Why do you “date” someone? Everyone has their reasons. For some, dating is a way of saying “I like you but I’m not ready for marriage yet,” and for others it’s a matter of “I like you but I don’t know if I like you that much.” To me, dating is an excellent way to find out what you’re getting yourself into.
The dating period lasts months for some and years for others, and that’s okay. Circumstances differ, but what I think shouldn’t differ are the things you need to know about someone before you marry them.
Their Political and Religious Leanings
Is your significant other liberal or conservative? How do they feel about abortion? Do they even care about politics at all? Even if you or your significant other isn’t hugely involved in politics, differences in political beliefs can turn into emotional arguments later. It’s okay to disagree with your SO, just make sure that you both are able to accept the differences. If you are fiercely pro-life and your SO leans toward pro-choice, it’s better to know that sooner than later. The same goes for religious beliefs. Some couples are perfectly fine having different religious beliefs, but this is something that needs to be established early on.
What Their Idea of “The Future” Looks Like
I am a two-kids, one-dog, white-picket-fence sort of person. This is my idea of “settling down” someday, but it’s not everyone’s. It’s easy to make the incorrect assumption that your idea of the future is going to perfectly meld with that of your SO, and once you get married everything will fall into place like a Disney movie, minus the singing animals.
This is so incorrect it’s not even funny.
Plans for the future can make or break relationships. If your SO is planning on traveling the world before settling down, and you can’t imagine leaving your hometown, this is something that you should probably discuss. Do you want to go back to school someday? Does your SO? These seem like issues that should be thought about later but they are really important. If your SO isn’t comfortable taking out loans for your Masters’ or you don’t want to travel the world, these things should be out in the open.
To child or not to child?
In the course of a normal dating relationship, you will probably find out at some point how your SO feels about children. If not, this is a must. IMHO, you should not only know about whether or not the other person wants children, but if they do, what kind of parent they will be. How do they feel about things like spanking or sharing their religious views with their children? If you’re actually considering spending your life with this person, they’re going to be your partner in everything, including parenting. Do your homework and find out what kind of parent you’ll be marrying.
“By the time my kid is 2, I’m going to have him on Rosetta Stone. And doing calculus. You can teach him that.” – Brandon on his parenting style. I’m feeling good about it.
How They Fight
When couples tell me they “never fight,” I have to shake my head. Fighting, if done maturely, is an important part of any relationship. Disagreements are bound to happen, especially after marriage when the stakes are high with issues like money, and how you and your SO handle them can be key to whether or not you stay together ’til death do you part. This is something you need to know before you commit.
If your SO fights by lobbing insults, put-downs, or refuses to talk at all when he/she is angry, this is something you should be aware of. Fighting dirty now might not be a concern when it’s over something small like whether or not you were checking out that guy, but it can be damaging later on. Fighting “better” can be learned, but I think it should be done before you’re living together and sharing a bank account.
What They’re Like At Their Worst
When you’re first dating someone, you want to always put your best foot forward. You dress up for dates and use your best manners. Eventually, if you’re together long enough, this completely falls apart, and you end up seeing the other person for who they really are. Sometimes you end up seeing them at their complete worst. I’d highly recommend this.
Though I can’t really say Brandon has a “worst” (his hair always looks good), we’ve been through some high-stress situations together. There was one time where we were stuck in New York and I missed my bus and literally everything that could go wrong, did. We were both mad and tired, and it was interesting to see how we handled things. I was glad to see that when we’re both at our worst, we can still manage to work as a team. I’d rather know that now.
Not only have we seen each other at our angry “worst,” we’ve seen each other at our “appearance” worst, too. He has had the pleasure of hanging out with me in the hospital, when I was all icky and probably smelled like hospital mashed potatoes and had to be hooked up to a giant IV pole. We’ve seen each other when we’ve been camping, where we both haven’t showered for upwards of three days. It’s important to see each other this way because life isn’t always going to give you time to primp before your day, and when you’re married, you’re going to see each other at your worst eventually. It’s nice to have done it up front and know that you’re still okay with your SO at the end of the day and that they will still hang out with you and love you even if you smell weird.
How They Feel About $$$
Money is the root of all evil, right? It’s also the root of many marital disputes. How good is your SO at managing their money? Do you want to share bank accounts? What’s more important: a big house or money to travel? While you don’t have to discuss the specifics, get a general idea of your SO’s thoughts on money before tying the knot and marrying your bank account to theirs.
What Their Quirks Are
This isn’t nearly as important as the other points I’ve mentioned, but I think it’s still important. I know that Brandon takes a half hour after he gets out of bed to actually “wake up,” and that I should save my somewhat over-enthusiastic morning person talk for after this period of time. He knows that I eat potato chips with my pinky up and that I never wear closed-toed shoes unless I absolutely have to.
While these things are not marriage make-or-break issues, I think it’s part of that whole “dating is knowing what you’re getting into” thing. Not only is it good to know what the other person’s quirks are, I think it’s what makes dating someone so special. You get to know the things that not everyone else knows about that person, and you find out that no matter how weird you are (I’m really weird, let’s be honest), someone in the world still thinks you’re awesome.
I’m certainly not a marriage expert or a dating expert, but I just think there are some things you should know about the other person before you decide they are okay enough to live in a nursing home with someday. For those of you that are married, what are your thoughts? Are there things you wished you’d known beforehand?