If you’re in a committed relationship and have either discussed marriage or can sense you’re minutes away from a proposal, congratulations! Now, take a deep breath and ask yourself these crucial questions before you start deciding between princess and sheath bridal gowns.
When you find the right person, marriage is absolutely amazing.
But it’s also work. More work than the actual work you get paid to do. And a big part of the work we have to do when we’re married is on ourselves. But many of us fail to realize that some of that work can actually be done before we walk down the aisle.
Before you take the plunge, ask yourself these nine questions, which will prepare you for the realities of wedded bliss.
1. Can I live on my own?
I know, I know, you’re about to live with your partner, assuming you don’t already, so what’s the point of this question, you may be asking yourself. Too many women make the mistake of assuming marriage means never having to be alone again. Wrong! A healthy relationship requires that both partners know how to be happy and fulfilled on their own first, before they take on the responsibility of helping to make another person happy. Make sure you’re looking to settle down with someone who adds great joy to your life, but who you aren’t saddling with the unrealistic task of creating joy in your life.
2. Do I like my partner just the way he is?
People don’t change. I mean, maybe he’ll open his mind to some of your vegetarian meals or take up running or yoga during the course of your relationship. But, when it comes to real changes in his personality — it’s probably not going to happen. If the man you have been dating for five years cheated on you with three other women and you still marry him hoping a wedding band is going to keep his penis in his pants, you’re dreaming. Same goes for hoping he’ll stop making cruel remarks or won’t want to travel as much or will change his mind about not wanting kids once he sees how important a family is to you. Marry someone for who he is and not for the potential you see.
3. Do I expect my partner to be my everything?
The answer should always be: NO. Keep your friends and expect him to keep his friends. See them as often as possible and don’t make a big deal about his desire to do the same. Invite family members over for dinner. Whatever you do, don’t use your marriage as an excuse to hide away in Universe You, Population: 2. Your husband can’t be your confidante, lover, therapist, trainer and sole source of amusement at all times. Branch out and give him and yourself a break.
4. Can we communicate well?
You may know your partner very well, and vice versa, but if you could read minds, you’d probably be making a fortune down on the boardwalk at Atlantic City. You have to learn how to be honest and direct with your emotions and needs or you’re going to be very disappointed when you learn he isn’t always going to pick up on your extremely subtle nonverbal cues.
5. Can I rely on my partner when times get tough?
Because times will get tough. Parents and loved ones will pass away. Children will get sick. You will get sick. I don’t mean to be a Debbie Downer, but you need to enter marriage feeling pretty darn confident the person you’re committing to won’t run for the hills the second something goes wrong.
6. What role will I play in my family’s financial health?
Money isn’t romantic and too many couples refuse to talk about finances because they stick by the popular attitude: We’re getting married for love, not money. Of course you are — but discussions about finances are essential before you commit for life. Pour yourself a glass of wine and spend a night hashing out the logistics of how you’re going to pay the rent and put bread on the table. If you plan on having children, who will stay home with them? Will you hire a nanny? When you avoid talking about money, you wind up having money problems. And money problems are one of the major reasons couples fight — and divorce.
7. Do I want children? Does he?
You may have plans to travel for five years and dine at every restaurant in the world before you have children. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t know exactly where your partner stands on kids. And you have to be honest, as well, and let your future husband know whether you have always dreamed of having three boys and two girls, have no intention of ever having children, only want to adopt or were told as a teen that you couldn’t have kids and will have to consider infertility treatments.
8. If we do have children, will they be raised with faith?
Many interfaith couples go on to have brilliant, strong marriages, but not if they avoid discussing the elephant in the room. Certain religions require or recommend that both partners adhere to the same faith and, in those cases, you’re going to have to make some pretty tough decisions about whether one partner is willing and happy to convert. If you plan on having children, it is essential that you sort this out ahead of time because it will obviously affect them most.
9. Do I know about my partner’s health issues? Does he know about mine?
If you have a health issue that you haven’t yet discussed, for whatever reason, your partner absolutely has every right to know about it. If you find it difficult to discuss, make an appointment with your doctor and ask your partner to come along with you. Once you get married, you will have a responsibility to care for one another, and you both deserve to know whether your partner needs an extra level of care before you say “I do.”