Have you wondered what it means to have a good marriage?

There are entire industries built around creating the perfect wedding. Look no further than the endless racks of magazines on a newsstand. Flash forward a few years and you will find entire industries built around understanding what is wrong with your relationship. Look no further than the self-help section of the book store. Or most of my articles.

But I am in my 40’s. When I got married, I followed the script. Dated for two years, got engaged, dutifully planned the perfect wedding for our families. I yielded want I wanted to the pressure of what was expected. It was all bridesmaids and flowers, invitations and thank you notes. That is how it was done.

While we spent countless hours dreaming of the perfect partner and planning the perfect wedding, we spent almost no time figuring out if we should be making what is one of the biggest decisions of our lives.

Millennials are turning the tide on that old truth. On average, millennial couples are waiting 4.9 years to get married. According to a study of 4,000 recently married couples conducted by Bridebook.co.uk, couples are dating for an average of 17 months, live together for 22 months and then spend 20 months engaged before finally tying the knot.

The younger generation is weighing the decision to marry in a way young couples never have before. Expectations of marriage are higher today.

This young generation has more time to think, to weigh the decision to marry. So in a world where you have so much time to decide, how do you know when you have it right?

The Worst Reasons to Get Married

Looking Like You Have it All

Your mother is tired of waiting to see you walk down the aisle. All of your friends are already married. You are sick of social media posts featuring happy relationships and engagement rings. You feel left out of the party. You don’t want to be singled out and about with all of your happy couple friends. You feel judged.

But guess what? Any satisfaction you glean from actually getting married lasts about as long as the joy you felt from the new car you splurged on. Soon enough, it’s all oil changes and car payments and no one really cares what you drive anyway.

Most people will get married if they want to. It doesn’t make you special. And the world isn’t impressed. And only one person has to go home every night and face the music. You.

Getting married is a decision you make as a couple, it is a lifetime commitment to grow and expand. You do it because you share the same values, you do it to chart a course together. Outside opinion is a horrible reason to make life altering decisions.

To Improve the Relationship

Seriously. No.

But, you think, getting married will change our relationship. I will have the husband I always dreamed of coming home to. It will be all perfect evenings at home and blissful vacations.

Marriage will change your relationship. If you already have a deeply connected partnership, that will grow. You become a more amplified version of yourselves as a couple in marriage. In a loving partnership, co-creation takes off as you deepen your commitment to one another. You can become a fuller version of yourself.

But a disconnected partnership will amplify just as quickly. There is no more distance between the two of you. If you distrust the partnership, marriage will cause you to cling tighter, to control your partner’s behavior. Negativity, disrespect and disconnection tend to blossom in bad relationships. Rings and flowers and parties and gifts don’t change relationships.

The Best Reasons to Get Married

You Fell in Love with Your Best Friend

It happened. You found someone who wants what you want. And loves talking for hours about physics and black holes and the endlessness of the universe or whatever crazy subject you are into. Someone who loves you, not because they think you are perfect but because they see your flaws and love those too.

You Are Going in the Same Direction

You want kids, you always dreamed of living on a Christmas Tree farm and raising alpacas. It doesn’t matter what you want, but they have to want it too. It doesn’t work when one of you wants to travel the world and the other is driven to stay put and build a career. No one should give up on their dream life to be in a relationship. It simply does not ever work. When one person sacrifices themselves to make the other person happy, resentment reigns.

The “Marriage” is Not the Goal

Marriage is like art, it isn’t something you have to do. It is optional. It is a creation out of nothing. Before there were two people, each spinning in their own vortex. Their combination made something new that had never existed before. It is that unique combination of two individuals into a couple that creates a new world, completely their own. The goal can’t be the actual marriage. That is forced. But marriage can be a magical evolution of a couple as they grow their commitment to one another.

Your Fights are Amazing

Every couple fights. If you don’t, you should think about why that is. Fighting is a healthy aspect in all relationships provided they are mindful. But there is one simple difference between a good and a bad fight in relationship…are you trying to get to the core issue at play or are you criticizing the other person for who they are? Because one one of those fights is healthy. On the other side of a fight should be a resolution, a greater understanding and an improvement to the relationship. Without that, you are just tearing each other down. Inflicting pain on your partner is controlling, manipulative behavior and it doesn’t happen in a healthy, thriving relationship.

Good relationships aren’t perfect. Every couple will fight. Thinking people will experience anxiety about the relationship. Doubts are normal. But what we are looking for is the line. When do our relationships cross the boundary from healthy to toxic?

The best advice I ever received was the simplest and the most difficult to follow. Trust your feelings. You will know.

We can read all the lists in the world about what makes a relationship good or bad, what are the signs we should get married or what is a red flag. Add up the columns, the pluses and minuses. But the truth is, you probably already know the answer.

Connected partnerships are just that. They are truly connected. You can feel it in every conversation. And they are partnerships. You co-create a life that simply didn’t exist before. As you become connected and grow as a couple, you realize someone has your back. You can rely on that person as you would a best friend.

That is the love you should marry for.

“Only once in your life, I truly believe, you find someone who can completely turn your world around. You tell them things that you’ve never shared with another soul and they absorb everything you say and actually want to hear more. You share hopes for the future, dreams that will never come true, goals that were never achieved and the many disappointments life has thrown at you. When something wonderful happens, you can’t wait to tell them about it, knowing they will share in your excitement…Never do they hurt your feelings or make you feel like you are not good enough, but rather they build you up and show you the things about yourself that make you special and even beautiful.” ― Bob Marley