There are classes and workshops for virtually everything in life, and marriage is no exception, None of these classes is mandatory, however, and you are likely (and hopefully) going into this engagement with no firsthand experience as a married man, said Shandon Fowler, author of “The Groom’s Instruction Manual,” published by Quirk Books.
Before you pop the big question and make a commitment that will endure for the rest of your life, he advises taking this marriage pre-screening quiz to see how you fare on the road to engagement:
• Have you gotten the go-ahead? For most, this question is a no-brainer. We expect that you and your girlfriend keep open lines of communication and that not only have you talked about the future, you’ve talked specifically about your future together. But if that’s not the case, you may be in for a rude awakening. Let this question provide your first lesson. Always consider your mate’s feelings – before the engagement, during the engagement and forevermore. You will misread her feelings plenty, and she’ll do the same to you, but if you’re not copacetic on this first question, the time or the match is not likely right.
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• Is your decision being made under duress? Perhaps you have trouble with commitment. Perhaps you’ve received an ultimatum from your girlfriend. Whatever the circumstance, you are the only one who can decide whether you are ready – so don’t rush it.
• Is her decision being made under duress? A surefire way to blow an engagement is to coerce your girlfriend into making a decision. Even if you thought marriage was a foregone conclusion from your first date, you need to let your potential wife make up her own mind in her own time.
• What was the name of your girlfriend’s first pet? Ask yourself how well you really know the woman you love. When she did graduate from high school? How many serious boyfriends has she had? Has she ever smoked? These might seem like inconsequential details, but marriage is all about inconsequential details, so make sure you have the kind of relationship in which you share them with your potential spouse, because you’ll be spending a lot of time together.
• Do you understand the ramifications of what you’re about to do? To put it more bluntly, are you ready to spend the rest of your life having sex with the same woman – and only this woman – over and over again? It’s surprising how many men don’t understand that, in Western society, the most basic tenet of marriage is that you will be faithful to the same person, without reservation, for the rest of your life. If, when it comes to matters of fidelity, you find yourself contemplating what the definition of “is” is, then perhaps you should consider a few more years of bachelorhood.
• Have you thought beyond your wedding day? Some couples focus so much time and energy on how cool it’ll be to be married. Don’t forget to consider what happens when the guests go home.
• Have you talked about the things you’re not supposed to talk about? The old adage states: “Never talk about politics or religion in polite company.” Fortunately, marriages aren’t polite company. Democrats and Republicans, Catholics and Jews, Libertarians and Baptists have all made fantastic married couples. But before you get too far along, make sure that you respect your partner’s views and she respects yours.
• Where do you stand on progeny? This question will be either the easiest or the hardest to answer. Either you both agree that you’ll have the obligatory 2.4 children or you will forgo merging your DNA to spend more time in Las Vegas and South Beach. But don’t be surprised if your spouse’s opinions on motherhood change. You likely won’t fare well by simply restating the terms of your verbal contract, so it’s best to go into marriage with this assumption: Even if she says she never wants children, you’d have them with her anyway.
• If you’re having kids, who/what will they worship? Where? What denomination? You should also get a sense of how you’ll raise children if you plan to have them. Will they go to Hebrew school, Sunday school or the bowling alley? Will they say “yes, sir” and “please” and “thank you”? Will they root for the Yankees or the Mets? And how many of them will be doing the rooting? You shouldn’t expect to map out your whole life before you even buy a ring, but you should have a sense of what it’ll mean to the two of you to wear rings.
• Does your area code matter? If you’re both from the same hometown, you’re living there now, and you couldn’t think of a better place to settle down, then skip this question. If you met anywhere but your and her hometown, talk about where you want to end up.
• Do you have reasonable expectations of your girlfriend?
• Does she have reasonable expectations of you? Psychological opposites can make for some of the most harmonious and fruitful couples when your expectations of one another are clear and explicit. However, if your wife expects that you will become a CPA like her dad and leave behind the artsy “freelancer” life you inherited from your mom, it’s a best to know that now.
• Do your friends like your girlfriend? Some will say that it should never matter what your friends think of the woman you love. Your friends are what’s called a “tell” in poker: They reveal much about you that you might not realize. In their opinions you might find some truths about your relationship with your girlfriend. If there’s no friction, fantastic. If there is, try to figure out the cause because the more you can figure out before you pop the question, the more you can avoid confrontations with friends and/or your fiance down the road.