gotten married, does not mean that you need to stay married.  If you are ever at a point, where you are having more bad days than good during your marriage, where there is a lack of support, respect, accountability, equality, or effort.  Plan for an exit strategy and protect your mental wellbeing.  Audre Lorde put it best when she stated “caring for myself Is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”

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