The question of marriage
We are sometimes faced with difficult decisions about what to do with an existing relationship. Do we marry, do we continue dating or is it time to end a relationship? These questions are often complicated by differences between the individuals, geographic distance, different ethnic or cultural backgrounds, varying self-perceptions and self-esteem, existing relationships and more. These factors can often predict a higher chance of divorce of a marriage with significant differences and challenges.
Most couples are faced with the difficult decision of taking a relationship to the next level. They may have been dating for a long time, sacrificed for one another, had a child out of wedlock, moved in together, or the like. The question becomes: “I/we have invested/sacrificed all of this does that mean we should/must get married now?”
Sometimes the best decision in times of doubt or crisis is no decision. It is sometimes better to wait until one is in a better place to make a decision – as long as you are willing to accept the outcomes that may occur by default.
Consider the following situation where a man is trying to find out what the right thing to do is with a complicated situation.
Question: Should I marry her or what?
“I met a Japanese woman who was on a language course in the UK about 8 years ago. We liked each other and started to date. The relationship developed and we traveled/lived together in the UK, Australia and Japan where she found decent employment. I taught English for 6 months and then had to return for a work project in the UK (which has now ended).
Although she is a great person that I really respect, the relationship started to lose so much momentum – I started to feel unfulfilled, lost my sexual attraction to her. We have stayed in contact since I left Japan and she visits me every year for her annual holiday.
She is the same age as me which makes me feel very guilty when I consider leaving her as in her culture she would be considered too old for marriage by most Japanese men. I fear that if I leave her she may remain single for ever (I would have destroyed her life) She has recently asked me to move back to Japan with her.
We are both lonely (and my residential situation in the UK is unbearable – I am psychologically bullied by my family often, which destroys my confidence – they are so cruel you wouldn’t believe it. So I have real pressure to leave my current environment, but I’m afraid of ending up quite isolated in a foreign country and in an unfulfilling relationship, although she is one of the few people that I respect and trust (and she does sincerely care about me).
The stress of my current environment makes it almost impossible to think clearly (quite often I literally feel like I’m losing my mind). Obviously this almost makes it impossible to make such a big decision – whether to go and set up my life in Japan or not. I feel totally cornered with no viable escape! Thank you so much for your assistance.” Signed, ned0008
Answer: Considerations for marriage and more
You are to be commended for having the decency to be concerned about her well being and outcome in life. You are also to be commended for night taking her invitation to move to a foreign land half-way around the world. But, even more, you are to be commended for recognizing that this may not be a good decision for you. Your feeling of being cornered with no viable escape comes from the collision of concern for her, concern for yourself and a desperation for changing your current situation.
Please consider the following as you evaluate your options.
- The only person in this life that can truly look out for your well being is yourself. The only person who can look out for another is that other person. In other words, to put it bluntly, you must be selfish in your decision. A failure to be selfish could lead you into a compromise that you cannot live with in the long term.You cannot make a decision for her well-being but you must make a decision for your own well-being. Further, you did not “destroy her life” as she has been a willing adult participant throughout your relationship. You do not have that power.
- The desire to run away from an existing uncomfortable situation is not adequate justification to make such a drastic change – a world away culturally and geographically. Japanese culture is so different from of the UK that it might as well be a different world much less a different culture. Your fear of being isolated is quite valid. You would have a real problem of finding like couples with whom to associate. Further, the unemployment situation in Japan is such that it will be very hard to find a job. The challenges of integration into such a culture are significant. Both the desire to leave a life behind and a cross-cultural marriage are risk factors for a higher chance of divorce.
- Being unsatisfied with life as an individual is a risk factor that predicts a higher chance of divorce.
- There are several other significant risk factors here and you should use our Risk of Divorce Quiz and discussion to evaluate this situation further. The Risk of Divorce Quiz is based on the latest scientific research.
- We recommend that you work on yourself as an individual until you have the strength to make a better decision. That may very well mean distancing yourself from the negative influences in your life and doing the homework necessary to develop your self-esteem. This link will lead you to some great resources on our site to help develop self-esteem. We all need a boost once in a while.
- When you feel better about yourself, you will make better decisions. You will either have the confidence to make a move to Japan a success or you will have the confidence in a decision to not increase the complexity of your relationship any more than from the current dating/friendship basis.
Love is not enough but you must have love
In the final analysis love alone is not enough to justify marriage but you must have love to sustain one unless you are in a culture of arranged marriages where accommodation is enough and the social support system works to sustain the marriage.
In western cultures it is wise to choose a marriage partner with both the head and the heart. When in doubt resolve those doubts before marriage. Passion is the first flavor of love and that inevitably fades to be replaced by another level of love that must be nurtured and practiced to be sustained. Long-term true love does not happen by accident. It is created.