It's wedding season, and for those of us in a serious relationship, it's likely you've found yourself wondering when will it be my time? Maybe it's the pointed question from an aunt at a cousin's wedding, watching your friends tie the knot into wedded bliss, or all those Facebook photos making the rounds. Whatever the reason, you’re anxious to make like Beyoncé and get a ring on it.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to settle down with someone you love, but stressing about when or if it will ever happen isn’t going to do you any favors. In fact, worrying about marriage can lead you to make mistakes that might harm your chance for marital bliss.
Author Mandy Len Catron deals with this, and other love-related problems, in her latest book How to Fall In Love With Anyone. It's inspired by her wildly popular 2015 New York Times Modern Love piece in which she wondered whether you could make yourself fall in love with anyone, per the methods used by psychologist Arthur Aron in his laboratory more than twenty years ago. She took Aron's 36-questions and conducted rapid-fire bonding exercise to put her theory to the test. Seemingly it worked; at the time of writing the book, the two of them were still together.
Expanding on her theories in book form, Catron uses not only her own experiences but those around her, including friends, parents, and strangers, to discuss what love means and the ideas around it. Among other things, Catron’s book highlights three of the most common pitfalls that we fall into when we worry a little too much about wedding bells in the future.
01. You think about the forever after, but not the right now
We’ve all daydreamed about our future, and almost every woman has dreamed about her future wedding. There’s nothing wrong with a little fantasizing to help pass the time, but being so future-focused might be keeping you from being present in your relationship.
Catron writes about how focusing on her partner in the present, rather than immediately jumping into a marriage, made loving her partner “easier, lighter.” It wasn’t that she was uninterested in getting married, it was just that at that moment in her life, letting go of the idea of ‘ever after’ was the best way to love her partner more fully and completely.
There are plenty of things you can do before marriage that you can practice to build up your relationship. By practicing the tried and true things that happy couples do, like the 5:1 rule of making positive interactions outweigh negative ones, or learning how to effectively communicate with your partner, you can focus on setting the two of you up for a long, happy marriage. And when the happy day does come, you can trust the foundation you have built in the day-to-day with your soon-to-be spouse.
02. You assume your love story needs to fit into the same box as everyone else.
Regardless of how we feel about rom coms or Disney fairy tales, there’s no doubt it’s become a part of our codified knowledge. Growing up with films like Sixteen Candles and Pretty Woman affected how Catron saw romance. But these films, Catron says, don't accurately show the diverse love stories of real life. Catron spends a lot of time in her book discussing how our societal narratives on love and romance shape the way we think about about our own stories, even if we don’t realize it.
Modern love stories tell us there is a script for how love should play out. We meet a good guy, fall head-first into a whirlwind romance, then get married in a short while after that. The problem with this, Catron argues, is it just isn’t true for everyone—and that's OK. Catron says that romantic films and stories lean on “the human need to simplify, to fit our lives into preexisting narratives instead of making narratives that reflect our lives."
Perhaps you and your partner are in the middle of a long-distance relationship, and the timing isn’t quite right for a wedding. Maybe one, or both, of you are still in school, and can’t afford to get married yet. Or maybe just the opposite—family members are saying you're too young and haven't lived enough yet. Whatever it is, when we feel pressured to conform to one romantic narrative, it puts unnecessary stress on a relationship. You don’t need to do what your friends are doing. You just need to do what’s right for you and your partner—that is the kind of attitude that enables true love to flourish.
03. You think that if you don’t get married soon, you won’t get married at all.
If you’re worried about spending your life alone, you’re not the only one. But rushing to the altar when you might not be ready isn’t the answer. Marrying someone because you’re afraid you’ll end up alone is no way to set up a successful relationship. It’s important to take time to know yourself, and your partner, before you say "I do".
Catron explored being alone after leaving a nine-year-relationship. Having known her ex-boyfriend since her early twenties, it was the first time in her life she had a chance to explore the freedom that came from being on her own. “I wish I’d been taught to indulge in the pleasures of being alone,” she writes. “It’s not that I am free from anxiety about love now, but rather I can see all the ways I’ve benefited from the time and space to make life my own.” Even if your future plans require getting married, there’s nothing wrong with being single. It can be a perfect opportunity to figure out exactly who you want to be.
Photo Credit: Joao Silas