Engaging in a Healthy Marriage: Questions to Ask Before Reaching the Altar
Kenneth J. McCain, LPC
Based upon the information that I have gathered over the past fifteen years in practice: while counseling individuals and couples on the importance of investing in their marriages, I have put together the seven areas where I have seen the most significant discord. The seven chapters are based upon real-life challenges that couples wrestle with within their marriage. I hope that none of these topics will apply to you and your union. Still, realistically you are not marrying yourself. Your spouse is a living, breathing, thinking person full of ideas and dreams, and if you fail to see them for who they are and the beauty they possess, you may not be ready for marriage.
In Chapter 1, we focus on Why Are You Getting Married? We intend to identify the basic core needs you desire from engaging in a committed relationship. In many relationships, we fail to discuss this question for fear of looking opportunistic; yet if you or your spouse are unclear on their function or role within your unit, how will they keep you happy or satisfied? Your spouse will try to meet your needs, but they will fall short, not for lack of effort but from the absence of an identified objective or goal.
Building from Chapter 1, Chapter 2 focuses on Communication & Conflict Resolution. We discuss our approach towards communication in times of discord. How we respond when our needs are not being met will be raised as we communicate our denied desires. We ask questions such as: “Do you yell, kick, hit, or spit?” Or “are you condescending or mean-spirited.” We must fully understand the person that we are joining ourselves with. This process is essential to preparing a healthy foundation for our family and home to develop and grow.
Chapter 3 will explore our Expectations as we identify clear goals for your relationship and home. Just as we have dreams and goals for our relationship, our future spouse comes to the relationship with their competing set of goals and objectives. The realization of competing beliefs does not have to be a point of contention yet a place to identify common ground.
Chapter 4 focuses on Family Systems and observable family traits and trends. Asking questions about family characteristics can help us avoid needless heartache and pain. In life, we are not allowed to pick the families that we are born into. However, when we see negative familial patterns develop, what steps are we willing to undergo to ensure our union’s success?
Child Rearing & Blended Families is discussed in Chapter 5, as we look at critical questions on how we approach and build upon our union. Questions surrounding if you and your intended want children and how they will be raised will factor into questions surrounding how you and your intended were parented. How you were raised directly impacts your parenting style and your spouse’s style. We will explore our intended’s role in our children’s lives from a previous relationship(s) and how to interact with their co-parent.
Chapter 6 discusses Finances and how we view money, how it is made, and how it is spent. Is money power, or is it used as a tool to gain access? Is it seen as a safety net only used in a time of need? Are we expected to contribute resources to extended family emergencies? Your future goals and your family’s future are tied to a healthy discussion focusing on your money and approach towards your household resources.
Chapter 7, our final chapter, is on Sex & Intimacy. This chapter will explore how we developed our sexual awareness and our approach to showing love and affection for our partner. How we approach our intimate relationship will significantly affect how we give and receive love and convey these feelings to the one we choose to spend our lives with.
Working on this book, I attempted to keep my writings light while tackling robust and complicated topics that I have seen couples struggle with. The listed questions aim to guide your conversations as you navigate one of life’s most significant decisions—the decision to approach the altar.
Kenneth J. McCain, LPC
St. Louis, Missouri