“How did you know?” Is a question that often comes about when I speak with individuals considering a proposal. I can recall the internal conflict that occurs as you try to hear your heart, and mind, and your best friends thoughts, and your parent’s opinion, and the world’s ideas all at once. It is what anxious nights are made of, my friend!
I personally believe that you should not get engaged/married if:
* You feel stuck in the relationship (ie. “we’ve been together too long, I can’t end it now”).
* You feel there is a lacking in your relationship (ie. understanding, discussion, connection, gentleness, etc).
* You feel pressured to take the next step but personally are not at peace with the decision.
* You think this is your only chance for marriage.
* You have said to yourself “he/she/things will change once we are married, the [issue] will get better, they promised”.
During my time processing the idea of marriage while dating Anth, there were a few questions I always fell back to. Perhaps they will also help you sift through the endless opinions and hear your spirit’s voice a little louder.
1. Do your belief systems line up?
This is by far one of the most important questions to check in with. As much as we like to think our relationships can overcome anything, there are certain things that can brutally destroy it and/or harm us.
Values: what are values you are not willing to compromise on? Ie. If you value time with family while they only believes they should be seen on holidays, it will become an area of resentment and tension. The same applies if you feel quality time should be at the core of your relationship while they thinks parties and buddies take higher priority.
Faith: I once heard that money and religion are the top two reasons for divorce. I do not know how accurate the statement is or how the research studies were conducted, but I have seen these two destructively play out in relationships. If one of you believes God is at your core while the other believes God is not a crucial part of every day life, you are setting yourself up for a lack in spiritual intimacy and over all support and understanding. I whole heartedly believe you must be on the same page spiritually if you are walking into marriage. It is not to say you must be at the same level (unless that is your desire), there is nothing wrong if one person is newer to their walk with God, but you must be on the same path. Be not unequally yolked- 2Corninthians 6:14.
Finances: are you a saver while they are free spenders? do you carry large debt while they have placed their savings towards a dream family home? do you abuse loans and credit cards while they are against their use? Expenses cannot be hidden and debt cannot be ignored. It is wise to sit and discuss your a financial plans for repaying debts and managing expenses prior to planning a wedding. It may sound simple, but this can be a deal breaker for many.
2. Can I picture life with them in 10 years, and am I happy?
A lot can change in 10 years, heck, in 24 hours. When you picture yourself 10 years down the road, do you see yourself with the same person? Do you see your partner walking alongside you towards dreams and goals? Or is there a little part of you that finds it hard to picture the two of you happily living out your goals? If you cannot picture yourself trusting your partner with your child’s wellbeing, or living out your dreams with them, sit and dig a little deeper into WHY that is how you feel. This is a big red flag that should not be ignored. Sometimes our mind sees things more rationally than our heart does, it is wise to listen.
3. Can I picture myself raising a family with them?
This question is beyond the “happy family portrait” we picture.
Think about your parenting styles: do you have the same child rearing values and beliefs?
Parenting structure: who will be the stay-at-home parent? Will your child go to day-care? If you are career oriented, have you discussed a return to work as more children enter the picture?
Financial perspectives: do you both agree on the activities you want to invest into for your children (ie. does one of you want to only do one sport while the other wants to spend $600 on dance, $800 on hockey, $200 on piano lessons)? Do you want them raised in the public system, private school, or at home? Will you vaccinate them?
There can be a lot of conflict if you are on completely different pages when it comes to HOW you will raise your children and the lifestyle you want for them. It is great to dream together about the bigger picture, but do not forget to discuss the smaller details.
4. Do you respect their family and do you see yourself being a part of it?
As much as you may love your partner, you must also think about the family you are marrying into. Every family will have their drama, that is a given. Can you live with it? If your dream is to be best friends with a sister-in-law, can you live with being disliked? If your dream is to feel like the man of your house, can you live with a father-in-law that sees you as less than that? If you are already facing conflict with your in-laws, can you live with the situation if nothing were to change in the future? As much as we can place boundaries for family in our marriage, there is still great interaction that takes place with in-laws. Unless you live an ocean away from them, consider what family time may look like long term.
** This question can also be applied to your partner’s friends**
5. Are there warning flags you are ignoring?
Warning flags are the little areas of doubt and concern that we often hush and put aside. Does your partner have an unresolved issue you do not want to live with (ie. spending habit, anger, dishonesty, their approach to an illness)? As much as we like to think that “things will change,” or that “they will change because they promised”, if you have not seen active improvement in the behaviour causing concern, I do not see it wise to move into marriage. Why? Because when you say “Yes” and “I do”, you are saying yes to the person they are in that moment, not to the person you hope they will become in the future. If you cannot say “yes” to the specific behaviour for the rest of your life, then this is not the right time to plan a wedding. Consider speaking to a therapist or reputable mentor about your concerns, and seek help in making the necessary changes for a healthier future together.
6. Do your dreams and desires line up?
I am 100% a visionary, while Anth loves comfort and stability. Yeah. Yikes is right; however, during our many discussions we fell back to the same realization: neither of us had an issue with each other’s dream because there was freedom in our approach. We would seek the stability Anth desires with enough flexibility to allow me freedom to develop my more adventurous goals. If one of you wants to move across the ocean to pursue a career but the other cannot see themselves ever living away from family, there will be resentment in either final decision. I am not saying you must both desire the same thing, but there must enough similarity that neither of you feels robbed of their future or values.
7. What do you feel when you put excitement and stress aside?
I had a lot of stressors around my engagement and wedding. There were many instances where I wanted to walk out because the burdens I carried felt so heavy and exhausting; Some days I had difficulty finding joy in the process while other days I walked on cloud 9. I could have easily thrown my hands up and quit, but every time I came before God with an aching heart I felt nothing but peace. “Stand steadfast in your relationship” would softly echo in my mind on the stormier days. Likewise, I have heard stories of couples being so caught up in the excitement of families planning a wedding, that it was not until last minute that they sat to truly listen to their spirit and realized this was not the right decision for them. Take time to quietly sit by yourself, and write out what your heart feels and what your spirit sense about your decision outside of stress and excitement. If you give God room to move, He will guide you through this questions with clarity.
At the end of the day, 2 Corinthians 6:14 is as the core of my advice. If you are unequally yoked in the core areas that make an individual (spirituality, personal values, life goals), you are setting yourselves up for a higher degree of arguments, resentment and incompatibility. Your marriage should be a partnership where you both give and take; a team approach to walking forward in life towards your dreams. Like yoked oxen, if one partner is pulling in the opposite direction or not working to pull their weight, you will remain stagnant or will walk in circles in life. It will result in one of you giving up your desires and living a less-fulfilled life, which is likely to place strain on your marriage and create a conflict-filled environment for your family.
I know it is not always easy to ask the very questions that could end your relationship, but I believe it is better to face that fear before committing your life to a less-than-compatible match. Regardless of how attractive you find them and how much you love them, letting someone find a better suitor is the best way you could ever love them.
Did you have other questions you found helpful during your engagement consideration? Share your thoughts on a comment below!
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