O f the many things December month is famous for, it’s also known as the highest peak in the wedding economic activity in South Africa. Most young people, likely in their early to mid-30s, will be committing themselves in holy matrimony pledging to spend the rest of their lives together. However many of them, while not entering marriage only to annul it later, are planning the final touches of their weddings completely oblivious to the fact that 4 in 10 of them won’t see the 10th anniversary. And we wish to sound an alarm through this week’s column, even if you’ve almost crossed all your wedding T’s and dotted most of your I’s.
We do so not because we have pleasure in spoiling your party, or are bitter that you didn’t invite us. But the pain of divorce, especially over something you wish you could have handled before the wedding, is far worse than the excitement of the wedding itself.
In today’s column, we simply wish to say, if after a brutally honest examination of yourself and your partner there’s still an inkling of doubt in your or their character, value system and intentions, then you may be well advised to postpone the wedding no matter how much you believe you “love” one another. The cost of the embarrassment and gossip that’ll be because of the wedding cancellation would be far cheaper than that of going ahead with it despite the issues you know should be addressed before the wedding. And who said love is all you need anyway?
In the 15th year of our marriage, we’re even more convinced that love is not everything in marriage. As our relationship matures, we learn that love cannot sustain marriage. On the contrary, it’s marriage that actually sustains love. When you live long enough in marriage, life teaches you that love is not all you need.
If you ask any divorced person, they’ll tell you that love does not keep a marriage together. It’s never a lack of love that leads to divorce. It’s all the other stuff that actually feel more compelling.
Sometimes in the process of dating, we easily get caught up in the emotion of falling in love and forget to ask critical questions about ourselves as well as our partners. You see, in order to build a solid relationship after your wedding, you will need much more than love. And to commit your life to someone in marriage because you’re “in love” is to sound a death knell on your marriage from the onset. You’re not going to be “in-love” all the days of your marriage. There are periods you simply won’t feel in love, and you’ll then be confronted by the question, “can your marriage survive falling out of love?”
Again, if there’s an inkling of suspicion in your or your partner’s character, value system and intentions, then we advise a postponement of the wedding. It doesn’t matter if you already share a child together, have paid the lobolo and have almost paid everyone for your wedding.
While sharing common interests, for instance in music and food may enhance your relationship, a shared value-system can make the entire difference. It’s not enjoying the same kind of hobbies, holiday destinations and similar kind of activities that makes a relationship strong. Actually, enjoying similar kinds of interest may in fact be one of the sources of boredom in marriage. On the other hand, if you have no shared values but lots of common interests, you might have great moments, but when it comes to making critical decisions about your marriage, finances, children and careers, you may find that you lack strong foundations that can move you forward in harmony. How compatible your values are will determine how happy your marriage will be. For instance, if you believe your career is top priority but your spouse, on the other hand puts family time first, you are likely to have a serious problem.
One of the main reasons most marriages fall apart is because couples fail to appreciate why God created marriage and what their role is in fulfilling that purpose. It’s also not enough to ask why marriage, and not ask why are you two getting married. If you’re talking about sharing your life and entire being with another person, it’s probably a good idea to get on the same page about what that means before you say “I do”. Nothing in our view, tears a couple apart faster than partners that are pulling towards different directions. Love spoils when it lacks direction, and does so quickly.
Shared level of maturity
Studies upon studies worldwide all agree that age is very important when getting married. When you marry too young, below 21, you increase your chances of divorce much more than marrying at 27 or above, which dramatically reduces those same chances. But that’s not the point here, because age and maturity can be two vastly different things. Many married people are like children. They have a small view of the world and, until their horizons are broadened, they believe they are the centre of that world. However, being married, they quickly learn through their spouses that the world does not revolve around them. There is simply no way of sugar-coating this. A successful marriage requires the maturity of both partners at relatively similar levels otherwise it’s an unequal yoke.