How Well Should You Know Your Partner Before Getting Married?

It’s so romantic! You meet one night when you least expect. You’ve recently sworn off dating and tell yourself you’re content, no, wait, happy being single. Your girlfriends are your sisters, and if you do decide to date, which is a big IF, it’s going to be just for fun. Your fun. Yep, you’re chill. Then you spot him across the room. Thick head of hair, chiseled face, dark brown eyes. He sees you and makes his way over. The conversation starts, and within moments you can’t believe you ever made it through one day without him. You see him the next night and the night after that. Three months later, after what feels more like a week, he proposes. “Yessss!” you squeal with delight, accepting that sparkling diamond ring without a care in the world (nothing can touch you now), and you set a date for New Year’s Eve, only three months away. You admit to yourself your relationship moved fast. But what else could you have learned about this guy that you don’t already know? The answer is a lot. Many couples find out the hard way, including Luann and Tom D’Agostino, who announced on August 3 that their marriage of seven months was coming to an end. Luann, star of the Real Housewives of New York and formerly a countess, gave up her title to wed D’Agostino amid rumors of cheating, including that he had kissed a Playboy model the night before their engagement party. Could the D’Agostinos have avoided divorce altogether had they gotten to know each other better, in particular, how committed they were to their relationship? Based on the chatter surrounding the D’Agostino’s split, it seems so. Depth of commitment, however, is not the only piece of information a couple should expect to discover while dating and progressing toward marriage. In my new book, “The Pre-Marital Planner (to stay happily married),” I discuss how critical it is for a couple to learn about each other’s pasts, including the relationships they had with their parents, family members, and past love interests, and how they handle their finances. Then I provide exercises so couples can get the facts they need to build a healthy, long-lasting marriage. It’s one thing to spend time with someone, to travel, go to the movies, walk on the beach, and eat at your favorite restaurants. Those pastimes are all important as you discover what you each like and don’t like and whether you will be able to enjoy time together. But going out to dinner can only take you so far if one of you believes you should eat out twice per week and the other twice per month due to the cost involved. The same applies to your past relationships in that it’s easy to say. “I’m close with my mother” and another to uncover exactly how you each define closeness. To you, a close-knit relationship may mean a phone call every weekend and to your partner a visit. In the same vein, you will want to know if your partner is holding onto any baggage, such as a past love that he isn’t over yet. Or perhaps it’s you who hasn’t let go of an old flame and, without even knowing it, are not enjoying your current relationship to its fullest. Getting to know your partner well takes time. To do that, you need to ask the right questions and then dig deep to answer them honestly and truthfully. If you do, what you will find yourself with is a clean slate from which you can build a solid marriage. Life is full of surprises as it is. Why not leave room for the good ones? Photo credit: lioneltinchant Kiss Me via photopin (license)