When we are in a relationship, we begin to assume a “knowingness” of each other. We know what they like to eat, like to wear, and familiar quotations. Sometimes couples even begin finishing each other’s sentences, if not aloud then often to themselves. They begin meeting less for lunch because, let’s face it, they know each other. What more is there to say? They begin filling their calendar with meetings, schedules of others. It’s their job, they tell themselves, and the family depends on me to make money, so I need to keep networking. This is true. We all have to keep networking, advancing in our careers. Money is becoming scarcer. If you don’t produce, many times you are out.
Marriage or a committed relationship is the same as your work. The problem is that when people get married they think of their life together as acquiring “tenure.” Tenure is a great concept if you tenure a professor, or a person who is a hard worker, great producer, and self-motivated. But the institution that tenures someone who only wants to show up to work, collect a paycheck and go home is a liability for the company. They can drain the company/institution both emotionally and financially. If you were to tell your boss, wife or husband that you planned to get tenured/married and then just show up each day they wouldn’t tenure you or marry you. Of course, that’s a no brainer. The problem is they don’t tell. They may be obsequious and work really hard to get what they want, and then they become total slackers. My practice is alive and thriving because someone married a slacker. Someone married someone who wanted “tenure” and had no intention of still working after they got it.
Marriage, just like work, takes attention, commitment, and one’s ability to continually produce new stuff. It gets stale and dull if people aren’t willing to make changes, try novel adventures, or remain curious of one another rather than assuming. No one needs to get married or tenured for that matter. It’s a privilege, an honor. Tenure/marriage is vital if you want to promote stability, so in the case of children you need to be married for the best possible outcome for that child to grow up in a stable environment. Promoting marriage and keeping it alive should be one of the areas we explore prior to getting married. When a couple comes in telling me about how in love they are, I am happy and excited for them, but then I have a few questions to ask them. The answers help them decide if they are ready to be tenured/married. As with all matters, people are unpredictable. Sometimes the slacker never knew they were a slacker until after marriage. Since this happens more than not, let’s confront the “slacker issue” head on with question number 1.
Pre-marital questions to help detect slacker traits:
1. What do you do when you don’t feel like going to work? Do you work to live, or live to work? Do you feel like what you do at work is important? Is it more important than your marriage? Be careful here…work is often how people identify themselves, but when they marry, the marriage must come first in order to be healthy.
2. How much time will we each spend at work? Do we prefer early morning work or evening? How will we make that work for us or our family when we have kids? Will one of us stay home when we have kids? How will we budget that?
3. How much money do you make right now? What are you projecting in 5 years? How about in 10 years? How much debt will we have? Does debt cause you anxiety, or are you comfortable living in debt?
4. How much time will we spend each week with self care? What is self care? Do you value each other’s self care as much as our own?
5. How do you feel about my looks? What if I get fat? What if I stop looking like this (very important to go over, as many divorces happen due to lack of attention because one person became overweight and the other person couldn’t deal with it)?
6. If we are both working, who is going to do the daily chores? What are our plans for now, in five years, in ten years?
7. Are we each comfortable with one another’s level of ambition?
8. Which of us gets more depressed? Has there ever been an issue regarding this? Do you seek mental health care when you need it?
9. Do we each feel loved with our partner? Does sex feel good for both of us? Do we end up feeling more loved after being loved? Can we be transparent on all issues with each other?
10. How do we each handle anger? Are we able to resolve anger to the point we feel closer than before the argument (if you haven’t had an argument yet, someone is not being honest/transparent)?
This list is not complete as it doesn’t include family of origin issues which are huge in a marriage. When you marry someone, you marry their family also, as that is your partner’s reference for reality. Slackers can be rehabilitated, but take your time in giving them tenure or marrying them. Marriage is sacred; you only want to do it once. –Mary Jo Rapini
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