Am I marrying the right person ? (Pt 2)
Owing to limitations on the amount of material that can be put into a web page, this Section had to be split into 3 parts:
It’s all in the timing
What is the perfect marriage?
Like and respect
Types of compatibility
Compatibility – specific issues
Political world view
Compatibility – specific issues (cont.)
Contribution to the relationship
Compatibility – specific issues
Moving from the general to the specific, there are a host of issues on which you and another person might be incompatible, and which it is useful to further explore. Incompatibility on some issues can be a deal-breaker when it comes to a happy long-term relationship. Incompatibility on other issues can be something that does not necessarily have to be an impediment to a happy long-term relationship.
There is probably no limit to the number of compatibility issues that could be relevant to a relationship. But there is a limit to how many I can explore, so I have taken the liberty of choosing some of the more common issues that I am aware of that can give rise to problems. They are:
Political world view
Contribution to the relationship
I note that the first 4 of these are very much potential deal-breakers when it comes to assessing a partner. The other ones can be problematic, but I have seen lots of couples successfully cope with incompatibilities in these areas.
I’ve already mentioned that if a potential partner has ever exhibited any tendency for violence of any sort during the course of your relationship, that should be an immediate deal-breaker for you.
However, I think it is also worth mentioning that many people only exhibit violent tendencies when they are under the influence of alcohol. For some people it doesn’t take much alcohol, for others it takes quite a bit, before they get violent.
If you have a potential partner who uses alcohol, ideally you want to see how they behave once they get drunk. That might be easier said than done. You also, ideally, want to observe that state in your partner when you are sober.
I haven’t got any bright ideas about how you might achieve what I have just suggested, but I still thought that it was worth suggesting, as it involves an absolutely crucial issue for you that may have grave implications for your future health and well-being.
Hopefully it goes without saying that if your partner is a user of drugs that may induce violence (such as ice), the sooner they are an ex-partner, the better for you. You should also be extremely wary of a partner who uses any sort of illegal drugs, and of partners who seem to use excessive amounts of legal drugs – neither is a promising sign for a long and happy relationship (even if you use the same drugs yourself).
Returning to the alcohol issue, if your partner does not get violent when they are drunk, but they do have a tendency to get drunk reasonably regularly, that should also be a deal-breaker for you. It is a pretty good indication that the person can’t handle alcohol, and being in a relationship with an alcoholic is almost a guarantee of prolonged misery for you.
From my observations it is pretty crucial that you do not marry someone who does not share your view as to whether you want to have children together or not.
If you want to have children, and your partner doesn’t:
- if your partner’s wishes prevail, you will have life-long unhappiness that will be rekindled every time you see someone else’s children
- if your wishes prevail, your partner will likely exhibit their unhappiness at what has happened every time something unpleasant happens with the children, and that is likely to be lots and lots of times, so again, you will have lots of unhappiness (and just imagine if any of the children are born with, or experience, serious health or development problems).
Similarly, if you don’t want to have children, but your partner does:
- if your partner’s wishes prevail, you will have a lot of unwanted work and expense, severe restrictions on the life you would like to lead, probably some joy, but also lots of unhappiness
- if your wishes prevail, your partner probably won’t ever let you forget what could have been for them, and that will be prompted every time they see someone else’s children.
And all of the above is on the assumption that you stay together. This issue is one which often pulls a relationship apart. If that happens early, it is probably a blessing. It is not something that one wants to see happen after children arrive.
And if you have a partner who does not share your view on children, do not think that you can marry them because you will be able to bring them round to your way of thinking after you are married. That’s delusional, and an absolute recipe for disaster.
Also, it is possible that nature might intervene, so that you get your wish for no children because it just doesn’t happen. If you are intending to rely on something like that happening, all I can say is that nature has a rule in these circumstances: this sort of thing never happens if you need or want it to happen.
I should also mention that these days, of course, nature is not the only way of having children. It is also possible to have them with the help of science. So, if you don’t want to have children, my advice is not to marry someone who wants to have children even if one of you is biologically incapable of having children – your partner will find a way to make it happen. (And I can assure you from personal experience that trying to have children using IVF is not a pleasant experience for either partner, although it is, of course, far worse for the woman – it is something you should only contemplate doing if you are both fully committed to the process.)
So, in summary, it is a very bad idea to marry someone who has strong ideas on whether they want children or not, unless you share, or are quite comfortable, with those ideas.
Political world view
From my observations and experience, compatibility of basic political view is a fairly crucial compatibility that couples must have if they are to be happy together.
Now I am not talking about politics at the level of political parties. Usually it doesn’t matter if partners vote Democrat, Republican, Labour, Liberal, Conservative, Greens or what have you. Lots of happily married couples have partners who support different parties. There are lots of happy marriages between partners who actively work for different political parties. (And these days, you would often be hard-pressed to point out substantial differences between the major parties – they all seem to be much of a muchness.)
The problem arises one level down, the level with non-capital letter descriptions: liberal, conservative, communist, socialist and what have you.
Usually there is a fundamental divide between those who are fundamentally conservative and pretty much everyone else.
The basic belief of conservatives is that everyone is responsible for themselves, and it is not for society to help those who have suffered misfortune. Closely aligned with this is a view that government should ensure that there is law and order, but that otherwise government should stay out of people’s lives as much as possible.
The basic belief of everyone else is that people can suffer misfortune through no fault of their own, and in those cases society should help them. Aligned with this is usually the view that governments need to be the mechanism to address inequality in society, and that government needs to intervene in society to try to ensure that everyone gets a fair go.
Now I have put that very simplistically, but that is quite deliberate, as it is quite sufficient for my purposes. If you and your partner fall on different sides of the divide I have just outlined, I’m afraid I am very pessimistic as to how happy a relationship you will be able to have. That’s because your differing views on the fundamental issue I have described will determine your views on a whole range of issues that are likely to bring you into conflict as your relationship progresses.
Now conflict in itself is not necessarily a problem. The problem is that the conflict in this case arises from such a fundamental schism in your respective worldviews that: 1) it is not something that you will be able to resolve; and 2) it is something that will foster a dislike between you - a dislike of your partner’s fundamental character.
Therefore, if you do not have compatibility on your political views at the basic level, beware. Of course it is possible that you can have a relationship with someone that runs in a way that never raises issues that go down to the depths of where differences on this issue will have an effect. The problem is that no one deliberately tries to have such a relationship, and it’s not the sort of relationship that anyone would really aspire to if given a choice.
The religion, if any, of your partner is only something of possible concern from a compatibility point of view if one of you has religious beliefs that essentially dominate their life. Unless you are both happy to operate in accordance with those beliefs, it is hard to foresee that a happy marriage will be possible.
For instance, some partners, directed by their religions, will only be prepared to marry someone who will become a member of their religion. If you are comfortable with that idea, there’s no problem. (Although speaking as the heathen I am, if you are comfortable with that idea I have grave concerns about your spiritual health – something is definitely amiss with it.) If not, I suggest that partner is not someone you should marry.
However, lots of people these days have religious beliefs that are essentially pretty nominal – that is, a person professes to have a particular religious belief, but they don’t usually do much to give effect to that belief in a way that is noticeable to the average bystander. And if your partner has religious beliefs that allows you to go about your life in the way that you normally do, in that the beliefs only impose obligations on them, and not on anything you do singly or jointly, then there should also be no problem.
However one further point of conflict can occur if you have, or want to have, children. If one of you belongs to a religion that requires that children of the marriage should be inducted into the religion while they are children, you both need to be aware of, and be comfortable with, that idea before you marry. Otherwise you are heading for a major conflict during your marriage.
In extreme cases differing views as to whether you and your partner should have pets can be very similar to what I have just said above about differing views on having children. If one partner is vehemently opposed to keeping pets, and the other partner is keen to have a pet, much of what I have said in relation to children applies, and this is an issue that you need to sort out well before you consider marriage.
Fortunately differing views on keeping pets is not nearly as common a problem as it might be.
First, even if many people are not particularly keen on having a pet, it is usually something that those people can tolerate, assuming that there are no health issues. Take me, for instance. Given the choice, I would prefer not to have a pet. However, as I mention in my book, my first wife Patsy came as part of a package deal: in addition to Patsy I was given an interest in a car, a cat and steak knives. I was able to cope with the cat, despite a rather unfortunate incident that occurred early in our relationship, something that I also describe in my book. (And as is clear from the wedding transcript of my second marriage, my second wife, Thi, came packaged with a dog, suggesting that there might be a skeleton in the closet of one of my past lives !)
Second, unlike in the children situation, it is very likely that the pet-loving partner will already have a pet at the time your relationship starts, as I have just doubly illustrated. If there is a problem, it should become apparent quite early in the relationship. If the relationship continues, there is good reason for thinking that the pet issue won’t cause a problem.
Third, if there is disagreement about whether to have children or not, in some cases the partner who wants to have children might be prepared to use a pet as a substitute for not having children. (Please note, extreme delicacy is required in relation to this issue – I would not advise anyone to raise it as an option – rather, it is something that might just happen naturally.)
Fourth, most pets don’t live for as long as children do. That gives rise to the possible compromise of seeing out the lives of existing pets, and then not replacing them. That is what happened with my first marriage. Puckett, who was already elderly as cats go at the time I married Patsy, survived for about 3 years after we married. Patsy was then comfortable with the idea of not replacing her. (Puckett had been a fairly big obstacle to our ability to travel, and Patsy was well aware of that, and it informed her decision to not replace Puckett, who, of course, was, in any event, irreplaceable !)
There is also the issue of the partners to a relationship having incompatible pets, which becomes a problem when they come to combine their households. I have no advice to offer in this situation – it is probably one of the many issues that will arise when you come to combine your households, and it will need to be sorted out in the same way that those other issues will be sorted out.
It is very hard to see how one can have a happy marriage if the parties to the marriage cannot communicate with each other in the same language, but I have heard of it happening. Of course, as time goes on in such a relationship communication will inevitably increase, but it is still a mystery to me how the parties can survive the period between the early days of the relationship, when sex can keep the relationship alive all by itself, to the time when spoken communication becomes possible.
And I note that, generally speaking, basic communication is not enough to sustain a long-term relationship. I know a number of people who speak enough English for us to be able to carry out normal daily activities in sync, but who I could not imagine being married to because it would not be possible to talk sensibly with them about feelings and abstract thoughts and matters.
These days it is not unusual for the individual members of a partnership to come from completely different cultural backgrounds. Thi and I are a case in point. I have seen many successful dual culture relationships, and I am not aware of any such relationship that has ended primarily because of the cultural differences. In a country such as Australia it is fairly usual that those coming to Australia from a different culture fairly quickly adapt and become accustomed to the Australian way of doing things. Vestiges of their home culture will probably always remain, but by and large they are not matters that are going to cause difficulties in a relationship. And to the extent that bigger matters continue to exist, a bit of tolerance and negotiation are usually all that are necessary to overcome them.
Financial issues between partners are one of the most common causes of friction between them, and are also a major contributor to relationship break-ups. However they are not usually factors that anyone pays a great deal of attention to in the lead up to a decision to marry.
Given the importance of this issue, and the undesirability of it causing a break-up after you are married, could I suggest that you take some pre-emptive action by trying to raise the matters I mention below as part of your consideration of whether you are marrying the right person. I very strongly recommend that you try to come to a fairly detailed understanding with your partner about how these matters will be dealt with if you marry.
So, looking at things from your joint point of view:
- do we pay our incomes into the same account ?
- do we hold everything jointly ?
- if not, what should we each hold, and how will we organise that ?
- do we budget ?
- if so, what is reasonable expenditure for each of us ?
- how will we make investment decisions ?
- what are our financial goals ?
- what do we do with any debts that either of us may have ?
- how will we pay for the wedding ?
- should one of us be primarily responsible for looking after our finances ?
- if not, who will do what ? (remember, running a household involves quite a bit of paperwork and other work)
- how will we make sure that whatever we do is transparent to each other, particularly if one of us will do most of the work ?
- who will do our tax returns ?
Before you get into all of that nitty-gritty, I recommend that you each do a tell and show: tell each other how you have organised your finances as a singleton and what your average income and expenditure is, and show each other what you each own and owe. In talking about expenditure, you should each give each other a pretty detailed idea of what sorts of things you spend your money on. That particularly applies to any expensive habits either of you might have.
By the way, be aware that most males are completely clueless when it comes to having any idea at all of what expenses females face just for being a female. Things like all the extra clothing and accessories that are necessary, not to mention the costs of maintaining hair, eyes, nails, skin, beauty generally, general well-being … The sooner this ignorance is dispelled once a relationship gets serious, the better for the both of you.
If it looks like one or both of you are in a bit of a mess, I would strongly recommend that you obtain a copy of Scott Pape’s The barefoot investor, and that you both read it before you start discussing the sorts of questions I have listed above. If you do that, your answer to whether you will budget is “yes, you bet we will”. The discussion should then move on to details of how you will budget. In fact, you don’t have be in a mess, the book is worth a read in any event as it has some great ideas in it that you are bound to find helpful regardless of your situation.
I suggest that you do not really want to marry someone if you are not able to come to a substantial agreement on the sorts of financial issues I have mentioned above before you marry. If you can’t sort these issues out before you marry, you will have an even smaller chance of sorting them out satisfactorily after you marry.
By the way, I recommend that you try to be as realistic as possible in determining which of you is the better manager of finances. Once you do that, it is crucial that you make sure that you do not give significant financial responsibilities to anyone other than that person, even if the other of you will have more time. It doesn’t take much to make a mess of financial matters, and it can take an enormous amount of effort to try to unscramble the egg, so the idea is to make sure that the egg doesn’t get scrambled in the first place.
I note that there is one issue relating to finances that should be a deal-breaker for you except in the most unusual circumstances (so unusual that I can’t think of any examples). If you discover that your potential partner has a problem with gambling, they are not the right person for you. That sort of a problem is almost an absolute guarantee that you are in for substantial sustained heartache and misery if you marry that person. I note that many gamblers are very clever at being able to hide their problem in the early stages of a relationship, so in trying to winkle out the sort of information I recommend that you try to winkle out above, it is a good idea to try to keep your wits about you.
I note that there are also people about who are not able to competently handle credit. Being married to such a person is also a recipe for misery unless they have recognised and admitted to the problem, and are prepared to only use credit within parameters set by you. That may in fact involve them not using credit at all.