There comes that time in many relationships where the word 'marriage' is finally spoken aloud. You and your partner are ready to enter into wedded paradise.

Before you take that final plunge, set aside some time to carefully think about these key issues which will offer some insight into how ready, and indeed compatible, the two of you are. Be honest with yourself in addressing each point, as your truthful answers will help you to realise whether marriage is a good idea or not.

1. "For better or worse"

Before you speak and hear these words in turn with each other on your big day, think about the meaning of the phrase. Does your partner encourage you, wanting the best for you? Or does your partner feel threatened or uncomfortable when you achieve or excel at something? This may be a sign of a potential problem. Will your partner forfeit their personal needs to help pull you through a trying time? If your partner shows any sign of resentment when you really need their help, you should think twice about the future of the relationship.

2. Warts and all

Do you willingly accept your partner’s flaws? And vice versa, does your partner accept your faults and shortcomings? If there is anything that bothers either of you about each other, discuss the issues now - before they become a big issue later. No matter how much in love you both might feel right now, anything that could potentially niggle at you down the track needs to be addressed. It is vital that you can accept each other unconditionally, and comfortably without judgement.

3. Self-acceptance

Are you truly aware of the path that you want to follow in life? Are you aware of what really interests you and the directions you are heading in? If you are not entirely sure about some fundamental aspects of your own self, how can you possibly know if you will be truly compatible with your partner down the track?

4. If you're happy and you know it

If you have been unhappy during the relationship and you feel that getting married will instantly repair this problem, you are going to be in for a rude awakening. Counselling therapy may be a good idea before you tie the knot. The best marriages are those in which the couple were happy and content with each other and within themselves, at the outset of their relationship.

5. Commit or quit

Are you fully committed to your relationship with your partner, or do you come up with excuses for not getting married? This includes excuses for delaying marriage (eg, claiming that you are ‘not ready yet’, for whatever reason). If you find yourself generating reasons to prevent or delay marriage, maybe this relationship is not the best match for you. Conversely, if you have ever found yourself wondering if your partner is truly into you, or is just a time-waster, waiting around for someone ‘better’ to come along, you may be interested in my article here which describes the difference between someone who genuinely wants to be with you, and someone who doesn’t. Whilst this article is mainly directed towards the attention of men, there are generic issues that are equally relevant to women who are in the same boat.   

The bottom line is, truly committed people do whatever it takes to be with the one they love. No circumstance, and no one, will keep them from getting married. 

6. Whatever it takes

Do you and your partner give each other your undivided attention, or do either of you hold back and ignore half of what gets said by the other a lot of the time? Do your feelings for each other make you want to do whatever it takes to keep each other happy? Marriage takes time and effort naturally, and compatible partners in love are willing to do whatever it takes to make the relationship successful.

7. Give and take

Do you and your partner see eye-to-eye when it comes to caring, support, and compromise? Do you each invest equal time and effort into special occasions, planning a romantic gift idea for your anniversary or birthday? Or do you have a relationship where one partner always gives, whilst the other is more than content just to take? A relationship without proper balance of give and take is doomed to fail.

8. Laugh and have fun

Can you enjoy activities with your partner, even if it is something you would rather not be doing? The trick to a long and happy marriage is to take pleasure in just being with the person you love the most. There will always be activities that one does not enjoy much; the key is in being able to laugh and have fun anyway, and enjoy life together.

9. Security and trust

Can you and your partner spend time away from each other without either suffering from anxiety or suspicion? The best marriages are those in which couples are secure in their love for each other, and trust is a fundamental basic.

10. Be comfortable with yourself

Are you getting married because you have a mutual love for each other? Or have you decided to get married so that you would no longer be alone? The best marriages have partners who are comfortable taking care of their own needs, without help, even within the marriage, and are comfortable engaging in separate interests at times.

11. Planning ahead

Do you and your partner discuss long term plans, or do you live in the moment? Red flags fly when someone in the relationship says that they merely want to live in the present and take one day at a time, and not worry about the future. What they are effectively saying is that they are not sure if they want to be with you in the future.

12. A good-natured partner

Is your partner someone you would stand up for, no matter what the circumstances may be? Is your partner a good person? Some women tend to pick men who are ‘bad boys', and men, likewise, may choose ‘bad girls'. Often in relationships that involve a 'bad' partner, there is not much genuine love involved, even if the attraction at the time feels magnetic. Eventually, the addictive lust fades, and the relationship does not hold much promise. 

13. Physical attractions

Is there a physical attraction between you both? Over the long haul, physical attraction may wane, but without adequate attraction to each other in the first instance, the relationship may become filled with resentment and self-doubt by the person lacking in their self-image to you.

14. Partner or parent?

In every healthy, happy relationship, each partner gives as well as takes. However, sometimes the one who does most of the giving ends up feeling more like a parent than an equal partner; and conversely, the ‘taker’ may come to feel more like the child in the relationship. Over time, both partners will naturally assume the role of best friend, teacher, psychologist, and nurse at various times, and these hats will exchange heads. However, a healthy relationship is one in which the roles are generally evened out, and each person relates to the other as an equal adult. There is mutual and mature respect for what your partner brings to the relationship.

15. Team mates

Is there strong support, loyalty, and unity within your relationship? Do you work together well as a team when the necessity arises? Good team work is a quality of every relationship that binds together a strong union. Trouble is on the horizon if one person in the relationship is left to solve all the problems with little assistance, and/or is often judged, criticised, and undermined by their partner.

16. Like minds

When the topics of religion, children or politics are brought up, do you both have similar views and goals? It is best to work out any differences before walking down the aisle because you both need to be on level ground in terms of some major lifestyle choices you are going to make down the track. Major differences of preference and perspective can tear a relationship to pieces.

17. Growing tall

Do you allow your partner time to grow as an individual, while also sharing time together to strengthen the relationship? The best relationships allow each partner the freedom to have their own opinions, hobbies, friends, and outside interests. Stronger bonds are built between people who allow the other the time to function as an independent being, developing their own life within a healthy marriage.

18. Be yourself

Are you the same person 'in love' as you were when you were not in love? Some people are so lost in their love that they do whatever it takes to keep that love. This includes modifying their opinions, interests, hobbies etc., to suit the other person. If you are playing a separate role to your true self when 'in love', and which therefore is inconsistent with your true identity, you may lose sight of who you are, and resentment may set in towards the person who you have changed yourself for. 

19. Your gut feelings

Do you pay attention to your gut feelings? Has there ever been an issue in your relationship that troubles you, yet you can't quite figure out why? Chances are there is no major crisis brewing in your relationship. However, trust your gut feelings and take the time to problem-solve whatever is bothering you that you can’t quite yet put your finger on. When you know where the doubts are stemming from, then you can take the next step of working out how to resolve those doubts, if indeed they can be resolved. 

I would love to hear your comments or answer any questions you might have about this post.

Yours sincerely,   

Dr. Carissa Coulston, Clinical Psychologist

BSc(Hons), MPsychol(Clinical), PhD, MAPS