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Marriage Minded

Ask April

Q: Dear April,

I'm at a point where I'm trying to figure out what I want my life to be like. I live in a major metropolitan city, have a great job, and tons of friends, but it still feels like that's not enough. My secret desire is to get married, but it just seems so…dated. So old-fashioned. What do you think? Keep dating, or finally settle down?

Marriage Minded

A: Dear Marriage Minded,

First of all, I think that once you start asking the question, you know what the answer is. Simply put—you're ready. You're ready to stop messing around with different people, and to share your life with someone who you know you can count on—someone who understands and really knows you. And while it might be a desire as old as civilization itself, there's nothing old-fashioned about it. Just look at all of the gay men and women lining up to become Mr, and Mr. (or Mrs. And Mrs, respectively)…and all of the reality shows that have marriage as the ultimate prize!

What is old-fashioned, though, is thinking your life is going to be a cakewalk once you have a ring on your finger and the same person lying in bed next to you every night. Marriage is not the solution to all of your problems, and if you approach it thinking that it is, you'll be sorely disappointed. Marriage—or rather a good marriage—can, however, provide a solid foundation that supports other areas of your life. But it takes work—hard work—even in the best of marriages.

Another way to not be "dated"? Try taking the science and study of our 21st century into your marriage. There has been a lot of research in the area of what makes a good marriage work and why, and it's applicable to almost all marriages. Learn from what the experts have discovered and use it to your advantage in your marriage, or better yet…when looking for your partner.

Here's some of what we know about the qualities, skills, and characteristics make a marriage last. If you're looking for someone—make sure they have them. And if you're already with your partner—cultivate them. Both are possible.

• You're less likely to divorce if you marry by the time you're 30.
Though people are increasingly getting married later—and popular ideas say that the older you are when you marry, the better—there does seem to be a "most desirable age", and it's before you hit your 30s. Speculation abounds about why this is the case, but no definitive answer has been reached. If you're around 28 or 29, it's time to start doing some serious looking.

• Good communication skills are often said to be the No. 1 quality that will make a marriage last.
It may sound like an exaggeration, but if you don't have open and effective lines of communication, you won't have a lasting relationship. That means that you know how to get your ideas across (and understand your partner's), you can have a disagreement without it necessarily escalating, and if/when it does escalate, you know how to fight. Which leads me to the next point…

• Knowing how to fight—and fight fair—will help.
Having a relationship where no one ever raises their voices or fights may sound nice, but it's not the norm. Fighting can be a perfectly healthy part of a relationship…and there's nothing quite like the "making up" that often comes with the territory. But to keep fighting from becoming a destructive force, couples do need to establish limits and boundaries before the fighting ensues. Here are three tips that work for all couples:

1. Don't let it get personal. As soon as it does, you've lost control and are just being vicious.
2. Have a code word that you can say when you feel it's getting out of hand that will put a stop to the fight, or at least give you some space.
3. Be able to agree to disagree. You're not always going to come to a consensus, and fighting until you do can prove futile.

• People cite sex and money as some of the most common reasons for divorce.
Knowing what some of the "triggers" are for divorce is a valuable tool if you use it to your advantage. In the case of sex and money, this means that if you're still looking for a partner, finding someone who you have a good sexual chemistry with, and a similar approach to financial issues is wise. And even if you seem on the same page (or are already married), you should also always sit down with your partner and ask them pointed questions, like:

1. Are they satisfied—really satisfied—with your current sex life?
2. How many times a day/week/month do they want to have sex once you're married?
3. What can you do to make their experience even better, and vice versa?
4. How do they feel about money? Is it a taboo subject or one they're comfortable with?
5. How do they envision money being dealt with in the marriage? Will one person be the bread-winner? Who will handle the bills?

And if the thought of having this conversation makes you uncomfortable, just think about how much more uncomfortable you'll be when your partner is looking elsewhere in a few years because they aren't satisfied. A little blushing now just might save you a lot of heartache later.

Ready for even more bold, brutally honest, and always helpful dating advice? Visit my Web site, www.Ask April.com There, you'll find informative articles, expert columnists, interactive quizzes, and free giveaways! And don't forget to also check out my workshops, designed to help you find you real "soul mate"!

© 2005 April Masini
Nicknamed "the new millennium's Dear Abby" by the media, April Masini writes 'AskApril.com,' the hot, provocative dating and relationship online magazine, the critically acclaimed 'Ask April' advice column and is the author of the best-selling book, Date Out Of Your League (TurnKey Press, 0-9746763-0-6) as well as the newly released, Think & Date Like A Man (iUniverse, 0-595-37466-2). Interviewed for over 2,100 national and international articles and opinion pieces, radio and televions shows, including those on CBS, FOX, ABC, CNN, MSN, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, New York Daily News, Newsday, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Forbes, Cosmopolitan, Maxim, Wired, AOL, WebMD, and Yahoo! -- "April writes what Dear Abby will never print, and what your shrink doesn't have the guts to tell you!"

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