Question: I am so afraid that my partner is going to change once we become married. How will I know if it’s safe to tie the knot with them?
It’s easy for married couples to think that their partner changed after they got married. Truthfully, most couples simply don’t know each other in ways that really matter when it comes to spending their lives together. If you’re married or divorced and have experienced feeling shell-shocked by the different expectations that came along with your marriage certificate, don’t beat yourself up. It’s almost impossible for anyone to predict how they or their partner might respond in situations that they’ve never experienced before. In a day and age where many couples haven’t seen the inner workings of a healthy or successful marriage up close, getting sound advice about what things you should experience prior to proposing marriage can be tricky. The following small activities are must-dos for anyone who is considering marriage. Experience these things before tying the knot to determine if you should or shouldn’t:
1. Hang out around children together. You may be surprised to discover how little your partner knows about taking care of small kids, despite the fact that both of you agree that children are in your future. Perhaps it’s you that believes you want a mini army of kids without ever having managed more than one kid at a time for longer than a day. One or both of you may discover that you have much more to learn about raising a family in general, before even tackling the teamwork issue. Though this isn’t a deal breaker, being armed with this information will help minimize the surprise at a time when you will need each other’s help the most.
2. Discuss your debt. Sharing credit scores only tells part of the story. A person can maintain good credit by paying their bills on time, however it’s good to know just how much debt they are responsible for paying off. The amount of debt you carry may be an indicator of your values and spending habits. While people make financial mistakes quite frequently it’s important to know that your financial future with your partner is a solid one. Don’t assume that you understand each other’s beliefs about paying off debt. It’s one thing to share how much both of you are carrying, but you also have to discuss your level of comfort wit carrying each other’s financial burdens. If you or your partner believe that the debt you bring into the relationship will remain your sole responsibility, then it’s good to know that up front. Lastly, don’t forget potential tax debt. Though Uncle Sam only comes knocking once per year, it’s critical to understand your partner’s philosophy on paying taxes. Ask yourself how you would handle it f you or your partner ever found yourselves with a high tax bill and communicate about this possibility before you say “I do.”
3. Discuss child support/alimony arrangements. For couples who may already have children from a previous relationship, it’s important to disclose any child support or alimony payments you or your partner may be responsible for paying and for how long. Whether court-ordered payments are in place or there’s a more casual agreement, knowing this information can help you understand how your finances may be impacted when you become one.
4. Spend an entire day together without your electronic devices. Though it’s unlikely that you’ll find yourselves stranded on a desert island, it’s important to know how you get along without distractions for a prolonged period of time. If either of you has a hard time unplugging from technology or social media when the other wants to be engaged in the relationship, it may lead to problems down the line.
5. Meet your partner’s best friends. Meeting the parents is traditionally a big deal for couples on the verge of marriage. However, it’s likely that you will spend as much time with your main squeeze’s best friends as your in-laws. It’s also true that "birds of a feather sometimes flock together.” The vibe you get from your partner's best friends may reveal a glimpse of who your partner used to be or currently is. Can you live with them traveling together without you to chaperone? This will help you determine your level of comfort with your partner’s best buds.
6. Grocery shop together. If your partner’s only picks for the shopping cart are snack foods and adult beverages on an average day, then there may be a steep learning curve later when it’s time to meal prep for a family.
7. Clean up together. You may discover that you and your partner have a different definition of cleaning. Many married couples report that they didn’t realize that their partner’s cleaning standards were different than their own. It’s common during the dating phase to make sure that your living space is intact. However, a snapshot doesn’t always reveal how your partner maintains their living quarters long term.
8. Plan an event together. Most dating couples get very little experience planning events together prior to their wedding. It’s critical to know if you and your significant other can make joint decisions, compromises, and concessions without major fallout. If you have a difficult time, it may be an indicator of bigger issues to come since marriage is all about teamwork.
9. Share vulnerability. It’s easy to find a partner to share fun times with. However, understanding how your partner will respond when you are at your most vulnerable can assure you that your feelings are safe in their hands or help you dodge a major bullet if you don’t feel supported.
10. Travel together. While couples tend to make trips together by car while dating, it’s critical to discuss any fears you or your partner may have about other modes of transportation. Many partners are shocked to discover that their significant other is afraid of flying or cruising on large bodies of water. Limitations like these could severely limit travel. Discuss your specific desires for future travel to make sure both you and your partner are on the same page before the wedding or else your honeymoon may have to be local.
11.Discuss your beliefs about couples counseling. Conflict in relationships is inevitable. It’s helpful to know if your partner is able to seek guidance from a professional, pastor, or trusted friend if problems arise that aren’t easily resolved. If you can’t agree about how to resolve issues and reconcile, you may find yourselves stuck down the road.
Participating in these small activities will lead to a clear understanding of your core values. If you find you can’t live with your partner’s beliefs or behaviors then you’ll have time to make changes or a break for the door.