I continue to receive email from readers with ideas for a better marriage test than the one authors Jill Andres and Brook Silva-Braga wrote about in their book The Marriage Test. Those two, then dating, spent a year recreating the 40 biggest challenges in a marriage. The success of their experiments would determine whether or not they would get married.
Several readers and I agreed that the stress of borrowing a friend’s toddler for a weekend of “parenting” was hardly comparable to the real thing. Instead, readers offered up their own advice to those who are considering the leap.
Some made me laugh, though not without sympathy. “A test of the marriage is when you find that your stash of chocolate – which normally gets allocated to the whole family and should have lasted three months – was discovered by your spouse and raided while you were out of town, and not a single piece was left,” wrote Jonathan, of Highland Park. I’ve been there, too, and it was not pretty.
Far more serious was a note I receive from Laura, of Northbrook. She spoke from experience and offered up several questions for people to consider before they marry:
“If you lost your job tomorrow or became very ill, would your future spouse be the person you could rely on to be there for you? If Armageddon came, is this the person you would want in your foxhole? How would your future spouse be during those times?”
Laura encouraged people to live separately in the same city for two years before marriage; to get to know each other’s families, including a discussion of how your future in-laws feel about your union; and to discuss your visions for marriage, complete with writing a mission statement and timeline.
“I know this is a lot, but premarital counseling is important,” Laura wrote. “There may be an App for this. If not, there should be.”
But after I sorted all the mail, I was left without an answer to the obvious question: how do you know when you are ready to get married? I asked, and my friends from social media offered several answers.
Wrote Johanna, a North Shore native now engaged and living in Oregon, “When I realized I could sit in absolute comfort with Tyler at all times. Silence, corny jokes or discussing serious issues, waiting, driving, sharing, complex tasks and planning, it makes no matter: any time spent with Tyler is good time, and I realized I’d like to spend as much time as possible exploring that further.”
Likewise Jason, from Chicago (a married man who was celebrating the fifth anniversary of his engagement the day that I asked): “When I met my wife-to-be, so many things in my life that had seemed difficult or nearly overwhelming while I was single just got easier and, well, better. It never occurred to me to marry anyone else before her and I’ve not had a moment of regret since.”
And then there was Jen, from Dallas: “Make sure it is your best friend: someone you can talk to about the good and the bad, compromise with, and has similar dreams and values.
“Marriage is hard work. It takes a renewed commitment, sometimes daily. Make sure you find someone you want to solve problems with and navigate sunny and dark days with.”
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This column was originally published in The North Shore Weekend Newspaper