By Dr. Lisa Kaplin
As my daughter moves through adolescence and toward adulthood, there are a few critical things I want her to know about marriage. While I want her to find true love in her life, I can’t sell her fairytale dreams of pretty white dresses and Prince Charming.
Marrying the wrong person is often devastating, especially for women. The truth is, marriage isn’t always right for everyone.
The origins of marriage rise out of a dark history. And even in modern times, research suggests that divorce hurts women financially far more than it does men. It’s time for parents to talk to their children — particularly their daughters — about healthy, modern-day marriage and what that means.
So here are four essential lessons I’m trying to teach my daughter before she ever considers marriage:
1. Don’t settle.
No really, DON’T FREAKIN’ SETTLE! Maybe all of your friends are getting married, so you want to as well. Yet, you haven’t met someone who you really want to spend your life with, so you settle for a guy who wants you (unsure about your true feelings). You’re going to regret it, big time.
Settle on a pair of shoes or even a car, but don’t settle on your life partner. This decision is the most important one you will make in your life; your life partner dictates how you will raise your family, financial status, career, and without question your enjoyment of life. How can you settle on such an important decision? Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg has, frequently, discussed how important it is to pick the right life partner, as the key to personal and professional success. Take her advice and choose wisely.
2. Don’t change for him.
Many of my clients are going through a divorce and often their biggest regret is pretending they were someone else in order to find a partner. Once they got married, they sought out themselves and that led to problems in their relationships. If you change yourself for a partner, when are you comfortable in your own skin? The answer is never. Look for a life partner who will love you for who you truly are. It’s reasonable to make changes in a relationship in order to get along better, but it isn’t reasonable to pretend to be someone we aren’t in exchange for love. Have a voice, use it, and let the people who don’t like your voice leave. They weren’t meant for you anyway.
3. Remember that “red flags when you meet him, turn into billboards when you marry him.”
A quote from one of my extremely wise clients. Bottom line — if you see trouble when you’re first dating someone, don’t assume that those problems will magically disappear when you get married. They won’t! If you can’t live with any issues that a prospective partner brings to the table, end the relationship. Seriously, end it now. We all bring some baggage with us, but don’t fool yourself into thinking that you can “love him out of his.” You can’t and you shouldn’t try. Love him as he is or let him go.
4. Don’t fall into traditional gender roles unless you both agree that’s what you want.
Your career is as important as his, and his involvement in parenting is as important as yours. Studies show that couples are often happier with more fluid, less traditional roles. Think carefully about how you want your life to proceed within a marriage. A woman’s financial independence is crucial if a marriage ends in divorce or if her spouse dies. Too many women readily give up our earning potential, often to devastating results.
On the other side, men also need comfort around raising their children, regardless of having a partner in life or not. Helping each other toward being financially capable and involved parents is good for your relationship and family. It doesn’t unduly burden either person — it allows you to share so much more that life has to offer.
The GOOD news about modern marriage is that we can make it what we want.
Women are in control of their destinies and our daughters can learn this from a very young age, just as long as we lead by example.
Planning whom they want to spend their life with is one of their most important goals in life. Marriage is no longer an absolute or must do. Marriage is optional and thus, allows women to choose wisely the first time, or completely opt out of marriage entirely. Our daughters need our support in understanding these choices and making them wisely.
Lisa Kaplin is a YourTango Expert, psychologist and life coach. You can reach her at Smart Women Inspired Lives.
This article originally appeared on YourTango.
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