BEFORE YOU SAY I DO
Love is such a beautiful, life changing experience and the fact that you are reading this means you are ready to start your own journey so I'd like to congratulate you.
When the word marriage comes up, it is easy to get lost in visions of beautiful brides and excited grooms. We see elaborately decorated halls and impassioned declarations of eternal love.
These things are part of it but not all of it. The Bible describes marriage as the union of man and a woman (Genesis 2:24) for the purpose of companionship and procreation. It is not a social construct regulated by man.
If you looked up statistics about marriage you will find an alarming divorce rate that seems to go up every year. Our television screens and social media platforms are filled with news about the difficulties and breakups of our favourite celebrity couples.
Some studies have shown that there is a minimum of 9 divorces in the 2 minutes it takes a couple to recite their wedding vows.
Inspite of all this, we are still excited about getting married and we should be. Marriage is one of God's gifts to man and it is something to be cherished. But marriage is also something to be entered into with careful consideration and serious conversation. With this in mind I have outlined some subjects that should be discussed before you get married.
Right off the bat I will tell you that faith plays a key role in the success or failure of any relationship and this is not only concerning types of religion be it Christianity or Islam.
This conversation should cover what each person in the relationship believes and practices. For those who are in the same faith it gives you a similar world view as well a solid foundation for your home.
In 2 Corinthians 6:14 the Bible says:
"Don’t team up with those who are unbelievers. How can righteousness be a partner with wickedness? How can light live with darkness?" (NLT).
Faith is a personal matter but when it comes to two people who plan to spend the rest of their life together, it becomes very important to ensure that your beliefs are aligned before you enter into marriage.
The conversation about family is not just focused on the number of children you intend to have but also; the role your current family will play in your life.
When you marry someone, you also marry their family; so it is important to know how involved your families are in your life and if they will continue to play those roles after you get married. Issues such as whether or not you are expected to have a member of your extended family stay with you for a period of time can cause a lot of conflict.
* Another subject that should be discussed is personal/family health. It is good to know upfront if there are any recurrent/ hereditary health conditions in your family and how these issues have been managed so far. This includes conversations about blood groups and genotype, sickle cell anemia, sexually transmitted infections, HIV. If there have been previous pregnancies, abortions and or issues that affect the reproductive health of the man and woman.
* You should discuss the type of family you both intend to have. Under this subject there are a number of things that need to be discussed. You should mention if there are any children already and the extent of involvement the child's other parents have in your lives.
* Discuss your expected roles in the home, the number of children you intend to have, the sort of discipline that is acceptable in your home and the kind of education you intend to give your children.
The conversation about finances is a very important one for every intending couple. It is necessary to know the exact state of your finances; are there any debts, is there a solid savings portfolio? Do you get paid enough/ regularly at your job etc.
*Are you a thrifty or impulse shopper? What kind of financial/ investment portfolio will you be using going forward? Will you run a joint account or maintain individual accounts? What kind of investments should you pursue?
These are just some if the questions that need to be addressed when discussing finances.
Another key conversation when discussing finance has to to deal with the earning opportunities for both of you. Things change when children come along and in some cases, one partner might be required to stay home and look after the children. Will you be fine being a stay at home mom/ dad? In this case what kind of impact will this have on your finances? Is there a need to start a business to compensate for the loss of one salary?
It is a tough but absolutely necessary conversation so that you can have an idea of what needs to be done to secure your family.
4. MENTORS and FRIENDS
Just like family you inherit a lot of relationships when you marry someone; and their friends as well as mentors are just another set of relationships you become a part of.
It is always advisable to know the people you both listen to as their opinions and friendships will shape his/her thinking. A good way to go about this could be exchanging a list of people who can be trusted to mediate if a thorny issue comes up between you. These people should be experienced mentors who we can mediate if a thorny issue comes up.
This is especially important for young couples as it means you have a steadying hand in the early stages of your relationship.
You will need to discuss the friendships you have had during your single years; this includes your friendships with exes and members of the opposite sex. How much access should you have to each other's communication devices? Should you monitor each other's chats, calls, texts, emails and so on.
You should also discuss the possibility of private friendships that may not include your spouse.
5. EDUCATION/ SELF DEVELOPMENT
This conversation is important because you will discover how you can cope with spending time away from home to fulfill your educational dreams should the need arise. It also gives you the opportunity to plan towards the financial obligations of such a pursuit.
Another area couples should agree on is the kind of education they intend to give their children. This is because people differ on what an ideal education should be. Some parents prefer their children attend boarding schools while others prefer day schooling and in some cases, homeschooling.
The period you spend courting is a fact finding time. Every and all questions should be asked before you begin the beautiful journey of marriage. These conversations should be had before you give into any desire to get physically intimate with each other. This is because physical intimacy has a way of clouding your judgement, making it easy to overlook red flags in favour of the chemical rush that comes with being intimate with someone.
In some instances there is a lot to be gleaned from observation rather than conversation. It is one thing to hear a person's views on any subject and quite another to see them practice what they preach.
Are they kind to people who serve them? Do they treat strangers with respect? How do they handle emotions like anger?
Do they have a history of violence? Pay attention to your intuition in every instance, it could in all likelihood save your life.
Conversation and observation can offer an understanding of the person you are dating so you should also consider speaking with a pre-marriage counselor or mentor to help you spot red flags and give you an unbiased view of what issues can be worked through and the ones which are deal breakers.
This person should have a track record of mentoring successful relationships.
Relationships are hard work and will require you to commit your time and energy to make it work. Ultimately however, it is worth the effort.
Feel free to share this with anyone you know who is single or in a relationship. I wish you all the best and look forward to hearing good news about your love.