Over my 11 years of marriage, especially the latter half, I’ve fielded the same question many times: “Should I get married?” I have a standard response.
In Bogota I taught English to an older woman who worked at one of Colombia’s largest multinationals. I liked and admired this woman. She was maybe pushing 50, slim and nice-looking. Laidback, mature. Just a pleasure to teach for 90 minutes. I don’t remember all the details, but she was married for over 20 years with children in college. Her family was a textbook example of what Colombians call “zanahoria”: healthy and wholesome.
I asked her one day, what’s the secret? Her answer shocked me: “Just do it.”
I probed. She said that if you think about it too long and hard, you’ll talk yourself out of it. Just do it. Or you’ll never do it.
My wife and I shacked up within a month of my return to Peru. We were engaged two months later and married after four more. Seven months total. In hindsight, those seven months began within a year of getting that “just do it” advice.
My standard response to inquiring minds has more to it, but this is where many unhappily single people get it wrong. This post was inspired by something I heard from one of the best writers of my generation, Tim Ferriss. Ferriss wants a family. In a recent podcast (because blogs are dead), Ferriss mentioned that he just broke up with a woman after five years. He described her as his “soulmate.”
I was beside myself. Lived together five years … FIVE (5) … and didn’t tie the knot?!?
If you’ve lived together five years, you are compatible. Assuming you want a family in the first place, the only reason you broke up is you didn’t get married already and have children. Being a family incentivizes you to make it work.
Every marriage has problems. Mine has had “Christmas Eve, babe, in the drunk tank” problems (email subscribers know). When those difficulties arise, being unmarried makes it easy to walk away. But when your love has been consecrated by church and state, you overcome them.
It’s like Hernan Cortes burning his ships in Mexico before taking on the Aztecs. That’s mostly a myth, a nuanced story, but the legend has endured because there is some truth in the concept. Not having an escape inspires you to fight harder.
The “just do it” advice is more relevant for driven, successful and/or overeducated types who fear making a mistake. Or who understand the stakes and want to be deliberate. But there is a point where dithering can lose the deal. By definition, you have to be bold. And to be bold, you have to be a little stupid and act irrationally. Because getting married and having children is at least a little irrational.
Don’t ‘Just Do It’ Unless …
As a product of divorce, avoiding divorce was a top priority in life even before I met my wife. For some people, “just do it” is exactly the wrong advice. So when my friends ask, I don’t start with “just do it.” I’d say that for people like Tim Ferriss. But for friends, here are the boxes to tick before just “just do it.”
1. Are you ready to have children?
If not, pass.
I developed this attitude on my own, but was shocked when I saw it in a Sopranos episode. Christopher says to Adriana that if they’re not going to have children, then what’s the point of getting married? If you’re not familiar with the show, the writer often uses the main characters to highlight antiquated, obsolete and even incorrect beliefs and attitudes.
I’ve come to see that I may be wrong on this point. I know happily married couples without children. They lead marvelous lives with lots of time and money that affords a freedom I don’t have.
But it’s not a bad thought exercise, especially if you know you want children someday. Are you ready to have children with this person now?
2. Is the physical chemistry off the charts?
When you first hooked up, did you spend a month in bed? If not, pass.
Even more important than children is physical chemistry. That’s true love. Nothing else. Sure, common interests and intellect count for something. But the most important thing, the only thing that will survive the temptations to call it quits, is the ease of getting in bed together.
If you have that, and a minimum degree of compatibility in life, just do it. Because the flames of passion don’t burn forever. Waiting too long, you can lose it. The fire doesn’t go out, but it doesn’t burn like it did. And five years is way too long to keep the fire blazing. Should have done it sooner.
Are you ready for children, and is the physical chemistry there? That’s all that matters, everything else is noise.
Where the Rubber Meets the Road
It’s one thing to tell friends and readers. But the true test is, is this what I’ll tell my children?
For the boy, yes. But I’d add, don’t do it before you’re 30 years old. You need to be sure you “sow your oats,” get most desire out of your system.
But you also need to be careful with that. A common theme on the Delicious Tacos blog is his lamenting never starting a family. Mr. Tacos has gotten around, but I’m not sure he has ever had a girlfriend. Clearly he has commitment issues and I don’t know how to help with that.
But I have seen guys get addicted to variety. Usually the devastatingly handsome, “natural alpha” types who were spoiled with sexual opportunities early in life get addicted to variety and can’t commit to just one. Even if a guy was not a natural but studied and/or learned seduction to the point where he has done crazy numbers, he can risk the addiction.
When you’ve had too much, you focus on flaws. Because you’ve seen the best you can get in each category important to you, you start looking for a woman who has it all. But no woman does. Everyone has something imperfect and undesirable. You discard good deals in search of perfect. A fool’s errand.
Mr. Tacos has stated his number is north of 300. Assuming a big chunk of that isn’t prostitutes, that’s too many. I would say 100 non-professionals is high risk of getting addicted to variety. Sow your oats, but don’t go that far. That’s what I’ll tell my boy.
There is still hope for you if that sounds familiar. If Iceberg Slim reformed and married, you can too.
I may have, again, an antiquated and obsolete view of gender roles, but my message to my girls will be a little different. I am coming around to the nonbinary thing, but I also believe that biology is immutable. And if you’re binary, as my girls seem to be thus far, there is a hardwired nature at play, with differences not limited to physical built into the sexes.
The “flames of passion” calculus is a little different. If the chemistry is there, are you absolutely sure it’s there for him? Men generally crave variety more. Especially if the age difference isn’t much, are you sure this guy has had his fill? I don’t want to be in the position of having to whoop a young man’s ass when I’m 60 years old.
As a father, I see my role as just kind of being there for them. Even if they are abandoned, even if they are teenage single mothers, even if they never move out, I will gladly forever be the big strong daddy who comforts then while they cry. And I will enjoy it. GIRL DAD for LIFE!
Well Colin, now you’ve done it. You have gone down the slippery slope of Alpha Dad offering dating and marriage advice to his brother man. A bold and admirable step, and one I am sure was inspired by your inner family guy. We all hear that voice, but I have come to learn that as men, we don’t listen to the advice of other men. Rich Cooper and his vlog Entrepreneurs in Cars tries to talk sense into the rest of us. Other vlogs in the Manoswamp address the issue of staying single or signing up for the family plan. From my perspective, I say listen to what women have to say. They are ruthless, and unlike men, women do take advice from their peers. There are some facts that we need to keep in mind. A woman’s sexual marketplace value peeks between the ages of 18-28. By 30, if she’s a single mom, she’s bouncing off the wall. Who the hell wants her? For women, getting married is a business. If you are lucky enough that yours are the only kids she has, Bravo.
Job well done. However, be aware of the odds. You have a 50/50 chance of getting divorced and 85% of the time the divorce is instigated by the woman. 100% of the time the man loses time, money, the house and access to his kids. Women use kids as a weapon. It’s part of their business plan. I’m a serial renter, and yesterday I had an interesting conversation with a 25 year old gal pal. In no uncertain terms she made it perfectly clear that girls today are aware of their expiration date and are in the dating market for the money. All of them. Soulmates and true love went out the window when Facebook, Instagram, Tinder, Bumble and Only Fans came in the front door. Women can now get all the attention they need digitally, and literally get paid for painting their lips, so to speak. Women need men to take them on vacation, out to dinner, get them pregnant and then turn over half their net worth.
I do business with a very sexy 50 year old Russian doctor lady. She is rebuilt, hot as anything you may have seen in Russian porno, and she has a successful business rebuilding other women who can afford it or have a sugar daddy floating the boat. BTW, Sugar Daddy is another viable alternative to marriage. In any case, she informed me the other day that she decided that I should take her out to dinner so we could discuss her future, which includes a situationship… with me. Just like that. In this scenario, I would be entitled to pay her bills. Let’s face it, she’s a medical aesthetics professional and knows that at 50, it won’t be long before her silicone hits the ground. She has an adult daughter and I have an adult son. She informed me that astrologically we were soul mates. Well, Bob’s your uncle. I graciously declined her suggestion that I be her full time financier in exchange for occasional sexual favors. I have never been with a woman over 35 but I do understand that the older broads can dry up like the Sahara. No thank you. I prefer to finance two 25 year olds on short term contracts, like one hour at a time. Next. Love has got nothing to do with it.
My marriage is only galvanized tin, so the verdict is still out and I could end up with egg on my face. I try not to do advice, especially anything that could be deemed “Manoswamp,” but I’ve given this boilerplate response enough times to merit publish. If I leave it at that and get back to the stuff matters, like getting the dope through and smacking sidewalk cyclists, then I’m NOT in the advice racket (especially incel advice).
I agree it’s like a biz for women, as it should be. I’d add there is unspecified meaning (“between the lines”) of what’s explicit, specifically chemistry and waiting until 30. Inexperienced men can be fooled. But true physical chemistry, defined by spending your first couple months in bed, significantly reduced the likelihood of a wife having kids with other men, divorce and whatnot.
As always, your written humor is on point!
Tim Ferries ” wants a family “? Well he says he does.. Not a priority in reality I think. He’ll be 46 in a court of months..
Being a lifetime “true fan,” I’ve read and hear uncountable, indisputable indications that he wants a family. But you make a great point. If actions speak louder than words, I would have to agree with you! (not a priority in reality)