The Purpose of Marriage

Robert (@StockSage1) asked: “What’s the purpose of marriage?”


First off, I know Robert very well. He has an idea for a blog post that he’s never done that I think is brilliant: it would bleed, tell a story, and show his clients that’s he’s not afraid to speak the truth. But the post has the element of fear in it. It’s revealing so he’s afraid to do it.

Fair enough. Secrets are kept.

Meanwhile, he was telling me this while beating me in chess last February. THIS IS AN UNFORGIVABLE SIN.

It was cold outside. I can’t give any other excuse because it was just as cold for him. He’s a strong player, a ranked master, and we had one draw and one win (for him). I want a rematch – February 11 at the Doral Golf Club near Miami, 4pm. Robert, are you in?!  (in chess, the annotation “?!” means “could be interesting”or also “dubious” whereas “!?” means probably good, scary, full of potential but if not done correctly, horribly awful, beyond dubious.

So Robert, to answer your question fully, I have to say, Marriage is “!?”

Marriage is a gift you give to your spouse. It’s a gift that says, “I have fully enjoyed our  past together, I fully enjoy our present together, and now I want to devote the rest of my future to helping you achieve your goals, to being with you, to you being with me, and to taking care of you (or vice versa) when we are old and sick, as we will almost assuredly will be.”

You can’t give a gift like that lightly. The pieces have to be set up in the right spots. Everything has to be aligned. The slightest piece off could mean that your position has gone from “strikingly interesting” to “dubious”. The seeds of disaster are always right there in front of you if they exist.

One area where Claudia and I differ, for instance, is that she likes to travel. I don’t. But I’ve succumbed. We’ve been all over the world since we met. And fortunately it’s been much to my enjoyment. One way she’s “sacrificed” if you call it that, is that I have two kids. Two kids are a lot of work! But she loves them and it works.

But the rest of the position on the board works. So I was happy to give her this gift and I hope she was happy to give this gift to me.

Robert then asks, “but do you have to be legally married?”

Of course the answer is “No”. You don’t HAVE to be anything. But there’s something psychological about being physically married. You go from “what am I going to do with Claudia tomorrow” or “this week” or “this month” to “Where should Claudia and I live fifteen years from now?” And how do we get there together, hand in hand. If you can get that feeling without being legally married then power to you. But for me, I can’t. The past and the future co-mingle once that marriage certificate is issued. If marriage is a gift then getting legally married puts the wrapping on that gift. It makes the gift pretty

So that answers: What is the purpose of marriage, but let’s do a quick checklist on…

The SHOULD you get married Checklist:

A) Ethics.

You should both have similar ethical standards. Standards about non-violence, telling the truth, feelings about adultery. Feelings about what you want in life (does this have to do with ethics? Of course, because if you want similar things then you will feel similar feelings of envy or non-envy as the occasion arises).

In NYC, I go to Grand Central a lot to take the train home. Whenever I see a man and a woman kissing right by the train gates I think one thing: adultery. I would say about 1/3 of NYC marriages are adulterous. That’s their business. But why are people taking trains to two different places in the suburbs? It’s because they live with two different spouses. Again, it’s their business. But doesn’t seem, for me like the most relaxing and pleasurable way to live life.

B) Discipline.

Do you both work in similar fashion towards your goals? Do you both keep clean? Equal standards of cleanliness are very important. Claudia is very clean, for instance, and I’m disgusting. But I work towards being similar towards her. It’s important to me. If it wasn’t, then attraction would subside faster than it normally does in any long-term relationship.

There’s a saying, put a dime in a glass jar every time you have sex with your girlfriend/wife the first year. After that, take a dime out every time you have sex. You’ll never empty the jar.

Your goal, if all of these boxes are checked, is to empty that jar as quickly as possible. Equal standards of cleanliness and discipline are part of that after that blissful first year.

Do you both eventually want to move towards a life of material pursuit to one less ambitious, more in tune with contentment? This goes along with religious. If one is into New Age Born Again Christian Astrology and the other is an atheist then these are 100% different religions. So this suggests you might have great chemistry but in the long run, even five years out, you might have great problems. (Nothing wrong with New Age Born Again Christian Astrology and nothing wrong with atheism. But they ARE different).

The notion of contentment is very important. If one side wants to make $100 million and be a high-powered banker in the city and the other person wants to live in a small house eventually by the ocean then, again, the first year might’ve  been huge chemistry but long-term you’re eventually going to drift to people who have similar feelings about long-term contentment.

C) Physically.

You should always have similar ideas about what constitutes good health and the methods for keeping the good health. If one of you works out every day and the other never does then attraction would be lost fast. Also, the one who works out every day will have consistently higher libido.  And the one who doesn’t work out every day will feel bad how they look and will end up with lower libido. If libidos are way out of whack then, that’s it, the marriage is in trouble and adultery is around the corner.

Physical also means how much energy you have. Is one is filled with energy from eating well, sleeping well, exercise, etc then the other person needs to keep up. Again, this can all be covered up the first year or two. But in marriage, things like this are a seed that turns into a big tree. And you can be at the bottom of that tree while your partner has climbed the top and is staring out at the mountains on the other side of the river. (See also, “How I was Completely Humiliated By Yoga”)

D) Mentally.

This doesn’t mean you have to be equally smart, or like the same books and movies. In every Woody Allen movie they all seem to like the same boring operas and then break up at the end. But I do think it means having a similar curiosity, a similar love of having things you are passionate about, a similar eagerness to explore the unknown (and by the way I’m not saying you should both WANT to explore the unknown but have a SIMILAR predilection one way or the other towards exploring the unknown.

E) Emotionally.

There’s the notion called “Splitting the difference” – one side is always aggressive, the other side is always passive. One side always wants to clean the house, the other side always wants to mess up the house. And this difference gets wider after marriage. So there has to be a constant recognition, “Ok, this is where I’m splitting the difference” and try to bring that difference back to even. A conscious decision on both sides. It’s a daily check because it happens every day. You have to consciously think, “this is what she would do”, so you do it first. There’s a piece of dog shit on the floor. I should pick it up first. (By the way, I could probably never marry someone with a dog). There’s a light on in the other room. I don’t care but I should shut it down first. And she should be thinking the same way. He probably wants that Amazon Kindle Case so he doesn’t break his Kindle. I’ll get it.

F) Willing to Surprise.

The senses get dulled over time. If someone keeps scratching an itch, it eventually has no effect, or you end up with a bloody scab. You need different ways to approach surprise. To bring you back to that feeling you had the first moment you kissed.

One guy once wrote me last Valentine’s Day and said, “its 5PM Valentine’s Day, I have no idea what to do?” I never heard from him again after that but here was my answer:

Try one of these two things. With your handy waiter pad, fill it up with notes of love. Put it all over the house, so that even a year from now she might find a note in an obscure spot. Or make a blog, where every post is a different reason you love her. You can’t ever forget the desire to surprise that you had that first week, month, year.

G) Spiritual.

Ultimately, we’re all on a path. Not to see who makes the most money. Or who can bowl the most strikes in game. Or who can do the most pushups. But what are the attributes I need to pursue to find contentment in life. You’re 30 years old, say, and thinking of getting married. 60 years is a long time if you think you are going to be in a monogamous relationship that long.

It’s good to check the box that you are on a similar path towards contentment. Not necessarily happiness. I’m happy when I’m eating a big lemon pound cake. But then the cake is gone and I feel sick. But contentment, where everything you have is enough. Where everything you don’t have is in just the right spot. And you’re together and that’s good.

Damn , I did it again. I don’t know how to write a goddamn short blog post. All Robert (who I WILL have revenge on February 11) asked was one simple question. And now I’m up to 2000 words. I can’t include this in the twitter Q&A blogpost.

By the way, the above checklist is not just to decide if you should get married to X, but if you, personally, should get married at all! You might not be ready to be “ethical” in terms of adultery. You might not have any clue what sorts of long-term goals surrounding contentment you have. Who knows? I just think this is a good starting point.

  • good thoughts James

  • Fantastic post James! One of your best and that is saying quite a lot. We are on for the chess rematch and in all honesty I was just interested in your answer, I don’t have any plans to get married anytime soon…….Have a great time in India (don’t drink the water, not even the bottled water from what I hear) and I’ll see you in Doral in February…..oh and you can’t bring your chess coach with you (unless it’s FED).

    • So what can you drink in India then? Beer? That’s how we Europeans survived the middle ages… 

      • I hear the beer is pretty good

        • Wajahath A

          You are sure a SINNER Robert, bottled water is fine is India.
          Why do you guys exaggerate things about India and make it look like s&*t.

        • Robert Sinn is an Idiot

          Bottled water is fine in India, you stupid shit.

    • Anonymous

      Bottled water is fine in India, just make sure the seal hasn’t been broken.

  • Quietjim

    You have no clue. Marriages are like snowflakes.

    • I wish you had told me that before I wrote 2000 words!

    • haaaaaaaaaaaa

  • Just fantastic James, thank you! Though I do align myself correctly on all criteria, I wouldn’t have been conscious of how I’m willing to give & receive in marriage. Ima big girl now!!

  • CTrader

    This is good.   The fundamentals of who we are will never change after a certain age.  People should wait to get married, when the basics of who they are and how they want to live are established, then find someone with the same standards.  It’s easier to support each other and continue growing together if you know who you are, and you pick someone with similar beliefs.  You’re still learning all of that in your early 20’s.  Knowledge about yourself and who you really are, not who you wish you were, should be the foundation of choosing a mate.

  • The answer is different for men and women. 

    I can only answer the men’s side of the equation.  Without a mate we spend 99.124% of our energy seeking a mate.  In order to refocus most of that 99.124% of our energy we must solve the equation. 

  • Anonymous

     You might also check out 

    • Anonymous

      If you believe this is the normal order of things, then you deserve the kind of woman you’re bound to attract.

      • Anonymous

        Right, a foreign woman who takes care of herself, her man and the family.   What a concept!  American women are fat, spoiled, have attitudes that they are deserving of everything and easily opt for divorce once they dislike anything relating to their union.  Working things out isn’t in the cards where the culture openly accepts divorcees.  

        • Anonymous

          Yeah, we’re all alike, we American women. We’re all terrible. Keep telling yourself that. And if you persist with a negative attitude, what you will attract is negative. Ask JAltucher if you don’t believe me. In the meantime, move somewhere else if you don’t like American women. Go find that foreign woman you seem to want. Go on, now… she’s waiting for you. And don’t let the door hit your ass on the way out.

          • Anonymous

            Yeah, she is in the US babe.  No need to go looking overseas.  If she has an accent, I am interested.

          • Sorry – but I agree with the wahsingtonpost819,  American women are spoiled and the laws are decidely in their favor, and their “tudes” are insufferable. 

  • Pawn to c4

  • Anonymous

    James, I agree with your posts about 95% of the time, but this one falls in the 5%. With marriage, I default to the statistics. 50% of marriages end in divorce. Then there’s the other 50%. Many married couples that stay together are by no means in love, or in a “successful” relationship. How many truly happy married couples do you know? I know a few. The rest are in dysfunctional relationships, or are “staying together for the kids”, or won’t part for religious reasons, but truly can’t stand each other. Then there’s the whole idea of asking the government permission to get married that makes no sense to me. Isn’t this a decision between 2 people? I personally think contracts take 100% of the romance out of a love relationship. So I’d say at least half of people who stay married are staying in failed relationships.

    Would you jump out of an airplane with a parachute that has a 25% chance of working? Then, why would you get married?

    • Well, thats why I provide the checklist. I think in those 50%, they would not have survived that checklist.

      • What about your first marriage if I may ask? 

        • In my first marriage, I did not go through the checklist properly. I don’t say this as an insult to her. She is a great person and great mother to my kids. But I probably was not ready on certain levels.

          • Leti Watson

            Thinking about it, frankly I’m surprised it’s 25%. How many truly happy people do you know? Is it surprising that when these people get together the result is not always pretty.

      • Anonymous

        I guess my point was that marriage is just another one of those cultural myths, like everyone should go to college, or everyone should own a house. So maybe we should just stop with trying to prove that marriage is overall a good thing. Maybe it is good for some. But owning a house may be good for some too. I don’t have the answers but it’s clear that for whatever reason, marriage doesn’t work for most. Maybe everyone should have the checklist but I think there is something to be said for finding a great relationship and not getting married (much like finding a great place to live and not buying it).

        • I don’t think Jame’s trying to say that marriage is overall a good thing for everybody. He is saying that IF you want it, here is a checklist to increase the possibility of a successful outcome. I think it’s a good list.

          • Yes, I’m not saying its good or bad. maybe most people shouldn’t get married. But I give a reason why it  mght be good and a checklist to see if a couple is ready, or if one personally is ready.

          • BrianBalk

            Just being ready (to get married) isn’t even enough.  Even if ready and all boxes checked, it’s also maintenance, re-checking the list 24x365xLifetime.  Daily practice for self, for relationship (post topic?), for balance with everything and everyone.  So many ways to fail.  But also every day is an opportunity for new growth.  And even if it fails, pick up pieces and try again.  Your own life and story, James, case in point.

    • It’s also interesting to see that most divorces are initiated by women who are usually the party who benefits more economically. 

      I’m not into forcing people to stay together but I think the incentives are misaligned in a contract where the breach or closing of the contract has no consequences for the party that breaches it. The government basically got out of marriages through no-fault divorce, but the laws on alimony and custody still stand as they are. This disproportionately benefits those with a financial incentive to end the marriage. If the government doesn’t monitor marriage as a contract why is it involved at all? 

      Marriage comes after romance. It extends it into a partnership, which involves pooling your resources for mutual benefit. Of course this requires of both to keep working on the partnership. 

    • what do you do about loneliness.  women want the stability of contracts.  they worry that you will abandon them.  this is in their DNA.  I agree with you the the state of modern marriage is depressing.  But that is on the back end (5 years later). 

      The basic problem with the checklist is that there are parts of the personality that do not come out until there is adversity.   Then the checklist goes out the window and fasten your seat belts.

      I have three adult kids.  and I tell them that there is nothing worse than a lousy marriage.

  • Gina Catapano-Bentley

    I often believe that things are brought to my attention for a reason and your eloquent words were just the reference I needed today.  Marriage is a gift and not one to be given or taken lightly.  

  • Ccfaille

    If I were white I’d advance the Queen bishop’s pawn. With or without a pawn exchange, this would give me control of d5, which is where I want to put my bishop.

    • I think the answer is Qc7

      •  can you elaborate on that….

        • Yeah, if qxq then you push the rook to the back row, rook takes rook then white takes rook checkmate, 
          blacks rook on 8 takes queen, same as above
          if rook d7 takes, it progresses as above until the column d has no defense on the d5 square, at that point the bishop moves to d5, checkmate.

      • nice! it’s straightforward once you see it, but there is no way you’d find a move like that at a game

        •  only if he moves the qeen or rook from 8 but why would u do that? u can simply take the qeen with D7 to C7

          •  or move knight to a5

          • if Qc7 Na5, then QxQ and mate

          • So blacks position is really “???”

          • BrianBalk

            Black’s position is SOL.  Unless white (like me) doesn’t see the C7 play.  I forgot about the bishop at G2.  Hard sometimes to analyze a position you didn’t get to by actually playing the game out.

          • Rd7xQc7 then Re8! QxE8, rxE8, rxe8 Bishop checks! and then mate in 2

      • Yep.

  • Dice

    So what’s white’s “!?” move?

  • ‘The Yoga of Romantic Love’

    That’s just a great idea.

  • It seems a lot of couples falter in the “Emotionally” category. They take their spouse’s shortcoming(s) in that area as a failure and get out of the relationship. If there is a good foundation (the other categories), each person is able to identify where they can “split the difference.” Splitting the difference isn’t a failure, it’s a thing you do when you love someone.
    Now, I have to find that cake topper…

  • love that You end this list with Laughing,,, laughing together = perfect.

  • Message received.  aaahhh, gota go to work now

  • The purpose of marriage is similar to the purpose behind the Old Testament’s prohibition against eating pigs  and is meant to protect mankind from something that has been lost to history.

    To put it in terms that you and STockSage1 can both understand, the purpose of marriage is to “check your mate.”

    The command to not commit adultery is interesting, as men could easily take multiple spouses if the desire compelled them, so it must have been aimed solely at women. This was the equivalent of the Supreme Court’s ruling that corporations are people, in that Biblical era women were property, yet the Commandments recognized their obvious human traits and desires.

    Not coveting your neighbor’s spouse is more problematic. No doubt that when your ancestors saw a man and woman kissing at a camel crossing or trade route there was something illicit going on, but only the woman could be to blame and stone tosses were reserved for her face alone.

    Marriage has evolved so much through the millenia to the point that it is now devolved. The logical end, as you pointed out when dissecting “Amicable divorce” the other day, is to yet another oxymoron, the “divorce court”

    • Prohibition of adultery was aimed at both, it was to prevent the husband from providing for another man’s child. Of course it was a bit messier to enforce given that there was no DNA testing. 

      • I agree with the past director of the Patent Office, who in 1899 said that everything had already been invented.

        I think that to be true in that only the form ever changes. SOmetimes, after countless form changes, the evolved iteration may appear unrelated to its ancestor. For example, immersion of suspected witches and warlocks was as effective a tool as the current day lie detecting device, but you’d be hard pressed to see the similarities if you only inspected the superficial aspects of each.

        By the same token, DNA tests were probably available in Biblical times, just in a different form. Perhaps offering a sacrifice of the suspected “bastard child” and awaiting a message from your Diety of personal choice.

        Ultimately, whenever I’m faced with a decsiion or dilemma, I always wonder What Would Moses Do?  Afterall, he broke the tablets. There must have been a reason.

  • “He probably wants that Amazon Kindle Case so he doesn’t break his Kindle. I’ll get it.”


  • You are going to kill me not posting the solves to the chess positions you post.

  • One of the most important pieces of advice that I received, too late, was “to marry the person you want to be the mother/father of your children.”

  • It’s simple-to love and have sex with your best FRIEND.

  • Susannah Breslin

    Tell your wife to write that book.

  • My husband and I read your blog every day and always end up discussing it later–just one of the many things we share in common. :) We’re looking forward to your adventures in India. 

  • WOW James – you are on fire!! So many posts this last week of 2011. You must have made a resolution for a certain number of blog posts and you are trying to get them all in before 2012. Keep up ‘da good posts! 

  • Taimur Longi

    Want to buy your book but “This title is not available in your location” (Middle East) :(

  • James did you interview/cover this person for your HBO  program

  • Anonymous

    Sometimes I can even share your blog with my wife. I just want to give you a great big hug. A manly hug of course.  None of the poofy-poofy stuff.

    Ha!  Cheers!

  • Anonymous

    I agree with the checklist James. I think not just for marriage but relationships in general, you should keep that checklist and constantly review it to make sure you and the other person are at the same level :-)

  • Would you please explore further the effect of having different religions in marriage. Also the issue of being spiritual aligned?

  • Anonymous

    Never mind.

  • JaneyB

    Great post. Thanks. It’s really an outline for the ‘yoga of a nourishing marriage’. (Yes, Claudia: the book!) Brilliant! For those who are thinking about divorce rates and empty marriages etc… well, people do yoga even when they are inflexible, injured, tired, whatever….If we show up and actually focus from wherever we are, transformations will happen – something as true of our personal relationships as it is of our body-mind. Thanks for reminding me!

  • Did you get a prenup for your second marriage? would you advise doing so to someone that’s never been married and is worried of such things? Some would argue not to get married if a prenup is on one’s mind.

  • Great post once again, me and you have to play online chess one day. 
    Check out these Awesome Company Offices when you have time:

  • Altucherfan

    Marriage is like committing to eat ONE food for the rest of your life. I love fois gras, but after eating it every day for years I would come to detest it. Which is why most marriages fail. As humans we are simply not meant to be monogamous. 

    Also, please note that 50% statistic is misleading and grossly underestimates the failure of marriage. Just because someone stays married, does not mean they are happy. A lot of miserable married people out there who simply cannot afford a divorce for cultural or monetary reasons – this is especially true outside of the U.S. 

    • Anonymous

      Some miserable marriages are miserable because I suspect people (i.e. me included) somehow have hidden wish/tendency to be miserable.  Not because of marriage per se.  Miserable condition is something that is projected from inside out.  Marriage is just one life condition that people happen to be in at some point in their life.  Because it comes from the inside, we thus have miserable jobs, miserable friendship, miserable family, miserable weather, on and on.   SOme rare and fortunate people I know seem to be always happy without trying no matter what. 

      • Anonymous

        This is a very insightful comment. So true. Awareness is a great step forward for the many of us with such tendencies. Those rare and fortunate ones got a gift at birth which allows them to direct their energies toward pursuits other than managing their thoughts.

    • Unfortunately, many men and women see marriage as this type of ultimatum. While this is understandable due to the origins and history of this cultural practice, it’s indicative of an underlying belief that so-called long-lasting fulfilling relationships are only possible via this type of disenfranchising imposition.

      But for others, marriage is not a strategy for an awesome relationship, rather it is the result of some serious kick-ass strategy.  The reasons most marriages fail has nothing to do with what we were “meant” to be. If you are in a position to make a choice (i.e. not forced into an arranged marriage) and feel that you were meant to be/do one thing and then choose to do something else, then you only have yourself to blame. Marriage doesn’t fail, WE fail. For my husband and I, our marriage is the formal representation/communication of our shared respect, ideals, and goals that WE’VE outlined and practiced since the start of our relationship. The ritual of it was celebratory and declarative, the recognition of our mutual participation in our relationship. The “success” of our relationship (not marriage per se) depends upon our honest participation and the recognition that we are both dynamic individuals on a path of constant growth and change, with varying perspectives and desires. Since we co-create the terms of our relationship/marriage, we don’t necessarily have to “eat ONE food for the rest of our lives” – but for now we are. 

  • Mark Benton

    James, I like a lot of your posts, this one, not so much. I think the answer to the question “what is the purpose of marriage” is : To grow people up. This is true of ALL marriage, same sex unions, polyamorous relationships, etc. You have already written how you and Claudia have done this for each other, that when you see Claudia act more mature it makes you want to be more mature also.
    I do love how you say that marriage is a gift you give to your spouse. This should be how BOTH partners feel, not just one of them.  I would find it more helpful to tell people that marriage is a gift you give to your spouse AND yourself. Marriage will challenge you in ways that you never thought possible, and will make you change and grow for the better, if you let it. 
    You just have to be ready to grow, and challenge your spouse to grow. You will never know enough about each other, or yourself, especially if both partners continue to grow and mature. This alone should make marriage enough of an adventure. Both partners will change, their preferences will change, favorite foods will change, music tastes will change, religion will change, all of this will challenge each partner to grow up. When one partner grows, the other partner is faced with having to grow also, or be left behind, possibly divorced. I would suggest the books “ScreamFree Marriage” by  Hal and Jenny Runkel, and all the books by David Schnarch, to learn how to “hold onto yourself”, and to become more differentiated, grown-up and stable as people and partners.

  • ChrisK

    Everyone should do what you did, James: make a checklist of one’s own and see, over time,
    how it holds up, how it keeps the union strong, if it is honest–or if it is just empty ideals and unattainable.

    Those who enter a contractual relationship must take it seriously.  We must take very seriously the breaking of the contract. We must be rock-solid before bringing babies into the union, where raising them requires stability.

    Boundaries: both parties to the contract must spell out what their boundaries are–what they cannot live with (case in point: Penelope Trunk and partner abuse).

    I am on my 2nd marriage with a unique contract. My partner and I have embraced a common cause and have pledged to go through to the end, each of us supporting one “end” of the cause and together being the safety net/failsafe for the cause. We are older and the romantic element is not so important.

    I think that you have to believe in the person you are with. You have to be willing to give that person a lifetime to live up to his goals/your goals and expectations. You have to be encouraging to that person, but not demanding–as you both live up to your goals and expectations.

    I think we should also address the abrasiveness of everyday living and how we cope with the “small” annoyances that may build and build . . .

    And, as in Penelope’s blog, how it is possible to have such different communication styles/needs that one partner can lash out violently against the more talkative/communicative/analytical partner.

    Last, as you get older and perhaps less able to function, or in the throes of a chronic health condition, the relationship must shift. Perhaps one person will become a caregiver . . . You have to think about yourself in that role and how it may play out . . .

  • Scarlett is so pretty .  wow.

  • Rodrigo Galvão

    Hey, there is an interesting follow up to this Q&A. I’m married and happy with it. Now, should I have kids”?!” (or “!?”)

  • Great post – I think what some of the detractors need to understand is that you have to WANT to be married, and WANT to be married to the person you’re with. You make it work, then.

  • Anonymous

    Interesting checklist.  But having been married for over 25 years, I would say that checking these boxes does not assure a healthy marriage.  Do not forget the cliche “people change”.   When you are 23 years old, working at your first job, maybe living in the big city, you may meet someone that you believe has the same interests.  You go to the gym, they go to the gym.   You love the movies, they love the movies.  But over time, people change.  One or both of you may put on a lot of weight.  One of you may decide the fast paced life they thought was great at 25 is not so great at 45. One person will still want to go to the movies and the other will want to stay home and read a book.  After having kids, one of you may decide that family life is more important than the career.  This evolution of change is almost impossible to see when you are young and getting married.

    I have found there is some truth in the saying “look at the mother before marrying the daughter”.  While I agree that common ethics, goals, religious beliefs all help, study the future in-laws and ask yourself if you could see yourself growing up with the whole family and being happy.  If so, you and your future spouse will probably get along over time as most of your spouse’s beliefs and habits were built in that family environment.  If that environment does not match, you may find out 20 years down the road the true nature of the person you married.

    • My wife’s mom killed herself so it’s going to be a battle of the cliches here.

  • True Love Without Expectations…

  • Damn, I just started following you from a TechCrunch tweet and I am really impressed.  You are a smart man and I look forward to all your words of wisdom.  I’m being honest.  : )

  • Marriage is hard. 

    One piece of advice I give my children: If on your wedding day you are walking down the aisle, or you are at the alter, and your in your gut you want to turn and run – DO IT.

    I will always support that decision.

  • Lawrence

    I’m writing this from my bedroom where my girlfriend of almost eight years is sleeping right next to me. The first time I saw her, she was 12 and I was 15. I asked my mom who she was and somehow knew that I’d be with her one day. We started going out just before she turned 18 in her last year of school.

    We’ve been through rough patches and lately I’ve been thinking more and more about getting married. I used to want to get married for religious and finacial reasons until I realised there is no real finacial benefit to being married that being in a non-married relationship can’t provide. I am also no longer religious and so now it’s nothing but a paper contract.

    Like James mentioned, I am one of those people who is already thinking about “us” 5-10 years into the future without feeling like we should be married. Perhaps I’m a realist but the tradition and expense of a marriage including the wedding ceremony and eveything that goes with it seems like a waste of time and money.

    If we do get married it will be like James says, a gift to her from me, because I know she wants it and perhaps needs the psychological security that it may provide.

    As for adultery, in my experience it seems always to be a choice that is actively sought out. It doesn’t happen by accident. I think people also have different priorities, not everyone has their relationship at number one. Some people would rather cheat on their wives with golf or something similar rather than another real life woman.

    I’m glad I found your blog James, it makes me think and once I start thinking I end up wanting to share which in turn makes me write more when I can’t help but throw in my two cents.Deep down I fancy myself as a writer one day and at the rate I’m going I might as well write my own eulogy.

    • Anonymous

      Lawrence, your story sounds so familiar… I married the only man I ever loved this past September. We dated when I was in high school, broke up and remained friends for about seven years before we finally came to our senses, left our unhealthy relationships, and found ourselves in each other. From the female perspective, the “psychological security” as you said is extremely important. Nothing hurts more than feeling abandoned (or fearing abandonment) from the person you care for most. And since I work in a law office which handles A LOT of divorces, it is easy to become cynical or fearful of how things could turn. James’ checklist is great! I wish they would pass this out to everyone who applies for a marriage license (but that might put me out of a job). It sounds like you genuinely love your girlfriend, and you are thinking sensibly. Most divorces seem to be the marriages that happened for the wrong reasons in the first place, like religious / financial / social pressures, or the marriages that were rushed into simply because you want to “keep” that person for yourself. These were bound to fail from the start. It is insightful of you to consider alternate forms of adultery; this is another thing that people tend not to think about until they find themselves in the middle of it. I know I’m a newly-wed, but I am so thankful that I chose to marry my best friend and closest confidante. When people ask, “How is married life?” the only truthful answer I have to offer is, “The same as unmarried life!” The only difference is the security, which means the world to me. So that is my two cents…. I look forward to reading your book someday! P.S. Weddings don’t have to be expensive, they just have to be right for you.

  • amy

    Wow. Lots of cynicism. 50% divorce rate and all those cliches. Can anyone actually say that marriage is hard during the moments when the marriage is going magically well? Those moments are pure bliss filled with the re-kindling of who you fell in love in the first place. 

    But then there are the bad moments. And in my experience you don’t simply confront the other person’s shortcomings without confronting your own. That’s why it’s such a negative experience.  If you’re being honest, it’s tough not to fight and see your own weaknesses. And it’s tough not to despair that your needs aren’t being met and not see how you may have played a part in not taking care of yourself. And then those moments pass and you’re back to the moments of pure bliss. 

    I personally wouldn’t trade the good and bad days for the (very similar) good and bad days I had as a singleton. Life has plenty of ups and downs and its nice to have your best friend by your side in case they can help or in case you want to laugh at the vagaries of life together. 

    • Christopher Brand

      Something is a cliche because its true.

  • I really enjoyed this article. It is always nice when you read some thing that is not only informative but entertaining.

  • JD

    Put this on Pinterest. its spreading pretty fast. hopefully they read the article and just don’t like the picture:

  • fantastic

  • Pearleen Pham

    Hi! James. Appreciate your post. It helps me think different about married than before.

  • Marjo Pitkänen

    Thank you, James. Your post makes sense. I have been in a relationship with a man who has a slight mental disability and learning difficulties and yes, it is nice to see there are people out there who can talk about issues with their own name.