“Marriage is hard.” That seems to be one thing that many people agree on, whether they are married or divorced. Well, the statistics in the United States support that notion, with a divorce rate of 40 – 50% depending on whose report you’re reading.
When people seem to be “happily” married, people often marvel at it, express some level of skepticism or explain it away. Because of the number of cheating spouses that are outed in the media, in addition to the popular movies made about marriage woes (like The War of the Roses, Fatal Attraction, It’s Complicated, Unfaithful and more) we’ve grown accustomed to the struggle. And unless we are in a happy marriage, we may not have any hope that they can exist for us.
From President Obama & First Lady Michelle Obama to Angelina Jolie & Brad Pitt, from Jay Z and Beyonce to Gisele Bundchen and Tom Brady, marriage is in the fish bowl and people are asking, can it swim? Well, I think it can.
I Googled a few sites to see what the experts were saying the pre-marital discussions should be. Most of the things I read seemed in line with that I’ve read about and what was asked of me. They were things like, do you want children?, who’s going to handle the money?, how will you discipline your children?, where will you live?, what religion will the children be raised in?, do you feel comfortable initiating sex?, how often do you expect sex?, will you have joint bank accounts?, will the wife work when/if you have children?, will the wife change her last name?, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.
I am not negating that all of these are very important questions to ask. However, I would like to submit that there are additional (and I’m going to say it), and more critical questions that have to be answered and fully understood before two people can embark upon a chance at marital bliss. What are they, you ask?
Well, before I list them, I just want to add the disclaimer that I’m not a marriage counselor; however, I was married for 9 years. I’m not a professional family therapist; however, I am well versed on the consequences that the lack of this understanding can have on a relationship. And lastly, I am not an official spiritual advisor; however, I do believe that being religious will not ensure a happy marriage.
So, here are a few (there are 4 more, but you’ll have to buy the book ). . .
1. What are the top five core values that each of us share?
This matters because when the dust settles, (meaning the finances are being handled appropriately, the children are disciplined adequately and the house in the agreed upon neighborhood has been purchased) what will matter is whether or not you can walk together along the journey. Similar, complimentary or the same values are a great way to find out.
2. How do we envision our individual day to day lives?
This matters because, if one person envisions coming to home to a hot dinner every night and the other envisions that they will be at networking events and out with friends a few days a week, or one person prefers giving to boards versus going on expensive vacations, or any other significant values are not aligned, it may cause a level of resentment that is carried by the person who has to make the sacrifice. Compromise is inevitable, but if you’re compromising one or more of your your top five values then feelings of resentment are probable.
3. What are each individual’s breaking point(s)?
Each of us have a line in the sand, a point of no return, a deal breaker, you get my drift. What one person’s breaking point is may not even register for the other person. For example, the husband may be willing to work through his wife’s infidelity. However, if she spends the kid’s college fund on a speculative business venture, he may not be able to return from it. Even if it doesn’t end in divorce, it may cause irreconcilable damage. Many of us have had conversations with friends complaining about something their significant other has done. If what the significant other has done is also on our breaking point radar, then we have empathy. If it isn’t, we think they’r overreacting. What happens next depends on the friend. They either pretend to agree or tell them the truth about how they are feeling. Either way, the friend’s opinion is irrelevant. Why? Because what your breaking point (which is most likely on your value list) is yours. No one has to agree with it, for it to exist.
At the end of the day, I believe we have to have a new conversation about our romantic futures. Before you say “I do”, give yourself the gift of understanding.
Monica Cost is Chief Brand Strategist and Founder of Evidently Assured, an authentic brand strategy firm and the Live Your Truth Experience (L.Y.T.E.). She is the Author of the new life changing book on living an authentic life called, “The Things I Used to do to Sneeze!: How to live an authentic life with awesome sensations.” Email her at: [email protected]. Follow her via Twitter: @monicacost and Facebook.com/monicahairstoncost. www.monicacost.com. Live true!