There are classes and workshops for virtually everything in life, and marriage is no exception
POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Oct 27, 2013
Have you gotten the go-ahead? We expect that you and your girlfriend have talked about the future, specifically your future together. But if that's not the case, you may be in for a rude awakening. Let this question provide your first lesson. Always consider your mate's feelings — before the engagement, during the engagement and forevermore. You will misread her feelings at times, and she'll do the same to you, but if you're not copacetic on this first question, the time or the match is not likely right.
Is your decision being made under duress? Perhaps you have trouble with commitment. Perhaps you've received an ultimatum from your girlfriend. Perhaps your mother, father or potential in-laws are dropping not-so-subtle hints that you need to speed things along. You are the only one who can decide whether you are ready — don't rush it. There's always counseling if you're an indecisive wreck, but your marriage will only be as strong as your commitment to it.
Is her decision being made under duress? A surefire way to blow an engagement is to coerce your girlfriend into a decision. Even if you thought marriage was a foregone conclusion from your first date, you still need to let your potential wife make up her own mind in her own time.
What was the name of your girlfriend's first pet? How well you really know the woman you love? When she did graduate from high school? How many serious boyfriends has she had? What's her mother's maiden name? What color are her eyes? These details might seem inconsequential, but marriage is all about inconsequential details, so make sure you have the kind of relationship in which you share them with your potential spouse, and that you remember what's being shared, because you'll be spending a lot of time together. Which brings us to …
Do you understand the ramifications of what you're about to do? It's surprising how many men don't understand that in Western society the most basic tenet of marriage is that you will be faithful. If you are uncertain, perhaps you should consider a few more years of bachelorhood. And don't be fooled into believing your girlfriend if she's hinted that she'd forgive an indiscretion. Few women tolerate physical infidelity, and all demand and expect emotional fidelity.
Have you talked about the things you're not supposed to talk about? Democrats and Republicans, Catholics and Jews, Libertarians and Baptists have all made fantastic married couples. But before you get too far along, make sure that, no matter what your differences, you respect each others' views.
Where do you stand on progeny? Either you both agree that you'll have the obligatory 2.4 children and a white picket fence within which said children will play and laugh and sing, or you will forgo merging your DNA to spend more time in Las Vegas and South Beach. But don't be surprised if your spouse's opinions on motherhood change with time. You likely won't fare well by simply restating the terms of your verbal contract, so it's best to go into marriage with the assumption: Even if she says she never wants children, you'd have 'em with her anyway.
If you're having kids, who/what will they worship? Where? What denomination? You should also get a sense of how you'll raise children if you plan to have them. Will they go to Hebrew school, Sunday school or the bowling alley? Will they say "yes, sir" and "no, ma'am" or "please" and "thank you"? Will they root for the Yankees or the Mets? And how many of them will be doing the rooting? You shouldn't expect to map out your whole life before you even buy a ring, but you should have a sense of what it'll mean to the two of you to wear rings.
Does your area code matter? If you're both from the same hometown, you're living there now and you couldn't think of a better place to settle down, then skip this question. If you met anywhere else, talk about where you want to end up. Hopefully you can live anywhere as long as the woman you love is with you. But you should still make sure that "anywhere" really means anywhere, and you should make sure your fiancee-to-be sees things the same way. If this matter is going to cause a serious conflict, you're probably already feeling it deep in your gut, and you'll want to resolve it before things get too far along.
Do you have reasonable expectations of your girlfriend? Does she have reasonable expectations of you? If your wife expects that after marriage you will become a rock-steady CPA like her dad and leave behind the arty "freelancer" life you inherited from your mom, it's best to know that before signing a long-term contract.
Do you like your girlfriend? It sounds like an incredibly cruel and pessimistic question, but there is such a thing as love without friendship. It may be that you and your girlfriend make the perfect couple at a cocktail party. But are you just as happy when you're stuck at home and the cable isn't working? Hopefully you know all the small details about her life because you cherish her company and want to know everything about her. But if not, you may want to think harder about what will make you happy in a relationship.