Considerations Before Marriage
Considerations Before Marriage
I like to think of marriage as an intimate business partnership. Before a partnership can be forged, there are many aspects that need to be discussed and many aspects that can be worked on as a team and as individuals. The team aspects work to bond the partnership together while the individual aspects work to enable each person to maintain a sense of personal accomplishment and fulfillment. The team can form a plan that details each person’s job description and the issue of work delegation, present, short-term and long-term financial plans, desire for and training of subordinates, and crisis intervention and acceptable solutions to any problems that may arise. Each individual should then also form personal goals to be worked on outside of the partnership with respect to the other party, such as personal hobbies and interests, a desire for continuing education, or desired career development. Do not feel selfish for focusing on yourself in the relationship. Human beings are motivated by personal fulfillment and that fulfillment comes in many different forms for different people. For example, I feel personal fulfillment when I complete a project regardless of recognition. I actually prefer internal recognition to public recognition. My husband, on the other hand, prefers public recognition and strives to achieve it by any means. The same holds true in a relationship. Each party is motivated by different situations and results. If an individual is not fulfilled personally, he or she will not be able to maintain a healthy relationship. Therefore, seek opportunities for personal fulfillment instead of simply forging a partnership with no personal identity.
Before a couple gets married, they must first discuss the team aspects of the relationship. The most important topic is the job description and work delegation plan. The couple must determine who will work outside of the home if not both parties, who will be responsible for household chores, who will be responsible for ensuring financial obligations are taken care of, and who will be responsible for social aspects of the partnership. Some couples like to split the tasks evenly while other couples prefer to take the “whoever finds it first” approach. Both are fine so long as both parties agree to the method. My husband and I decided he would work fulltime while I stayed home with the children until they are in school. I am responsible for school activities, transportation to and from extracurricular activities, homework, and play dates. My husband is responsible for maintaining medical coverage on the family and paying the household bills (which consists of writing the checks and balancing the checkbook – he is nicknamed Rain Man after all). Taking care of tasks physically located inside the house is my responsibility while taking care of tasks physically located outside of the house falls to my husband. We split tasks evenly, but differently. While it works well for my husband and me, I do realize most couples have both parties working outside of the home, especially before and at the beginning of a marriage. In those cases, I recommend splitting the tasks evenly or taking turns with different tasks so one person does not become overwhelmed. The “whoever finds it first” approach leaves too much room for one person to slack off on tasks by pretending to never see them.
Financial plans are also important for a couple to discuss before getting married. Each person on the team needs to disclose all current debt, financial standing at present, and financial aspirations for the future. Some people are fine with just scraping by in life while others prefer to stockpile for the dreaded rainy day. Similarly, some people will incur debt in an instant without a second thought while others pay off credit cards each month so as not to accrue interest. Financial issues are the main cause of divorces and getting a handle on them before marriage can save a couple a lot of heartache. Even if you and your to-be spouse do not agree completely on financial issues do not give up on the wedding. Try to reach a compromise that each of you can tolerate such as paying down large debts before a wedding, eliminating excessive frivolous spending, or starting a savings account that will receive a set deposit each month. Also discuss whether you would like to continually improve your financial standing or whether you are comfortable making the same money year after year, living in the same house for an extended amount of time, and driving the same vehicle into the ground before purchasing a new one. Some people love to collect items and others tend to be minimalists.
Expanding the Family
Also before marriage, determine whether or not each of you wants children in the future. When you take your stance on this topic, be sure you are making the proper decision. I once knew a woman who married someone who did not want children ever. She was fine with that because she did not want children either. Fast forward ten years and the couple is divorced because the woman decided she did indeed want children but the man had not changed his mind on the matter. If you and your partner decide not to have children, create a list of reasons why and hold onto it. Whenever you are tempted to change your mind, read over the list and remember your reasoning. If you and your partner do indeed want children you should discuss a number. Some people have dreams of 4 or 5 children while others only ever want one. Also determine if the children will go to daycare, stay home with one of the parents, or stay with Grandma during work hours. Other considerations for children are a preferred religion if you don’t practice the same one, acceptable discipline methods, and amounts of expected involvement for each partner. In this day and age, most men are very involved in their children’s lives and I think that is fantastic. However, I’m sure there are still men out there somewhere who would prefer to play the role of the ‘fun guy’ as opposed to dealing with baths, stories, head lice, homework, and toilet training.
Crisis Intervention Techniques
Crisis intervention techniques are those techniques that help heal a marriage after troubles, progress a relationship, and deter future problems – such as marriage counseling, marriage retreats, and individual “vacations” to allow for a timeout to recharge. A crisis can be anything from an affair to a silly argument over where to host your child’s next birthday bash. When you live with someone and see that person every day arguments are bound to arise. Before getting married, a couple should set a crisis intervention plan in place to prevent arguments from spiraling out of control and leading to that ugly “D” word – divorce. Decide whether marriage counseling is a valid option and whether or not one party has the right to ask the other party to participate. Some people are very against marriage counseling but leave the other person free to attend alone if he or she thinks it is necessary. Also decide what infractions are grounds for a divorce and some acceptable solutions to other common problems that are not divorce material. Set the rules for your marriage immediately. Is the relationship going to be an open one or do you want loyalty and devotion? Is spanking a child grounds for separation or is it permissible now and again? Is it alright to go out to bars every night without your partner? These are things that need to be discussed before saying any vows of forever.
Love Yourself Too
Don’t forget to be a little selfish too. You need to maintain your sense of self. Do not accept simply being “Ted’s Wife” or “Sally’s Husband”. Keep your sense of identity by participating in your favorite sports, spending time with your friends, and pursuing your interests. Remember to think of yourself and love yourself so you are able to love others.
Everything listed may seem pretty involved and somewhat common sense, but I would love to see divorce rates decrease in the years to come. And don’t worry if you forget to discuss something or if it doesn’t come up until after the partnership is already made legal. As long as you and your partner acknowledge that marriage requires a lot of hard work and that some days will be better than others, you will be able to overcome many obstacles together.