It’s almost Valentine’s Day. It’s also, not coincidentally, National Marriage Week here in the States and in the U.K. In support of this effort to affirm marriage, I could list all the reasons why marriage matters; but this two-page document does a better job.
Unfortunately, facts like these aren’t enough to convince young women that they need to think differently about their futures. Someone needs to tell them the kinds of things no one else will so they can make smart choices that will benefit them later. With that in mind, here are 6 things young women need to know about their future lives.
1. By the time you hit 30, the likelihood of your deciding that marriage and family—not career—is the most important thing in your life is astronomically high.
The truth is, you’ve been misled—by your parents, by your teachers, by your mentors, and by the culture. You’re told the most important thing in life will be your career. That will not be true for 99% of you. Once you hit a certain age, having a strong marriage and healthy, happy kids becomes paramount, and if you haven’t prepared in advance—by making smart decisions in your love life that lead to a happy marriage, by choosing a career path that works well with motherhood, by staying near family so when the time comes you have the help you need—you will very likely regret it.
2. Whom you choose to marry, not which career you choose, is the single most important decision you’ll ever make.
If you choose well, and by that I mean marrying a man of strong character who’s gainfully employed (I know, I know, you want to know where those guys are—I wrote about that here in 2012), you stand a better chance of being successfully married. If you choose poorly, by marrying someone who’s still in the process of ‘finding himself,’ or because it’s convenient (you’ve been together this long, so you might as well), or simply because you love him, your marriage will be a ticking time bomb. Love is not enough to make a marriage work. The decision about whom to marry must be practical, purposeful and smart. Almost as if you’re making—get ready because this may make you cringe—a business transaction.
3. The quality of your marriage will have more effect on your happiness and well-being than anything else in life.
This goes hand in hand with #1. You’re going to have a thousand ups and downs in your life, and most of those ups and downs will have to do with your personal life, not your professional life. If you lose a job or decide the career you chose is not for you (happens all the time), you’ll find another. But the quality of your marriage (and, in turn, the quality your relationship with your kids) will affect your psyche in a way nothing else will.
4. Divorce doesn’t solve problems—it creates new ones.
Assuming there are children in the picture, which for most divorcing couples there are, getting divorced will likely ruin you financially. So that’s just one problem: you’ll be poorer. But there’s much more to it than that. As Jordan Peterson rightly notes, divorce is like having “non-fatal cancer.” It’ll catapult you into a different world, not a better one. You will likely divorce again (because with each divorce, your chances of divorce skyrockets), and your relationship with your children will never be the same. Rather than explain why that is, I’ll point you to this article, which lays it all out.
5. If you remarry, rest assured your new husband will have just as many warts as the first.
You will never get everything you want all wrapped up in one man. It doesn’t matter whom you end up with—John Doe or Brad Pitt—there will always be something missing. Always. The Green Grass Syndrome, or the tendency to believe there’s a better life out there for you if you just have the courage to find it, is a lie your generation was sold. Reject it—because it’s deadly.
6. There are things you can do to strengthen your marriage so it doesn’t crash and burn.
This year my husband and I will celebrate our 20th anniversary. When I was in my 20s, I had what’s called a “starter marriage,” or a marriage that lasts five years or less and does not produce children. All of which is to say: I’ve been a wife pretty much my entire adult life; and I’ve learned a few things. Rest assured my marriage is no more or less flawed than anyone else’s. We are all subject to failure, particularly in this day and age, when marriage is no longer revered or supported by the culture. That said, here are the things my husband and I do to keep divorce at bay:
- We are a team. Everything we do is checked with the other before it is done, including parenting and financial matters.
- Neither one of us considers divorce an option.
- Neither one of us is married to our jobs. ‘Family first’ isn’t just a slogan for us; it is truly how we live.
- We have gone to counseling when we needed to.
- We don’t freak out about the ebbs and flows of our sex life, but we never let too much time pass between, well, you know. As an author I know once wrote, “Sex is like superglue.”
- We get away alone together whenever possible and prioritize our marriage over our children.
- Neither one of us considers divorce an option. Yes, I know I wrote that twice. It was purposeful.
Upon reading all this, you might be tempted to ask, “What about young men?” Does my advice apply to them as well? For the most part, yes. The reason I’m addressing women is because it is women, not men, who’ve been groomed to believe their primary passion in life will be their careers. What no one tells them is that this just isn’t the case for most women. For one thing, most people have jobs—not careers. And the few women who do have big careers usually end up cutting back, or reorganizing their priorities, for the same reason women with plain ole’ jobs do.
Because there’s so much more to life than work.
And because trying to be a big shot powerhouse and still be a sane, loving and engaged wife and mother is futile. Those two worlds don’t intersect—they collide. They are in direct competition with one another, as Indra K. Nooyi, CEO of PepsiCo, courageously admitted in 2014. Knowing this in advance will help you create a life that works.
And finally, because at the end of the day it is our relationships, not our jobs, that matter most.
So as you map out your plans for the future, don’t forget to prioritize marriage and family. Put IT at the center of your life plans, and you won’t regret it.