Sunday, December 17, 2006

Marriage: Surprise!

The New York Times tackles premarital counseling in the Lifestyle section:

It often helps to have a forum for those sensitive discussions. A wide range of premarital counseling options have cropped up to meet the need. Many couples seek counseling through their religious institutions, the best-known source being the Roman Catholic program called Pre-Cana.

But it is difficult for any person or institution to prescribe a single set of questions that every couple should ask each other before marrying. Something of vital importance to one couple may be a nonissue to another.
One of my friends an "agnostic Jew" liked this Catholic girl (who was "unbelievable" in bed). "I think I love her." I urged him to find a good Jewish girl because those things become more important once you have kids. Some years later he married a Jewish girl. Imagine my lack of surprise when I got the invitation for a Bris in the mail.

Another friend lamented that her husband's hobbies that take up considerable time--time spent away from her. Angry and feeling betrayed, she told me that she would have thought of things differently had she known.

Here is what I wish everyone would think about before getting married:
  1. Do my family member like him/her? If no, why not? Families often know you better than you think they do.
  2. What will our roles be? Who does what? What are our expectations? I've seen people in a war because the man believed he should have dinner on the table when he came home from work--even when his wife worked too. I have seen couples war over the wife staying at home or working. Some men prefer a traditional wife. Some men prefer a working wife. Some women would never dream of being the soul bread winner. Some could never dream of being "stuck" at home. These issues are big and need to be talked about.
  3. How many kids? How long 'til we have a family? What if one of us is infertile? What will we do? Spanking? Yelling? Time out? (How the person handles conflicts indicate how they'll deal with a rotten kid. Don't expect a screamer to be rational with children.)
  4. What are our religious beliefs? Weddings, funerals, births all hinge around these questions. Children can make these issues more important.
  5. Who pays for what? Pre-nup? (I highly recommend these, btw, if you have any assets at all.) What debt do each of you bring? (I consider lying about debt to be fraud and grounds for divorce. This happens a lot.)
  6. Sex and fidelity. It should be discussed explicitly. What will the outcome of infidelity be? Define "a good sex life."
  7. Routine things. These often are the killers. Slob-neat freak. Authoritarian-permissive. Democrat-Republican. Fast food-vegetarian. Couch potato-athlete. How do you spend your free time? Making sure that your hobbies are time spent together is a good thing.
Bottom line, marriage is tough enough without waking up surprised on your honeymoon. Another friend was shocked by her new husband's schedule during what was in her mind supposed to be a romantic week. He picked deep sea fishing (she threw up), golfing three times and just had a grand old vacation. She was so mad at him that they didn't have sex.

Some things can be helped by an honest conversation.

H/T Ann Althouse

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

These are good tips. I would say being honest about "everything" will get couples through most of the crap that comes up. That is, if both are mature enough not to judge the other. Plus, it feels good to be honest and not hide anything! After all, we are all human beings.