Getting married is exciting. Many women and men live for the proposal, and the diamond is something many women dream about. The excitement of being wanted and needed in someone’s life is romantic and fills most of us with loving feelings. We romanticize and talk about the proposal to all of our friends and family. Meanwhile, the divorce rate is 50%; families are broken up, and the majority of children are now living in single parent homes. The majority of those 50% live with their moms and many of them do not know their dad or have a consistent relationship with him. What happened? Why are the proposals and engagements so exciting and supported, while the married life is abandoned and renounced?
Building strong marriages and families is not for the faint at heart. It begins with each of us, asking the right questions before we say “I do.” If we ask ourselves a series of questions and ask our intended to answer the same questions, we may be slower to say “I do” because “we did,” and we found out we were not compatible. Couples are living together as an attempt to “try out” marriage. This is nonsense. All cohabitation tells you is who is the best cook, who is messier, and whether you are sexually compatible (which does not mimic compatibility once you are married). Let’s be honest, women stay in a relationship living with someone in the hopes of getting married. Men stay there because they have someone who cares for them and they can have sex without the additional stress of committing to them. Yes, this sounds outdated and old fashioned, but it is what I see every day in my practice. How outdated can it be when it still brings couples to therapy?
I have listed a few questions that must be asked and answered prior to saying “I do.” Make a copy, light a candle, turn everything off and answer these as honestly as you can. Make a list for your partner and have them answer also. Compare and talk about your thoughts and beliefs.
1. Marriage insures I won't be lonely. If I feel lonely, my partner will give me more time. Are you sure you are getting married for the right reasons? You will still experience loneliness even when you are married.
2. Marriage means we will maintain a close relationship until we are parted by death. Are you marrying for life or until things get difficult? Make sure you know each other’s unspoken intention.
3. With marriage I am legally able to have sanctioned and readily available sex. How frequent is too frequent?
4. We will create an extended family. That means my family (mom, dad, sisters, and brothers) will all be taken care of by "us.” Make sure you talk about this expectation prior to saying "I do." It causes many problems.
5. This marriage means we will have kids and create our own marriage. Make sure your partner does not want to bring their parents into your marriage.
6. My partner will help take care of and motivate me to take care of myself. How will your partner feel if you get overweight?
7. How comfortable am I in exposing my feelings, limitations, and childish attitudes to my partner? Whatever I tell my partner will they embrace?
8. How comfortable am I with closeness? If I need distance, my partner will understand. Talk about this, it ends up ruining a lot of marriages.
9. How much of my love for my partner is actually fear of being on my own?
10. I expect my partner to be there 100% financially. What if your partner is financially irresponsible?
11. How will my partner feel when they see my reaction to anger? Do you have a problem managing your anger?
12. What am I willing to reveal to my partner in regards to how I feel about new sexual experiences? This will change after marriage; I don’t care how long you have lived together.
13. How big of a gap is there with education between my spouse and me? Will this be a problem? Usually it is.
14. How do I really feel about my partner’s family?
15. Do we actually have parallel lives living side by side, but not engaged with each other? If so, are you happy with the lack of closeness that may result?
16. If either of us has an affair, is it is always best to be honest and tell the other spouse? Are you sure?
17. We both love kids and will accept however many we have. Be sure you discuss this one before you get pregnant.
18. We are different religions, but that does not make any difference. We will decide how to raise our kids after we have them. Not an issue you should postpone talking about until the children are born.
19. I make more money than my fiancée, but they are cool with that. Are you sure?
20. My partner does not like his/her parents. I think they will change with this after they see how close I am with mine. This is not likely and you should not expect it. You cannot make children love their parents. It could make your marriage very difficult especially if you have children.
Marriage is a life style. It is the healthiest life style to bring children into. It takes dedication and a willingness to share. Don’t enter it flippantly or without doing your homework. Slow down, live in your own apartment, and set your bar high. Make sure you keep developing yourself so you can come to another person being their equal instead of their dependent spiritually, emotionally and/or physically. –Mary Jo Rapini
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