Deciding to get married is one of the most important decisions a couple will make together. Before making the decision to get married, take an honest look at yourselves as individuals and as a couple and talk together about how you see your future. If one or both of you is facing deployment, you may feel pressured to get married, and you will need to take extra pains to understand if this is the right step. The information below can help.
Reasons you may be thinking about marriage
There are many reasons a couple may want to get married. The important thing is to recognize which reasons are the right reasons, and which reasons are not enough to make a lifelong commitment. Marriage may be right for both of you if:
- You can imagine yourself together far into the future.
- You share the same basic values.
- You feel the same way about having children and agree on how to raise them.
- You feel that you bring out the best in each other.
- You respect and appreciate each other.
- You communicate well with each other.
You should think especially hard about whether marriage is the right decision if:
- You think marriage will change you or your boyfriend or girlfriend. Keep in mind that marriage won't change anything. In fact, it may make matters worse by raising the stakes for each of you.
- You want your girlfriend or boyfriend to be eligible for your military benefits. While this is certainly tempting, by itself it's not enough reason to enter into a legally binding contract with another person.
- You are afraid your relationship will fall apart during deployment if you don't marry. If you doubt your relationship will last a separation, it probably won't last a lifetime.
What a strong marriage looks like
The healthiest marriages are ones where communication is open, frequent, and respectful. Here are some common characteristics of a strong marriage:
- The couple discusses their feelings, hopes, and dreams honestly.
- When a conflict arises, the couple talks it through with mutual respect for each other's feelings and viewpoints.
- During heated disagreements, each person knows when it's time to walk away and cool down.
- Both members of the couple are willing to make up after an argument.
- Neither member of the couple expects the other to stay exactly the same over time.
When one or both spouses are in the military, the marriage faces stresses that civilian marriages generally don't face. Long deployments, separations, and other military obligations bring extra challenges. If you enter a military marriage, keep the following in mind:
- Be prepared to spend a lot of time without your spouse. Be prepared to be separated, sometimes for many months. You'll be on your own for holidays, birthdays, family events, and the inevitable crises of family life.
- Make sure you can handle finances alone. Make sure you know how to balance a checkbook, deal with home maintenance and repairs, and handle any financial problems.
- Be prepared to see less of your family. If you're close to your family, be prepared to see them less often and to communicate in new ways — by email or maybe through social networking or a family website.
- Make sure you are ready to move often. This requires strength, organization, and a positive attitude.
- Embrace the military culture. As the spouse of a service member, you are likely to have certain obligations to readiness groups. You will need to adapt gracefully to new social situations, make new friends, and get involved.
Questions to ask yourself before getting married
A marriage is a coming together of two people — physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Within each of these areas, there are certain issues that are critical to a successful marriage. To help you decide if you're compatible in each of these areas, ask yourself the following questions:
- Are you happy with the way decisions are made in your relationship? Will you make military career decisions together, such as a decision about whether to re-enlist?
- Have you discussed and agreed on your long-term plans?
- Combat deployments might bring on conflicts you don't understand. Would your spouse be willing to see an adviser or counselor if combat stress starts hurting your marriage?
- Do you tell each other when you are upset about something? You both should be willing to try to resolve the matter in a way that respects the other's feelings and viewpoints.
- Is either of you quick to lose your temper? Do you argue over petty matters? Married couples fare better when they recognize what's worth arguing about and what's not.
- Do you criticize one another in public? This is a sign of disrespect and should be treated as a warning sign of an unhealthy relationship.
- Does either of you tend to bring up past mistakes? A good way to get along is to leave the past alone and focus instead on the present and the future.
- Do you trust each other? Military marriage requires more blind trust than your average marriage. Are you confident that both of you will be faithful during separations?
- Do you agree on finances?
- Do you trust each other with money? Will you be comfortable sharing a checking account and credit card?
- Do you have similar financial goals? Have you discussed savings and investments?
- Do you agree on whether you should both work? What about after you start a family?
- Is your career flexible enough for a military marriage? You need to weigh your career decisions against marriage decisions.
- Do you share the same expectations of physical intimacy?
- Do you agree about children?
- Have you discussed when to start a family? Do you agree on the number of children you would like?
- Do you agree on how to raise and discipline children?
- Do you agree on the role religion or spirituality will play in your lives and the lives of your children?
- How do you feel about each other's family and friends? They'll be part of your life after you are married.
- Do you agree on housekeeping issues, such as how tidy your home should be kept? Do you agree about owning pets?
No one should rush into a marriage. You need to take an honest look at yourself, your relationship, and what each of you expects from a marriage before deciding whether to get married. If you go into a marriage prepared for the future, you are more likely to enjoy a strong and healthy relationship.