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"Wait on the Lord, be strong and of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart...wait on the Lord. Psalms 27:14

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Tuesday, December 13, 2005

If you're thinking of marrying...

Here are some questions that I should have asked myself before going into my marriage. Of course, the answers for some of them probably would have been different back then than they are now. Maybe if we’d have done premarital counseling prior to getting married or at least asked ourselves some very hard hitting questions, we either would not have gotten married or things would be better now than what they have become and I wouldn’t be dealing with the end of my marriage. It’s an awful, lonely, sad place to be, especially at this time of the year.

I don’t want anyone else to be going through this if it can be avoided so if you’re planning on getting married, ask yourself these questions and answer them honestly. If your answers don’t line up the way they should, then reconsider the person you’re marrying or give yourself more time and go through pre-marital counseling. The worst time to find out that things aren’t as you thought they were and that maybe there is too much difference between you and your spouse is after you have said “I do”. Don't assume that things will work themselves out after you are married. Most of the time, they don't.

My thanks for Dennis Prager, WND columnist, for the questions and responses provided below.

*Some of these questions deal with the issue of premarital sex. That is not to say that I condone premarital sex – from experience I wish I would have waited b/c it would have saved a lot of heartache and hurt in some past relationships.
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Decades of radio counseling, personal experience, and public and private discussions about marriage prompt me to write this list of questions for anyone contemplating marriage.

1. Is the person your best friend or at least becoming so?

It is easy to find a lover. It is easy to get excited about a new person. But if you cannot say that the person you are considering marrying has become or is becoming your best friend, you need to figure out why before you decide to marry. This is probably the single most overlooked question among couples, especially young ones.

And for good reason. Many people cannot not answer this in the affirmative. But you have to answer it. Over time, friendship is the greatest bond between a couple. If the person you marry does not become your best friend, you will either seek someone who will be or simply drift apart.

What is a best friend? Someone you can and do tell just about everything to. Someone you want to be with as much as possible. And someone you need. One of the most devastating ideas of the last generation was that needing or depending upon another person is a sign of weakness. The opposite is true. The inability to need is a sign of weakness – you are afraid to relinquish power or afraid to be hurt.

2. Aside from sex, do you enjoy each other?

As great as the sex may be (and great sex certainly adds to a marriage), even Hugh Hefner spends the vast majority of time doing other things. You must enjoy this person during those hours. This sounds trite, but enjoying each other may actually be the single most important characteristic of a happy marriage.

3. Is there chemistry between the two of you?

As essential as being best friends and enjoying each other are, there should be a physical component to your relationship. Dating for marriage is not an interview for a platonic best friend. Nearly always, a woman who dates a man who meets the criteria listed here can grow to find him sexually attractive. If that were not the case, the majority of men would never attract a woman. There are very few men who turn heads. Most men become physically attractive to a woman thanks to other masculine qualities they possess.

Even for men it is common to find a woman physically attractive over time. In my late 20s, I directed a summer institute for men and women ages 19-25. After the first two summers, I began to play a game with myself. On the first night of the session, I made a mental note of which women I thought the most attractive and compared that list to one I made after the four weeks. The names on the latter list were rarely on the first-night list.

Nevertheless, if there is insufficient physical attraction after all other criteria are met and time has passed, you may be in the tragic position of having to end a relationship with a great man or woman.

4. Does the person have a number of good friends and at least one very close friend of the same sex?

It is a bad sign if the person you are thinking of marrying does not have good friends (including of long duration) of the same sex. Something is very wrong. This alone should rule out the person from consideration. A woman who cannot hold female friends and a man who cannot hold male friends have issues that will probably sink your marriage.

5. How does the person treat others?

It should go without saying that if the person is not kind to you, quit while you can. But it is far from sufficient that the person you are considering marrying treats you kindly. Watch how he or she treats waitresses, employees, family members and anyone else he/she comes into contact with. I promise you how the person treats others now is how this person will treat you later.

If these questions are answered honestly and help determine your decision, your chances of entering a happy marriage or avoiding an unhappy one are dramatically increased.

Good luck.

You'll need that, too.

It is exceptionally difficult to find the right person to marry.

This is especially true for first marriages. That is why it is so important to think through your decision by asking and answering critical questions.

6. What problems do the two of you now have? And what inner voice of doubt, if any, are you suppressing?

Here is a rule that is rarely broken: Whatever problems you have before the wedding day, you will have during your marriage. Do not think that marrying will solve any problem you have with the person. You therefore have three choices: Make peace with the problem, see if it can be solved before deciding to marry, or don't marry the person. It is imperative that you be ruthlessly honest with yourself. And that is very hard. Nothing in life is easier than denying problems when you are in love. That is why it is important to pay attention to inner doubts.

7. How often do you fight?

It may be normal for couples to fight (though the ratio of loving moments to fights must be high to sustain a loving relationship). But it is usually a bad sign if you are doing so with any frequency while dating. Presumably that should be the easiest time to get along – no children together, no joint financial problems, and the excitement of a new person.

If you do fight, do you quickly make up? Does he/she fight fairly and hear your side? Has either of you said "I'm sorry" after a fight? And perhaps most important, do you fight over the same issue(s) with no resolution?

8. Do you share values?

Opposites attract in the very beginning. Likes stay together for the long term.

The more you share, especially values, the better your chances of a good marriage. For example, if you think TV watching is a form of self-abuse and your prospective spouse loves watching for hours a day, you may have a big problem. Likewise if you have opposing political and social views to which you are passionately committed.

Love conquers all pre-maritally. Not post.

9. Do you miss the person when you are not together?

This even holds true for men. Yes, men are better at being distracted by work, sports, computer games, the opposite sex, and God knows what else, but it is not a good sign if you rarely miss her when not together. As for women, if you don't miss him, it is probably a really bad sign.

10. Is the person unhappy?

Having written a best-selling book on happiness and lectured on the subject on all seven continents, I am tempted write a book-length book explanation of just this question. Suffice it to say that the importance of marrying an essentially happy person cannot be exaggerated. If you are basically happy, do not think for a moment that you can make an unhappy person happy by marrying him or her. On the contrary, the ability of the unhappy to make the happy unhappy is far greater than the ability of the happy to make the unhappy happy.

11. How much of your love is dependent on the sex you are having?

The power of sex is so great that it often obscures problems of relating to one another. How much do you relate outside of bed? Do you love talking when you don't see, let alone touch, each other – such as by phone or computer? The best way to ascertain the answer is to take a month off from all sexual contact and see how much you then enjoy each other.

12. What do people you respect think of the person you're considering marrying?

Young people are certain they know better than anyone else in the world what is good for them. So a lack of enthusiasm for the person you are considering for marriage on the part of family or friends may mean little or nothing. And sometimes family objections should mean little or nothing. But if objections come, let us say, from a parent you respect for reasons that are not easily dismissed, and if others you respect are unenthusiastic as well, you should take the objections seriously. You would do so regarding the purchase of a car, wouldn't you? Yet no car will affect your life nearly as much as your spouse.

Will honest answers to these 12 questions either help you marry well or avoid a marriage that can make your life miserable? There is an easy way to find out. Ask any married or divorced person who will open up to you whether these questions need to be answered. They are the experts. Not the never-married, like you, who usually know nothing about marriage.

5 comments:

no_average_girl said...

Thanks so much for sharing! As I was reading I just kept saying, "she is so right"!

And the part about saving yourself physically I think would save major pain and problems. I've been in one serious relationship, but thankfully the only thing I had to recover from was the emotional damage.

My parents have always been great encouragers of "saving myself for God's best" and with that and by the Grace of God, I'm still waiting on "him", where ever "he" is. And yes, it gets lonely during this time of year, but being with someone just of the sake of having someone doesn't really appeal to me.

I have lots of guy friends but not one that I'm willing to spend the rest of my life with yet. I'm convinced that God's best will be more than worth the wait.

And I will pray for you that you will be a peace and that our Heavenly Father will just wrap His arms around you and be your shelter.

I will definitley be visiting your blog again!

Blessings!
Maegan

KeptSecrets said...

I truly enjoyed reading your piece on marriage. It's so true!! I have just recently got seperated this year too and it was because I felt he was just so unhappy, I tot I could make him happy, but i was wrong... his unhappiness affected me terribly. I was stricken with guilt for having to be the one initiating it. But I really couldn't handle his terrible mood swings anymore and his drinking problems. Of cos there were alot of other factors that added into this seperation. Luckily I have a very good friend who stood by me thru this whole period. He gave me lots of support and love. Over time I realised that he could really be the one for me. Everyone that we meet thinks we make a perfect couple. But recently he said that we would always be best buddies.... i was rather sadden. For a buddy I was more then perfect but for a wife he wanted someone young, beautiful and gentle...... Then i realised maybe he's really too young for me.... disappointed.

Yap and this is my first christmas alone... and i'm planning on just running away from it all. It's just so lonely.... this time of the year.

Jean-Luc Picard said...

There were some excellent points that all couples thinking of marrying should read. It will convince them one way or another whether their parner is the right one.

Violence Worker said...

Unfortunately, the most important thing I learned about relationships was learned after my divorce. All relationships, be it siblings, parent-child, and especially husband and wife are dependent upon one thing: Expectations. What each person expects and what actually takes place is sometimes very different.

Your list is a good start to identify each other's expectations. Once you learn what each other expects, then you get some ideaof compatibility. The next thing is once you decide you can meet most of each other's expectations, you are going to have to learn how to handle situations where expectations are not met, both as a couple and as an individual.

It ain't as easy as it sounds. It takes work and it takes sacrifice. You both need to learn that all of your expectations will not be met and dealing with those dissapointments are some of the most difficult aspects of any relationship.

When two of my daughters were engaged, I disussed this with them at length. Both have said it has made a heck of difference as they thought about it and then had their own discussion with their future husbands.

Good reads on your blog. Keep up the good work!

Merry Christmas!

VW

Michael Manning said...

I don't always agree with Dennis Prager but on this essay I found it to be "solid on all fronts". One of the things I shared with my Pastor was that people always ask we men who haven't been married "That's strange. Why haven't you been married at least once". For a single guy, I must tell you nothing is more undercutting than someone implying with a mere question that "There must be something wrong with him". It is at these times where I wish I could pull my Pastor out from behind a cardboard sign the way Woody Allen pulled out Marshall McCluhan in "Annie Hall". My Pastor says: "There must be the RIGHT opportunity, and there must be compatibility. Many times it is best not to be married but able to be alone and having mastered that and meet the right person later, than it is tobe married for marriage sake". The best marriages I have seen are consistent with every point Prager makes and I will have those charcteristics, thos qualities when I say "I Do". Nic, no one knows exactly what you are going through. We think we know. We have a good idea. But only YOU are walking as Jesus did "in your own shoes". I can promise you one thing: You WILL get through this. Last point: My Pastor says the hardest thing for anyone to do is to leave a burden they cannot shoulder alone "at the Cross". We have a tendency to go back and pick it up again instead of leaving it there. You will become stronger and will have such success in life once this terrible period passes. Nite!