Is Marriage Worth the Effort?

Q: Other guys talk about their wives like they're the stereotype of the ball and chain. The wives nag and make their mates feel bad for doing anything without them. I love my girlfriend, but I don't want to end up like that. She keeps hinting that I should propose, but I don't have a great picture of how marriage turns out. My parents are divorced. My brother is divorced. My best friend is divorced. My buddies who are still married are miserable. Why would I want to get married? I don't want to lose my girlfriend; she's great! But I don't want to lose my freedom either. I'm afraid she'll leave if I don't make a commitment to her, but I'm afraid of what will happen in the long run if we get married. Is it worth it? - Bryan, 51

Dr. Susan: You want to know if marriage is worth it. Millions of Americans have recently won a long fight for the right to marry, so my answer is "You bet it's worth it." However, when your family background and your friends' marriages all seem to be telling you that marriage ends badly, every time, it's time to start thinking for yourself. Number one, realize that you don't have to follow the beaten path and make the same mistakes others do. Why not learn all you can about what makes a marriage work in the long run (read a book by Gottman, or my own Loving in Flow). Then talk with your girlfriend.

There will be adjustments, certainly. Some couples manage a fair amount of individual freedom. That is, they have separate work, some separate friends, and a few activities their mate doesn't enjoy or share. If you think a woman is a ball and chain because she likes to be told where you are and when you'll be home, then I think marriage may not be for you. It's a fine balance, but you can find it if you want to.

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