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Dr. Neil Clark Warren, Founder and CEO of eHarmony, Shares Ten Timeless Truths About Marriage

I am amazed at how many people stumble and trip their way into marriage—and then they wonder why their relationship grows miserably stagnant or chronically contentious. Their way of approaching this monumental decision was not done objectively and proactively.

I don’t claim to know ALL the rules of wise mate selection, but I am sure that the following ones are sound, trustworthy guidelines that will provide the best chance for a fulfilling and lasting marriage:

1. Your choice of a marriage partner is more crucial than everything else combined that you will ever do to make your marriage succeed. This principle may sound like a no-brainer, but it might surprise you at the large percentage of singles who have the attitude that says, “I just want to get married, and once I’ve got my mate, then we’ll work things out.” Lonely and worried they’ll never marry, many singles are so intent on getting to “I do” that they don’t invest the necessary time and effort to make a great decision. Most of the failed marriages I have encountered were in trouble the day they began. The two people involved simply chose the wrong person to marry.

2. Couples must be rooted in shared religious and spiritual beliefs. When two lovers are spiritually sensitive and when their lives are centered to common beliefs, they have a solid foundation on which to build a relationship. Any couple who develops their capacity to share spiritual passion becomes infinitely joined and merged. By affirming each other’s most sacred and deeply held convictions, they establish the most important connecting point of all.

3. Couples who date for two years or more have a significantly better chance of building a happy, lasting marriage. It is very alarming when two people tell me they have known each other a couple of months, and now they are ready to make a lifelong commitment. When a couple is ready to decide on something as all-encompassing as marriage after only a few months of dating, I assume their decision is long on fantasy and short on reality. It tells me that the hard work of marriage is being seriously underestimated. In fact, research shows that couples who have dated for two years of more score consistently higher on marital satisfaction than couples who date for shorter periods of time.

4. People often choose a mate to please someone else – a father, mother, or the person who is asking them to be married – but it is absolutely critical that they be personally satisfied that this is the person for them. Your decision must be made in light of your own needs and dreams…not anyone else’s. Certainly the input of friends and family members is critical, but no one can select your marriage partner for you, and you should never allow yourself to select a lifetime mate in order to satisfy someone else.

5. Divorce rates are lower for both men and women who marry for the first time at age 28 or older. Why 28? Studies show that this is the age when most people get clear about who they are, where they are going, and how they want to get there. In our society where adolescence often lasts until the middle 20s, identity formation is incomplete until individuals have emotionally separated from their parents and discovered the details of their own uniqueness. Most people under 28 aren’t in a good enough position to know the kind of person with whom they could form a meaningful lifelong attachment. They simply need more life experience.

6. It is crucial to find a person to marry who is a lot like you. For couples, similarities are like money in the bank, and differences are like debts they owe. If you want to make a marriage work with someone who is very different from you, you better have a large number of similarities as permanent equity in your account. If you don’t, your relationship could be bankrupt at a frighteningly early stage.

7. Unrealistic expectations for marriage may be the principal contributor for most early divorces. Many men and women enter marriage believing their spouse will meet all their needs and that their romantic feelings will never end. The truth is, successful marriages require an incredible amount of work, patience, and long-suffering. I have watched many marriages crumble because the couples expected life to be filled with walks on the beach, steamy love scenes, and nonstop fun. That is just not reality.

8. Couples need to know that they are capable of resolving conflicts BEFORE they get married. If a couple doesn’t know how to deal effectively with their disagreements, their marriage may be systematically destroyed. I am convinced that more marriages fail because two people don’t know how to handle their differences than any other reason. That’s why it is so vital that you and your partner assess your conflict-resolution skills prior to marriage.

9. Personality or behavioral problems will not vanish when you get married. If there are qualities about your partner’s personality or behavior that you question—such as jealousy, temper, irresponsibility, dishonesty, or stubbornness—ask yourself if you are willing to spend the rest of your life dealing with these problems. Obviously, if the person you are considering has a drug or drinking problem or trouble with sexual integrity, you should make absolutely sure that he or she has worked through the problem well in advance of your marriage.

10. Marriage is not just a contract between two people. Many people in our society treat marriage like a business agreement. When the contractual arrangement established at the wedding is no longer a “good deal,” they either alter the agreement or terminate it. When you find that soulmate for whom you have longingly searched, you will be at the beginning of a relational journey filled with joy.

Marriage provides the conditions in which we can experience tremendous happiness and satisfaction—or grief and frustration. By thinking carefully about the above points, you will take a big step toward a fulfilling future.

Dr. Neil Clark Warren is Founder and CEO of eHarmony.com. He is a clinical psychologist and the author of the best-selling book, Finding the Love of Your Life. See more relationship advice at http://www.eharmony.com/dating-advice/.

About eHarmony, Inc.

Santa Monica, Calif.-based eHarmony, Inc. (www.eharmony.com) was founded in 2000 and is a pioneer in using relationship science to match singles seeking long-term relationships. Its service presents users with compatible matches based on key dimensions of personality that are scientifically proven to predict highly successful long-term relationships. On average, 542 people marry every day in the U.S. as a result of being matched on eHarmony, nearly 5% of new marriages.* Currently, eHarmony operates online matchmaking services in the United States, CanadaUnited KingdomAustralia and Brazil, and through its affiliation with eDarling, in 16 countries throughout continental Europe.

*2009 survey conducted for eHarmony by Harris Interactive.®

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