Deciding to get married should be like deciding to begin a diet. You make the decision because you believe that your good life will become better if you do -- and not because you're imperfect or flawed if you don't. If you've chosen to do either thinking that you're a bad person, then getting married or losing weight will not change your self-esteem in any significant way. You'll only be altering your outward circumstances. On the inside, how you feel about yourself will ultimately be dependent on a number.
Before you begin you need to understand that both require tremendous effort, infinite patience, and some kind of uncomfortable spending spike. You'll need to brandish a plan of action and keep daily lists in order to reach your stated goal. It requires the support and encouragement of all the people you care about, especially on those days when you feel hopeless and helpless or that you might possibly go insane. And when you do achieve your goal you may feel the same but part of you says that something's essentially changed.
That day your achieve your weight goal is like your wedding day. Everything seems to be about you: everyone around you will congratulate you on a job well done and wish you good luck and happiness for the future. You look at yourself in the mirror and feel like you're at your most beautiful -- and most people will probably agree. It's also all about this day, about how your life was turned upside down and sideways for months on end, only so that it would be just like this. Maybe you're already thinking about the next few days, about the things you still need to do, but at this point everything still appears to be related to The Big Day that just passed.
Marriage is equivalent to the maintenance phase of your diet, where you have to keep doing all the good things you've learned to do so that hopefully you won't have to stop and start all over again -- and this time with the knowledge, borne of experience, that what you thought would be the end point is actually where you truly begin. It's where all the fanfare has passed and no one seems to be watching; in fact the only time people seem to notice anything is when you're obviously struggling, faltering even failing. The only person who realizes that maintaining your weight is so difficult because you're battling tedium, perhaps even missing the absence of such clear-cut, well-defined goals, is you. Beyond the day-to-day you wonder if there's something else you might or should be doing. Sometimes you ask yourself: what next?
The difference, however, is that you are solely responsible for your diet. It's all under your control. But marriage takes two people. You can have all the discipline, perseverance, positive outlook and optimism that you know is required to make it work, but you just can't make up for what the other person lacks or isn't willing to do. Sometimes it even fails despite your best efforts and intentions. But then it also succeeds.
Dieticians famously measure success according to the number of years a dieter maintains his or her weight. In a way, that's also how traditional society evaluates the success of a marriage, too. But one thing I've learned is that marriage is not a number; it's not about how long a couple can keep it together and celebrate wedding anniversaries or how many children are produced and raised. For me its success is about many, many things that can't be outwardly measured or quantified, and can only be determined by the two people within it. Even when it ends, no matter how short or long it lasted, no one else can say if it was worth all the time, effort, and expense. No one else but you.
And here's another thing I can say about marriage and dieting: the decision to do either one is solely up to you, not because people are saying you should. You are perfect whether or not you do, just as you are. If anyone else seems to be truly concerned about marriage or weight loss, they should simply pay attention to their own. If you give in to the expectations of others and you fail at either, I assure you that they will not carry your burden. It will be yours alone to bear.
Last word. Even if you fail, even if your marriage ends or you gain all the weight back, you are not a failure. No one said life was all about being married or being thin after all.