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Things to Consider Before You Get Married

Written by: Nicole Teague
Cigna Behavioral Health

So, you've finally found them — the person of your dreams. Now, it seems the next logical step is to get married. After all, you're in love, and that's all you need to handle whatever curves life may throw your way. However, with so many people divorcing these days, it's more important than ever to take the time to consider whether you are truly ready to devote yourself to a life-long commitment.

People spend so much time planning for that special day — the day of their wedding. But what about planning for the actual marriage, which is meant to last the rest of your life? As you would with any long-term commitment, marriage is something that you should plan for. So before you take the plunge, take the time to consider some things that could have an effect on your level of happiness.

  • Are you ready to get married? During their teens and 20's, people change considerably. Until a person has matured as an individual, it is difficult to know if a relationship that worked for them in their younger years will still be working for them years later. Have you experienced everything you wanted to as a single person?
  • Finances — Do you have enough money to get married? Getting married can be expensive. Once you are married, how will you spend your money? Discussing money issues ahead of time, (spending habits and where you each feel your money should go), can prevent disagreements later. Discuss how you and your partner feel about buying, saving, and sharing bank accounts. How will the bills be split up? Will a prenuptial agreement be necessary?
  • How alike are you? Where do you stand on important issues such as religion and having children? Do you both agree on what a "good relationship" looks like? Do your personalities clash or are you in-sync? While some people prefer that their mate to be very similar to them, others feel that differences "spice up" the relationship. What are your expectations from marriage? What are your partner's? Do you think are able to give your partner what he/she needs?
  • Personal needs and beliefs — What do you need to make a relationship work? What are your views on important issues such as loyalty, honesty, and dealing with anger? How do your views fit with your partner's? What behaviors are considered to be "off-limits"? Communicate these with your partner.
  • Communication skills — How do you plan to communicate with your partner? Do you know how to fight fairly? There will be things you disagree on — how will you handle this? Set ground rules for communication, making sure to discuss specific issues such as arguing, yelling, and name-calling. Are you able to resolve issues to reach a compromise?
  • Life outside of marriage — Having a life outside of your partner is vital, and it is important to maintain your identity rather than to lose yourself in your mate. Discuss how much time you will set aside to spend time with friends, or on hobbies. Are there certain activities that are expected to be discontinued or changed once you begin your married life?
  • Do you want to have children? If so, how many? How do you plan to discipline them, raise them, and care for them? How would you handle issues such as infertility and adoption should they come up? Having children brings changes into your relationship and you will have less time to focus on the two of you. It's important not to lose yourself in your new roles as parents, and to find a way to maintain the partnership you have created.
  • Employment — What are your long-term career goals? Will you have to travel or relocate for your job? Do you spend long hours at the office? Do your work schedules allow enough time for you to spend together? What kind of effect will your job have on your family life? If you have children, will someone quit their job to take care of them?
  • Sex — Being unsatisfied with your sex life can cause problems in your relationship. Discuss your expectations with your partner, and find out what he/she expects from you in return.
  • Daily life — Who will be responsible for daily activities such as household chores and paying the bills? How will these responsibilities be handled if life's circumstances change — for example, when children are born or work hours are changed?
  • How committed are you to the relationship? When your relationship goes through changes (which it will), are you willing to take the necessary steps to deal with the changes? Are you open to counseling if you find your relationship is in trouble, or are you more likely to give up?
  • Personal space — Are there times when you need to be left alone? Talked to? Listened to? Comforted? Communicate these needs clearly to your partner.
  • How to keep your marriage exciting — How will you find ways to keep your relationship satisfying? When do you plan to dedicate time to your relationship and how do you plan to do so? What is your idea of time together — spending time with a group of friends, watching sports on tv, a private candlelit dinner, a walk in the park? Can you make a regular "date night" a priority?
  • Family/friends — Do you get along with the people who are important in your partner's life? If not, will it cause problems in your relationship?
  • Remarrying/Blending families — If you or your partner have been married before, you may have additional issues to discuss. If there are children involved, what will your role with them be? What do you expect your partner's role to be? Discuss what the relationships are with your ex-partners, and what you expect your spouse's relationship to be with those people.
  • Know your odds — Statistics have shown couples who lived together before they were married, those who were previously married, and those without a college education are more likely to get a divorce.

Why get married, anyways?
Take some time to consider why you want to get married in the first place. Many people get married thinking that they can change the other person. Although people can change, certain behaviors may be difficult to change. Looking at how you have acted in past relationships and with family members can be a telltale sign as to which behaviors you may carry with you into new relationships. The need to recognize what you contributed to the failure of your previous relationships is essential in order to prevent committing the same mistakes again.

Getting married will not fix problems within a relationship. Do you want to get married to get away from your family? Are you doing it for money? Stability? An unplanned pregnancy? Before you "tie the knot", make sure you are doing it for the right reasons.

Love changes everything...
Marriage is not a fairy tale. The love you share with your mate will change over time. What you need out of your relationship will change over time. The excitement will eventually wear off. Your patience and devotion will be tested. Marriage requires you to give of yourself, to make sacrifices, and to admit when you are wrong. It requires you to forgive when you really don't want to, and to keep on trying no matter how hard you want to give up. It takes dedication, commitment, honesty, and effort to make a marriage last.

There is no magic formula to making a marriage work. Sometimes, even the best of marriages fail. Many people enter a marriage expecting their partner to make them "happy" or "complete". However, only you can be held responsible for your own happiness. By taking the time to think about your future and sharing your thoughts with your partner, you have already taken the first step in making sure your relationship can stand the test of time.

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