I found this article back in December, 2015... but saved it to post today. Today is my and Ace's 12th wedding anniversary. Believe me, it's not all wine & roses (I don't even like roses). We've had some shit thrown at us: both of us were married before, to some not-so-good people. Both of us had children in those past relationships; that makes things harder. Both of us had our own ideas of how to run the house, not necessarily the same ideas. BUT, we were together two and a half years before we got married and we talked about everything... yes, everything. So, after you read that article I posted above, come back here, and see my own personal touch to those bits --
1. Why am I in THIS relationship? Do you respect and admire everything this person stands for and do they make you want to contribute to their happiness? Or are the comforts of the relationship, such as finances or other conveniences, the reason why you’re together? Are you afraid of being alone? Be sure that the person you choose to spend your life with is not a crutch. Ace and I are equal partners in everything we do. He may make more money than I do, but every dollar is still "ours". We make decisions together, or at least support decisions made independently (always with the family in mind). We are more happy & complete together. We may not agree on everything (really, who does?) but we do respect each other's opinions.
2. Do I really trust this partner? Trust is a solid foundation. Honestly answer this question and if it’s a ‘no,’ decide whether that trust can be formed or rebuilt. Without it, the relationship is doomed. My ex-husband cheated on me multiple times, with more than one person; it was only the last one (Wildebeest) that he ended up marrying... and he still cheated on her later. Some part of me knew he stepped out on me, but I refused to believe it for a while. I lied to myself about it. But, I knew. Before we got married, he accused me of cheating; I know now that was the epitome of the term "deflection". He used to say stuff like, "I trust you, but I don't trust..." whoever I was with (co-workers, certain family members, some friends, etc). Guess what? That's a false statement, and you are lying to yourself if you think it's not. You can't honestly say that you trust the person you love if you think they'll be easily influenced when they're around certain other people. I trust Ace; with everything I have. It doesn't matter who's he with or where he goes. And, he trusts me.
3. Do you want to share your finances together or have separate accounts? One of the leading causes of divorce is money problems. Make sure you’re both on the same page when it comes to finances. To make things more complicated, there are unexpected variables you should be aware of like divorce that could affect how you sort through the business of who gets to keep what. We have separate accounts; always have, probably always will. It was easier to do it this way, in the beginning anyway, because we both had potential financial issues with each of our respective exes. Now, the exes are out of the picture, but it's been this way for so long, why change it? It works for us. I *will* say two things that have changed in our financial arena -- (a) We had wills done a few years ago (which we modified when Ace adopted Princess), and I added him to the house at that time. Too much of a pain in the ass for him to keep it if I hadn't, and something happened to me. (b) We opened *one* joint account; the money is there only for me to pay house bills while waiting for his will to be probated, if he dies first. I don't believe it's necessary to HAVE joint accounts; it's only important that you agree on how to handle your household & personal finances.
4. Is for better or worse making me better or worse? Are you celebrating each other’s successes or resentful of them? If you’re intimidated by their success and not supportive because you’re envious, you’re breeding competition. You should be team members, not rivals. No additional notes needed. :)
5. Am I a parent or a partner? Pampering someone you love is one thing. But make sure the relationship doesn’t go in the direction of being parental towards your mate. It’s going to be awkward when you feel like you’re raising a husband and you start resenting him. Punishment is far from romantic, unless spanking is a practice meant for other purposes. If you feel your husband acts like a child, why are you married to him? Marriage should be an equal partnership, not one parenting the other. Perhaps your relationship should be reevaluated if you feel he's more like a child and less like a husband...
6. Do you both want to have kids? This is a huge deal breaker if you don’t share the same desires. Make sure you discuss your options carefully. You don’t want to bring a child into a broken home. No kids is better than ones raised in an uphappy home, so make sure you're on the same page with this one BEFORE you start a family (or don't start one; I'm all about you having the choice). In our case, Ace & I both had kids before we got together, so the discussion wasn't "should we have kids?"; it was "should we have another kid?" We went back and forth for a couple years, but in the end, decided we'd rather give what we had (emotionally) to the three existing ones.
7. What am I doing to hold us back? Let go of your ego and figure out what the problem is. Is it fixable? Could you show signs that you care by admitting to mistakes and be willing to change? In our case; the answer to the first part of this one is "nothing". Neither of us hold the other one back. We are both completely free to do whatever we wish; we just happen to always choose things that strengthen the family, not weaken it.
8. Am I happy in this relationship? Disagreements and occasional fighting may rear its ugly head. But if they’re frequent, ask yourself if it’s worth working through with communication, given that your partner is compliant. Counseling should not be ruled out if necessary. Never use marriage as a band-aid to repair a relationship in the hopes that matters will resolve themselves in time. Couples are bound to disagree sometimes. Disagreements are not the problem; the problem is the disrespect and unwillingness to come to an agreement of some sort. You don't have to agree on everything, but if you can't come to a compromise, just agree to disagree and move on.
9. Am I feeling trapped? Are you staying in the relationship out of obligation? Or do you constantly look for a way out? Sure, relationships are an investment. But are you invested in the time you put in as a couple, or are you invested in your partner? One thing I hear often -- "We're staying together for the sake of the children." Ridiculous. Your children are better off with two happy, separated, parents than they'll ever be with two unhappy, together, ones. Aside from that, you need to weigh the good and bad; the good should ALWAYS outweigh the bad. If it doesn't, you need to rethink being together.
10. What happens when you agree or disagree with each other? Are you willing to compromise? It shouldn’t always be about MY way, even though you might be correct. But coming up with OUR way is the better solution. See #8.
11. Are we looking in the same direction? It’s easy to be elusive when it comes to topics of marriage, religion and children when you’re in love. You shouldn’t think those topics will be discussed at a more “convenient” time. When you procrastinate having these discussions until after tying the knot, it may suddenly occur to you that the other person doesn’t share the same important values, and that you really don’t know each other at all. I love this one. I see the most ridiculous relationship advice sometimes... one of which is "don't talk about your exes." I actually think it's healthy to do so; especially if you can look at those past relationships as learning tools. Figure out what went wrong helps you grow as a person. I believe in discussing everything, including religion, parenting methods, financials (credit score, existing debt, how to split bills, what kind of money you make, etc) early on... and keep discussing. I have a feeling that religion is at least a small part of what split up my ex and Wildebeest; he was an atheist when I met him & married him. She "encouraged" (I used the word lightly, and with a rolling of my eyes) him to join her at her "non-denominational" church. For whatever reason, he pretended to be a believer until they officially split. NEVER pretend to believe something you don't. If your beliefs (religious, financial, parenting, etc) are not the same as your potential future partner's, I would advise you to question the relationship. I'm not saying you CAN'T be happy, but not agreeing on these life qualities makes life a whole lot more difficult; not just for you, but also for any children you may have.
12. Are we growing together? Do you still embody the essence of who you are as an individual while also being able to share passions together? My husband & I have a lot of things in common... but not everything. And, that's perfect for us. I get to be the real me, he gets to be the real him, we get to enjoy our time apart pursuing things we, individually, find fun... and still make time to spend time *together*.
13. Are you ready to put this person’s needs above your wants? It’s all about the give and take, especially in the first years of marriage. Can you put off a trip to Mexico until she pays off her student loans? Be prepared to make certain sacrifices. Needs should almost *always* come before wants. Case in point - when my husband's mother passed away, she left him & his sister quite a bit. His portion was, of course, his to do with as he chose. He *chose* to pay off "our" debts -- the house, the cars, the credit cards, the student loans, etc. He didn't *have* do that; he could have taken a vacation, bought a boat, or a new motorcycle, or any other number of things. But, he chose to put his family and our needs first. He chose to settle our debts so we could all move forward together.
14. What is my gut telling me? Your instincts are usually right. Don’t suppress them. I should have listened to my gut when I began questioning my first husband... and his mistress-turned wife-now estranged. I knew they were having an affair, but had a hard time being honest with myself about it until it almost slapped me in the face. With Ace, I have none of that. In our now 12 years of marriage, never have I ever felt mistrust.
15. Where is this going? While the present could be wonderful, there should eventually be a plan for the future of the relationship. Are you making life decisions together and setting goals? Our future is together, and we plan accordingly. We plan to have grandkids (eventually). We plan to move, probably. We plan to retire, hopefully before we're dead. ;) Whatever it holds, it will be together, and we work regularly to make sure that is always at the forefront for both of us.
16. Can we have fun together? If tasks like running errands together make you enjoy each other’s companionship, you’re probably in good shape. You don’t want to be that couple at a restaurant that doesn’t acknowledge each other, and all you hear are utensils scraping the plate. HAHA. This is so important. Even after all this time, we still make each other smile, laugh, roll our eyes, and we truly enjoy each other's company. We even run errands together most Mondays because it's guaranteed time.
17. Can we have fun apart? Don’t be defined by the person you’re with. Can you enjoy time alone without feeling obligations to each other? He still occasionally goes to a concert or a friend's or on a motorcycle ride... alone. I still hang out with my friends or certain members of my family, without him. Some time apart is perfectly healthy.
18. Is this relationship balanced? Are you both making equal compromises? Or does he/she take a mile when you give an inch? Yes, yes, no. A balanced, fair, and equal relationship makes for a happy relationship.
19. Does my partner have my back? Do you support each other as loyal teammates with or without each other’s presence? Every damned day, no matter what.
20. Could you spend the rest of your life with this person if they become incapacitated? Sometimes, unfortunate things will happen when life takes an unexpected turn. As an example, if a car accident happens and one of you becomes paralyzed or lose a limb, would you be willing to stick by each other’s side for the rest of your lives? Without a doubt, yes. When we had our motorcycle accident, I spent months taking care of Ace, our daughter, and the house. He just couldn't do it. He felt horrible not being able to do his part, but (I reminded him many many times) he physically could NOT do them, so I did. That's what true partnership is. He's truly got my back... and I've got his. We are a team, equal partners, and equal parents; I wouldn't have it any other way.
There are no wrong answers. But just make sure they’re the right answers for you. Here's to the rest of our lifetime...