Deciding to get married can be a huge shift in a relationship, and it's not for everyone. The divorce rate for lesbians is notoriously high, and one study in the Netherlands found that 30 percent of lesbian couples were divorced ten years later. Does that mean it's impossible to have a long and happy marriage between two women? Not necessarily. But it does mean it's important to do some internal and relationship work around what getting married means to you, what it means to your relationship, and what it means for how you live your lives together. Here's some of what to think about first.
You're Committed to Making Sure You're On The Same Page...
Going to couple's therapy long before the wedding date can be a way to check in on your foundation together, strengthen your communication and conflict resolution skills, and talk about your expectations. Feel like your relationship is great and you don't need therapy? Then going should be easy and affirming. There's a saying about couple's therapy that no one goes until it's too late. Don't make that mistake. Get a head start on a healthy marriage, and make sure it makes sense for both of you, by working with a professional.
...And Actually Are On The Same Page
Do you want kids? (You don't want to wake up in eight years realizing you have different answers to that question. If so, how many, how will you adopt or create them, and how will childcare work? What about finances? What about pets? Where will you live? Will you be monogamous or ethically non-monogamous? What does that mean to you?
When you're newly getting to know or dating someone, the answers to those questions don't seem to matter so much. And as you get deeper into a relationship together, sometimes they can still feel like you'll get to them when the time comes. Well, talking about marriage means the time has come.
Depending on your personalities and situation, you might consider a seven-year marriage contract. But they aren't for everyone. The key, whatever your approach, is to compassionately and openly come to agreements about your answers to the big questions together, and if you can't, to revisit whether marriage is the right decision.
You're Ready For The Legal, Financial, and Social Commitment
As queer women and people, we can be freer from the heterosexual expectations of what marriage should look like – but only to an extent. Because most of the ideas about marriage come from its roots as a patriarchal, heterosexual, cisnormative institution, even when we try to make our marriages our own from the inside, it's impossible to escape how other people – or institutions – will treat us from the outside.
That means that getting married is about love and building a gorgeous life together, but it's also a legal, financial, and social commitment. Before you make it, you should feel comfortable disclosing your full financial situations, including all debts, discussing – and signing – a prenup, and getting to know, if not spending time with, each other's origin and chosen families.
You're Out To Everyone Important In Your Life
Coming out before you even think about getting engaged seems like it should be obvious – but you'd be surprised. Sometimes someone still hasn't come out to a grandparent or another key family member – and sometimes, it's more than one. If your partner has family, or even close friends, who you haven't met, check-in about the reasons why. (Do the same yourself.) If it's because one of you is closeted, consider whether that's a deal-breaker and if it isn't how you'll handle your engagement, wedding, and married life together.
You're Excited About The Marriage, Not (Just) The Wedding
A wedding is a bounce on a trampoline. A marriage is a marathon. Sure, you need some muscles for the wedding – but it's the marriage that requires endurance. If you're excited for the spectacle, but not for the work, you probably want to just throw a killer party. (If you're dreading either, or both, sit with that feeling and consider whether you actually want to get married right now.) If you're excited about both, and approaching them turned towards the future together, you're likely on the right track.
Your Life Is A Rich Tapestry
If you're getting married because you think it will fill a hole in your life, you're getting married for the wrong reasons. Your partner should not be your everything. A marriage is between two fully realized people with their own inner emotional landscapes, sense of self, and dreams. Having friends, interests, and emotional literacy is important, but so is having those things on your own. In marriage, two halves don't make a whole – they make an eventual divorce.