By Maria Cheshire, Crosswalk.com
As a relationship becomes more serious, conversations deepen. At least they should. Sometimes we shy away from asking tough questions in order to preserve a relationship or avoid conflict. This can be done subconsciously, so be intentional about asking your significant other important questions that will impact your lives together. You are still laying the groundwork for your relationship, so now is the time to get everything out on the table.
Proverbs says, “An honest answer is like a kiss on the lips” (Proverbs 24:26). Do not say what you think your partner wants to hear, or what you think a good Christian would say. Be honest with yourself and your partner! This verse reminds us that honesty is an act of love. Be honest with your convictions and your hesitations. Here are some questions to start with:
1. Are you open to moving?
How rooted are you in the place you currently live? If your partner gets a promotion or exciting job opportunity, will you be willing and able to move in order for them to accept it? If you have aspirations of higher education such as attending graduate school, would your partner be willing to move somewhere else in order for that dream to come true? It’s important to discuss hypothetical situations like these before real opportunities arise.
That way you can determine where you both lie on the spectrum. If one partner is determined to stay near their family, discuss what that radius looks like in terms of location. “Near” could mean fifteen minutes or two hours, depending on perspective.
Maybe the distance from relatives outweighs the job opportunity, or it would be more fitting to attend an online graduate program than traveling far away to attend in person. Consider both people’s goals and the expenses of relocating. What would you gain by moving somewhere else? What would you lose?
Long-term dreams can also factor into this discussion. If one person has always pictured himself or herself spending their retirement golfing in Florida, and another person wants to find their “forever home” and grow old there, those ideas are worth discussing. How determined are you to achieve this dream? Is it something you really want or an idealized fantasy? Do you want to settle into the same place long-term because it’s what your family has always done?
Remember that no decision has to be final, or even made, right now. Rather, the idea is discuss the possibilities and how comfortable you each are with the changes that come from relocating at various stages of life. Would you ever want to live abroad? Do you prefer the city life, country life, or suburbia? What could you not live without? Enjoy discussing all the possibilities!
2. Do you want children?
Your answer to this question will have a huge impact on your life together as a married couple. Children are a blessing, but becoming parents will change the dynamics in your relationship. You will not have the same level of independence and freedom that you previously had as a couple, not to mention your focus will shift to nurturing this new life! To put it simply, raising children requires dedication and commitment from both partners. If you definitely want to have children, make sure your partner does as well. Do not marry someone and hope they will change their mind.
You may also want to discuss birth control as part of this conversation. God tells us to “be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28). Do you interpret this scripture as meaning a couple should not use birth control, leaving the timing of pregnancy and quantity of children up to God? Or do you believe it’s appropriate to use modern birth control and “plan” the size of your family? If you could pick, how many children would you like to have?
Remember that, “We plan, God laughs.” Ultimately, just because we desire something or set our mind on a goal, doesn’t mean it is going to happen. “As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in the mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things” (Ecclesiastes 11:5). What’s important is the conversation, not any finite decisions being made.
According to The National Infertility Association, 1 in 8 couples, approximately 12% of married women, have trouble getting pregnant or sustaining a pregnancy. If you and your partner struggle with infertility, are you open to infertility treatment like IVF? How do you feel about adoption?
Share openly and honestly with your partner, even if the answer is “maybe” or something much more complex. Perhaps your partner has always felt called to adopt, even if infertility is not an issue.
Trust in God and His plan. “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11). Remember that children are a huge responsibility, expense, and joy. Before moving towards marriage, make sure that you and your significant other agree about the most basic desire of whether or not you want kids. The conversation about “when” and “how” are just a bonus.
3. What is the husband and wife’s role in marriage?
Our expectations on the role of a husband and wife come from a mixture of sources, including: the model our own parents set, cultural norms, and scripture. It’s important to share your experiences, assumptions, and visions of your life together with your partner, so you do not enter into marriage with unrealistic or unmatched expectations.
In traditional marriages, the man is the head of the household—the leader, provider, and protector. Ephesians 5:22-24 says, “Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church…Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.” Discuss with your partner what this scripture means to you. Should the husband have the final call in decision-making? Do you expect the male to be the primary (or sole) breadwinner for the family?
The next thing to consider is how you will share household responsibilities, especially if both people are working full-time jobs. Think about how your own parents shared responsibilities around the house and discuss your own preferences. When you take into account likes and dislikes, passions and skills, household chores can feel more tolerable for everyone. I know several couples where the husband prepares most of the meals because he has better cooking skills than his wife, and enjoys it. My fiancé takes pride in mowing the lawn, while I don’t mind vacuuming. Both tasks would feel like a bigger hassle if we switched roles.
Lastly, consider how you will manage finances as a couple. Will you merge all of your accounts, keep separate accounts, or have “mine, yours, and ours”? Growing up, my father always paid the bills and made big purchases like buying new cars. He consulted my mom, but she largely left the final decision in his hands. So as a girl, I assumed that all dads and moms acted this way. Later, I learned that my maternal grandmother was actually the one to manage her family’s finances—no simple feat considering she had seven children, two small businesses, and a husband who loved to buy farm equipment!
I learned that each couple is different, and it’s important for the husband and wife to consider their strengths and weaknesses, especially in terms of finances. Who consistently pays their bills on time? Who has a savings mindset and can therefore help the family plan for large spending items like family trips? That person should be in charge of the finances.
Remember that you are two individuals, made by God and brought together by God. Use the gifts He gave you, and honor your partner’s gifts as well. The Bible reminds us that, “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up” (Ecclesiastes 4:9). How can you best use your strengths to support one another and help your marriage thrive?
Marriage should not be entered into lightly. Take time to ask your partner important questions, and dig into the details rather than assuming your partner’s position. Pray for patience and discernment as you deepen your conversations and then—possibly—enter the next stage of your relationship.
“The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock” (Matthew 7:25). Like faith, your relationship should be built on rock. Start building your sturdy foundation!
Maria Cheshire is a third grade teacher in Northern Virginia. She enjoys running, traveling, and playing with her dog Lilly. You can find teaching resources created by Maria at: https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Va-Sol-Superstars.
Photo Credit: ©Thinkstock/weerachonoat