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The institution of marriage has evolved dramatically over the past century. What used to be an agreement rooted in politics in purpose has transformed into a decision made by two people who want to spend the rest of their lives together. While this shift is resoundingly positive, it leaves some important issues on the table.
Loving someone isn’t enough to make a marriage work. Here are some of the top things to consider and discuss before getting married so you don’t make a tragic mistake.
Checking Financial Health and Habits
Money is the number one subject of fights between married couples. How people handle money is rooted in several factors, like socioeconomic background, upbringing, and psychology. If you and your partner have different financial habits, you’ll likely experience tension when navigating life’s big milestones.
It’s also important to consider that getting married legally merges your finances. Confirming that you’re making a smart financial choice is smart. Running a background check will give you better insight into your partner’s financial history (i.e., bankruptcies, unpaid debt, etc.), public marriage records, and criminal records for peace of mind.
If you and your partner have different financial backgrounds and spending habits, consider putting a prenuptial agreement in place to protect your assets.
Addressing Power Imbalances
It’s natural to have certain power imbalances within a relationship. One of you might be the person that takes charge and gets things done. The other might have a higher income. The important thing is addressing how you’ll deal with those.
It’s also vital to assess whether your relationship has negative power imbalances, such as manipulative behavior or double standards. If you notice yourself or your partner engaging in these behaviors, you should reassess your marriage plans until you sort them out.
Clarifying Value Alignment
The events of the past few years have highlighted the pervasive challenges of having a partner with different values. While you can have different views and opinions, it’s important to share similar values with your partner.
Some values will directly impact the course of your relationships, such as how you believe people should be treated, what you want out of life, and your views surrounding monogamy. Others will be broader and more reflective of who you are as an individual. For example, you may deeply value eco-conscious living, and your partner may value health and fitness. The question becomes whether you can live with someone who doesn’t recycle (probably) and if they can live with someone who isn’t interested in running a Triathalon (hopefully).
Clarifying value alignment ultimately comes down to what incongruencies are and are not deal breakers for you both.
Confirming Similar Child-Rearing Views
Confirming shared views surrounding child-rearing is paramount. Start with the first question: do you and your partner want children? Whether the answer is yes or no, it’s important to have the same response for your relationship to work.
If you decide children are in your shared future, discuss what you each believe about child-rearing. Much of this will come from your family of origin. Think beyond whether this person would make a good parent and consider them at their worst: is this someone you’d want to co-parent with after breaking up?
Understanding Your Personal Challenges
Finally, take some time to reflect upon what you’re bringing to the table. You likely have challenges and struggles that negatively impact your relationship. These barriers could be anything from poor communication to your temperament. Consider what issues those challenges will cause in a marriage based on your existing relationship.
Getting married won’t fix your problems. Being with someone else won’t “complete” you. It’s your responsibility to assess what areas you’re lacking and strive to fix them over time.
Marriage is a complex, legally binding agreement that impacts the direction of your life. Love is an important part of that, but it’s only one side of the equation. Keep these key considerations in mind before you say “I do.”