If you’ve ever mulled over the idea of popping the question or have had a girlfriend put pressure on you to do so, you know how life-altering making this decision feels.
To help you avoid making any choices you may regret, we’ve compiled a list you can use to evaluate your readiness for marriage. From your demographics to your childhood experiences to your personal values, personality and attitudes toward relationships, we’ve rounded up the five important factors you should assess to determine if you're marriage material.
Simple demographics, such as your age when you get married, your level of education and your income can have a surprising impact on the success of your marriage. For example, studies suggest you should be at least 26 years old when you get married (Source: National Survey of Family Growth, 2002, conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics).
As well, staying in school seems to have an effect on whether or not you get married at all -- 64 percent of college graduates are married compared to 48 percent of those with high school diplomas (Source: Pew Research Center). Finally, if your and your prospective mate's combined income is at least $50,000, you have a 68 percent chance of reaching your 15th wedding anniversary, whereas if your salary falls into a lower income bracket, the likelihood that you’ll ever marry is lower (Source: Pew Research Center).
Made for marriage: You’re headed toward your 30s (or you’re already into them), you have at least one degree under your belt and you and your girlfriend earn a combined minimum of $50,000 per year.
Your attachment style
Your attachment style characterizes the way you behave and feel in relationships, and stems largely from early childhood experiences with your parents. Approximately 65 percent of children can be classified as having a secure attachment style, with the other 35 percent classifiable as having one of the other three insecure attachment styles, which are known as anxious-preoccupied, dismissive-avoidant and fearful-avoidant (Source: Prior & Glasser, 2006).
Adults with secure attachment styles tend to choose partners with secure attachment styles and go on to have lasting relationships. Individuals with insecure attachment styles, alternatively, are drawn toward mates with insecure attachment styles and have higher chances of divorcing (Source: Clarke-Stewart & Brentano, 2006).
Made for marriage: As a child, you had your emotional needs met and were loved consistently. As an adult, your romantic relationships have not been plagued by a pattern of jealousy, continual fear that your partner will leave you or the belief that you’re better off without a relationship.
Personal values, such as your reasons for getting hitched in the first place and your views on the purpose of marriage, also exert a significant influence on whether you’re marriage material. As well, whether or not you live with your girlfriend before you tie the knot also affects the prospective success of a marriage. Even though it’s now common for most couples to do so, living together before you’re engaged is not necessarily a good test of whether your marriage will work. In fact, it may even be detrimental -- as cohabitating actually results in a 6 percent drop in the likelihood that you’ll stay married for more than a decade (Source: National Survey of Family Growth, 2002, conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics).
That means that if you favor the more conservative route of waiting until you’re engaged to move in, chances are you’ll still be living under the same roof 10 years later. To decide if marriage is right for you, it’s also important to examine what the institution means to you in the first place. According to research, 87 percent of married people say that marriage is about a lifelong commitment and 81 percent believe its about companionship, whereas only 59 percent say it’s about children and a mere 31 percent site financial stability as a good reason to walk down the aisle (Source: Pew Research Center). What’s more, the quality of the friendship you have with your bride-to-be might account for up to 70 percent of the satisfaction both of you will feel with the sex, romance and passion in your marriage (Source: John Gottman, 1999).
Made for marriage: Consider it a sign that marriage may be in the cards if you’re ready for a serious commitment, you’ve met someone with whom you have a deep sense of friendship and you’re not rushing into the relationship by shacking up too early.
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Studies suggest that approximately 25 percent of divorces are the result of personality differences between partners (Source: Psychology Today). Neuroticism is particularly deadly for a marriage: neurotic individuals tend to harbor feelings of anger and hostility, feel frequently self-conscious and irritable and may be prone to depression and anxiety (Source: Psychology Today). If that sounds like you, consider what impact this personality trait has had on your previous relationships, then try figure out some alternative ways to deal with stress and emotional difficulties in order to improve the quality of your next one.
Made for marriage: You have a reasonably easygoing personality, meaning that you tend to look on the bright side and you don’t sweat the small stuff.
The attitudes you bring to your relationship play a role in determining whether it will grow stronger or eventually fall apart. About 80 percent of divorced men note that their marriage ended because they lost a sense of closeness with their partners (Source: The Divorce Mediation Project), so try to develop stress management skills when it comes to interpersonal relationships.
Your attitudes toward relationships
Maintaining a strong bond between yourself and your partner will require some effort if you want your marriage to be successful. Moreover, research shows that when a man is not willing to share power with his wife, there is an 81 percent chance that his marriage will fail (Source: John Gottman, 1999).
This statistic makes sense -- after all, maintaining a long-term relationship requires compromise, so if you can’t handle not having everything your way, your marriage will not progress smoothly. Compromise includes everything from family decisions to finances, in-laws and even domestic chores. According to sociologist Ann Oakley, 87 percent of couples do not share housework and men tend to overestimate the amount they do. Women, however, find men who are willing to do housework extremely sexy, so if you think of compromise as a way to boost your sex life rather than a loss of power, you’re high-quality marriage material.
Made for marriage: You understand that a relationship is a work in progress. Whether you’ve been together for a year or for 20, you know that the trick to fueling the fire of your relationship is to work on compromising and ensuring that you and your partner continue to engage in mutually enjoyable activities that make you feel close.
Hopefully, this breakdown has helped you take stock of a few things so that you now have a better idea of whether or not you’re marriage material. Of course, it’s important to remember that there are exceptions to every rule, so you and your future wife may beat the odds no matter how many numbers are against you. However, rather than blindly hoping that will be the case, it’s always a good idea (no matter where you fall in terms of statistics) to be honest about any trouble spots suggested by your profile. Dealing with those issues now will only improve the quality of your relationships, whether or not you choose to say “I do.”