How to get happily married -

How to get happily married

A lawyer and a therapist make it simple: stay single, ladies—until your 30s—and find great friends


Photo Illustration by Taylor Shute

If you want a long happy marriage, “your twenties shouldn’t be spent finding a man; your twenties should be spent finding yourself.” That’s the advice in a new book for young single women called Last One Down the Aisle Wins: 10 Keys to a Fabulous Single Life Now and an Even Better Marriage Later.

The book’s co-authors are Shannon Fox, a marriage psychotherapist, and her best friend Celeste Liversidge, a divorce lawyer. They married at 29 and 30, and write that “for the past 16 years, we have been working with women in crisis, trying to save their troubled marriages. We listened to women pour their hearts out and share their stories of disappointment, regret, disillusionment and guilt. We’d often commiserate about how frustrating it was to enter our clients’ lives after the damage to their marriages was already done.”

They wondered what could be done to better people’s chances of having a successful marriage. “Here’s the key,” they concluded. “Don’t marry young. In fact, don’t get married until you’re 30.” Forget notions of marrying at 25 and pregnant at 28, they write. “Marrying young, before you know yourself and have a solid handle on your life, is a bad idea.”

Spend your twenties investing in new friendships with women, they suggest. “You’re finally moving past the unavoidable high school and college drama into a place of maturity, where you can develop true, solid friendships. Take it from us, you’re going to need your girls!” Don’t think your husband will be your best friend, they say. “Like it or not, your husband is not going to be able to tend to each and every one of your emotional needs. It will be disastrous for you to expect him to do so.”

In your twenties, “you have ample time to spend in long, late night conversations with girlfriends.” Do this, because “it is these friends who will remind you of who you used to be when you find yourself knee-deep in diapers and Disney character lunch boxes.”

Before you marry, improve your relationship with money, they also advise. “Your husband is more likely to lose respect for you if you are a damsel in financial distress,” they write. “Some women believe the rubbish that they are not as good at math as men and therefore inherently unable to understand money. What a load of crap! You are not hopeless in matters of money. You are probably just inexperienced and fearful.”

They cite the statistic that money is one of the top two causes of divorce, second only to infidelity. “If you fail to take practical steps to take charge of your finances, you will remain financially blind and put your future marriage at risk.” Also, if you’re still getting money from your parents, it’s time for that to end, they write.

If you have eating issues, sort them out before you marry. The book cites a recent study in which 80 per cent of women said their negative body image was ruining their sex life; 67 per cent of men said their wife’s poor body image was a significant source of frustration for them, and had a negative impact on the happiness of their relationship. One husband said, “When Michelle and I first started dating, she seemed super-confident. But just before we got married, I started to see how critical she was about her appearance. Over the past seven years, I’ve come to understand that Michelle truly thinks of herself as fat, ugly and unworthy—which is so far from the truth it’s just plain ridiculous.” He went on, “I’m starting to lose respect for her as a mature adult. She’s acting like a teenager, always worried about how she looks.” The authors write, “Your twenties and early thirties is the right time to right this adversarial relationship with your body.”

The book promises, “If you spend your twenties learning how to be a fabulous, stable, independent, fulfilled single woman, it will naturally follow that you will choose a guy to marry who possesses these same wonderful qualities.”

“You will lose your taste for the long-on-charisma and short-on-character guys whom you found yourself drawn to like a moth to a flame. And you will have what it takes to be a great wife and partner in a lasting and loving marriage.”


How to get happily married

  1. "“Don't marry young. In fact, don't get married until you're 30.” "

    Infertility and the risk of miscarriage begin to increase after the age of 18 for women, which is the optimum age, medically, for child birth. Telling women to wait until 30 before getting married, besides being stupid a thousand different ways, is medically and scientifically borderline negligence. The attractiveness of women begins to decline dramatically at 35, sometimes sooner, and men are aware of this. Counseling women to wait until well after their best before date is just bad advice. 25 is not "young" to have a child, it is 7 years into adulthood, 7 years past optimum fertility, and 14 years after menarche.

    • Also, if you get married when you're 18 you can get that pesky first marriage out of the way early.

    • I agree with your point, but also with the point the article is making. I think the way to reconcile it is to get people to mature faster, take responsibility for themselves and get over teenage insecurities by the time they graduate college. If we can teach the younger generations values about self-esteem, money, friendships etc earlier, then they can be happy in a more stable relationship at a younger age. That way happiness and Biology both win!

    • Do you think men's attractiveness remains stable? That's a laugh! If you're 35 and looking to get married, you're likely looking for someone in the same age group. I hate to break it to you and your delusional self, but I can tell you as a woman in her 20's, as women's attractiveness may decrease with age, so do men's. There are, however, many men and women who are very attractive throughout their entire lives regardless of age.

      • Please. Attractiveness? There's nothing sexier than maturity, money, stability and loyalty. No one under 30 can stake claim to all four of these attributes.

    • Dude,

      My wife is more beautiful at 35 than she was when I first met her 11 years ago. We got married when she was 28 and she had our kids at 31 and 34. She is super healthy and we are happy and my wife will continue to be beautiful to me, I am sure.

      Good luck with your divorce.


    • Just wanted to note that a women's fertility actually begins to decline after the age of 25, and declines even more rapidly after the age of 35 – not 18.

    • We need to be healthy and happy parents for us to raise great people. From my experience there is a self-esteem and body image epidemic for women in their 20's and for women in general and this needs to be addressed! I think this article really speaks to this point and recognizes its importance.

      Besides when everything in the modern world is working to make women feel awful about themselves taking time in your 20's to learn how to counteract this is more crucial now than ever. After all how can you be a good wife or parent if you don't know how to be good to yourself?

      Maybe using your 20's to explore your person, allowing yourself time for personal growth and waiting a little longer to have children is a good idea. That way when it comes time to having kids you will be operating as a better person and will be a wonderful role model for your children. Investing in yourself is always a good thing for you, for others and for the world.

    • To Boogard…honestly, your opinion sucks! Plain and simple! You should crawl back in your hole and die. If I even have to explain myself about why your opinion sucks, then you are more stupid than your opinion sounds!

  2. I tend to agree with this advice, and don't mind playing the medical science card either… that is… if you discover you even want to have children.

    As for an expiry date… well, thats just shallow, I'll let you figure out why.

  3. What is Macleans' obsession with this? There is a 'why aren't you married?'/'Why isn't Kate Middleton married?' article every few issues. Is Andrew Coyne trying to send someone a message or something?

    • Haha that would be hilarious! Next week: "Why cute 20 year old interns who work down the hall should break off their engagements and try to land a middle aged editor in chief of mildly conservative bent and sensationalistic policy views…"

  4. This is probably one of the most condescending articles about marriage that I've ever read.

    • I totally agree. It is a little scary that these women are depending on their personal experiences and by extension giving advice. They both spend their entire days with people who are experiencing marital issues, and have forgotten that the very people who do not come into their spheres are the ones who prove their thesis wrong!

      • Bullseye.

  5. PROTIP: don't get relationship advice from a female divorce lawyer and a female "therapist". What do you expect them to say?

    • But as someone pointed out earlier – this may not be a factor of age as a non-negotiable variable, but a societal norm that has developed – people are stalling in the "growing up" phase. And that period of not maturing can extend indefinitely (way past 20's) and is not a positive thing. It becomes a chicken and egg argument. Is it better to tell young adults that they are not mature enough for certain adult responsibilities – or do we then exacerbate that very behavior leading to more immaturity and more broken marriages?

  6. "If you spend your twenties learning how to be a fabulous, stable, independent, fulfilled single woman, it will naturally follow that you will choose a guy to marry who possesses these same wonderful qualities.”

    I think they call this "growing up". It's best done in your teens. Then if you want to get married, vote, raise a child, take part in free society, or do anything else that requires maturity you are able to start in your 20's if you so choose.

    The authors have made some good points, but missed the crux of the issue: you have to be a grown-up to succeed in a grown-up relationship. You don't become a grown-up by living the way society advocates in your teens/twenties.

    • Even better would be able to see into the future to see the ways you and your prospective spouse are going to change as people over several years.

      • …except that this would be irrelevant to anyone who understands the twin concepts of "love" and "lifelong commitment": i.e. a grown-up.

        • Let's hope that what your missing here never becomes relevant to your own life!

        • may be somebody understands this twin concept and is quite 'coz of
          some other reason……..

    • Bang on there. Protracted adolesence is a major societal scourge. It's almost like we're expected to behave like narcissistic hedonists until we're 35. And too many of us are willing to live up to those expectations. Modern pop culture peddles the idea that a 20 year adolesence is normal and healthy. Women in particular are being sold this message (Bridgette Jones' Diary, Sex and the City, etc…) and I dare say it's having an effect, and not a good one.

  7. As if finding the perfect life partner is something you can just slap down on the old calendar, to be checked off at the appropriate time. Hasn't Ms. Therapist figured out that life isn't quite so predictable? Yes, there is maturity to be found in spending a good amount of time single. Of course, there is also a great deal of baggage to be acquired that way, which can become a hazard to your being able to settle down. At the end of the day, does it not just depend on the people?

    Who's to say that the not-so-well-adjusted couples seen by these authors would've fared any better after 30?

  8. Yes, protracted adolescence does produce problems. But recommending delay in marriage till 30 not only bumps into the fertility issues listed above, but also the availability of a husband not already saddled with the detritus of his previous relationships: kids, ex's, ex-in-laws, child support, alimony, ongoing legal conflict.
    What I'm actually seeing: 30-something year old women selecting "Mr. Right" from the sperm donor list at the fertility clinic. Kids but no husbands. Successful late marriages in the minority.

  9. "A lawyer and a therapist…" Two reasons to give this book a pass.

  10. Women these days are too concerned about marriage and dating. Just slow it down ladies and think things through before you get married or go on a date. Now I do support the respect of women and their movement but young women especially teen girls are too concerned about the cutest boy and obsess about them too much these days. Not trying to be pessimistic but ladies slow down and analyze the situation and be careful what you get yourself into because the wrong relationship could lead bad things. God bless all the ladies who have faithful husbands and/or boyfriends who stick with them through thick and/or thin.

  11. As a women about to get married at the age of 28, I completely agree with this article. Where I would be today if I had married in my early 20s – quite likely divorced. There is nothing wrong with getting married young, however, if you are not fully comfortable with yourself and who you are, it makes starting a life with someone else all the more difficult. A lot of 'growing up' occurs in your 20s.

  12. Do not…….i repeat……do not marry unless he/she is someone you can't bear to live without. Someone who makes the hairs on your arm stand up when you're near them. Someone you love so much you can hardly stand it. It's this kind of love that you will always remember and look back on when you're knee deep in diapers or deciding on an old age home for you and he/she.

    • Hmmm…sounds nice….I felt like that about someone once. He committed suicide at age 30…good thing I didn't marry HIM. Never had that kind of intense feelings about my husband but here we are still married 36 years later….and we married too young according to the theories of the article ages 19(me) and 22 (him)!!!

  13. I have to concur that this article is not so much about looking at marriage in general, it's looking at failed marriages and drawing conclusions from only that set of data.

    Very one-sided and therefore inconclusive at best and truly biased and misleading at worst.

    The first comment wrt fertility is also important to keep in mind. Your fertility takes a continual decline after 25, and after 45 the chances of you conceiving with your own eggs is minimal. Not to mention the increase of both miscarriages and birth defects.

  14. This is so cute! Every so often a book or movement like this comes out to really revolutionize women and their lives! Yay, another ridiculous Oprahesque trend for everyone to hop on! Doesn't matter what age, how in love, how you make love, people are going to do whats right for them, or wrong for them. Apparently that had to be said.
    So fun having two half-wits write drivel that makes it to my favorite magazine, just great reflection on the state of women in books and culture. Awesome!

  15. I agree I agree I agree!! People in my province I think get married way too earyly, you should find yourself , or u will do it later on and then the marriage will fail. Sow your oats and have a great time in your 20's, That is my advice.

  16. Oh and btw i am 43 AND look 33! I think women just get better as they get older!

  17. …this has been my advice to my 23 year old daughter for the past few years. Women grow and change a lot between 20 and 30…they come into their own. What you wanted at 20 can be very different from when you're 30. Live your life, do what you want, have adventures, make mistakes, let the boys grow up, your parents can handle it, think about the "M" word after 30. Take your time. Forever is a long time….and don't involve children until you know (at least as best you can!). Good luck!!!

  18. don't ever do it unless you absolutely have to, live together, make a couple babies if you are so inclined, but don't get married

  19. Horrible, horrible advice. People (including women) should marry any time that they are ready and willing, as long as the decision to do so is made in a purposeful, informed way. This article is replete with anti-family messaging, and should not be heeded. It encourages promiscuity and a lengthy period of shopping around for the purpose of this elusive finding-of-self. Might I suggest that the reason we find ourselves is not to spend lengthier periods of time celibate, but rather so that, when we do meet that special someone, we know who we are so that we can appreciate being together more? Otherwise, what's the point?

    I read the article in the magazine, and I'm so glad I found it online so I can comment on it. Hope it's taken for what it is …

  20. Actually, one more thing (sorry): I absolutely hated the statement that spoke about the need to wait until after "the unavoidable high school and college drama", etc. The only reason there is all of this "unavoidable" high school and college drama is because our society has made it "unavoidable". Pop culture has allowed (and even condoned) our institutions of higher learning to become breeding grounds for all manner of deviant, even anti-social behaviour, all in the name of (again) this "finding yourself" or "self-expression". All of that makes all those years, best used for, you know, learning! a waste! Of course, then, that people feel the need to bumble about in their twenties finding themselves all over again! Coming out of high school and college/university, they're probably thinking, "What the heck was that???" as they're waiting for the drugs and alcohol to rinse out of their system.

    In many (and in most successful) countries in the world, places of learning are just that, and students attending them are taught to value them and take them seriously. Not least because it's cost them (not their parents) thousands and thousands of dollars to attend. When they come out, they're employable and ready to go. When some of our kids come out of our spoiled North American institutions, they suddenly realize that the poppycock Arts degrees (no offense intended) they've taken six drunken years to finally obtain aren't worth the paper they're printed on.

    I live in a two-university town, and there aren't many weekends when I don't almost run over some wobbly group of inebriated yahoos careening and howling down the sidewalk, waving the beers which, for some reason, remained in their hands upon leaving whatever bar they patronized.

    Doesn't really go well with marriage, employment, you know, the real life kind of stuff.

    • I'm curious to know what "many (and in most successful) countries in the world" you are referring to.

      Having spent time in a Canadian university and in a handful of universities throughout Europe (as a degree student, not on exchange) I would argue that my peers in Canada took their studies much more seriously than those in Europe. Not least of which because it cost them (or their parents) thousands and thousands of dollars to attend. Yes, I'm using your own words to refer to Canada, as, in many European countries, higher education is so highly subsidized by the government that it is extremely inexpensive (in comparison to North America) and often even free.

      Canadian youth spend their post-uni years struggling with education debt, while many of their European counterparts have been getting paid to attend school (seriously, some governments hand out a €400/month allowance to students enrolled in university – it doesn't have to be paid back) and can therefore more readily move away from mommy and daddy and start that employed, married life right out of the gate.

      While it wasn't something that you brought up, Michael, I also wanted to add that the fact of the matter is that the brain isn't fully developed until an adult reaches approximately 24 years of age. What's the problem with letting people experiment, "find themselves," and build platonic friendships for a while after their brains are fully functional, and then be better equipped to be successfully married after that?

      • The problem is that spending 10 – 15 years in an adult's body while society gives you messages that your brain is slower to catch up is dangerous. If you are large enough and developed enough physically to drive a car, learn at the university level, have sex, and work a full day or fight in the armed forces – it is disastrous to act as though your actions are still those of a child. Countless people have adversely affected their entire lives (and the lives of others)during this period because their "experimental" activities turned out to be not so fun and harmless after all. Life doesn't include practice rounds, and your suggestion that people will cross a magical phase after 24 and be better equipped for marriage does not follow if they have spent 6 years of quasi-adulthood under the impression that it was not really time to grow up.

  21. I agree and disagree with the article. It's true that it's important to build relationships, your career and yourself during your 20s, but, having said that, I also believe that 30 is too late. Do you really need 10 years to bulid that up? This is also coupled with a multitude of "going out" and "having fun" by the time it's time to get serious, you're still in the "party" phase, and your body (women mainly) is just too tired to actually have anything squeezed out of it. By the way, seeing old mothers with young children is painful on the eyes.

  22. This article is BRILLIANT. I am sure the authors intent to put a numerical value on age is only intended as a benchmark. Maturity is correlated with age, however there is no rule across the boards. STOP NITPICKING AND LOOK AT THE MESSAGE: women should take on the adult responsibility of marriage and having children; girls should wait their turn. How can you create an identity for 'us' if you are unsure of who you are as an individual? As a 21 year old female, I subscribe to this school of thought and I am glad to hear that other women share my same beliefs.

  23. This is in response to “Boogard's” comment. I can list at least 5 or 6 family members who married under 25 and got divorced. All remarried after 30 and all are still with their partners 10-15 years later. I am 31 and a year ago I finally found someone mature to have a relationship with. The men I dated in my twenties were certainly not marriage material nor were they ready to settle down. As for me, I was in University and living off Kraft dinner most days. Warning young women to settle down because of the “biological clock” is not wise. Having a child because you are fertile is not the reason enough, and I've seen too many children of very young parents suffer greatly. And 25 is young to have a child, especially when life expectancy is much higher, people are becoming more educated and living at home with their parents longer than ever.