You’re in love—congratulations! It’s worth acknowledging and honoring this powerful moment in your life. Certainly, the question you’re thinking next is “Should I get married?” The short answer is: not yet.
I don’t say this to dissuade you. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. In this article, I encourage you to educate and enable yourself to enjoy a successful marriage. I’ve summarized a decade’s worth of experience in working with people before, during and after marriage into three steps you should take before you decide to get married.
1. Talk To Someone Who’s in a Successful Marriage
Reach out to a friend or family member who you believe demonstrates a successful marriage. Here are a few signs that can help you identify someone as a good candidate:
- Affection: After several years of being married, this person continues to show verbal and physical affection to their partner at gatherings (and doesn’t overdo it).
- Teamwork: This person has worked together with their spouse to lovingly raise a child, build a business, organize gatherings or events, and/or resolve conflict.
- Communication: This person speaks freely with their partner (and vice versa) to facilitate or participate in meaningful conversations, constructive criticism, and/or playful banter with each other.
- Joy: This person laughs, jokes, sings, dances, and/or expresses themselves joyously at gatherings with their partner.
- Autonomy: This person continues to grow as an individual (in their health, career, roles, responsibilities, social groups, and/or service to others) while growing in their marriage.
If you can’t find someone in your friend or family circle, connect with people online. For example, you can join a Facebook Group and seek out a new friend that conveys the characteristics listed above.
What Should You Ask?
If they are open to it—anything and everything. To get you started, here are specific questions you should ask:
- What is the most important element to your successful marriage? (e.g. communication, sex, autonomy)
- How do you resolve conflicts? (e.g. communication, active listening, therapy)
- How did you bring up the topic of money? How did you work out the details around money? (This comprehensive pre-marriage financial guide can help walk you through money talks.)
- What tools do you use to aid your success? (e.g. self-help books or podcasts, communication, group seminars)
- How did you decide to have and raise children?
- What rules do you have in place for your relationship?
- What traditions have you created in your marriage?
- What is your relationship like with your parents and in-laws?
- What is your partner’s relationship like with your parents and in-laws?
- Do you have the same, separate, or blended set of friends?
- What do you like to do for fun together?
- What are your goals for the future?
I encourage you to add to this list of questions, especially ones that are specific to your relationship. By uncovering what works for someone else, you can extract their techniques and customize them to build your own set of tools and resources.
2. Talk To Someone Who’s Had a Failed Marriage
Failures empower you to make sound decisions by avoiding and learning from mistakes. Find someone in your life who has gone through marriage and divorce to uncover what went wrong.
What Should You Ask?
There is no right or wrong question here, but respect your source’s choice to not answer some inquiries. This process may bring up some unresolved issues from their previous marriage, so be mindful of their emotions and observe how it affects you as well. You may realize that you have tough but important conversations to have with your partner before you tie the knot. This is a good thing. It means that you are thinking critically about your marriage decision and doing what is best for the long term. Here are a few questions to get you started:
- What were some early signs of the marriage breaking down? (e.g. lack of communication, lack trust, money problems)
- What would you have done differently? (e.g. therapy, compromise, prenup)
- What were common sources for arguments of conflicts? (e.g. money, parenting, autonomy)
- What didn’t your parents tell you about marriage that you wish they did?
- What didn’t your friends tell you about marriage that you wish they did?
- Did the romance in the marriage or attraction to your partner fade? If so, why?
- What changed from dating (or engaged) to being married? What do you wish had stayed the same?
- Were you scared to get married before you actually did? If so, why?
- Did you discuss your finances thoroughly before getting married? If not, why? If yes, what happened after?
- Did you talk about each other’s views on money before getting married? If not, why? If yes, what happened after?
- Did you talk about each other’s views on children before getting married? If not, why? If yes, what happened after?
- Did you try to save the marriage? If yes, what did you do? If not, why?
- Did you try marriage counseling or therapy to help your marriage? If yes, what worked and what didn’t? If not, why?
- Did you consult a lawyer for your divorce? If yes, how’d it go? If not, why?
No two relationships are the same. So, ask specific questions that are relevant to your life. For example, if you have a demanding career; find out how this person dealt with this issue if they, too, worked intensely. Then, use this discovery process to engage in honest conversations with your partner about issues important to you and how they apply to your vision for a successful marriage.
BEFORE getting married, what conversations about MONEY should you have with your partner?
Use this guide to discuss budgets, assets, debts, goals, joints bank accounts and more.Get the guide
3. Meet with a Family Law Attorney
An experienced family law attorney is an invaluable resource to help decide if you want to get married. Ask them to share insight gained from working with clients, consult on the financial implications of marriage, and help you understand how state laws control your union.
Leverage the Attorney’s Client Experience
As you did with friends and family, ask an attorney about their experience with individuals and couples who have had successful marriages as well as divorces. At Hekmat Family & Mediation, we have met with thousands of people in a similar situation as you. We’d be happy to anonymously share lessons learned from working with real people over the last 12 years. Reach out to us—we’d be happy to chat with you.
Get Premarital Financial Consulting
From our experience, money is the most common issue that brings tension to a relationship. Marriage is a legal and a financial commitment, so being crystal clear about your money and your rights are critical to your decision to get married. Through the premarital financial consulting process, you can work with an attorney to discuss your money and assets, and create a plan to help achieve your financial goals during marriage.
Become Informed About State Laws
Depending on where you live, your state will dictate the laws that govern your life once you get married. For example, in California, even if you own property before marriage, your spouse may automatically gain an interest in it just by being married.
Therefore, marriage is not just an emotional decision, it’s a financial and legal one. Talk to your partner about whether you two want to have ownership of your joint financial life or leave it up to the state to decide. These discussions also promote communication, trust, and honesty—all key ingredients to the start of a successful marriage. As you decide to get married, consider our firm as a helpful resource to working with compassionate, committed legal professionals. We’d be thrilled to help you kickstart a beautiful new chapter to your life.