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Choosing a life partner: Things to consider before saying I DO

By Chantal

Falling in love is quite easy, I suppose. Two people simply meet each other and first there is a crush. A few days later you discover the other person has become an obsession. One which you know has become a major distraction but at the same time feels so good you don’t want to deal with it or hold yourself back. You could be in love with someone for the rest of your life and really have a great time with them. However, when we come to marriage, it’s a different ball game altogether. You can play around with relationships, move from one person to another casually and somehow just seem to always be able to deal with it all. The liberty and opportunities of dating relationships are rarely present in a marital setting.

Marriage is meant to last till death. But things don’t always turn out that way for the majority of folks. And believe me, it is not because they did not love each other or that the love was not genuine. Truth is, no one gets into marriage expecting to get out some day. The desire in our hearts is to find the perfect life partner and stay married to our beloved soul mate the longest day we are alive. However, wishes are not horses and that is as far as many people go in preparing for marriage – wishing. They just wish they find the best life partner and make it through successfully, get to raise their children together and stay married till the day comes when one or both partners have to leave this world.

The sad part of all this is that though marriage is the legal and moral base for a family and family the foundation of every society, preparing for marriage is hardly considered a very important phenomenon to individuals or their governments. No one will hire a person to work on an engineering project, no matter how small it is, without making sure they have adequate learning and certification to prove it. We spend years learning all we can about our careers and even more years and hard work building those careers. But when it comes to marriage, people just assume that because they love each other, things are going to work out just fine. No matter the passion and love we each have for any profession, we seem to instinctively know that it will all amount to nothing without studies and hard work. But why do we not look at the issue of marriage this way?

Divorce rates are alarming and guess what, they are getting even worse. So let’s look at some key aspects in preparing for marriage or looking for a perfect life partner which will definitely help singles make the right decisions on who to marry. It is definitely possible to get married to the best life partner you can imagine and be partners for life if you learn to take the following issues seriously while you are still dating or deciding who to marry.

Love is not Enough

The first, and I think the most important thing you have to bear in mind when making a choice on who to marry is understanding that love (referring to romantic feelings) you may have for someone of the opposite sex does not provide an adequate foundation, nor is it reason enough to get married to that person.

You often find people who visit a marriage counselor before marriage asked the golden question -”why do you want to get married?”, the only answer they can present is the obvious – Because we love each other. But getting married and staying partners for life will not happen just because you love each other. I am not in any way saying that it is proper to ignore your feelings for someone or that those feelings are not important. They most certainly are and can actually help you determine who is the best life partner for you. As a matter of fact, it is not a commendable thing to get married to someone whom you have no feelings for.

However, you should know that there are different types of love and the one which is most often the foundational reason for many marriages is just not going to hold up under the pressure that will come when you eventually get married to each other. You must determine to look beyond the feelings you have for the other person, no matter how strong those feelings are and take rational decisions.

You can get into a relationship simply because you have feelings for a person and that will not be something to scream about. But getting married to someone just because you have feelings for them will leave you frustrated and confused at a certain point in time when you realize that you no longer feel the same way you use to do about them. And believe me or not, that time is coming. Feelings and emotions are triggered by hormones which change very often.

Don’t ignore differences

While you are in a relationship and very interested in the person you may consider the best life partner, there is a great tendency to ignore some pertinent differences between yourself and the person you intend to marry. You are usually so concerned about making them happy and pleasing them that, you prefer to ignore certain issues that need to be resolved. No matter how glaring it is, somehow you can always pretend it is nothing to worry about until you finally get married and wonder what you were thinking all the while.

I am not suggesting that you would not have any differences or opposing ideas with your partner because that will be impossible. What I am pointing out though, is that there are some major differences which you have to both talk about and come to a firm compromise or agreement on before getting married.

Religion

We all either believe in deity or the existence of some external force that has some tangible influence on the world – or that there isn’t. Even Atheist believe in something and that believe is usually very much linked to our choices, actions and inactions. Our believes determine a lot of things about us. When looking for a life partner, It is important to understand what the other person believes about God, religion and other such issues or subjects.

Christians for example believe that there is God and that Jesus deity and their mediator and the way through which they get into a loving relationship with Him. For many of them, God is not just an almighty force or personality but someone they have a loving relationship with. Muslims on the other hand believe in the existence of God but do not believe in the deity of Jesus Christ. To them He is just another prophet like their famous Mohamed and no more. This may look simple but it is actually in serious contradiction with the core Christian belief. Consequently, if a Christian falls in love with a Muslim, they cannot ignore these differences and expect to still have a wonderful marriage life or be partners for life. It just wouldn’t happen even if you think you found the perfect life partner.

It even gets complicated when a Christian, Muslim or any other person who believes in the existence of God falls in love with an Atheist. While they are dating, the Atheist may actually ignore the other persons beliefs or maybe never think it is ever going to be any problem. The Christian for example may go to church every Sunday or attend other weekly meetings and it will not be a big issue because they are not living together. If the Christian is the woman, she will hardly anticipate that making the mistake of getting married to this man will mean she can no longer go for those meetings as freely as she does because he may resent it and stop her from doing so. While looking for a life partner, don’t ignore your differences in religious believes or your levels of commitment to those beliefs.

Level of commitment to religious beliefs

Even when two people who have the same religious beliefs fall in love and intend to get married, they must go beyond the basics to check other issues if they truly intend to be partners for life. The perfect life partner as far as religion is concerned is the one with whom you agree on specific issues beyond having the same religious beliefs. Commitment is the big word here.

Though a Christian looking for a life partner may be interested in another Christian, it is important they look into their levels of commitment and decide if they can tolerate the differences. In this regard, within the Christian milieu, one person may be very committed to the church. He or she may be the type who maintains a strong commitment to prayers, bible study, church meetings and other such activities. Such people usually consider it a very important aspect of their lives and will definitely be disappointed if in future their spouse tries to discourage them or resent them for it.

So while you are considering getting married to someone or finding the perfect life partner, you should make sure that even if you both have the same basic beliefs, you also have similar levels of commitment or passion for those religious beliefs. Without this issue settled out, it will be difficult to have peace and happiness in your marriage no matter how much you seem to love each other now.

Settle Cultural Differences

This is another aspect of the differences you may have with the person you intend getting married to which needs to be handled. Our cultures are one of those aspects about us that determine what we think of ourselves and other people as well as what we will expect from them. There are some cultures for example which regard certain issues in marriage as the responsibility of the man or the woman.

In the typical African culture for example, the kitchen and every activity therein is considered the responsibility of the woman. Therefore, the woman is the only one who cooks, serves meals and takes care of dishes. The man on the other hand is seen as the provider. Though the woman may work and earn an income that could support the family financially, she is not obligated to either work or use her income to assist financially. The roles of husband and wife are strictly defined.

However, this is hardly the case in the western world where everyone strives for equality even in the home. A lady from a western cultural background for example is comfortable sharing financial responsibilities with the man and may expect him to be just as active when it comes to household chores as she is. Thus if two people from these different backgrounds intend to get married, they cannot afford to ignore this issue and still expect to have a blissful marriage experience. They have to talk about these differences and decide before they get married on who is going to bear what responsibility. You can imagine a lady who has studied hard for years and is very passionate about her career as a medical doctor getting married to a typical African guy who thinks it is normal for the woman to stay home and take care of household chores or maybe the kids.

There is going to be maximum disaster and chaos. Such men are also particularly sensitive to who takes care of the kids and would not want to let a nanny do the job or pay for a daycare service. If  both persons, carried away by the ‘in love experience’ ignore talking this over and move on to get married, the woman will find it very difficult to cope in that marriage because she will always feel imprisoned by a husband who ones proclaimed undying love for her. More devastating will be the feeling of never being able to follow her passions and chase her dreams. It is better to break a relationship or an engagement and avoid these circumstances if you cannot come to a compromise than get into marriage and start looking for a way out.  

Consider Visiting a marriage counselor

It is funny that though there are many more marriage counselors and even seminars organized today, people still ignore it all and go on to get married with little or no knowledge about what they are getting into. Seeing a marriage counselor is not always about asking questions you already have answers to or going through a routine. There are things you would certainly never consider or think about until you have a session with a marriage counselor. Not that these things have not always been there but because you needed someone to bring them to light and make you see how important they are and why you need to consider and talk about them. Visiting a counselor may be just what you need to seal your relationship when you have found that perfect life partner of yours.

Usually these are not things you may feel comfortable bringing up or talking about when it’s just you two. A marriage counsellor may be just the force you need to get the ball rolling. It may also be costly to hire the services of a marriage counsellor but certainly not as expensive as losing your marriage few month or years into it.

Talk about Financial matters

Finances are another aspect of relationships that need to be settled before you make the decision to say I DO. For most couples, while you are still dating or in courtship, there is not much to talk about when it comes to finances because you may both still be schooling or earning very little at the time. Hence you are getting just enough to take care of basic necessities which are undebatable. However, if you get married without deciding what you are going to do with your finances, it will certainly be a big issue when you finally get married, especially if you both have a joint account.

Though there are basically three things you can do with money (spend, save or give it away) the portion of your finances you are going to put into each of these aspect is important to decide on before you get married. Compromises will surely have to be made once in a while but it will be wise to set some ground rules on spending money.

Let’s consider a typical saver gets married to a typical giver or spender. At the time of dating or courtship, they may not have much to talk about because each person is basically managing their own finances and is not answerable to the other in any way. However, if the issue is ignored, they may get married and have problems because the typical saver will want to minimize expenditure and giving in order to maximize savings. The typical giver or spender on the other hand will not be interested in saving much. Even if they do not have joint finances, there are still going to be problems because the person who is saving may feel exploited by the other who is just spending or giving it away.

Don’t let sleeping dogs lie (be mature enough to discuss the past)

Sometimes people who are looking for a life partner make the mistake of hiding every nasty thing they have experienced in the past for fear that discussing it may break up the relationship. What they fail to realize, however, is that those issues will definitely come up while you are in the relationship and your partner will feel exploited if they find out you hid sensitive issues from them before marriage. It may be difficult but maturity demands that you go through it.

The most sensitive part of a person’s past as far as relationships are concerned is their sexual life. It is important to discuss how sexually active you have been before you met your partner. Feel free and be honest with them. The main reason for this is that though you may never need to tell them after you have gotten married, they may get that information from someone else and it will be more painful for them. The more sexually active you have been, the more difficult it will be to talk about it, but it is also more critical that you talk it over. It’s a small world we live and you never when or where your partner will run into the information you may want to hide. Maybe by then you may have had kids and a separation because of that will hurt them too.

Finally, it is simply selfish to keep such information to yourself while looking for a life partner or walking towards marriage with someone. Trusting your partner with that information is actually going to be a show of love and will definitely tell them that you have indeed put all that behind you for good.

Consider your relationship with the other person’s family

Whether you accept it or not, getting married to another person is in a way getting married to their family. You will definitely have to deal with their family and the quality of your relationship with your spouse’s family will affect your own family in more ways than you may think now. Your partner may have a father who is controlling and always wants things to be done his way when you both are around them. Or your husband to be may have a mother who looks at him and a second husband or replacement to her lost husband. In that case, she will always want him around or will seem to be a rival to you. If you have any of these issues with the parents of your partner, make sure you deal with it now before you get married if you intend to be partners for life.

There may not actually be anything as the best life partner but making wise choices and takin necessary precautions is not just mature but an important step to long lasting happiness in marriage.

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