The goal of this website is to be a safe for souls website advancing Catholic thinking and education. When editing, please adhere to the Content Standards.
Some images have been enhanced for teaching purposes and may not be identical to the original artwork.
When preparing for marriage, one should look at himself or herself realistically and answer the following questions truthfully and realistically.
- Am I ready to place another person's wants and needs ahead of my own?
- Am I emotionally secure enough to be able to provide emotional support to another person without needing immediate support for myself?
- Do I do what needs to be done without complaining?
- Do I know how to make everyday tasks interesting?
- Am I willing to overcome my fears for the good of another person?
The point of these questions is to help the person realize where they may need to improve before they become involved in a relationship. These questions are specifically designed to encourage the individual to think objectively about the relationship. One may find it best to write down the answers and review them with a trusted advisor, or to review them alone during a time when one is thinking objectively. For simplicity's sake, the word partner is used in this article to refer to the person one is planning on marrying.
One important concept to remember is that if you are unable to keep yourself happy, there is no way you can keep another person happy. It is your responsibility - whether you are the man or the woman - to bring joy, love, and newness into your marriage. One cannot always do great things, but one can always do little things with great love. A list of these can be seen at Keeping Love Alive.
Children are the third most common cause of major difficulty in marriage. This has very little to do with their actual care. Instead, it is due more to the ideals and parenting strategies parents may have received or devised during the years. Many issues that seem trivial to a couple can cause major disputes in a family, such as the religion of the children, the house rules, setting a good example, and financial differences caused by raising a family. This can be further complicated by any characteristics which a parent may conclude define a "successful" child.
Can you imagine this person as the other parent of your children?
Do you have specific educational goals for any children you may have, such as attending a specific school or kind of school?
Are you hoping for a particular career for one or more of your children, such as becoming a doctor, lawyer, accountant, engineer, or investor?
Are you hoping for a particular social, political, or religious status for one of your children, such as police, actor, CEO, business owner, senator, governor, priest, or religious monk or nun?
Are you willing to accept the fact that the child you raise has the right to decide their career and whether they want a particular status or not?
Will you still love them even if their goals are not the same as yours?
What is your approach to discipline? How does your approach differ from your partner's?
Is the language you currently use something you would want to hear from your children?
What is your definition of a clean house? How does this differ from your partner's?
Which chores will each of you do? Is this agreeable to each of you?
It is important to learn each other's clothing tastes so as not to frustrate each other by dressing up for "down" time or wearing a casual suit to a formal event.
Mealtime is to engage the mind as well as the appetite. It is important to spend this time keeping each other up-to-date on events as well as each other's changing tastes and goals. Do not weigh down the conversation by constantly talking about the relationship, but try to keep the conversation uplifting by bringing up the new things you have seen or heard, what you plan to do in the near or far future, what all has improved since you last talked, etc.
Meals can also be complicated by varied diets, due to medical, religious, or psychological/emotional issues. It is important to decide whether you could live with that for the rest of your life. If the diet is for medical reasons, it is less likely to be a major issue than those diets which are due to psychological or religious reasons.
Friends and Relatives
Friends and relatives are an important part of your life, but do not allow them to take time away from the person or people who is/are most important to you. It is advisable to learn if you can get along with each other's friends or not. This can be a major issue if you plan on spending a great amount of time together with friends. If you have a lot of friends and your partner has very few, it will be important that you learn to get along with each other's friends. If you both have a lot of friends, it may not be quite as necessary to get along with all of your partner's friends. If any dispute about friends arises, it is best to discuss it calmly and come to a decision you can both agree with and stick to.
Relatives cannot be chosen one by one, and can be easy or difficult to get along with, depending on how their personalities and expectations join or clash with yours. The most important relatives are the parents of each prospective partner, and these individuals can make the relationship run smooth or rough.
The man's father is his example. Often, what you see in the father, is what you will see in the son. A strained relationship here can cause difficulties with parenting, and even affect the way he views his masculinity. Because of the mirroring effect in this relationship, it is important to realize the effect this can have on communication. The way his father communicated with his mother is likely to be the way he communicates with the women he finds important in his life.
The woman's relationship with her father is important in determining how she relates to men. A strained relationship here can result in difficulties with communication, particularly "shutting down" when the man does or says something she dislikes.
The man's relationship with his mother is important in determining how he relates to women. Generally, he will treat his wife much like he treats his mother. The most important area to study about a mother-in-law is her parenting techniques, for that will be the basis for how many situations are handled in your future life together. If she calmly handled difficult situations when they arose, your future spouse will probably handle situations calmly. If she yelled, hit, or threw objects, your future spouse will probably do the same when under much pressure. If a parent was abusive in any way, physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, or other, your future spouse will most likely resort to the same techniques. Even though most people state they will not do things like their parents did, when in a pressure situation, they resort to the same actions which they abhorred unless they have gone through counseling, have actively sought to be trained correctly, and/or God has healed their past. There are children that grow up to do the opposite of their parents, but it is usually a situation where there is an extremely harsh parent. The child can sometimes grow to be an extremely lenient parent that will allow their children to do anything, because they set no limits to be the opposite of their parent. This produces problems in the next generation. Children need boundaries--ones that keep them safe and healthy, but give them enough room to grow and learn to make decisions for themselves, and be responsible for their choices.
Do you see yourself and your future spouse living the life that will set the example of making good decisions? Do both of you take responsibility for your own actions and/or choices?
The Emotionally-Needy Parent
An emotionally needy parent does not take well to their child forming a serious relationship with someone else. They view it as a falling apart of their whole life, and in a sense, it is – at least, their life as it currently is. This is often seen in the case of "dominant" mothers. They are usually not dominant, but emotionally needy, clinging to one of their children, usually their youngest son, using their "baby" to fulfill what is lacking in their relationship with their husband. When their "baby" decides to move out, get married, or spend a lot of time outside her reach, she then becomes very "protective." This is most obvious when her "baby" starts dating or gets married. He needs to spend time with his wife, but his mother goes through a sort of "divorce", where the part of her "husband" that her real husband lacks, has left, and she finds herself with a stranger for a husband. This can result in a very troubling time in the marriage. However, if she instead tries to remain with her "baby", this can present some real problems for her daughter-in-law, who is then viewed as a sort of "thief." This causes a great amount of strain in the relationship, but there are some ways to solve the issue.
- First, no one can truly fulfill the emotional needs of this kind of parent. Even if one is upset with the parent, one must realize most of this is due to social or emotional needs that have been left unfulfilled. One should attempt to find ways for the parent to fulfill these needs in a plausible manner. It is in the parent's best interest to find a solution that does not involve eliminating eligible partners for her child.
- All babies grow up at some point. Another person should not be deprived of having a good marriage with a wonderful partner just because a person he or she is not married to has needs he or she cannot fulfill.
- To ease the transition, it may help to be able to focus on younger relatives or friends who have young children, which can help solve the issue of doting over one particular child.
- It may also help to encourage their spouse to do more of the things they like – maybe start a little contest to see who can do more for their partner in a month and see what kind of difference it makes. Often, it may take two or three months to notice a real difference, but keep at it, even if it seems like it is going nowhere. Changes take time, but a change may come sooner than you thought. Another option is to send the parents on a second honeymoon to the favorite destination of the emotionally-needy parent – if finances permit (you can always take care of the house for them to give them an additional incentive).
- If the parent is still unable, for some reason, to give up their "baby", it may become necessary, in order to begin the healing process, for the "baby" to distance himself/herself, possibly even by moving to a location the parent will not travel to very often. Although this may sound extreme, it is important for the parent to balance their inner self again so they can live peacefully with the reality they are now encountering. This is not to be done in a spirit of hatred or revenge. It should be done with the parent's best interest in mind. This is similar to when one is weaning an animal. If the parent will not do it on their own, it still has to be done, and the goal is not to break the bond between the parent and child, but to help the parent revert to having a relationship with their real partner – something that is definitely in their best interest. The ultimate goal is to ensure your in-laws have a good relationship so they will not use you as a target for their grievances.
- It is also very important, if you cannot talk to the parent calmly, that you let the answering machine take the call, and talk to the parent when you feel you can control your voice better. In extreme cases, it may be necessary to resort to only writing to the parent, and having someone else look over the letter to ensure it would not be considered hurtful in any way.
Keep in mind that what you do to others will come back to you. If you use hatred or anger as a weapon, those same weapons will be used against you.
In these days of uncertainty, it is important to always be prepared. Have your funeral plans ready to eliminate the need for your partner to have to sort everything out later.
If there are any medical or psychological issues that run in your family, such as cancer, bipolar disorder, depression, alcoholism, or high blood pressure, it is a good idea to discuss these before marriage.
Home and Home Improvement
Are there any environments you would never live in? Why?
If improvements have to be made to the home, who will make them?
Are both of you capable of fixing minor house issues, such as fixing leaky pipes and caulking a window?
Will any relatives, pets, or children be going on the honeymoon with you?
The ship is sinking. Will you save your pet or your spouse?
Jobs and Finances
Money is one of the major points that keeps a marriage operating, followed by spirituality and children. It is important to keep the financial aspect of the marriage in good working order to ensure the marriage operates smoothly.
Do the two of you talk about what is going on at work? In what detail?
Will one of you stay home and raise the family after the first child is born?
Do either of you plan to further your career? In what way?
Do you have any outstanding debts?
Without proper care and cleanliness, a perfect match can look like a heap of rubbish. It is important to at least attempt to look and smell good for each other whenever possible. There are, of course, instances where you are unable to do so, but do not let this turn into an every day or every other day disaster.
How much time do you spend getting ready in the morning?
What personal hygiene issues do you consider most important?
Personal Preferences and Feelings
A person's preferences tell others a great amount about them. They form a sort of identity and can make two seemingly similar people have two completely different ideas about life and happiness.
These preferences are closely tied to the individual's feelings. These feelings are generally formed in the early years of a person's life, usually by circumstances outside their control. This can result in an object causing feelings of fear or anger in one person and feelings of love and warmth in another. This is why it is important to study your partner's preferences and feelings. If something you like makes them feel uncomfortable, it is best to approach the subject with understanding and a desire to help the other person overcome the discomfort (unless what you like would be considered objectionable to any morally-sound individual, in which case you may want to discover why you find it so attractive and solve the issue).
Pets can be like members of the family, but they should never be allowed to get between you and your partner. If one of you cannot get along with one of the pets, give the pet to a friend. It is better to be able to visit the pet than to have the pet ruining your relationship.
The discussion about pets may also arise when the finances get tight, and this time the question is whether or not to keep them. Never let a pet put you into debt or keep you there. If your pet has potential to help with the finances, it may behelpful to explore that venue before removing the pet from the household.
How a couple handles areas of disagreement or conflict is vital to keeping the lines of communication open. It is important that both partners are able to admit their faults and short-comings in an atmosphere of acceptance, understanding, and forgiveness. Corrections should be given in a matter-of-fact manner, away from the ears of others, especially friends or relatives. When correcting, it is usually best to state, "It makes me feel ... when you ... Could you ... instead?" Keep it short, and be ready to forgive and comfort. Do not expound on the correction. When receiving a correction, it is usually best to say, "I'm sorry. I didn't realize that is how it made you feel. I'll do/say it differently in the future." If you did or said something even though you knew it would be considered offensive, it is usually best to say, "I'm sorry it made you feel like that, but (explain your point of view). Could we talk it over?" If they say no, wait for a few days (or even months) before bringing it up again. During this time, try not to commit any grievances. Only resolve differences and conflicts when you can talk to each other calmly - this does not mean waiting a few days or a few months. If one of you gets upset, it is time to set up an appointment to discuss the matter of contention. If it is a matter of urgency, you may want to consider having a silent discussion by writing all communication so there is less emotion in the words. Do not underline or bold anything and refrain from using the words always and never.
Avoid bringing others into your disagreements, unless you are seeking advice on how to solve the problem. Never bring others into a disagreement to side with you against your spouse. Never fake illness to coincide with his plans you dislike. Talk the matter over and come to an agreement. Refrain from using shame to manipulate your partner, or using them as a bad example of something.
The ultimate goal is to be of one mind and one heart, not each person living a totally different life, going in opposite directions.
Are you open to receiving corrections from each other?
What irritates you about each other?
What aspects of each other's character would you want to change?
In what areas do you foresee disagreements arising?
What matters do you not want him to know about? Why?
If your partner told you to do one thing, but your parent(s) and/or spiritual director told you to do another, how would you handle it?
Are you willing to change negative behaviors and attitudes for the good of the relationship?
Do you expect your partner to always know what is bothering you?
Do you insist on getting your partner to insist they are wrong or on listening to what they have to say?
What are some specific things you could do to improve your relationship?
Do you have any people, events, or things you value more than him? What are they? Why do you value them more?
Do you have a vindicative attitude when your partner does or says something wrong?
Do you judge your partner or compare them to others?
Do you manipulate your partner? How? Why?
Would you feel threatened if your partner surpassed you intellectually or financially?
Do you hold back your opinions and preferences to avoid conflict?
Do you take out your misplaced anger on your partner?
Do you distance yourself from your partner when you feel the relationship is getting more serious? Why?
How do you make your partner feel good about himself/herself?
How do you encourage them to reach their full potential?
How do you let your partner know that in your eyes, they are the most important person in the world?
How do you encourage your partner when they are under stress or discouraged?
Are you there for your partner when they need you most?
Do you make your partner feel respected, loved, appreciated, wanted, and needed? How?
Do you tell your partner they are invaluable to you?
Are you enthusiastic about what your partner does?
Do you thank him for his consideration, thoughtfulness, and kindness?
External Signs - Body Language
If someone were to ask your friends, could they truthfully say you seemed like you were in love? Two things cannot be hidden: love and a cold. If you are sly and cunning enough, love may be able to be hidden from the general populace, but is difficult to hide from friends and close relatives. People in love have certain characteristics that are similar to children captivated by a particular subject. This includes smiling, sparkling eyes, being completely absorbed in thought, and telling everyone you know about your partner.
If you do not really like them, hiding their picture, your engagement ring, or your excitement will seem natural.
Do you enjoy being seen together?
Do you display your excitement to others? How?
How do you show your partner you love them?
Do you do things harmoniously, in a synchronized manner?
Does your tone of voice reflect your love for your partner?
Do you speak well of your partner or verbally attack them when they are absent?
What do you do to keep the relationship full of excitement?
Are you completely honest with each other?
Are you ever reluctant to discuss certain subjects with each other? Why?
Are you reluctant to disclose your feelings? Why?
Do you view your partner as superior, equal, or inferior? In what matters? Why?
Do you recognize each other's limitations? Do you try to push each other past your limits?
Can you help each other learn without belittling each other?
How do you handle your own and your partner's ups and downs?
Do you do things you consider romantic, such as taking a walk together or having a candlelight dinner?
Do you study your partner?
What interests do you share? Do you regularly discuss your shared interests?
How you feel about the relationship
Feelings are not everything, but sometimes bad feelings about something may precede a negative occurrence. Do you have a bad feeling about your relationship with your partner?
Do you accept your partner as-is, without having plans to redo them?
In general, what effect do you think your partner has on you?
How do you usually feel when you are with your partner?
Do you find it easy to talk to each other?
Do you find it easy to discuss matters that are very important to you?
How do you feel about your future together?
Would you still love your partner if they became physically disabled?
Do you feel you have to compete with others for your partner's love? How? Why?
Are you ready to share your entire life with your partner?
Do you feel you will be satisfied with each other?
Do you envy other's relationships? Why?
Do you ever feel embarrassed by your partner? Why?
Do you attempt to create an image of yourself based on your partner's likes?
Are you afraid to get too attached to your partner? Why?
What You See in Your Partner
Your Needs in the Relationship
Recreation, Holidays, and Vacation
During recreation, you and your partner can get to know each other without having a formal conversation. It also allows for time to laugh with each other - a good way to keep happy and healthy. However, some forms of recreation - particularly those involving electronic devices - can be detrimental to your relationship. Possibly detrimental forms of recreation include soap operas, gambling, going to the bar, some forms of video games, and even some forms of music.
As a general rule of thumb, it is not a good idea to listen to music or watch films and shows about lying, cheating, or breaking up. Instead, listen to music and watch films and shows that are uplifting - like something about honesty, love overcoming an obstacle, chivalry, and proper manners.
Including activities that can be addictive is a double-edged sword. It can be fun at first, but suddenly becomes an activity the addicted person cannot do without. Addictions generally form when there is an emotional low, and cause a communication gap, often making the emotional low even lower.
Any expectations about holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, etc. should be known by both parties before marriage.
Vacations can be a time to relax, explore, learn, and discover. Decide how much time you want to spend relaxing before vacationing so you get enough time just being together.
Self-improvement is a part of daily living. Without it, there is no room for real growth. It is a sign of maturity to be able to realistically look at oneself and make the necessary improvements.
Are you a good listener?
How do you handle receiving corrections?
Do you set a good example for others to follow?
Do you respect the thoughts and feelings of others?
Do you truly forgive, or do you hold grudges?
Do you like working in harmony with others or are you content only when there is tension and conflict, causing others to be discontented?
Are you punctual, or do you have a tendency to leave at the last minute and arrive at the last minute?
Are you impulsive?
Are you controlling or manipulative? In what way? How do you intend to change this?
Where do you see yourself needing improvement? How do you plan to improve?
Where do others think you need improvement?
Do you suffer from greed instead of need?
If you lost everything, how would you rebuild your life?
Do you intend to control, direct, and maintain an “excellent environment,” as described by yourself, an authority, your parents, a social group, or your community? What kind of environment? Who made the rules?
How do you state your complaints? (sarcasm, hatred, humor, criticism, nagging, whining, etc.)
Do you constantly focus on superficial or trivial matters?
What insecurities do you have? How do you handle them?
Do you avoid doing anything that may change your current routine?
Are you always competing with others? How? Why?
Do you concentrate on what you have or on what you are missing?
Do you choose single-sided or real solutions?
Do you need to become emotionally healthy by resolving personal issues?
Are you a person of character?
Are your words supported by your actions?
Are you down-to-earth?
How do you balance your life?
Are you committed to learning everything you can about being a better person?
Do you realize the point in an argument should not be who is right, but what is right?
Are you informed about current events? How do you remain informed?
Do you act desperate? Why?
Do you show your vulnerabilities? Why or why not?
How long can you remain enthusiastic about something? What usually deflates your enthusiasm?
Are you generous or stingy with your affection?
How do you handle your emotions?
How do you negotiate?
When you disagree, do you keep to the subject at hand or do you bring up past grievances?
Are you honest with yourself, regardless of how painful it is?
When you are angry, do you scream, hit, throw things, yell uncharitable words and/or untrue accusations, degrade the character of the person you are angry with, or take it out on others who are uninvolved (misplaced anger)?
Do you always have to have a winner and loser in an argument? Are you competitive with your partner or do you work as a team?
Do you force others to comply with your way of thinking? How?
Do you try to manage the lives of everyone around you? How? Why?
Do you harbor bitterness and resentment?
Do you model mastery and competency? In what areas of your life?
Are you loving, affirmative, and supportive in your relationships with others?
How do you correct others?
Religion is the second most common area of major disputes in a relationship. It is important to realize that this is due to the thought process that varies from religion to religion. It is this thought process that determines one's view of life and the why and how of doing things. Another area of concern is that if you ever become more serious about your religion, it can lead to difficulties in managing finances and raising children, among other things. Religious compatibility is not determined by religion itself, but by the couple's search for the truth together. If a disagreement about religion arises, the couple should search for the truth together. When all the evidence is brought forward, the truth should be visible. The determining factor now is whether or not either person will base their decision on the truth, feelings, or "revelations".
Although vehicles may not seem very important at first, they can lead to financial struggles or other woes, such as health hazards or status issues.
Do each of you need a vehicle? Do both of you keep your vehicles clean inside and out? Are repairs and routine maintenance done when needed? Do either of the vehicles have a leaky exhaust which emits harmful fumes?
If one has an impressive car and is opposed to having a minivan or full size van to fit the family's needs, it is usually a sign of an underlying need to show one's social status. If there is unnecessary travel done when finances are tight, this can cause even greater financial strain, especially if the vehicle used gets poor mileage or the price of fuel rises.
It is important to ensure you and your partner have driving habits you can both live with. Think about it this way: would you want your partner driving your children anywhere? If you cannot safely answer yes, you may want to make this an area of discussion - or begin implementing a plan for improvement.
There are many books devoted to this topic, so it is not necessary to include every detail of the day here. However, some topics that can dramatically change the relationship warrant discussion. One of these is the topic of coordination. If everything from the flowers to the hairstyles and lip gloss of the the bridesmaids has to be perfect and matching, there is too much emphasis on trivial matters. If this carries into your married life, you can be assured there will be plenty of arguments about other trivial matters as well.
Another point of discussion is the amount the relatives will be involved in the planning. It is your wedding, not your parents' or your big or little sister's. If you want something but they do not, remember you are the one to decide - unless they are the ones footing the bill.
The most important point to remember is that this day marks the beginning of your life together. It should be a day of happiness, regardless of how many things go wrong, how much rain there is, how lopsided the cake is, who did not show up, or how imperfect the flowers are.