Before Popping the Big Question (or saying Yes), Ask Yourself These Questions.

Gold wedding bands

Recently, a young man considering proposal to his long-time girlfriend asked me if there are any questions he should be asking himself.  After thinking about it, I came up with a few.  So, before you make the commitment "for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health..." you may want to consider these things.  The questions go both ways.  What applies to one individual applies to both.  In order for a relationship to be mutually satisfying, it needs to be mutually sacrificial as well. 

Can I be authentic and open with my partner without being afraid of being rejected or ridiculed?  Can I voice my opinion, or are differences seen as threatening to the relationship?  If you find yourself acquiescing in order to avoid conflict, or acting in ways that are not congruent with who you really are in order to appease or "hold onto" the relationship, think long and hard before making a lifelong commitment.   After all, if you cannot be truly yourself with your spouse how satisfying will your marriage be? 

Do we have similar values in the important areas of life?  Of course you will have differences- you are two different people from different backgrounds and experiences.  It would be boring to live with someone just like ourselves!  But in the core values such as family (do you both want children?), faith or spirituality, finances, involvement in community, service to others, and integrity, it is important to have some common ground.  Many couples have differences in these areas, too, but are able to communicate in a way that is respectful and allows both individuals to remain true to their beliefs.  

Is there mutual respect in this relationship?  Do you value each other's words and feelings?  Do you honor their time and boundaries, being careful not to take them for granted?  Do you each keep your word, or are lies and deception part of the relationship?  Do you speak in a respectful manner even when a disagreement or conflict arises?  Words can't be taken back- apologies may be offered but the sting of insults or degrading language often cause wounds that apologies can't touch.  

How is conflict managed?  Are issues "swept under the rug" or ignored in an effort to keep the peace?  If one of you brings a concern or issue forward to discuss, is your partner open to listen and offer their point of view?  When you share your feelings are they validated or dismissed?  If a decision needs to be made, do you have equal power in the relationship, or is one individual dominant, making decisions unilaterally without considering their partners viewpoint?  In sound relationships, both partners feel heard.  You may not agree with your partner's viewpoint, but it is important to listen, consider, and try to understand it.  

Is there genuine admiration and fondness for your partner?  Physical attraction may have drawn you together, but hopefully as you got to know each other better, your friendship deepened.  Do you know each other well- your goals, dreams, hopes?  How much time do you spend talking on an emotional level?  Do you know each other's family and friends?  What worries or stresses your partner? 

Do you have underlying concerns about your partner's behavior or habits?  Are there red-flags lurking in the back of your mind?  Does your partner drink too much too often?  Do they use drugs or substances that have caused problems for them in their career, relationships, or with the legal system?  Do they spend money like there is no tomorrow- opening new credit cards when the other ones are maxed out?  Do they treat others with disdain or harshness?  Being rude to the food server today may mean the same treatment for you later.  If you have concerns such as these, take heed.  The behavior will not magically disappear when you say "I do". 

Finally, do you both view marriage as a lifelong commitment?  Are you both in it for the long haul?  Marriage takes work!  It has to be tended to, and needs to be intentional.  Problems will arise when two different people join to become a family.   However, with lots of love, respect, understanding and commitment, marriage can be a mutually fulfilling decision that will provide joy and satisfaction for you both.  

Can you think of other questions that would be helpful to ask?  Your comments are welcome!