Tessy and her beau of 10 years, Dayo, thought they had known enough about each other, until they decided to get married and they started their marriage counselling class, only for them to realise that there were still some things for them to learn about each other.
The truth is, you might never be able to know all there is to know about your partner, but you should know enough to give you peace of mind and enough that when you are asked about your partner, you can give convincing answers. If those reasons are not good enough for you, think of it this way; you need to know your partner like yourself, because you are going to become one with him/her. Good enough?
How do you know someone? It is simply by asking questions. I have come up with some questions that you can ask your lover, soon to become your life partner. Ask these questions, before you become engaged or even get married. You don’t want to go into such a committed relationship as a marriage, only to realise that person you are with is not who you thought they were and worse, that you cannot tolerate the type of person, they are.
- Do I know my love language?
We tend to express love the same way we want to receive it; but how you demonstrate and feel love may not be the same for your partner. That’s why it’s vital to learn what your love language is, and what’s trips your partner.
When there is an understanding that makes you feel cared for and you talk about it, you actually establish a good foundation for a positive connection between you and your spouse. However, don’t think it is a one-off conversation. You have to keep talking about it, as your partner’s love language might change; oftentimes, the love languages of women do change. But then, it is acceptable, her needs as a single babe will be different when she becomes a wife and might do a 360 degree change, when she becomes a mom. So keep talking.
- What am I bringing to the table in my relationship?
You have most likely thoroughly considered why you want to be with your partner, but what positive traits and relationship-bolstering qualities are you offering him or her? What do you need to work on? Taking stock of what you individually bring to the table may better prepare you for a committed relationship than any question you could ask yourself and your partner. Although, they say, love does not care about such things, but if you want a committed relationship, you need to ask yourself and your partner this question and provide truthful answers.
This is a challenge; most couples face in their marriage, each partner wants to do something different. For instance, one person craves lots of time to talk and connect emotionally while the other prefers connecting through shared activities. These differences are not likely to change with time, but couples who build on their strengths and know their challenges are more likely to evolve to greater emotional maturity in their approach to life’s challenges.
- What role do I expect my spouse to play in my life?
Ah! We all have expectations. For us as Africans, boys and girls are raised to behave in certain ways, to expect the other sex to naturally know how to do some things or to be the one to do some things, like girls should learn how to cook and clean while boys should be able to provide.
We grow up with this expectations, which has been reinforced over time by the examples of relationships around us; our parents, neighbours and family and we expect same from the person, we eventually marry. So we need to ask this question. To avoid any awkward conversations along the lines of — “Hey, I thought you were going to stay home once we had kids?” — discuss what family life was like for you growing up.
Couples need to examine and share their family ‘scripts,’ they are a team after all. Our biological family play a big role in determining what we expect from our spouses, it is now left for us to be able to discuss what we have learned and then pick and choose what we will work for us in our relationship.
- What am I willing to give up?
It’s not as negative of a question as it sounds. What if one of you gets a dream job offer in another state, but you had previously agreed to stay close to your families? Likewise, if your spouse’s mother needs 24/7 care or to move into your home, are you willing to give up time and resources to allow that? Decide now who can or wants to stay home with kids, who can make a career sacrifice and for how long. If one person feels that you spend too much time at the office, can you adjust your workload or give up another commitment in order to spend more time at home? This is all about asking questions, questions and making loads of compromise to make your relationship work.
- Does our relationship have more than just love?
This is a question to ask both yourself and your partner. Chances are, if you have been in enough failed relationships, you just know that love isn’t enough to sustain a relationship forever, let alone a marriage.
Can you work together, at least, without rubbing each other the wrong way all the time; whether it’s on a school committee, painting a room, or building a nursery? Bonus points if you actually have fun working together.
For some couples, every tiny task that they have to carry on is a major cause of rancour that they don’t often complete tasks they start together. Guess what marriage is all about, decisions and tasks. Do you want to get married but continue to live a single life, because you can’t work with your partner? Can you make decisions together, and agree on how will you go about it? How do you even approach decision making, with a list of pros and cons or you just go with the flow?
Respect is in some ways just as important as love, and if you can’t respect differences (even the little ones), your relationship will suffer. If one of you is religious and the other isn’t, you have to learn to truly respect their beliefs and not just secretly think that your partner is way off base. Relationships are hard, marriage is harder, and both become nearly impossible when you don’t have much else to go on other than love. So find something else to work with beside love.
- How will I deal if trust is broken?
Everyone wants and likes to believe that the trust between partners is unbreakable, but the fact of the matter is that trust is very, very breakable. From something small, like snooping through texts, to something bigger like infidelity, how will you deal with it?
It might be a wise move to talk about it now, prepare for it happening. What would make you seek divorce? Would you prefer to go for counselling or wash your hands off your relationship? Talk about it now, before you find yourself in such a situation and you are merely reacting.
Those are six questions that I believe if you and your partner are able to answer sincerely before marriage, will strengthen your relationship.
Relationships are hard work but they are worth it.
Kristine is a member of The Lovelint team. She is a down to earth person, who says it as it is. Having given relationship advice for years in a national daily, she has found out that fear is one of the main reasons holding people back from enjoying a healthy, happy relationship. She is married with kids and is willing to listen to you and help as much as you let her to.