What Married People Wish Single People Knew #1: Recognize how weighty the decision to get married is.

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On to my post!

The first piece of advice given to me by my married friends was also the most often given: realize how weighty the decision to get married is.

Deciding who you marry is probably the most important decision of your life. It will affect everything. Both married and divorced people that I interviewed stressed this point again and again, especially if they made hasty decisions that they regretted later.

Turns out, most people don’t have the best judgement when first in love. There is a good reason for this: most of them are basically like drug addicts. Seriously. According to the National Public Radio Show Radio Lab in an episode called “This Is Your Brain On Love, “ scientists have looked at the brains of people who are newly in love and compared them to the brains of cocaine addicts. They looked very similar.

According to this source, there are many naturally occurring chemicals we become addicted to when we fall in love. The most prominent one is dopamine. This is a chemical that makes a person feel happy and passionate. When first attracted to someone, a person has huge surges of dopamine running through his or her body

If dopamine were a woman at a party she would be the one who is a really good kisser and who looks amazing in her skin-tight outfit but who really doesn’t want anything long-term. She comes on strong and it feels really good to be around her, but her commitment quickly fades. Her love is not the kind of love that is sustainable.

Thankfully, after six months or so of being in a relationship with someone, a hormone called oxytocin comes into the mix that starts displacing the dopamine. This chemical is marked with a sense of calm and stability rather than with unsustainable highs. It lasts much longer than dopamine, even if it doesn’t make a person as “happy.” It helps one person attach to another, and it promotes contentment in that relationship.

Oxytocin is comparable to that really nice girl next door with a southern accent. The one who is not as flashy but who has a good heart and who would probably make a really good wife some day.

Our Hollywood-saturated society often gives us the idea that love is simply having the feeling that dopamine running through our system gives us. But chemicals that make us happy and uncontrollably passionate are not what makes love last. They may help draw us to someone, but they don’t foster long-term commitment. Once we are committed to each other, dopamine will help bring a little romance, but it is not the glue that holds a marriage together. It is sobering to see how many divorces and affairs have happened because people have mistaken this chemically-induced feeling for love and have abandoned their partner when the “love” wears off.

Keep this in mind as you date someone. Remember that your brain is a bowl of hormonal soup right now. And bowls of hormonal soup do not often make good decisions.

Let yourself be in love. Be aware and appreciative of this special season where it feels so good to be in someone’s presence. Let dopamine do its job; let it attract you to someone who could be a good partner. But do not let dopamine be in the driver’s seat and propel you to make big decisions unwisely.

Give yourself a lot of time to get good information before making decisions. Let some of the chemicals wear off so you can be sober in your decision making. Remember that romance and the feeling of being high on love won’t make a marriage. However, someone you are close friends with, someone who is kind, and someone who you love being around will.

Ask yourself: “Does this person have a good track record with the way they have treated me, or do I keep telling myself that they have ‘good potential,’ that they will get better with time?” Getting married to someone with a good track record is a pretty safe choice. Marrying someone who just has potential is not very safe. And track records take time.

There is great wisdom in looking for the fruit of something even when it is still a seed. Yes, you are in love now, but what will it be like to have children with this person? What will it be like to grow old with him or her? Maybe his obsession with Super Mario Bros. is cute now, but will it be cute in ten years if he is lazy and doesn’t want to work? Maybe you are able to excuse her road rage now, but will she get angry like that with you or your children in the future? These are all questions you should consider.

Does anyone have anonymous stories about jumping into love too fast or thoughts on Hollywood’s idea of love?

What Married People Wish Single People Knew Part I

One of my post popular posts has been “What Single People Wish Married People Knew,” which you can read here.

I am now going to write a series called “What Married People Wish Single People Knew.”

Let me start this post by saying that I  do struggle with people telling me how hard marriage is, which is the default response when people find out that I am in my thirties and not married. They often feel like it is their duty to warn me of the impending doom that will be mine if I choose matrimony as my life sentence. I usually get very defensive when this happens thinking, “My life can be hard, too! I would give up a lot to have someone choose me. To have children.”

But lately, after seeing more and more friends divorce, I have been thinking it might be wiser for me to listen than to get angry. I should discipline the bratty children named Ego and Arrogance inside my head. I should take to heart the advice of my married friends and learn something that will help me love better whether I get married or not.

Thus, I have decided to interview several couples and several divorced people for my book and I have asked them to share their advice for us single people. My next few posts will talk about some of the best advice I was given.

“Oh no!” you yell. “I trusted you, Kate. How could you make me sit through married-people advice?”

Calm yourself. Paying attention here could save us many years of heartache, and it could greatly benefit the relationships we have now, too.

Take a deep breath. Let’s walk through this together. We will be all right. And it will be worth it.

I want to start this series with an overview entitled I Do Not Get It. 

My brother Will and sister-in-law Marie had twins two years ago. The twins were 8lb 10 oz and 7lb 7oz. That’s sixteen pounds of baby. Inside another human being.

Toward the end of her pregnancy, Marie grew wary of people saying, You look like you are about to burst! or You’re as big as a house! Her belly might not have been as big as a house, but it certainly was as big as a suburban condo. A very attractive, feisty, hippie, suburban condo, might I add.

Along with their twins, Jeremiah and Arowyn, Will and Marie have a beautiful five-year-old with cerebral palsy named John Mark. He is one of the loves of my life. Because John Mark can’t walk, they had three non-walking children for over a year. When Will takes the kids out, he straps one twin into a carrier on his front, he straps one onto his back, and then he sets John Mark in a stroller. Watching Will cart around three babies is as fascinating to watch as it is to watch a woman in Africa putting forty-eight pounds of water on her head.

The twins are now two years old. Last year at Christmastime, I visited this wonderful family. Will and I put on a puppet show on Christmas morning complete with a song called “No Tacos For Christmas” with latino accents. The three kids sat on chairs in front of our home-made puppet theatre and belly laughed for a full hour.

It is during moments like these that I ache for children.

A day or so after the puppet show, we went to the dentist’s office. Marie asked me to watch the twins for about half an hour  while she got her teeth cleaned. I had worked at a daycare for five years, so I didn’t think that watching them would be very difficult.

I was wrong.

Jeremiah crawls crazy fast. I think he could beat most Olympians. His speed made my time at the dentist’s office difficult to say the least. When I held Arowyn, Jeremiah crawled down the hallway at record speeds, straight toward the not-child-proofed dentist’s drills.

When I set Arowyn down to grab her brother, she went speeding down the hallway toward that fun buzzing noise, which was actually someone getting a root canal. Surely a root canal is not a procedure during which a dentist would want an adorable toddler under his feet.

I spent that half hour running down the hallway, picking one baby up and plopping it down in the waiting room, and then running down the hallway again, picking the other baby up and plopping that one down in the waiting room. This went on for what seemed like forever.

Within minutes, I was frazzled. I was perplexed as to how Will and Marie could do this for fourteen hours a day.

Will and Marie barely ever complain about their kids. When asked, they don’t go a on a tyrannical rampage explaining how having twins is harder than surviving the Bubonic plague. (I have heard other people make this analogy about their twins.) In fact, Will and Marie often refer to their children as the most important blessing of their lives. There is power in speaking blessing, even when a child can’t understand those words.

Will and Marie are also super-humanly patient when their children are screaming louder than a bad emo band for nine hours straight.

I often say with a certain air of arrogance that I understand that having a family is difficult. After I spend time with Will and Marie and their kids I realize one important thing:

I. Do. Not. Get. It.

I don’t understand what it is like to live day to day with someone, weaknesses  and all. I don’t understand what it is like to have children vying for my attention every hour of the day, like Will and Marie. I can’t understand it because I haven’t experienced it.

That is one of the reasons I wanted to write this series: so I can get it just a little more.

Okay friends, before I even start, fire away at some of your best married people advice.

PS-I just wanted to add here that you can now get on my newsletter list by clicking on the link at the top right of this page.  You will not get very many of newsletters, maybe one every two months,  and you will get two chapters of my new book before it comes out. Fun!