TIME wrote an intriguing article in 2018 about 5 things you might want to ask before getting married. I decided to do a twist on this just for the guys. So here's my "5 Questions to Ask Before Getting Married" from the male perspective.
If you haven't read their article, please do. Here is the link to their page. The normal touchy feely topics are covered and it is well written. But there are several current topics not addressed and I feel do a major disservice to the male community at large. For example...
1. How much risk am I putting myself in? (Financially, emotionally, legally, etc.)
First on most men's minds when we are preparing to make that big relationship leap is wondering what happens if it all goes south one day. In this modern era, courts and judges have proven that they are not on the Man's side. And this lop-sided legal system will uproot half or more of your hard work and grant it to your former partner. So a valid question you should ask yourself is "how much risk am I going into"? The answer for so many men is A LOT. But that doesn't mean don't do it.
Just understand the risk, plan for it and take legal action if necessary. For example, if you own a business, property, a home or anything else, be sure to speak to a lawyer and consider protective shelters for that property such as a Trust. A family trust with your parents and siblings could be a fantastic tool to protect your pre-marriage property. Any new property gained during the marriage will be subject to the marriage, but any property from before which is protected by the Trust is not owned by you and therefore not subject to a divorce. Please seek an attorney in your area to further understand the benefits of a Trust.
Pre-nuptial Agreement: Even the phrase "pre-nup" has become a lightning rod for arguments with a fiancé or girlfriend. A friend of mine is going through a divorce now and never got a pre-nup. His wife of 8 years thought she was going to split ownership of his pre-marriage home and all their assets. But has recently learned that he doesn't own any of it. All of the assets including the home where they lived is owned by the Trust and not subject to their divorce.
Last note on this topic: Go into this marriage wanting and expecting it to last a lifetime. But also protect your business and home if things go sideways. Expect the best. Plan for the worst.
2. What are my "non-negotiables"?
Absolutely one of the most important conversations you can have with your girlfriend or fiancé is what are your non-negotiable deal-breakers. Understand upfront that most of your relationship will involve compromise. But what are the absolute limits for you? For me there were three and I'm dead serious: 1. No cheating; 2. No drug abuse; and 3. No history of sex change. Let's break those down.
No cheating seems self-explanatory. But I'm going into this relationship with a clean slate and so is she. If she cheats (according to what we agree is cheating), she knows I will leave and I know if I cheat she will leave as well. So we have a mutual understanding.
No drug abuse stems back to a personal promise to myself I made when I was young. I have witnessed several relationships fall into shambles because one person allowed themselves to become addicted to illegal substances. If something is legal, prescribed and/or necessary for my wife's health, then I will support her using it. But illegal and addictive drug use is not only self-destructive, it can destroy our family, our home, our business and our reputations. And that is something I just can't live with.
No former trans-identity might be controversial in this era but I don't care. Surgeries can make it nearly impossible for someone to know a person was born of the opposite gender. In my case, I knew I really wanted naturally born children and it was important with me that we were starting from a totally open and honest place. When I had this talk with my fiancé, she laughed at first but realized I was serious. She just smiled and nodded that this wasn't a concern.
Your list might be much different than mine. Things like open relationships, recreational drug-use and trans couples are all very mainstream ideas now. But for me they were deal-breakers. What I mean is that you can define your limits. And if you want to amend or break them, that is up to you. But I believe starting a marriage with clearly communicated expectations and boundaries is important for both parties. Take some time to think about your own list and then talk about it with your partner.
3. Do we have the tools needed to make this last?
This is one of the hardest questions to answer and definitely deserves most of your attention before you tie the knot. The relationship you know now, prior to marriage, is absolutely going to change: How you talk to each other; What you're comfortable doing or saying next to each other; How you treat each other; Intimacy. It's all gonna change. You two are going to need a few very key things NOT to change in order to keep things going when you hit troubled waters.
Commitment: Your commitment to her should be just as strong as hers to you. Does she repel attention from other men? Does she seek validation from other men and social media? Does she listen when it's your turn to speak? Does she feel like she would lose something important if you left? These are signs that show her commitment. There's an old saying:
"Date the one want. Marry the one that wants you."
Communication: Definitely one of the hardest skills to acquire by far. Due in large part to HOW men and women communicate. We as men can be direct problem-solvers who focus on the key facts and 5 W's (who, what, when, where and why). Where women may communicate more in feelings, emotions, and the impact. Learning to listen and give back in a conversation what she needs will be crucial to talking through arguments, making her feel supported and being a good partner. She should also realize that you are not her girlfriend. She shouldn't lay expectations on you to act, talk, or behave like her new bestie. As her husband you are prepared to be there for her on her best and worst days. Your strength can help her get through any dark time. But the trade-off is that you may not act, talk or behave like her female friends. She doesn't get both a strong male figure and a soft gossip buddy.
From guy-to-guy, I recommend reading some books on communication and entertain the idea of going to counseling to help create tactics for navigating difficult discussions with your future spouse. If she can't handle being told she's wrong sometimes, apologizing or being sensitive to your feelings and concerns, maybe she isn't the one. And if she truly doesn't want to lose you, she'll do what it takes and take responsibility when she's wrong.
Shared Values: If marriage were a ship at sea, and arguments were storms over that ship, shared values are the compass that guide it. You should fall in love with more than how she makes you feel. Read that again. My wife and I have a shared value of generosity and kindness. It is key to who we are and how we were raised. Generosity and kindness are the core of our spiritual side and the main factor that keeps us glued to one another. When I see her being gentle, generous and kind to someone in need, it fills me with pride that she is my wife. In that moment, I am proud to be her husband.
You should pretend for a moment that your girlfriend or fiancé is hideously unattractive. Would you still like to be with her? If her beauty is her only or greatest attribute, she isn't the one bro. Sometimes I imagine my wife and I are both 80 years old. I'm just as snarky and she is just as nagging. But we are still just as generous and helpful to those in need.
Take some time to consider who you are and what your greatest attributes are. Be honest with yourself. And then critique your partner. Does she share your values and morals. Do you two match on these topics or are you opposites? These questions will undoubtedly save you a lot of heartache and trouble down the road when issues arise and perhaps married your opposite.
4. Are we both in this for the long haul?
Oof, that is a tough one. And of course if you ask any woman, she'll always say yes. She believes at this moment she'll never leave. When in fact 70% of divorces are filed by the wife. This only means that minds and hearts can change. So how do we really know if she is in this for the long haul? Short answer, usually we don't. However, there are clues that can help.
HER PAST: You may want to look at her past relationships as an indicator. If your girlfriend or fiancé has habitually left every previous relationship when things got difficult, there is a strong chance that it will be the same with you. Women are often guarded when it comes to the details of their past relationships. I'll even go so far as to say they will more than likely lie to you when asked for details (if she was the one in the wrong). She will probably be quick to discuss every guy who treated her badly or messed around behind her back, but you should be asking the harder questions. How many relationships did SHE cheat in? How many relationships did SHE initiate the break-up? And so on.
FINANCES: Another big indicator of her commitment is her interest in money, assets and spending. How does she react even to the topic of a pre-nup? (Not that you even need it because everything you own is in a Trust) But just as a test, how does she act when you bring it up? And if you pretend to be broke all of a sudden, how does she act? Is she helpful and sharing? Is she offering you money from her own salary? If she is willing to work through difficult times, and help you rebuild, she deserves every treasure and every good thing in life. But if she starts talking about falling out of love or having mixed feelings when financial stress is imminent, then she deserves nothing.
The take-away here is that commitment doesn't mean being "happy" and feeling "in love." It means digging in and sticking it out when things go badly. When you are tested, and you will be tested, can you make it through?
5. Do we have the same priorities?
This question really should lead to several other questions. For example, what is it that you really want to get out of life? If you could achieve only one thing in your whole life, what would it be? If you pretended you were on your deathbed, what would be your one regret for not completing? The answer to these questions will help you understand your purpose and your driving motivation in life. Then from that singular purpose, you can derive priorities that keep you going and help you to live out that purpose.
To help illustrate, I'll answer each of these for myself:
What is it that you really want to get out of life? I want to build a loving home for a family to thrive in. A home where my kids want to come back with grand kids.
If you could achieve only one thing in your whole life, what would it be? I want to be known as an unselfish man who loved his family, enjoyed every minute, volunteered in his community and helped everyone he possibly could.
If you pretended you were on your deathbed, what would be your one regret for not completing? Wasting a moment and not helping others.
Now, with this understanding of purpose, I can say that my priorities are to work hard so that I can provide for my family, be a good father and positive male role model in my community.
With that purpose and those priorities, I need to find a woman that can compliment those things. She needs to understand that we might play different roles, but we are on the same team. She might have her own purpose and priorities and the question becomes do those coincide with each other. If her priority is to an acting career and her agent says she needs to move New York, but your priorities are to community service in the Tucson Arizona area, then there is a disconnect and probably a major issue in the marriage.
Make sure to talk through these priorities and what she wants out of life. If she is a home-maker and the Robin to your Batman or if she is a CEO, do you guys match up for a lifetime?
A theme I want you to recognize through this post is that I'm looking for common ground. Some things are meant to protect you as a man. But a lot of it is pre-emptive questioning to truly understand if you will be good for each other. I want everyone to have a blessed and fulfilling marriage if you do get married. Just make sure to talk things over with your partner first. I hope you found this helpful. If you have any suggestions for edits or things to add, please reach me through the contact page or on social media at the links on the home page.