marry in haste, repent at leisure

Quite self-explanatory. The phrase says that if you marry someone you don’t know well, you may well regret the marriage later.

This proverb has been traced back to the Duties of Marriage, published in England in 1566. Shakespeare, Byron, James Joyce and others coined variants of it. 

The saying was also expressed in print in 1693, by William Congreve in his comedy of manners The Old Batchelour:

Thus grief still treads upon the heels of pleasure:
Married in haste, we may repent at leisure.

This is, of course, traditional wisdom. But in the modern world, an academic study has shown that couples who rush into marriage actually are more likely to split up. Researchers who tracked the relationships of 168 couples over 14 years found that those who had the shortest courtships were more likely to split up than those who had spent an extended period of time together before they married — as many people have learned to their cost.

Johnny Mercer’s song, Fools Rush In, captures one of the risks of courtship wherein lovers put their hearts above their heads.

A professor, who has been married for 36 years, said the seeds of divorce could often be detected from the beginning of a relationship. ‘The courtships and marriages that are successful are the ‘best friend’ ones, the ones that are slow and steady and unfold over time. Positive feelings such as trust and respect emerge and the whole thing mirrors the evolution of any other kind of good relationship in life.

Couples are thus advised to enter marriage with eyes open to the strengths and weaknesses of one another and the relationship.

All very sensible advice, of course, though it doesn’t make allowance for fires of the heart. Still, it is best to remember that life doesn’t always hand you what you want, no matter how hard you wish for it. And it’s a whole lot easier to get married than it is to get divorced.

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