4 Tiny Things I Need My Daughter To Know Before She Says ‘I Do’

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. 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.

Here are 4 things tiny I need my daughter to know before she says ‘I do’.
1. Don’t settle.
No, don’t freaking settle! Maybe all of your friends are getting married, so you want to as well. Yet, you haven’t met someone you 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. Your life partner dictates how you will raise your family, financial status, career, and enjoyment of life. How can you settle on such an important decision? Sheryl Sandberg has frequently discussed the importance of picking the right life partner as the key to personal and professional success. Take her advice and choose wisely.

2. Don’t change for them.
Many of my clients are going through a divorce, and often the biggest regret is pretending they were someone else to find a partner. Once married, they went on to seek themselves, and it led to problems. If you change yourself for a partner, when will you be comfortable in your 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, to get along better, but it isn’t reasonable to charade someone we aren’t in exchange for love. Have a voice, use it, and let people who don’t like your voice leave. They weren’t meant for you anyway.

3. “Red flags when you meet them, turn into billboards when you marry them.”
A quote from one of my extremely wise clients. The bottom line is if you see trouble when you first date someone, don’t believe problems will magically disappear when you get married. They won’t! If you can’t live with any issues 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 them out” of theirs. You can’t, and you shouldn’t try. Love them as they are, or let them go.

4. Don’t fall into “traditional gender roles,” unless you both agree that’s what you want.
Your career is as important as theirs, and their involvement in parenting is as important as yours. 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 their earning potential, often to devastating results.

Men need comfort around raising children whether they have a life partner or not. Helping each other be financially capable and involved parents is good for your relationship and family. It doesn’t unduly burden either person and allows you to share so much more that life has to offer.

The good news about modern marriage is — 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.

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