John and Sherri were engaged to be married when they entered treatment for pre-marriage therapy. “Sometimes, I think I’m attracted to the idea of being married more than the idea of being married to John,” said Sherri. “We are very different people: we don’t see eye to eye, we seem to have different values, and we don’t enjoy doing the same things. How do I judge if we’re compatible and good for each other? How do I determine whether it is wise for me to marry him?”

Following are guidelines for trying to evaluate whether your intimate other would be a good marriage partner:

  • What attracts you to the other person? List as many answers as you can.
  • What do you foresee as your primary role or responsibilities in the relationship?
  • What do you foresee as your partner’s primary role or responsibilities in the relationship?
  • Are you in agreement about children?
  • What will your relationships be like with your family, friends, and friends of the opposite sex if you commit to this person? What will his/her relationships be like  with those people?
  • Where do the two of you conflict? On what issues? How frequently?
  • How does your family feel about this person?
  • How do your friends feel about this person?
  • How evenly matched are your interests?
  • How evenly matched are your lifestyles?
  • How evenly matched are your values?
  • In which ways do the two of you have fun and play together?
  • What changes would you like to see in your relationship that would be positive and healthy?
  • What changes would your partner like to see in your relationship?
  • What memories, images or experience about marriage and commitment—positive and negative—are you and your partner bringing into the relationship?
  • How confident are you that you will like him or her twenty years from now?
  • How confident are you that your sex life will be positive and healthy twenty years from now? How important is this to you?
  • How confident are you that you can trust your partner?
  • What is your partner’s level of self esteem or self worth?
  • How critical and judgmental is your partner?
  • What are your partner’s attitudes about sex, male-female roles, money, leisure activity, fidelity and honesty?
  • How compatible are these attitudes with yours?
  • What is your partner addicted to?
  • How good are your partner’s problem solving, conflict resolution and negotiating skills? Is he/she able and willing to discuss conflicts and differences as they
  • arise?
  • What priority does he/she put on your relationship versus other areas of his/her life?
  • What is your relationship with your future in-laws?
  • Have you been with the other person when he/she is sick, in a bad mood, depressed, discouraged and angry?
  • What warning signs about the other person are you ignoring?
  • How well does your partner express feelings and communicate?
  • How does he or she treat you? Are you treated with common decency, the benefit of the doubt, good will and the absence of malice?

A word of caution. If you require someone to change, you require that person to be dishonest toward you in some way. Look carefully at what they are now, not what their potential is, and not what they promise you they will be.

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