Friday, January 07, 2011

Are You Right For Each Other?

You know the story. Two people are searching for love, and one day... BAM... it hits them like a lightning bolt. They find each other; she finds... the one. He finds the woman of his dreams. They have a beautiful, perfect wedding and they live happily ever after in wedded bliss. Bringing up certain topics during dating or the engagement will ruin this scenario. Financial planning, pre-nups, and frank talks about reality are so unromantic, right? Who needs them when you're in looooooooove?

Well, a generally happy lifelong marriage is possible, if two people are prepared to be spouses and they are right for each other. But how do they know they are? Feelings are great, but feelings aren’t always based on reality. God (or, as some of my readers believe, atoms interacting in strictly natural, normal processes over billions of years) has given us minds and the ability to discern. We should use our discernment to make wise choices.

There’s a British family law firm that is promoting a compatibility quiz for couples planning a life together. It’s a good idea. Check out this Reuters story by Paul Casciato.

Partner Ruth Bross compared taking the quiz to the kind of considerations and research an employer might make before hiring someone.
People put far more research and rational evaluation into their job seeking or even car buying. But I consider choosing a spouse to be the third most important decision a person can make. (The second is whether or not to raise children, and I think if one decides to do that, it necessitates finding the right, willing spouse. The most important decision a person can make is to either become a follower of Christ or reject Christ, but that is my religious bent.)

"No one who is truly committed to a relationship will ever mind making the full and frank disclosure that is asked of them; if they do, you might like to ask yourself why," she said in an emailed statement containing the quiz.
Definitely. Don't fall for the "Don’t you trust me?" line, or "Why do you care so much about money?" The fact is, if the other person trusts you, isn't using you for your money, and is a secure person, they should have no problem with a process like this.

Check out all of the particulars after the jump.

Finance

Do you know the extent of each other's assets? How do you both view the sharing of these assets? Do you have the same attitude to saving?

Will one of you want to put into a pension what the other wants to put into a new car?

Will you pool your resources or do you want to keep everything separate? Joint accounts or separate? Will you contribute in proportion to your incomes, or equally?

Are you going to have to pay off your partner's debts perhaps from what you thought was going to be the deposit on your house?
Both people entering the marriage should know exactly what assets and liabilities the other person has, and credit scores/reports. One person should not be assuming the debts of the other. Go ahead and marry someone with debt, but insist that debt be paid off with money that isn’t community property (existing accounts, inheritance, etc.) If someone owns a house outright when they marry, they should have the other spouse sign a quitclaim deed.

Family Ties

What sort of relationship do you have with your extended family? Are they good at staying in touch? Are they local? Affectionate? Over-involved? Have you had any major fallings out?

Children

Do you want children? How many? How do you want to raise your children? What sort of values do you want to pass on? Do you have opposing views about the benefits of state versus private education -- and should you be thinking now about buying in a catchment area for a good state school?

Religion

What are your religious views -- do you agree on what religion you will bring up the children in? Church/mosque/synagogue? Once a week or once a year? Or no religion at all.
This does become much more important when children come along, as people who never thought they would end up caring a lot more about teachings and practices.

Leisure and fun

Do you like doing the same things in your spare time? Do you share common interests? Is your idea of a holiday lying flat on the beach for two weeks and your partner's rock-climbing?

Lifestyle

What sort of lifestyle are you aiming for? Where do you want to live? Do either of you have a dream of downsizing at some point and living away from the city?
With these last two categories, and with others, it would be helpful for each person to write a description of their ideal workday, weekend, holiday, and vacation as newlyweds, parents of young children, parents of school-aged children, empty nesters, and retirees. They should not base it on what they think their partner wants, it should be entirely based on what they think ideal. Are those visions compatible?

Spending

Do you have an expensive shoe or gadget habit? Does one of you think of a particular purchase as an essential that the other regards as a "discretionary spend"? Do you have any other secret addictions: handbags, chocolate, football? Do you gamble, online or otherwise?

Work

Are your respective career paths compatible, is either of you going to have to make compromises? Are you prepared to? Will you want to give up work when you have children? What does your partner think about this and can you manage financially? What about part-time working?

Roles - traditional or modern?

Will you expect to live along traditional lines: woman as homemaker and man as breadwinner? Who will organize the finances? Will household responsibilities be shared equally? Who will assume responsibility for paying bills?

Honesty

Are there any old flames for whom you still hold a candle?
These are all very good considerations. I believe in extensive counseling that includes personality testing. EHarmony.com has an extensive (really... it takes a long time) personality test as part of their process. Even if you don't sign up for the site, if you can get the results of that for free, that can be helpful. Others can be found online for free. Just watch out that some groups might offer some as a way to get your contact information, and perhaps some insight into how to market to you. Not that any group Tom Cruise belongs to would try something like that.

Dennis Prager has some excellent questions to ask. See here and here.

If political compatibility is really important (and people, especially women, tend to care more about politics as they get older), see where both of you place on this very short quiz.

I recommend developing an extensive pre-nup that is to your mutual liking. Your state/country already has a de facto pre-nup for you. Don't leave it up to strangers. Also, going with your potential spouse to meet with their medical/therapy service providers and discussing the realities of any injuries, diseases, chronic conditions, and the effects of medications will help make sure there aren’t any big surprises after tying the knot.

I put together these considerations and have offered them to both family and friends who have found them very helpful:

Do you really want to be married? Consider:

1. Being married means forever being linked to another person, compromising with that person, dealing with that person's faults, needs, habits, problems, and family.
2. Being married means having a roommate forever.
3. Being married means that you do not get to spend time and money the way you like without another person's agreement.
4. Being married means not being able to live where you want to live without another person's agreement.
5. Marriage means somebody else (other than God) will know all of your shortcomings, faults, and failures.

In order to get married:

1. You should match each other and be attracted to each other in body, soul, and spirit. Do you find each other physically attractive? Do you treat people the same way? Do you have the same kind of relationship with God?
2. You should have compatible goals, background, and personalities.
3. You should have compatible faith, religious practice, morals, values, convictions, standards.
4. You should have compatible political devotion and practice.
5. You should have compatible personal habits.
6. You should be comfortable with accepting each other's personal history.
7. You should have responsible and compatible financial habits.
8. You should be comfortable with and accepting of each other's family involvement.
9. You should be comfortable with the other person's coping skills.
10. You should agree on where you will you live.
11. You should agree on who will work and how.
12. You should agree on contraception usage, and when to have kids and how many kids to have.
13. You need to believe that this is the best that you can do in attracting a spouse.
14. You should have been with the person long enough to see how they are in a crisis, under stress, and/or in a major life event.
15. You need to be able to accept this person "as-is" - don't expect change for the better.
16. You should respect and love each other.
17. The person shouldn't have any history of addiction (in the last five years), abandonment, adultery, or abuse.
18. This sentence, when completed, should not contain a "red flag" or "deal breaker": "I love him/her and everything is wonderful but/except__________."
19. You should believe that you can be married to this person for the rest of your life, treating this person with kindness rather than contempt for the rest of your life.

Are you ready to be a good spouse? Have you found the right person to be your spouse? It can be very helpful to develop a profile or list of what you need in a spouse, and what would be nice. Some people hate that idea, but writing down what you absolutely need in a spouse will help you make good decisions, rather than ignoring something very important because you like something else about a person a lot.

What do you think? Anything to add? Anything that should be changed?

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