Friday 9 December 2016

10 questions to ask your partner before saying 'I do'

Joyce Fagan

Published 26/04/2016 | 10:43

Gary and Danielle Lineker
Gary and Danielle Lineker
Cheryl and ex-husband Jean Bernard Fernandez Versini in London
Chris Martin and Gwyneth Paltrow

Approximately 22,000 marriages were registered in Ireland in 2015. Around 8,000 of those couples married in the Catholic Church, therefore, taking their marriage preparation course, as run by Accord.

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But what if you're not getting married in any church and no course is required? Or what if you've lived with your partner for a number of years and think you already know everything there is to know about them?

Relationships Ireland, which has been providing support to couples for over 50 years here, run non-denominational courses and believes that, church or no church, talking things out before signing the register will ensure long-term marriage success.

From having babies to having regular sex, and from discussing budgets to heated arguments, what are some of the questions you and your partner should ask each other before either of you say 'I do'?

Chris Martin and Gwyneth Paltrow
Chris Martin and Gwyneth Paltrow

1 How did your family resolve conflict?

Were doors slammed and sulky silences endured or did you all sit around a table and talk it out?

You probably already know your style of conflict resolution, but once an issue has been ironed out, it's unlikely that you both sit down and have a detailed post-mortem on your peace-keeping skills.

But whatever you do, keep arguing, that's according to the world's best-known marriage therapist, Andrew G Marshall.

"We think that by not arguing, we're protecting our partners. You can't choose which feelings you turn off. You end up turning off all of your feelings, including the passionate and connected ones too," he told the Anton Savage Show earlier this year.

His big piece of advice was to be well-behaved while resolving conflict. "If you can argue constructively, if you're not using bad language or trying to destroy the other person and keep it within these parameters, it's effective," he said.

Cheryl and ex-husband Jean Bernard Fernandez Versini in London
Cheryl and ex-husband Jean Bernard Fernandez Versini in London

2 Are we or aren't we going to have children?

And if so are we going to divide the work 50/50?

Lots of couples will say they're having children but when push comes to shove, are they really that serious about it? This is absolutely one question that needs to be asked before the register is signed.

Celebrity couple Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie had this matter well and truly ironed about by the time they came to tying the knot. Together, the couple has six children, three of whom are adopted and three of whom are their biological children. However, all six came along between 2002 and 2008.

The pair didn't marry until 2014.

3 Will we use our past relationships as ammunition or as a learning curve?

Megan Fox and Brian Austin Green are to divorce (AP)
Megan Fox and Brian Austin Green are to divorce (AP)

Chances are, like most couples, the ex-files remain securely locked in the past, but often, curiosity gets the better of us and we might want to know what exactly went wrong. It's not a bad question to ask. While you don't want to draw out the green-eyed monster of envy, it is important to know why previous relationships failed. Try not to look for intimate details but do seek out the broad picture.

4 How important is religion?

Will we celebrate religious holidays, and if we have children, will we raise them in a religion?

If you are marrying in a church of any kind, chances are you'll have crossed this bridge. Some couples might just want the church wedding and be done with it, or else one partner in the relationship might be under the illusion that they'll be attending a regular mass and blessing any future children in all sorts of sacraments.

Accord's report Married Life - The First Seven Years, found that religion was important to couples.

"For the couples in our survey, religion does play a part in their lives, values and identities, with just under nine in 10 describing themselves as Catholic," read the report.

5 Is what's yours mine, and what's mine yours?

"For richer or for poorer," is the commonly uttered marriage vow, but have you expressly discussed its implications before you go about saying it? This is extremely important considering financial pressure is a regularly cited issue when it comes to relationship difficulties. You mightn't be a millionaire or be millions of euro in debt, but it's a worthy question to ask. Kanye West announced on Twitter that he was $53m in personal debt last February due to his fashion industry ambitions. However, his wife Kim Kardashian is reported to be worth $85m. Whatever the figures, surely one spouse can help out the other.

6 How often are we going to have sex?

Sex is the most intimate way of connecting with your loved one, but with the stresses and strains of everyday life and after years of marriage, are you still going to find the time for it?

Psychologist Deborah Mulvany, who has works with couples, has said that lots of things can hinder activity under the bed covers.

"A man can be worried about the finances or a woman can be extra tired because it's that time of the month - both big factors where sexual appetite is concerned.

"Be mindful of your partner's cycle," said the psychologist, "and don't necessarily see a lack of interest as a personal rejection or assume that the chemistry is gone or conclude that you're with the 'wrong partner'."

Regardless of the level of activity, it's always important to talk about sex.

7 Is watching porn OKAY?

How are we going to ignite things in the bedroom if it all goes stale?

Ireland's leading sex therapist, Mary O'Conor, has written for years about the topic of physical intimacy. She argues that there are lots of things a couple can do to keep the flame alive.

"One of the biggest problems facing people in this sexually liberated age is that their expectations are very high with regard to their sex lives. They believe that everybody else is having wonderfully exciting and innovative sex all the time while their own sex lives are sadly lacking," advised the sex therapist.

She suggests that people think first about the state of their relationship and if there are any underlying issues that are causing things to cool off in the bedroom. Ms O'Conor said that it can be difficult to have a sexual side to your relationship if there is some form of anger festering below the surface.

8 Is it Okay if I don't always say 'I love you'?

It can be said with a hug, a surprise cup of tea in the morning or freshly changed sheets at night, you don't always have to say 'I love you,' to say 'I love you'. Make sure to know your partner's communication strategy when it comes to affection, because it mightn't always come in the form of words. You also don't have to say 'I do,' in order to prove your love for each other either. Take Hollywood couple Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell, whose relationship is famous not because of its 33-year length but because they remain unmarried but still faithful.

9 What do you like about me?

And what do you not like about me?

It might be their perfectionistic tendencies around the house or their lack of any tendency towards any kind of housework at all, that drives you around the twist, but before you say 'I do,' it's worth calling a spade a spade when it comes to the pluses and minuses of both parties.

George Clooney was a long time choosing his life partner, but when he did, he swiftly put a ring on Amal's finger and hasn't stopped talking about it since. He recently told the world exactly what it is that he so likes about his Lebanese lawyer wife. "Oftentimes I feel like an idiot talking to my own wife. It's never good," he said. Perhaps you don't need to air your grievances with the world but at least air them to your partner.

10 Where do you see us 10 years from now?

Aside from finances, communication is the other major bump along the marriage road, so it's good to talk about where you both see everything going.

"Develop a way that you and your partner can discuss your relationship dynamics, without getting emotional about it," said psychotherapist and Hay House author Abby Wynne.

"You need to analyse the relationship dynamics outside of the relationship, so when you're back in it, you're working from tactics that have already been agreed between you," she said.

Unless you want to call it a day after less than two years of marriages, like Cheryl and Jean Bernard Fernandez-Versini, it's fairly crucial to mark your card early on.

Herald

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