“When a man and a woman marry, they become one. The difficulty is deciding which one,” the American writer H.L. Mencken once quipped. Love moves us to do everything for the other but, before marriage, we must have insight into the other’s needs, weaknesses, strengths, qualities, and flaws.Differences can be a treasure, or a pitfall. So conversations during the engagement period should delve into the smallest details, those “little contingencies” we sometimes tend to brush off with a “love will conquer that!” attitude, but which over time become major obstacles and symptoms of deeper issues. Unresolved questions can hide tomorrow’s hornet’s nest. So here are some examples of the questions to ask, individually or together.
Know your partner and know yourself
Am I at ease with his friends? Can I share her passions (like bungee-jumping or deep-sea diving)? Can she share mine? Does he need to have his way when things are up for discussion? Could I put up with that my whole life? Can we deal with having opposite political views? Can we talk about it together?
Are his or her leisure activities beyond our means? Do we agree about our future standard of living? Are we more or less agreed about being open to children and how many we’d like to have? Does his personality make me feel awkward? Am I ill at ease with her behavior when others are around? What about his smoking or alcohol consumption? Her gloomy or depressive nature? His sense of humor?
Is he or she overly dependent on their parents? Am I comfortable with his way of dealing with personal problems? What differences are there between our respective values? Between our ideas about marriage? Are there points where these differences could cause conflict? Do we tend to avoid certain subjects? Am I really capable of “leaving my father and my mother” to cling to my spouse? Is he lacking in tenderness or sensitivity?
Accept that the other may not be how you’d dreamed
Don’t forget one thing: life as a couple is a beautiful but difficult thing. It runs up against “otherness,” the fact that the other is
other, that they’re not you
. And as to the crazy dream of total unity—we’ll do everything together, we’ll go to Mass together, do the shopping together—impossible! Deep down, are we capable of accepting the other may not be how we’d dreamed? If so, then a loving marriage awaits!
Father Denis Sonet