7 Questions to Ask Before You Pop the Question (or Answer It)
By Natalie Stage, MA Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor
Will you marry me? There are few questions that have more potential to change your life forever. Despite the romantic trappings, marriage proposals often cause a lot of anxiety. The decision to marry someone can be difficult and the process should not be taken lightly. While many doubts can flood your mind when thinking about tying the knot, there is one obvious concern: Is this really the right person?
So, how do you know? While there is no one-size-fits-all formula, there are some important issues to consider and a few red flags to be aware of before making this important decision.
First of all, can you live with this person for the rest of your life—as they are right now?
If you are still waiting for your significant other to change certain habits, or thinking “growth” in this or that area will occur after the ceremony, then this is not the right person for you.
People can and do change, but the personality of most individuals, as well as their habits, remain pretty consistent throughout their lifetime. For example, is your significant other always late? Have you talked about this topic with no positive outcome? If a person doesn’t work on an issue for you while dating, marriage probably won’t change the behavior either. Are you unable to feel loved because your prospective spouse doesn’t know how to show it? Don’t expect marriage to make this better. Does your special someone spend more time on hobbies and friends than with you? Marriage doesn’t fix this, either.
It is important to realize that if the person you are dating does not already show the personality traits you expect in a spouse, it’s a bad sign for a successful marriage.
Is your relationship free of abuse- verbal, sexual, physical or otherwise?
If not, this is a real red flag. If you hate the way your significant other treats you, marriage is not the solution. The person may change and get better one day, but formalizing the relationship will not motivate anyone to do so. For your own sake, you need to part ways. It may even be the motivation needed to seek help for unacceptable behavior.
Does this person have the same values and spiritual beliefs?
It may seem quite possible to be married to someone with different core values. After all, many of our friends have diverse values, right? But marriage is different. It involves making major life decisions together, including raising children. How people handle family choices is largely rooted in their core values and beliefs. It’s important to talk about these things and be on the same page before committing to marriage.
Do you have the same general direction and dreams for life?
It may seem obvious, but if one of you wants to settle in the suburbs with a large family and the other wants a more nomadic lifestyle without children, this may just not work. Dreams and life direction can be flexible and change over time, but just don’t assume the other person will eventually abandon the dreams of a lifetime for yours. This would likely end up being a large point of tension in a marriage. Talk about your dreams and where your lives are headed before marriage to see if they can be compatible.
Do you resolve conflict in healthy ways?
Disagreements will happen in any relationship, but can you work through them together or does one of you have to hide your true feelings to keep the peace? Remember, any unresolved fights or problems you have now will likely only intensify with marriage.
A better plan is to work on these issues before the ceremony. Seek outside help if you cannot come to a resolution on your own. Healthy communication can be learned with a little work. Acquire the skills needed to be honest with each other. This way you’ll be able to see if you and your significant other are able to come to solid solutions day-to-day based on communication and mutual respect. If you are able to come to honest resolutions of problem areas, even after professional counseling, you may need to think twice about spending your life with this person.
Even if you find that you and your potential spouse are not having any conflict at all, it is possible that you aren’t being completely honest with each other. Use your communication skills to explore hidden areas of conflict before marriage.
Do you get along?
Romance is typically the easiest and strongest part of a new relationship. So much so that basic friendship can sometimes be overlooked. Do you enjoy each other day-in-and-day-out during routine chores? Do you have fun together? What interests do you have in common? If the little things in life cause conflict and tension, you may not get along well enough on a basic level. If you don’t know how to enjoy each other’s company outside of a romantic night out, marriage may not be right for you.
Do your friends and family approve?
Chances are, your friends and family love you and want the best for you. So, you have to ask yourself – are they seeing something you aren’t? While marriage is your decision to make, it can be wise to listen to others who are observing your relationship from the outside. They may see some destructive patterns or have concerns that haven’t yet occurred to you. It is wise to listen.
Building a solid foundation.
If you answered “yes” to each of these seven questions, that is a great sign! While not an exhaustive list, it will help you to think objectively about what will happen after the vows. In addition to going through these questions, it’s an excellent idea to seek out a couple that is further along the road in marriage (or a professional counselor), to answer any other questions you may have about your relationship and your readiness for marriage. If you did not answer yes to every question, or are still confused about your next steps, you should definitely consider further guidance from a trusted married couple or counselor.
Marriage is a beautiful, wonderful thing. To build a solid foundation for a successful life together, treat the process with care and approach it with wisdom.