7 Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Marry – part 2. The Last One Is The Most Important!
In part one of 7 Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Marry we looked at questions one through three.
- Why are you getting married?
- Do you know AND trust your partner’s past?
- Are you planning for a marriage or just a wedding?
If you missed that post click here to review the insights behind each question. This week we’ll look at questions 4-7 as we do our best to take an introspective look into our approach to marriage.
Have you identified and communicated your needs and expectations?
Listen, I know this doesn’t sound like some great, new revelation that makes you nod your head and say, “WOW! That’s amazing. I never would have considered that.” But when you look at the number of failed marriages and realize that most marriages crumble under the disappointment of unmet expectations, this becomes one of the most important aspects of your relationship.
Let’s start with needs. If you are getting married because you need your spouse to provide something for you that you feel is missing, you are already getting married for the wrong reason. Jerry McGuire’s whole “you complete me” stuff is pure foolishness. No one completes anybody else…you compliment one another. That said, one aspect of marriage does involve each spouse attempting to care for and love one another in the way their spouse receives love. Many books have been written on this topic so I’ll just do a quick flyover rather than taking the time to dig in too deep here. Gary Chapman’s Five Love Languages and Willard Harley’s His Needs Her Needs are two great books that discuss the different ways people give and receive love. Part of loving your spouse well requires that you know how they best receive love. That’s the goal of Chapman’s book, to help couples understand one another in this area of receiving and giving love. Harley’s book is similar in that he looks at the top emotional needs of men and women in an attempt to help couples understand each other’s primary emotional needs so they can intentional work at meeting these needs. An understanding of your spouse’s love languages and emotional needs will greatly help your relationship flourish as you connect and grow your emotional intimacy.
The second area that you and your future spouse need to evaluate is your expectations. I have written an entire blog on this topic so you can view that here if you would like more discussion on the topic. Because expectations are so important to the marriage, you and your partner must discuss expectations in every area of your marriage. You both have expectations about everything large and small. You have expectations about where you will spend the holidays, how you will handle your finances, who your friends will and will not be, how to squeeze the toothpaste and roll the toilet paper, and how you will discipline children. There is not an area of your relationship that you do not have expectations. Some are minor and some are major, but they are present in every aspect of your life. Unmet expectations over time will eventually lead to hopelessness in a relationship, so this is not an area that you want to take lightly or gloss over assuming you will be on the same page.
Don’t make the mistake of assuming that their expectations will be similar to yours. Don’t assume the other person will just know what you expect without telling them. Don’t expect to meet their needs the same way you would like yours to be met. They are different than you and likely have different expectations than you do. Unrealistic and unspoken expectations will quickly take any relationship in the wrong direction. As you prepare to commit yourself to another person for life, do not neglect conversations about needs and expectations. This will be a key component of your relationship in the future.
Have you weighed the pros and cons of marriage?
This may seem like an odd question to ask yourself, but follow me for a second. Most people who are headed toward marriage focus on all the great things that will be added to their life once they walk down the aisle….a companion, a best friend, a lover, an encourager, a supporter, a co-pilot, someone to help pay bills and raise kids, someone to worry about the aspects of life they don’t enjoy and so on. Not many take the time to think about all that they will lose as well.
I think it makes sense to create a list of pros and cons. Make a list of what you will gain and what you will give up. I know that seems so transactional and I know the goal of marriage is not to see what you can get from another person. I also know that many couples get married without a second thought about what they will give up and how their life will change, only to look in the mirror five years down the road wondering what they have gotten themselves into. They didn’t properly count the cost. Marriage is not all gain and no loss. When you get married you will give up time, activities, the ability to make decisions in isolation, money, some freedoms, and friendships just to name a few. If you have properly discussed expectations and needs from question #4, you should have a pretty good picture already of what you will sacrifice to develop a mutually satisfying marriage with your current partner.
The question you need to ask after making your list of pros and cons is whether or not you are ready and willing to make the commitment. If you have hesitations then have some more conversations around the categories on the cons side of the list that give you reservation. You may be able to come to some agreement or better understanding in these areas that will give you more peace and confidence in moving forward. If you are still uneasy, this is a clear indication that you may need to evaluate the relationship and yourself at a greater level.
Are you content and happy as a single person?
I’m going to keep this one sweet and short. It’s real simple. Whoever you are as a single person is who you will be as a married person. Marriage absolutely will not satisfy any of your issues, it will actually magnify them. If you are a lonely single person, marriage will not fill that void. In fact, there is no lonelier place to be than in a marriage where your spouse is physically present but emotionally distant. Many singles who are trying to live godly lives marked by purity, lament about how sexually frustrated they are. Marriage will solve that they say to themselves. Sexual frustration is not lying in bed by yourself wanting companionship. Sexual frustration is lying in bed next to your spouse who has little or no interest in connecting with you physically because they are not satisfied with the state of the marriage. I could give more and more examples, but you get the point.
As a single person, you must be content with who you are and where God has you in life. Your identity, security, significance and purpose can only be found in God. If you intend to place these expectations on your spouse, you have already decided the marriage will be a disappointment to you. Your spouse is not equipped or capable of fulfilling those expectations. Make sure that you are finding these four crucial areas in your relationship with God before you jump into marriage hoping your spouse can meet the need.
Have you identified core values for your life and your marriage?
Every married couple should have a set of core values that drives their relationship. Conflict in marriage often occurs because the two individuals have different or opposing sets of values. Our values will determine what we do with our limited resources of time, energy and money. Whether you are aware of yours or not, you have a set of core values that drives all that you do. Just look at where you spend most of your time and money, and you will find some values. I would encourage you to take some time and write down 3-5 core values that you believe determine your behaviors and priorities. They can be things like financial security, faith, family, experiences (think vacation, activities, etc), work-life balance, exercise, healthy eating, etc.
Now ask yourself if your future spouse values similar things. If they don’t, you will soon find yourself in conflict. When approaching marriage, it is crucial that you and your future spouse discuss and agree on some core values that will drive your relationship and family. Once you have identified some values, you need to place some specific actions or priorities that fit within that value. Let me give you an example. If you both decide that your religious faith is a core value, then you need to be specific about what that means. Many people will say faith is important to me, or I’m spiritual, or I have my own relationship with God, or I pray. That is a very different definition of faith from a person who says that their faith means regular church attendance and involvement, serving at church, tithing off their earnings, and involvement in a small group with other people from church. You can see where there might be conflict if your spouse isn’t interested in attending church regularly or connecting in a small group with other people.
Another example of how competing values could cause conflict is around vacations. Let’s say you love to take vacations and expect to do so 3-4 times per year with your spouse. What if they don’t care about traveling that much but agree they’ll go with you since it’s so important to you. Problem averted you think to yourself….not so quick. Not only do they not really care about vacation, they also looooooove entertaining and have people over at the house. This means they’ll want a large house that is conducive to throwing parties. I’m not that big on that sort of thing you say to yourself, but I can deal with it. A little more house to clean than I like, but whatever. Remember, as long as resources (time, money, energy) are plentiful, you and your spouse both get to do what you love and value best. What happens if finances become tight for a season? You will begin to resent the mortgage on the larger house that you don’t think you really need because it is preventing you from taking the vacations you value. Your spouse will begin to resent the vacations you want to take because they don’t really care about them and feel like the money would be better spent for other necessities. Enter conflict!!!
As you can see, competing values will lead to serious conflict in the marriage. You must know what you value most individually, and be intentional about creating a set of agreed upon values that will drive and guide your marriage moving forward. Don’t skip past the importance of values and don’t act like you are in support of your partner’s values if you’re not. You can get away with it when resources are plenty but if that ever changes you are in for some serious conflict.
So there you have it, seven questions to ask yourself before you marry. You really should be asking yourself a lot more questions than just seven, but hopefully these will serve you well as you continue to prepare your hearts and minds for the life-long covenant of marriage. If you missed the first three questions in part 1 you can catch up on those here. Research continues to show that premarital preparation has the greatest impact on couples’ success in marriage, so continue to intentionally work at building a great foundation for your marriage.