Getting married is a big deal. People spend years planning for their big day, spending huge swaths of money and inviting everyone they know to join in the festivities. And once the wedding’s over and the thank you notes are sent, you start your new life with your main partner-in-crime by your side. From then on, you share your lives, your home, and all of your possessions for as long as you both inhabit this earth.
You can’t be too ready to enter into this huge commitment. So in the event you’re not ready, you’ll be able to tell, especially if you notice any of these telltale signs you’re not ready to get hitched.
You want more autonomy than your partner
We all need solo time and the freedom to make out own decisions. However, once you get married, you have to strike a balance between prioritizing yourself and prioritizing your relationship. Amanda Berry, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Chicago told me, “Autonomy is a wonderful thing, and certainly you shouldn’t feel like you’re imprisoned by your love life. But, if the relationship will suffer at the hands of your choices and the idea of that doesn’t bother you much (and you hate that word ‘compromise’), you may not be ready to commit your life to someone else.”
Psychiatrist, author, and relationship expert Ayo Gathing, agreed that compromise is key. She told me, “Being single is all about doing what you want when you want, but those days are over when you get married. One of the challenges of marriage is giving up selfish ways and learning how to navigating scenarios where you are not able to get exactly what you want. If you are not ready to give in at times you aren’t ready for matrimony.”
So if you’re not willing to budge, you may want to keep flying solo.
You don’t talk about money
There are few things more stressful in a marriage than managing finances. And in order to have healthy bank accounts, you have to have healthy communication skills about money.
Clinical Psychologist Ben Michaelis told me, “If you haven’t talked to your partner about money, you are not ready to get married. The reason is that money is one of those taboo topics in our society that we tend not to discuss, but how we feel about money and how we spend money reflects our values and partners that haven’t discussed values are not ready to enter the next sphere of commitment.”
You also have to trust your partner’s money management. New York Times bestselling author Anne Wilson Schaef, Ph.D., DHL, told me that if you don’t trust your partner with passwords and financial information, that’s another sign you’re not ready to tie the knot. “No good relationship can exist without honesty and trust. Both take time. If you don’t trust yourself or the other person, slow down. Look inside and see why the trust is lacking.”
You have secrets
Not everyone needs to know everything about you, and that’s fine — some things are just your business. But in a marriage, holding back is a bad idea. Dr. Sarah Williams, a clinical psychologist, told me, “If you are holding secrets because you are afraid that your partner may judge or reject you, then you are not ready to make the commitment of marriage. Absolute trust is essential for a healthy, long-term relationship to stand the test of time.”
Williams continued, “This does not mean that you have to disclose every little thing about yourself.” So clearly some things are more important to disclose than others. “However, if you are not able to be brutally honest with your partner about things like your finances, who you spend your time with, or how much you use drugs or alcohol, then it is a good sign that you are not ready to commit to marriage.”
Keeping too many secrets, then, reveals an emotional immaturity. Shadeen Francis, a marriage and family therapist, told me, “While you are always entitled to privacy, pursuing marriage without transparency may indicate that you are not ready to deepen the emotional intimacy in your relationship.” So find your balance, and don’t leave your partner in the dark. This is super important for polyamorous folks as well. Rhonda Milrad, LCSW, relationship therapist, and the founder and chief relationship advisor of Your Sage told me, “The success of a poly relationship occurs if everything is out in the open. Secret relationships on the side are killers.”
You don’t have a long range plan
Getting married means you’re ready to build a future together, which takes work, planning, and actualization. You have to know what you want out of your lives. And if you don’t, you should stop and think about your decision to get hitched. Dr. Michaelis noted, “Another sign that you are not ready to get married is if you haven’t discussed a long range vision for your relationship. All of us come to our relationships with different expectations based on our families or origin and experiences. Relationships and marriage can mean different things for different people.”
Where do you see yourselves living? Do you want to have children? Own a home? Are you monogamous or polyamorous? For Michaelis, you need to figure these things out before your march to the alter. He said, “If you haven’t spent time with your partner envisioning what your life might be like in ten or 20 years, then you are probably not ready for marriage.”
Divorce seems like no big deal
As I said earlier, marriage is a big deal. It’s not just a piece of paper; it’s a legal partnership that can have a drastic impact on your familial and financial lives, especially if there are children involved. So you shouldn’t think of marriage as something you can just erase with a divorce.
Speaking of divorce: if you’re thinking about it before you even tie the knot, you might not be ready to get married. Dr. Williams said, “People may be willing to get married because they think, ‘hey, if things don’t work out then we can just get divorced.’ This likely means that they have serious doubts about making the commitment in the first place and probably should not get married.”
Ask anyone who’s been through a divorce and they’ll tell you it is not easy. So take the option off the table, and hold off on marriage until you’re ready.
If there’s one thing you should be sure of in this life, it’s that you’re marrying the right person. If you have any doubt, or if there are other motivations at play, you’ll want to re-evaluate your decision. According to Dr. Williams, “Perhaps you think this is your only shot at finding love, this is as good at it gets, or you fear hurting or disappointing your partner. Getting married out of fear or an effort to please others is certainly likely to end in resentment later on.”
It’s also not a magic fix for other problems in your life. Williams continued, “Some people are motivated to get married to fix something wrong in their life or even fix problems within the relationship. You cannot expect anyone else to rescue you and it is very likely that your current problems will persist into the marriage.”
So make sure you’re getting married to the right person for the right reason: they’re the one.
You haven’t set boundaries
Every marriage needs boundaries, and no two marriages are alike in how they set them. What can be a deal-breaker for one couple is de rigueur for another. So if you haven’t discussed them or figured them out, you might be in trouble.
Marriage and Family Therapist Francis noted, “One major sign you may not be ready to get married is if you haven’t clarified what the boundaries are in your relationship. What things are okay? Where are the hard limits? Where are you flexible, and what is context-dependent? These conversations can cover anything from the division of household duties to connections with other people. Clear boundaries set the expectations that help keep your marriage safe, fun, and honest.” So without these rules and limits, you might feel like you’re riding on a bumpy road without a seat belt.
This is vital for polyamorous relationships too. Relationship therapist Milrad told me, “It is important that everyone involved accepts their place in the hierarchy of the relationship and understands that not everyone holds equal weight. The marital relationship is often given prominent status and all other relationships occupy a lesser one. The larger relationship will be more harmonious when each person accepts their place in the picture.”
You don’t trust your partner
Perhaps the most basic and yet important reason not to get married is because you simply can’t trust your partner, even though you may love them to pieces.
Melody Li, licensed marriage and family therapist associate (LMFTA) and relationship specialist, told me, “If your gut tells you that you cannot fully trust or believe your partner, it’s time to pump the breaks. This intuition may very well be picking up signs that your partner may not be completely truthful or transparent. And if that’s not the case, it may indicate that you have some personal work for you to do around issues of trust.” So don’t ignore those gnawing feelings as they might be telling you something you need to know.
If you’ve come to grips with that fact that no, you don’t trust them, don’t despair. Li continued, “This does not mean the end of the relationship. In fact, by putting in the work, say with a licensed therapist specializing in relationships, you may be able to establish a more resilient, intimate, and fulfilling marriage.”
You think marriage will change them
Marriage, while transformative and life-affirming, will not fundamentally change you, your life, or your partner. So you don’t want to take the plunge with your partner if you don’t take them exactly as they are already. Dr. Williams asked, “Are you hoping that if you and your partner get married then he or she might be open to having children? Or do you think that marriage will stop your partner’s eyes from wandering like they have been since you’ve been dating?”
Williams noted that hoping in vain for change might also say something about you. “Getting married to someone thinking that it will change them in some way is a strong indicator that you are not ready to make the commitment to this person.”
So take your time, establish trust, set boundaries, plan for the future, and ask yourself what you’re looking for out of a marriage (and your partner). If you aren’t sure about any of it, chances are you have your answer.