10 Questions To Ponder Before Saying “Yes”
If your partner popped the question today, how would you react? Ask yourself these 10 questions now so you can give a sincere, well-thought-out reply and keep your composure in the heat of the moment.
our amour is on bended knee. Your stomach is in knots. This is it — the moment you’ve been waiting for. Visions of wedding cake dance in your head. But before you scream, “YES, I will marry you!” take a breath and keep in mind the realities beyond the ring.
Though we’re certainly not trying to take anything away from the romance of the moment, many people rush into an engagement without fully thinking about
to what they’ve just agreed to beyond planning a white dress/tuxedoed affair to remember.
|The strongest marriages begin with optimal timing for both parties.|
“It is important to feel that you are really certain about this. Before you find yourself shopping for flowers, photographers, DJs and a venue, it’s critical that you know you are saying yes to a marriage proposal for the right reasons,” says Dr. Karin Anderson, author of It Just Hasn’t Happened Yet..., who called off her own wedding just two months before the day the ceremony was scheduled to happen. “Take it from someone who has experienced this firsthand — it’s better to think through your answer carefully before it’s too late to get your deposits back.”
With that in mind, we’ve created a list of questions it might behoove you to think about before you find yourself on the receiving end of a marriage proposal. After all, a little thought and preparation can only help your chances of making a decision that will result in your own “happily ever after” — no matter what you choose!
1. Is the timing right?
You’ve heard it before; timing is everything. And the reality is that the strongest marriages begin with optimal timing for both parties. According to Dr. Anderson, however, the maturation of a romantic relationship often receives too little consideration. Instead, external variables often dictate the pace of a couple’s stride, leading to a premature proposal (i.e., he caves to his parents’ incessant pleas to settle down or she rushes things in an effort to beat her ticking biological clock). “Be honest with yourself — it’s better to tell your parents to back off than to marry the wrong woman,” says Anderson. “Better to marry the right man and adopt a child later in life than to lock in a baby daddy and end up getting divorced and raising the child alone.” Have you and your intended spent enough time together in such a way that you’ve been able to observe your partner’s behavior in different kinds of circumstances? If not, what’s the hurry? People are getting married later in life than ever before nowadays, which is a good thing, since the rate of divorce plummets if the husband and wife are both over the age of 28.
2. Why this person?
“Nine times out of ten, marriages fall apart because people either pick the wrong person or marry for the wrong reasons,” says Dan Neuharth, Ph.D., a licensed marriage and family therapist in San Francisco and author of Secrets You Keep From Yourself. “Marrying someone primarily because other potential partners seem few and far between or because you feel you need to be married to feel OK about yourself is what keeps divorce lawyers busy.” If thoughts like: “I am so tired of being alone,” “It’s better than nothing” or “Nobody else seems to want me, so this is probably the best I can do” are what predominantly come to your mind, run — don’t walk — in the other direction. You’re not ready to be married yet, and this isn’t the right long-term partner for you.
3. Are you marrying a person or the dream?
“Make sure you’re in love with your partner, not just in love with the idea of being in love,” says Dr. Neuharth. “You are marrying a person, not a romantic movie, and people don’t follow scripts.” Try to recognize whether or not you are idealizing marriage or the wedding. Be realistic with your expectations, because once all the fun and parties are over, you have real life to contend with — and it’s not always champagne and roses. Picture the wedding of your dreams: Is this the partner you’d always imagined would be waiting for you? If a celebrity or former flame comes to mind instead, think twice. Those aren’t options, and you’re going to end up disappointed later on.
4. Is my potential spouse emotionally healthy?
When you’re young and having fun, it’s OK to date a variety of people with a wide range of backgrounds — maybe even take a walk on the wild side and date someone who probably isn’t all that good for you. But marriage is serious business and when you’re selecting a lifelong partner, you need to be sure that person is emotionally healthy — or, at least, working on becoming that way. “Admitting your partner is a ‘fixer-upper’ and hoping your marriage will serve as that person’s support system is a recipe for disaster,” says Dr. Anderson. “Typically, once the partner gets ‘fixed,’ he or she will move on to someone else, because the glue that held you together was the common goal of healing, which has been accomplished.” Finally, Dr. Anderson warns that if any of the three “As” are present in your relationship — abuse, anger, or addiction — your decision to reject your partner’s proposal should be quite clear.
5. Do you appreciate all of your partner’s aspects equally, and without expecting him or her to change for you once you’re married?
If you think that a wedding will magically transform your spouse into the perfect husband or wife, think again. No one is perfect, and it is vital that you
walk down the aisle without having any expectations about your partner changing specific qualities that you currently find undesirable. “If you find yourself saying, ‘He’ll become more ambitious and responsible once we are married’ or ‘She’ll be a more attentive and unselfish once I put a ring on her finger,’ you need to put the brakes on your wedding plans,” says Jennifer Gauvain, a marriage and family therapist and the coauthor of How Not to Marry the Wrong Guy: Is He “the One” or Should You Run? “Ask yourself if you are willing to overlook his messy car and ‘man cave’ because of the amazing way he cherishes and respects you. Can you accept the fact she will always take in stray animals because she is the most kind and gentle woman you’ve ever met? You need to marry the person he or she is right NOW — idiosyncrasies, foibles, quirks and all.” In other words, don’t talk yourself into ignoring any qualities that you know will spell trouble for your relationship in the long run!
|The right partner will support your ambitions and encourage your dreams.|
6. Do you bring out the best in each other… or the worst?
There’s nothing worse than walking on eggshells around another person or feeling off-balance in a relationship. “If you find yourself avoiding difficult conversations or stressed by the hum of low-level anxiety, it’s time to reevaluate!” says Gauvain. “The right partner will support your ambitions and encourage your dreams.” Does she make you feel like you can conquer the world? Does he make you believe that you are able to fulfill your wildest dreams? Your partner should add something to your life, not subtract from it. “When it’s all said and done, you want your spouse to draw out your best qualities and help you minimize the less-than-desirable ones,” says Gauvain. (And let’s be honest — everyone has a little bit of both.)
7. Can you count on your partner to always do the right thing?
While it may be hard to picture yourself 15 years from now with 2.5 kids and a Golden Retriever, it’s important to look ahead and think about what kind of a friend, neighbor, in-law, parent or coworker your partner will become. “Be honest: Do you think your fiancé/fiancée will do the right thing when it comes to friends and family, even when it is inconvenient or something he or she doesn’t like to do?” says Gauvain. “If he’s selfish or she’s inflexible now, think about how it will feel in the future when you can’t depend on your spouse in stressful situations.” In other words, will he cut your brother’s lawn when he needs a helping hand? Will she fetch your parents from the airport at two in the morning? Will this person go the extra mile for friends or neighbors? “Life is so much sweeter when you know you can count on your spouse to lift you up, share the load, and help out the ones you love,” says Gauvain.
8. Is fear of being alone your primary motivation to get married?
Be sure there’s absolutely no fear involved in making your decision to accept a marriage proposal. We live in a world that seemingly caters to couples, and many people can’t wait to rid themselves of the perceived stigma of being single. Perhaps you’re afraid that if you don’t accept, you’ll miss out on your one chance to get married. “Some singles fear loneliness so desperately, they decide they’d rather be with anyone than no one — but is that really fair to your future spouse?” asks Dr. Anderson. “How would this person feel knowing that the main reason you got married was to avoid being alone anymore?” You should only accept a marriage proposal because you know this person is right for you and vice-versa, not because you’re afraid of being left out of some couples-only clique or worried how others perceive you socially.
9. Is marrying this person in line with your lifelong goals?
Ask yourself if marriage at this time with this person is really part of the vision you have for your life’s plan. “For example: If your dream is to go to Africa and study animals followed by a year of sailing around the world, and your partner is devoted to a career that involves very little travel, you will have, at best, a long-distance marriage,” says Dr. Neuharth. “Or, if you can’t imagine a house full of ankle-biters and your partner gets all gooey around every baby that’s around, you both will have your work cut out for you.” In other words, are you willing to compromise your own dreams because you love this person so much that you can’t imagine being without each other, and are therefore willing to forge new goals together? Or will you resent your partner for keeping you from pursuing what you think you want out of life?
10. Can you honestly say your vows… and mean them?
In the post-modern era, no one expects much from anyone’s word anymore… but the one person who should be able to have such expectations is your spouse. Commitment, tradition and honor are more than mere promises. As for vows, traditional ones are so last millennium; still, they are intended to be both sacred and permanent, regardless of the wording you choose for your own ceremony. Can you say those words and mean them on your wedding day? Imagine you’re looking into your betrothed’s eyes and saying your vows. I, _____, take you, _____, to be my lawfully wedded spouse, to have and to hold, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish from this day forward until death do us part. How does that make you feel? Be honest — are you feeling sincere? Do you mean it? All of it? “If you can’t say your vows, or if you’re only truthful about part of them, you really shouldn’t say them at all,” says Dr. Anderson. “Life is long and hard. They call them ‘vows’ so you’ll stick it out, no matter what.” If you sense you might not be able to mean what you say when the time comes, you’ve got your answer.
Want the other side of the story? Read 10 Questions To Ask Before Tying The Knot.
Kimberly Dawn Neumann (www.KDNeumann.com) is a New York City-based freelance writer whose work has appeared in Cosmopolitan, Redbook, Women’s Health, Marie Claire, Maxim and more. A frequent online contributor for Match.com’s Happen magazine, she’s also the author of The Real Reasons Men Commit as well as the founder of www.DatingDivaDaily.com. She has not yet received a marriage proposal.