Before you choose your wedding date
It’s occurred to me that, amongst other things, couples need to consider the difficult side of the marriage vows before taking them. It’s not hard work for anybody to be happy when things are hunky-dory, when income is more than expenses, when everybody is hale and hearty, but let’s consider the following scenarios:
For richer or poorer… Would you still want to be with your spouse if circumstances took you from a four-bedroom property to a one-bedroom council flat?
In sickness and in health… Would you still want to be there if your spouse developed a physical or mental illness and becomes immobile, unable to work, dripping saliva continuously, napkin in hand with a loving smile?
For better or worse… Would you still want to stay married assuming ‘dearest’ had a car accident and you had to spend the rest of your life feeding them or changing their diapers, with the knowledge that you might never have children together?
As grim as those scenarios might look, reality can be bitter sometimes – and sometimes that’s what marriage is. It means staying with your spouse whether things are rosy or thorny! It’s not a fairy tale where everything goes well every day, or a Barbie and Ken scenario with everyone always smiling and happy. One thing that can be guaranteed is that things will sometimes go wrong.
Trying to list possible areas of discussion proves in no way exhaustive or conclusive, but it should at least give the thought-provoking process a good head start.
Do you have enough money saved up for the wedding ceremony? Getting married can be expensive, especially if one comes from certain regions of the world. How do you intend to gather the funds required? Once you are married, how will you be spending your money? Are you down with the ‘Joint Account’ business? Discussing money issues ahead of time, including spending habits and where you each feel your money should go can prevent disagreements later. Will you still be able to shop at ‘Prada’ or will it be ‘Primark’ for a while in order to save for a bigger house? Have you discussed how you both feel about each other’s current spending and saving habits? How will the bills be paid, – since we live in a world of ‘Bills, Bills, and Bills? And God forbid is anyone thinking about a prenuptial agreement?
• Are you really ready to get hitched?
Until a person has matured as an individual, it is difficult to know if a relationship that worked for them in their younger years would still work for them years later. That’s why there are not that many high school marriages. We are faced with different types of challenges as we grow up and how we deal with them determines the proportion of our acquaintances that stick with us as the years go by. Have you experienced everything you wanted to as a single person? Are there things that you’d like to do, places to visit before the responsibility of marriage sets in? It’s worth taking stock of what you’ve done so far, what you are still to do and other things that you are willing to put aside whilst you tend to your new family and experiences. There’s no point getting married only to spend all your weekends hanging out with the boys! Once you get married, you might not be able to carry the same crew around anymore; this is worth thinking about as it might cause a few heartaches if not taken into consideration. Shopping sprees might be clipped to afford a better lifestyle.
• Maintaining your relationship.
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 behaviours are considered to be “off-limits”? How do you plan to communicate these with your partner if you are bothered about certain issues, without starting a fight? Are you prepared to submit your marriage to other couples? What aspect of your marriage do you want to keep private? Are you willing to have your spouse report you to someone if need be? Do you know how to fight fairly? There will be things you disagree on — how do you plan to handle this? Have you set mutual 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?
• Personal Life.
The Bible says that once we get married we become one, but in reality, there are still some aspects of our lives that though known to our partners, are still personal. Discuss how much time you will set aside to spend time with friends, or on hobbies; you might both not like football and Oprah! Are there certain activities that are expected to be discontinued or changed once you begin your married life? Following your interests in Formula One or paragliding might be frowned upon by your spouse for financial or safety reasons. It’s fact that once you get married, if you want the marriage to work, you don’t have total control over your life, time and interests.
In-laws have been a source of much heartache and sometimes break-up but they are also a source of joy and support. This has mostly been due to differences in values and understanding. Do you get along with the people who are important in your partner’s life? If not, will it cause problems in your relationship? Are you ready to continually pray for this throughout the marriage? In-laws are an imminent part of the relationship you are planning to go into, so understanding that part of the contract is vital. Couples and in-laws alike come into the relationship with a preconceived expectation and this is what causes problems. Each party should enter with an open and accommodating mindset for there to be a success. You won’t see your in-laws the same way your spouse sees them; remember that they’ve been together for a long time and all the flaws have been adapted to. You need to know how to go about dealing with some behaviours whilst prayerfully adapting to (more like accommodating) others.