Is this the person I'm supposed to marry? Everyone asks themselves that question at one point or another if they're in a long-term relationship. It's perhaps one of the hardest questions to answer, because it involves so many emotional and practical components.
Brook Silva-Braga and Jill Andres were asking themselves that same question after four years of dating each other (and one year apart), but they didn't have a clear answer. Like so many people in their age demographic, they were trepidatious about taking the plunge because of the staggeringly high divorce rate in America (almost 50 percent). However, rather than backing away from it like so many do, they decided to challenge themselves with a test of their own creation.
They wrote a book outlining the test, which is actually a set of 40 activities, or obstacle courses, as they like to call it. The idea was to simulate pressurized marriage scenarios they might face if they were to tie the knot to see how they would fare together. Some of the most interesting ones are going on a lunch date with exes, spending a month using each other's credit cards and borrowing a baby. The series reminds me of stress tests they give to astronauts who are going up into space — you have to be comfortable with the realty of what you'll face there before you get to zero gravity.
These tests really push the envelope so you can get a sense of just how you'll be together in really trying situations. For example, they took a month and spend half the amount of money they normally do to simulate what would happen if one of them lost their job. That one would probably hit a lot of buttons for most people (myself included). Combining finances is tricky business for a lot of couples and often leads to the most conflict.
Silva-Braga and Andres spent a year going through the 40 obstacles and had agreed that if they all went reasonably well, they'd get married, and if not, they'd split. One major point they came to after their yearlong experiment is that couples don't talk about the relationship stuff that really scares them on a day-to-day basis, because it's hard. However, to take that next, big step with your partner, you have to go there, otherwise you're not really giving your marriage a fighting chance.
The test culminated with two of the scariest challenges — facing two major, personal fears together, and remaining handcuffed for 24 hours (yes, that includes bathroom breaks). Silva-Braga had to go scuba diving, and Andres went skydiving (ironically their personal fears were in such opposing places). While they didn't exactly pass with flying colors as they originally thought they would, the two decided they did well enough to get hitched at the end of their year of obstacles. As a result, their first year of marriage (which most argue is the hardest) was no big deal. "We basically dealt with all the stresses that newlyweds tend to face before we got married, so the first year was kind of a breeze by comparison," Andres told Glamour.
They sincerely believe their book The Marriage Test (which came out Feb. 2) will help couples realize if they're really and truly ready for marriage. The challenges are not easy, because marriage is hard, and it's better to be prepared than to go into it just hoping for the best. And if you can't make it through, you can walk away with relatively little baggage. Andres asked Glamour, "Isn't it better to know now it's not going to work than two kids and 10 years later?" I would say absolutely, but man, that handcuff test... that would be rough.
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