Even if you want to be.
My engagement to my first husband was a whirlwind. There were many reasons we weren’t ready to get married and I remember my doubts at the time — but I pushed through them. I couldn’t call it off: the wedding was organized! The cake was ordered. The guests were invited. The dress was fitted. It all happened so fast. I needed to trust myself and slow things down, but I didn’t.
Married life can be challenging and sometimes there are things we need to do first to give it the best chances of success.
Here are 4 signs that you're not ready to tie the knot just yet:
1. One of you is struggling with mental health issues or addictions
Many of us struggle with mental health issues. I’m certainly not saying everyone with depression, or anxiety, etc., shouldn’t get married. What I am saying, though, is if your mental health is not well treated and managed at the moment, then that is your priority right now — not planning a wedding.
It isn’t kind to yourself or you partner to get married while dealing with major mental health issues or addictions. Getting married won’t fix things. The stress of the wedding, if anything, could make it harder to get well. The kindest thing to do is wait and get the professional help that’s needed.
I say professional help here because too often I’ve heard people saying things like, “My partner just need my love and support, then they’ll be fine.”
No. They won’t be. You are your partner’s supporter, sure, but you’re not their rescuer. Rescuing is a dangerous road to go down. If you want to help them, encourage them to access the professional help that’s available.
2. You don’t like yourself
If you’re not happy with yourself, it may not be the best move to be getting married at the moment. People with low self-worth tend to tolerate behaviours from their partners that they shouldn’t. They are also more likely to fall for love-bombing and miss other red-flags that might indicate problems further down the line. (Know the red-flags to avoid unhealthy relationships).
Other people with low self-worth behave badly. Sometimes they act jealous or become controlling because they feel insecure. If you don’t like yourself, get help to figure out why and to heal — for your own sake as well as your partners. Married should be about two healthy, whole people coming together. Getting married may make you feel better temporarily but it won’t be a long term fix.
3. You think something will change with marriage
A friend of mine cried on her wedding day. Not your usual tears-of-joy type cry — she cried so hard that they had to cancel the photography session. I took her aside for a chat to see what was wrong.
“I just don’t feel married!” she wailed.
They’d been living together for a year. They acted married already. I was confused. What did she think being “married” would change for her?
Marriage doesn’t correct anything or change your relationship. If you’ve had a lot of conflict before you get married, it’s more likely to increase rather than improve. If you can’t trust your partner to be faithful, marrying them won’t make them any more loyal or change their character.
One danger sign for relationships, according to researcher Ted Huston, Ph.D, is a dating period that has a lot of drama. Another warning sign, he says, is when factors like jealousy push you towards a decision to get married: "If I marry them, it will be clear they're off the market."
If you think marriage will fix you, fix them, or fix a situation, you need to think again. Marriage has a tendency to exaggerate any issues that were there before — add housework, finances, family, and extended family into the mix and things can get challenging quickly.
4. You’re not in the “attachment phase” yet
If you were friends before dating then it’s a bit different, but with love-goggles on you can be blind to your partner’s faults for months.
According to research by professor Helen Fisher, there are three stages of falling in love: Lust, attraction, and attachment. In those initial lust and attraction periods your brain is charged up on dopamine and other hormones that make you feel incredible. Everything seems special and exciting. You get that love-rush every time you think of them — in fact, you can’t stop thinking about them!
They’re perfect for you. It’s like you know each other and connect like no-one else ever has. You’re soul mates.
But it’s human nature to find similarities and connections (we often feel new people are “just like us”) and this tendency, combined with the early stages of love, can cover up a lot of potential issues.
The initial lust and attraction phases calm down over time — as you head toward the attachment phase — but they can last for months. When your body and brain is still flooded by all that yummy dopamine (and other love hormones and neurotransmitters) it’s hard to make clear decisions.
Things become clearer after a year, when the attachment phase of love generally starts to dominate.
You can see their faults now, you’ve had disagreements, you’ve seen how your relationship copes in times where there is stress or conflict, and you’ve seen how you are together when things are boring and everyday — just going to work, doing the dishes, and getting chores done.
If you want to be with this person forever, what’s the rush? Waiting a bit longer to get to know each other better is no big deal if you’re planning on a lifetime together.
I'm getting married again this year. It’s not a whirlwind this time around. It’s slow and relaxed and very easy. The wedding day isn’t the focus— our relationship is — and second time around, it feels very different.
There’s no rush to get married. It’s so much better to wait until you’re completely ready and give your marriage the best start you can.