|Go through at least six months of premarital counseling. Oftentimes people ignore doubts, red flags, and gut feelings because they don't discuss their issues and concerns BEFORE they get married. By seeing an expert who specializes in premarital counseling, you'll go over things like:
1. Money. How do we spend it? What about savings? What about budgets? Who takes care of the money? When it comes to money, there are two types of people to varying extremes: those who like to spend and those who like to save. It's extremely important to discuss finances and prenups (which I think are absolutely necessary in second marriages involving children so that the kids are protected).
2. How alike are you? People say "opposites attract," but that only works for magnets, not for people. The more you have in common with your partner, the better. You need to discuss your backgrounds, religious beliefs, values, and dreams for the future. What are your views on loyalty, honesty, and dealing with anger? What behaviors are off-limits? You should talk about all these things and never assume they will change after you are married. If you want something about them to change and it doesn't, don't get married!
3. Communication skills. Many people come from families where they really don't communicate. They don't sit down calmly and honestly speak the truth. You and your partner need to be able to say to each other, "These are my expectations, hopes, dreams, desires, etc.," and then ask if they are reasonable. If your partner says, "I would like to have more freedom, come and go as I please, and not have to call when I'm going to be late for dinner," then you know it's a good idea to call it quits.
It's vital to assess how someone communicates before you get married. Some people use communication as a destructive tool to get what they want, and others use it to hurt their partner or justify themselves when they've lied or misbehaved.
4. Life outside of marriage. Which hobbies and activities are you going to do together and which are you going to do separately with friends? Am I not going to be able to ride my motorcycle because you don't ride? Some people are so insecure, possessive, or demanding that they won't let the other person have a life. Many women, in particular, don't want their men to have guy time (which can be very disastrous).
5. Do you want to have kids? How many? What does discipline look like? Who's going to take care of them? What happens if one of you has fertility issues? Are you open to adoption? Having two people cooperate to raise a child is a huge deal. Compatibility issues in how you parent can lead to big problems down the road. This is why it's important to look at each other's family dynamics. People develop a lot of neurotic tendencies from their childhoods that may never change, such as how loving or attentive they are. Observe how your fiancé/fiancée is with other people's kids. What about staying home with the kids?
6. Employment. Do you travel a lot for your job? Do you plan to relocate often? Do you stay at the office late? Do you have any time for family? Certain jobs (trucking, medicine, law, military, etc.) require a lot of commitment. You have to analyze yourself and ask, "Do I want to marry somebody who isn't going to be home at seven every night? Do I want my spouse to be just visiting when he/she walks in to the house?"
7. Sex! Find out what each other's fantasies are. If their fantasies include small farm animals, you know to hit the eject button.
8. Daily life: Who's going to be responsible for which household chores and bills? Are you actually going to raise your kids, or are you going to farm them out (so that when you're old and decrepit, they farm you out)?
9. How committed are you to the relationship? With looks, health, abilities, kids, finances, and family, there are many changes, phases, and challenges in life. Are you committed in the relationship, or are you just a fair weather spouse? I would say that about 70 percent of divorces result because people are not committed to a relationship - when it's not going good, they find another place to go.
10. Personal space. Everybody needs time to be alone with their hobbies and thoughts. A lot of women have trouble giving their husbands personal space. Guys are generally relieved when their wives want to go spend the day with their girlfriends: "That's wonderful honey, are you sure you don't want to go for the weekend?" = "Yes! No nagging for six hours!"
11. How are you going to keep the marriage exciting? What's your idea of a good time together? Is it hanging out with a lot of people? Watching sports? A candlelight dinner? A walk in the park? Soaking in the tub together? After they get married, many people say, "My husband/wife doesn't do anything." Well, perhaps that's because you guys never talked about what would be fun.
12. Family. My advice: If you really, really, really can't get along with his or her family, move 3,000 miles away.
13. Know your odds. Statistics show that couples who live together before they're married are more likely to get divorced. Couples who have been previously married and divorced are also more likely to get divorced. Don't learn the hard way by thinking "Well, we're different."