It’s time to get introspective! By taking the time to honestly assess your feelings and your motivations, you will be able to ascertain your degree of readiness for marriage.
Ask yourself the following questions:
1. What do I love about my partner?
As a psychotherapist specializing in couples and marital therapy, one of the first things I ask is “What do you love about one another?” If the answers indicate little depth, serious trouble is indicated. Replies such “because she’s pretty” or “he’s fun” are troubling signs, indicating surface attraction. Once, to my horror, a client replied “Because we like the same kind of food.” Needless to say, this is not a foundation for a long lasting relationship!
Happily, after considerable introspection, many couples are able to identify their attraction to positive partner qualities such as compassion, intelligence, and an ability and willingness to communicate effectively. After all, if you can’t talk openly with your partner, the relationship is not solid. Perhaps more important, self-aware couples are able to recognize areas for potential growth, and develop a plan to jointly work on their relationship.
Some, especially new, couples may view such questioning as cynically casting doubt upon their whirlwind romance. Nonetheless this type of critical self-reflection is vital in determining ultimate compatibility. Indeed, it doesn’t take a relationship advice guru to realized that a little work now could save a lot of heartache later.
2. Why am I asking this person to marry me?
For example, are you proposing because your partner is pregnant? If that’s your primary reason for getting hitched, I suggest you reconsider, because studies show that you will grow to resent your partner and child.
3. Can we work through problems?
If you’ve been with your partner for a long period of time, you have likely experienced some rough patches. Take a look at those patches to determine how you dealt with them as a couple, and note what you did well or identify areas for improvement. Do you feel comfortable discussing any problem with your partner?
4. Can we communicate?
Talking is not necessarily the same as communicating. You need to be able to talk to this person in your life in a constructive way. If you have already argued, you already know if this is possible. We don’t always get along with the people we love, but we should be willing to get along with them most of the time and try to love them when we are feeling negative about them. If you felt like you came away from the situation understanding the other person better, you are able to communicate.
If you have ever walked away from an argument feeling degraded or unsatisfied, you might want to work on your couples communication skills a bit more.
5. What are my conceptions of marriage?
Everyone has a different pre-conceived conception of what marriage means; some of us are influenced by family experiences, some of us by mass media depictions of marriage, some focus on the magical wedding day and think everything else will fall into place, while others dream of children and building long-term memories. What are yours? Are they at least similar to your partners? I hope so!
6. Do we share the same values?
While this doesn’t necessarily include religious or spiritual ideals, sharing the same values is going to be helpful in ensuring future harmony. For example, you will need to be able to share some values in order to make decisions together, parent together, and to live in the same home together.
Conflicting values can be fun to debate when you’re first dating, but having to live with someone who never agrees with you is not a strong foundation for a marriage.
7. Do we share the same religion?
If you have strong religious beliefs, you should be able to 1) share them with your partner or 2) respect your partner’s differences. There are many couples that do not share the same religion, but they still need to be able to respect their spouse’s beliefs and have their spouse return the favor.
Important tip: Those that do not share the same religion will want to create a plan on how to deal with this in terms of children and holidays.
8. Where are we financially?
Marriage is certainly not about money, but making a note of what you have in terms of financial assets is certainly going to help you create a solid foundation. You need to be honest with your partner about your financial situation and they need to be honest with you. If you do not discuss money, this can create conflict in your marriage. In fact, financial stressors are one of the leading causes of divorce.
Action for the day: Perform some type of financial planning as a couple. Make notes regarding your financial situation as it relates to your tastes and standard of living. If you’re fiscally responsible and your partner has a penchant for designer shoes and is drowning in credit card debt, can you manage this divide? Are you and your partner compatible in living within your means?
9. What are our differences?
Are you and your partner fundamentally different? If so, can you live with those differences? This can be anything that you feel strongly about or something that you simply dislike. For example, every one of us have “dealbreakers” which are things that we categorically will not tolerate. They represent a bare minimum requirement that should never be breached because it would often result in the end of the relationship. Do you need your partner to change in certain areas, or can live with them? Be honest, and save yourself future aggravation! Speak now or forever hold your peace, remember?
Action For The Day:
Make a list of your “dealbreakers” and share them with your partner. This will ensure that you are both on the same page regarding your expectations for your relationship.
A little introspection with respect to the above questions will help you ascertain your personal readiness for marriage. But that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t think of your partner’s feelings as well. In my next post I address your partner’s readiness for marriage. After all, it takes two!