Marriage is a commitment and most people go into marriage expecting it to last a lifetime but we all know – that is not always the case. We see marriages breaking down around us and wonder what happened- what went wrong.
It has been said that,
“marriage is the only game of chance in town where both players can win or both lose!”
Marriages don’t work for several reasons and no two marriages or issues in marriage are alike but if you ask the right questions before you say ‘I do’ it removes an element of risk. When you just start dating your fiancé, you may have this rosy picture of them but doing this exercise, honestly and openly, will help you have a more realistic perception of yourself, your fiancé and your marriage.
What does marriage mean to you and your partner?
You need to take the time to understand what you and your partner, both, understands by the term marriage. One good definition of marriage could be
“a relationship of love between husband and wife which is intended to be monogamous and last a lifetime where love is a choice of will and not a feeling”.
You both need to have similar ideas about the purpose and intention of marriage and it is important that you both are on the same page about it.
Why are you getting married?
This is a very crucial question and before you ask this of your partner you need to ask this of yourself- Why am I getting married? What are my motives? Some good reasons for getting married are listed below.
To work together to fulfill your partners and your own needs.
Some not-so-great reasons for getting married are listed below:
You want to get back at your parents.
You feel that marriage will make you feel worthwhile and will give meaning to your life because you have a negative or low self-image.
You want to save your partner.
You don’t want to be left out- everyone around you is getting married.
You fear independence
You are marrying on a rebound- to get over another relationship or because an ex-partner is getting married.
You fear hurting your partner by breaking up with them.
You want to escape an unhappy home.
You are pregnant or your partner is pregnant
You had sex
You want to plan a beautiful wedding.
What do you expect from marriage?
It is extremely important to understand what you and your partner expect from marriage. These can be expectations of the marriage itself or expectations of marriage roles. You need to take time to understand what you and your partner’s expectation of a ‘husband’ or ‘wife’ are. What roles and responsibilities does a husband or wife have? For example: a wife may expect her husband to do all the disciplining with children. If that is the case, expectations need to be clearly communicated and a decision needs to be made together as a team- where both parties are satisfied with the roles given to them.
What does the word “in-law” mean to you?
Another crucial aspect to discuss before marriage is the relationship with parents and in-laws. You need to ask your partner questions like:
What is the ideal in-law relationship in your perspective?
What do you consider interference by parents?
Do you see us living with your/my parents in the future?
It is always a good idea to set in place some ground rules when it comes to dealing with parents and in-law, for example; always talking to each other first before making any commitments to parents in terms of money, time or living arrangements; always presenting a united front when it comes to extended family; never talking badly about our partner to our parents.
Talking candidly about parents can be extremely difficult as we tend to become defensive about our own family. The key to having this discussion is to listen to what our partner in saying rather than jump to conclusions and become defensive. Allow your partner to really talk and take turns.
What are your financial goals?
It takes money to eat, drink and run the house so you need to understand what your partner’s attitude towards money- the saving, spending and giving aspect of it is. Before you get married you need to get a clear understanding from your partner about their finances in terms of any debts or commitments they may already have coming into marriage and make a plan of how you both are going to tackle that together.
The value you place on money usually comes from your upbringing- you may have been brought up in a family were you always had more than enough resources, so the idea of saving may be alien to you or you may come from a family were you always scrimped and saved so saving comes naturally to you.
You need to take the time to understand your partner’s perspective on money.
What are your plans and expectations for the wedding day itself?
Planning the wedding is a big step and it should be a time of enjoyment and celebration which draws together family and friends but too often it becomes messy and conflicts can arise not just between partners but within families and between in-laws. The key to planning a great wedding is to accept that things will not always go according to plan so we all need to have a sense of humor and a sense of acceptance about it.
Some great things to discuss before starting wedding planning are:
How much do we want to spend?
What are some non-negotiable aspects to the wedding? What are some things that I would like but am willing to compromise on?
What are my /your parent’s expectations for the wedding?
Some other important questions to ask your partner:
- Do you want to have children and do you want them to be raised in a certain manner (religion, boarding school etc)?
- How important is sex in marriage to you?
- Do you believe in a long-distance marriage- will you or your partner be willing to live separately for your jobs and careers?
These are just some of the areas that you should talk about before heading into marriage. Finding out that you and your partner have completely different ideas doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t get married rather it means that you have an awareness that these could be areas of contention and you can get ahead of them by communicating effectively. Pre-marital counseling is a safe way to start exploring different aspects of marriage with your partner.
Studies on the effectiveness of premarital counseling and found that the average couple who participates in a premarital counseling and education program reports a 30% stronger marriage than other couples. Couples who have gone for pre-marital counseling report to have effective communication styles, higher levels of relationship quality, higher sense of partnership and higher level of adjustment to married life than couples who did not receive premarital education.
If you and your partner are unable to actually go for pre-marital counselling it is a good idea to set some time aside to ask each other these questions. Try to remember that you are trying to understand each other and therefore, be prepared to listen with an open mind. Don’t take it personally if your partner has a different opinion than yours- it just means that you are now aware of an area of difference and you can work on it. It will help to ask someone you both trust to moderate your discussion.
At Askmile, we have trained and qualified counsellors who will be able to give you the guidance you need online. For more information: www.askmile.com
Marriage is a big transition and everyone wants to put their best foot forward. It is better to be aware of areas of differences and areas of strength in your relationship and best way to do that is to communicate openly and effectively with your partner right from the start.