Marriage: Do You Have Realistic Expectations?
by Jessica Gross and Amy Rankin
Divorce-party invitations are becoming almost as commonplace as their counterparts. If you don’t want to end up in that camp, you need to take a long, hard look at your expectations before getting married.
In the wise words of Nigel from The Devil Wears Prada, “Wake up, sweetheart”. Leaving the fantasy behind can help you find and focus on true love.
You might want to reconsider that guy you went home with last weekend: almost one-third of married couples started as a hook-up, according to a report by the National Marriage Project in the US. If your booty call becomes a boyfriend (or more), be careful not to let your laid-back beginning set a pattern of sliding through milestones (like moving in together), says study author Dr Galena Rhoades. “Those who make decisions thoughtfully, together, will do best,” she says.
Mr Right Is Not Real
You might have a list that goes like this: “Sexy. Smart. Sensitive. Successful. Caring. Career-driven. Has hair. Does not go to strip clubs. Tall-ish.” It’s your ideal guy, in bullet points and, if you can’t find someone who’s able to check off every single quality, you’re just going to have to keep swiping right.
Perhaps because of the princess stories we were fed along with our zoo biscuits or the rom-coms like Bridget Jones that came later, the idea that our very own Mr Darcy is out there took root. You might have packed away your Barbie and Ken dolls and buried your copy of Cinderella, but it’s hard to let go of the notion that The One is out there.
“The problem with looking for the perfect mate is that there’s no such thing”, says clinical psychologist, Jennifer Taitz. Recent research has found that even married woman are still waiting for their prince to come. A study published in Mass Communication and Society found that if married women believed in the TV portrayals of relationships, they tended to be less committed to their own pairings-and to find alternative partners more attractive.
Feel Like You’re Settling?
All of this Mr Everything brainwashing might well leave you feeling like you’re settling-even when you’re not. Unless your guy is some sort of idris Elba/ Ryan Reynolds mash-up who gives your break-dancing butterflies in your tummy when he’s around, there’s belief (somewhere in the back of your mind) that you could do better.
Our modern dating methods – Tinder, Wanga, Pokèmon Go (yes, people are meeting and hooking up through the game, plus it has more users than Tinder and Twitter) – have led to our waning commitment levels…Having an infinite number of options means there’s always a better prospect around the corner, says psychoanalyst Susan Kolod. And, like Pokèmon Go, you can get addicted to the hunt. #GottaCatchEmAll
Here’s an interesting theory: the Mr Right fantasy isn’t really about holding out for excellence, says Kolod. It’s an excuse to avoid real intimacy. Relationships are messy and scary. They require vulnerability and a loss of control. So, if we focus on an unattainable ideal, we have a ready-made excuse for not trying. Almost half of all divorces in 2013 in South Africa were for marriages that lasted less than 10 years. The point, however, isn’t to give up what’s important to you or to be with a man you’re not attracted to. It’s to be with someone who fits you, personally.
Look for someone who shares your values, says Taitz. For example, you might have an anything-goes attitude towards sex, so a guy who considers handcuffs off-limits will probably bore you quite quickly. If you’re independent, don’t try to make it work with someone clingy. And if you want kids, your partner should too.
Try making one list of requirements and another of preferences, suggest Taitz. You might want a tall guy but need one who loves dogs. Make sure you’ve got your priorities straight.