Are these questions the secret to a successful marriage?
We asked experts for their wisdom and the #1 question one should ask when getting married.
This article was originally published May 30, 2018.
Whether you're currently single and looking for a lifelong partner, have been married for decades or about to walk down the aisle this summer, the mystery around marriage intrigues most of us. Why do some people stay together forever? Why do supposed dream couples break after tying the knot? Is there such as thing as a perfect marriage? Ok, to the last question, we'd say, of course not. But if anyone knows a thing or two about how to make a marriage work, we think it's the people we talked to below. We reached out to some experts in all things love and marriage to ask them... "What is the most important question one should ask before getting married?"
Am I ready for the commitment?
Rabbi Elyse Goldstein, City Shul Toronto
The #1 thing you should ask yourself is: am I ready for the long-term commitment this represents, which lasts way after the final dance at the wedding reception? Am I prepared to stick around when the going gets tough? And am I able to give this my all, all the time?
Marriage is about always giving 100% while not always getting 100% back. It requires a certain selflessness that needs to be cultivated long after the attention of the wedding. If a couple shares more than just interests — if they share values — they are on the right track.
Do I know my partner?
Margaret Hicks, Marriage and couples therapist
It is imperative to ask lots of questions and spend time getting to know your partner and not get so caught up in feelings of love and lust that you ignore red flag warnings such as addictions, anger and control issues, emotional unavailability and financial irresponsibility. As a couples therapist, I believe most everything may be worked through with the right help if your partner is open and committed to personal growth. In general, it is the person's character that is most important. Questions to ask oneself before getting married are: Does my partner have a sense of integrity? Does my partner lead a healthy lifestyle and have a positive attitude toward life? Is my partner responsible and emotionally available? Most importantly, is my partner willing to work on personal issues and address relationship concerns, including getting professional help if needed, when things get rough.
Does my partner have integrity?
Chantal Heide, Canada's Dating Coach
Do you have intimate knowledge of this person's integrity? Because that's the factor which dictates their decision making on so many other subjects.
What's integrity? In essence, it's the foundation of their moral compass. People with low integrity operate on a selfish, "every man for themselves" mentality. And though they may seem charming when life is going their way, their inner thought function revolves around ensuring they're winning in every situation, regardless of what that means for anyone else. So when things are good, everything is good. When things go south, so do they.
People with high integrity are responsible, generous, and sacrificing in nature. It's not just about them, and they see relationships as a team effort. They understand that there will be tough times and are prepared to buckle down and work through them as they arise. Sometimes, those tough times happen before marriage, and you'll find out where their integrity compass points to before nuptials take place. But if things have gone smoothly up to this point you'll need to dig a little deeper to root out the answer to this question.
Do I want them to change?
Rev. Tim Haughton, Senior Pastor, Little Trinity Church
Many people enter into marriage with the hope, and many times the expectation, that the person will change in ways that they want them to change. They think they personally can change them to become that person. They think even the act of getting married may be the thing that allows for that change to happen. At times it is the hope that that person will finally become diligent in their work ethic, become a Christian like them, or have an interest in having children. I often ask — could you marry this person even if they don't change one bit in that area? Only a yes builds the foundation for unconditionally loving the other when they will change in all sorts of ways through the course of marriage — many of which will not be to our preference.
Do we know what we are getting into?
Father Alexander Laschuk, Associate Judicial Vicar, Toronto Regional Tribunal
Marriage is a heroic vocation. Are we ready to suffer for our spouse, to stick it out in difficult times like mental illness or infidelity? Are we ready to be open to children, despite our fears? Marriage is an incredible thing. At the same time, this isn't for everyone. If we can answer yes to those questions, let's do it!
Do we have the same goals?
Krista Roesler, Life Coach and Registered Psychotherapist
Make sure you have communicated about all important decisions to ensure you have mutual goals. Studies show that having mutual goals with your partner ensures a long lasting marriage. Do you both want kids? What religion, schools, neighbourhood, etc. for kids? How do you want to divide chores, finances, where do you want to live? What type of lifestyle do you want? Out every night with your partner or homebodies? How much time will you spend together/apart? Will you travel together? Where? How will you communicate and handle feelings and issues that arise in the marriage?
What can we work on?
Jessica O'Reilly, host of the @SexWithDrJess Podcast
Couples who realize that personal and coupled growth are key to relationship satisfaction and longevity fare better than those who believe in destiny and soulmates, so if you're going to get married, you need to be prepared to put in the work. In the end, I can assure you (as a relationship expert and a happily married woman) that it's well worth it.
For every hour you invest in planning your wedding, I suggest you invest an equal amount of time in planning your marriage. Where do you want to be living 5 years from now? How many kids do you want (if any) and do you want to try to get pregnant, adopt or explore other options? If you have trouble getting pregnant, what options are you open to exploring? How involved will your families be in your day-to-day interactions? Where will you spend holidays? How much money do you want to save for retirement? What would you do if one of you lost your job? Have you considered writing a will? How important is sex to you and how often would you like to have it? What are your greatest fears and insecurities when it comes to marriage?
If you want to move beyond a casual conversation, you may also consider facilitated conversations with a professional — a therapist, financial planner or religious leader according to your personal needs and preferences.
What changes legally?
Rick Peticca, Associate, Shulman Law Firm
From a legal perspective, the institution of marriage is unique in that the entering into marriage by two persons triggers a host of rights, obligations and entitlements under the law simply by two persons entering into this legal agreement. Individuals who are contemplating marriage need to know that marriage is treated as an equal economic partnership under the law. By virtue of the fact that there is such a "partnership", if there would be a separation and divorce, then the rights, obligations and entitlements arising from the marriage will need to be settled between the parties post-separation.
Do we know how to fight?
Mio Yokoi, Registered Psychotherapist
The number one thing which every couple should have before getting married is a conflict resolution strategy. In other words: Know how to fight right.
The reality, with every couple, is that there will be fights. In order to have a lasting, thriving relationship, it is crucial to not only know that conflict is natural, but being able to resolve them constructively and productively is key. Resist the need to win in a fight! When each individual in the relationship is set on winning, then the relationship loses.
These answers have been edited and condensed.