4 Minutes B4 Marriage – Should you marry?

Should you get married?

Below are more questions that different authors have proposed for helping you decide if marriage is right for you:

 From Are You Ready for Marriage? on Dr. Phil McGraw’s website http://www.drphil.com/articles/article/58

  • Why are you getting married?
    Be honest and evaluate the reasons behind your engagement. Write a list of pros and cons about your partner and your relationship. If you have to talk yourself into marriage — don’t. If you have to talk your fiancé into marriage — no way! Make sure you are not getting married to escape or avoid something. Have you just always wanted to get married? That’s not a good enough reason. If you get nauseous shopping for a wedding dress or seem to be sick every time you have to meet the caterer, listen to your body.
  • Do you know and trust your partner’s personal history?
    The best predictor of future behavior is relevant past behavior. Learn from it. How has your partner behaved in past relationships? How have they behaved with you? What has your partner learned about marriage from his/her parents? Look closely at your partner’s parents — children learn what they live.
  • Have you planned a marriage — or just a wedding?
    Cake, flowers and fine china are all exciting, but there’s more at stake than one day. Your wedding is a day; a marriage is a lifetime. You don’t just want to be married; you want to be happily married. Think about the next 50 years. Put at least the same amount of time and effort that you are using to plan your wedding into planning your marriage.
  • Are you investing more than you can afford to lose?
    Look at the cost of your relationship. If you have to give up your friends, career, or family, for example, the cost is too high. If it all falls apart, are you going to be emotionally bankrupt? It is better to be healthy alone, than sick with someone else.
  • Have you identified and communicated your needs and expectations?
    Know yourself. You can’t determine if somebody is good for you if you don’t know your own needs. It’s not selfish to have goals within a relationship. Express your needs and expectations now — not when you’re already in the marriage. What are your absolute deal breakers? Do you know your partner’s?


Here is a different take on marriage readiness, from Discerning Marriage: A Community of Life and Love. Fr. Michael Sweeney, O.P. encourages couples to discern whether the call, the promise, faithfulness, and sacrifice of their relationship would lead to a covenant marriage.


Discerning the Call: Does this relationship give you fuller identity? Can you imagine your life, with integrity, not including your partner?

  • How well do I know the story of my partner? Are there elements of his/her story about which she or he is reluctant to speak?
  • How forthcoming have I been about my own story?


Discerning the Promise: Does he/she urge you to be who you truly are?

  • Have you a witness in the other—someone who delights in you so that you are seen, appreciated, and recognized for who you are?
  • What, if anything, would your partner change about you? What would you change about him/her?
  • Are there any moments when you are uncomfortable in his/her company? When does this occur? What happens as a result?
  • Have you ever felt belittled by your partner? Are you able to talk about this together?


Discerning Faithfulness: Do you know the other will be truthful when he/she vows to love and honor you all the days of your life?

  • Are you prepared to speak the whole truth about yourselves as questions arise? Can you think of anything you would not wish to share with your partner? Why are you reluctant?
  • Are you satisfied with the amount of time that you speak about important things? Are you both prepared to make the sacrifices necessary to have real time together?
  • When you argue, are you able to “respond” to each other rather than merely to “react” to each other?
  • Are you confident that enough has been spoken between you that you are truly able to be fully present to each other?


Discerning the Sign of the Covenant (Sacrifice): Are you both willing to pay the price of the relationship, to sacrifice for each other?


  • Can you think of occasions when he or she has sacrificed plans or intentions for your sake?
  • Can you think of occasions when your partner has proven that he/she is strong enough to take what you have to say? Do you frequently find yourself protecting your partner out of fear that he/she might be hurt by what you have to say?
  • Do you find yourself protecting yourself because you fear that he or she might walk away from the relationship if you say what is really in your mind or heart? Are you secure in the knowledge of your heart that your partner wants to make you safe to speak?
  • Are you jealous of your partner? Do you know in your heart that he/she is trustworthy? Can you accept that what he/she promises you is true?

 Other Questions:

  • Do you regard your partner as fully your equal? Does he or she regard you as an equal? Do you seek to submit yourself to each other as an act of your love?
  • Have you seen differences in the way that you relate to each other? Can you celebrate and take delight in those differences?

 And one last resource:

 From The Right Questions: Ten Essential Questions to Guide You to an Extraordinary Life by Debbie Ford, these questions could be applied to any decision, major ones like whether to marry, or small ones like whether to eat the doughnut:

  1. 1.      Will this choice propel me toward my desired future, or will it keep me stuck in the past?
  2. Will this choice bring me long-term fulfillment, or short-term gratification?
  3. Is this choice standing in my own power, or am I trying to please another?
  4. Am I looking for what is right, or am I looking for what is wrong?
  5. Will this choice add to my life force, or will it rob me of my energy?
  6. 6.      Will I use this situation as a catalyst to grow and evolve, or will I use it to beat myself up?
  7. 7.      Will this choice empower and make me stronger, or will it disempower and keep me weak?
  8. Is this act one of self-love or of self-sabotage?
  9. Is this act one of faith, or one of fear?

10.  Is this choice made from my divinity, or my humanity? (Betty here. The author seems to mean out of a sense of connectedness vs. self-serving.)

I hope these posts have helped you take a sincere look at what you want from a partner before you are ready for marriage. My husband and I prayed over the years for our children to find kind spouses of faith and integrity. That is my prayer for each of you, too.

May your Holy Week be blessed and your Easter bring resurrection of the Spirit within you!

Betty Arrigotti

PS – I’d love to hear feedback!

 To read more:

Dr. Phil McGraw’s website http://www.drphil.com/articles/article/58

Sweeney, Fr. Michael, O.P. (2002). Discerning Marriage: A Community of Life and Love, The Catherine of Siena Institute.

Ford, Debbie (2004). The Right Questions: Ten Essential Questions to Guide You to an Extraordinary Life, Harper Collins.

4 Minutes 4 Marriage – Freely, Fully, Faithfully, Fruitfully

Good Friday has arrived, which means I’ve written 5 premarriage posts and 6 marriage posts during Lent. Yet, when Fr. Mike asked on Sunday at Mass what marriage advice my spouse and I had to offer as we celebrated 30 years, I went completely blank. (Husband came up with, “Don’t go to bed angry,” and saved the moment.)

So, to redeem myself, I’m going to offer some of my favorite tidbits:

  • Like the song says, Turn Back to Me, with All Your Heart. When I most want to turn away is when it’s the hardest but most important to turn toward my husband and reconnect.
  • That goes along with what someone said who shared our anniversary date. He and his wife promised to, Love each other when most unlovable.
  • Always treat your spouse with respect, whether in person or when talking about him or her.
  • Express gratitude for every service your spouse does for you, from a meal made to a day spent at work.
  • In general, put your spouse first, ahead of any other person. Though occasionally your children’s needs must come first, a strong marriage is one of your greatest gifts to them. Set aside time alone together—a few (4?) minutes each day, one evening a week, and a weekend a couple of times each year.
  • Pray together. Studies show couples who regularly pray and attend Church together have a much lower rate of divorce. Inviting the Holy Spirit into your marriage brings graces that reinforce your commitment to everlasting love.
  • Play together. Find ways to keep laughter in your relationship. Not by teasing, of course.


I’ve been thinking about the Church’s view on marriage as it is illuminated by annulment (Decree of Nullity) proceedings. In order to determine whether a marriage was, in fact, a sacramental covenant that is indissoluble, the Church looks for four elements to be present at the time of the wedding. The Church asks whether both parties promised themselves:

  • Freely – Were both members of the couple free to make a lifetime vow? Were they mature enough, mentally stable enough, and not encumbered by any situation that made marriage seem to be the only option?
  • Fully – Was either party holding back some truth from the other? Were they ready and willing to accept each other as they were, without any conditions?
  • Faithfully – Did they intend to remain faithful to each other alone, for life?
  • Fruitfully – Was their love open to sharing with others, particularly children?


If these four elements were not present, the Church may find that a marriage, though legal (and thus recognizing any children as legitimate) may not have been a valid sacramental marriage.

It stands to reason that if we want our marriages to be lifelong, indissoluble, we should work to turn to each other every day and offer our love:

  • Freely – Do I work to keep other commitments from coming between me and my spouse? Do I attempt to grow in my maturity and emotional strength in order to bring my best to my marriage?
  • Fully – Do I keep part of myself protected from my spouse, or do I make an effort to grow in intimacy and trust?
  • Faithfully – Do I guard myself from temptation? Do I keep our marital challenges private and discuss them only with my spouse or with a trained professional? Do my actions assure my spouse that he or she is now and will always be my one and only?
  • Fruitfully – We recognize love by the fruit that it bears. What sacrifices can I make to show my love? How can I turn away from selfishness and be open to the good of others? Am I parenting my children as fully as I can, teaching them spiritually, morally, and intellectually?


This post is our final one for this Lent. Like last year, I am making it shorter than usual in order to give you time to write a short note to your spouse that begins, “I love you because…” Then slip it inside an Easter card or Easter basket.

No groaning allowed. We all need to count our blessings from time to time, and your spouse is one of your best!

 I’d love to hear from you about how you’ve applied any of the ideas, or how I could improve these posts for next year (even if you say you hate homework).

 May your Easter Season and your relationship be blessed!

 Betty Arrigotti

4 Minutes B4 Marriage – Premarriage Questions

Should you get married?

All sorts of people have written questions to help couples make this lifelong decision. At the risk of turning you into Inquisitors, I’ll offer some of those sources in this email and the next, and hope that your decision will be made clearer as you discuss them.

The first set of questions is from a list I wrote when my daughter was considering marriage. It’s been a while since I wrote it and I don’t know if I used other sources that should be cited. If so, my apologies to those authors:


  • Will you each practice your own faith or worship together?
  • Whose faith denomination will you attend?
  • Whose faith denomination will you get married in?
  • Do you both value weekly attendance?
  • How will you celebrate spiritual holidays like Christmas and Easter?
  • In which faith would children be raised?
  • How do you each feel about monetary support of a church?
  • Are there any tenets of your fiancé’s faith that go against your beliefs or conscience?
  • Are there any tenets of your own faith that your fiancé can’t accept?
  • How will you work out agreements?
  • What are your thoughts on responsibility to serve others? Volunteering?
  • What does your church require of a married couple?



  • Do your families both welcome your relationship?
  • Do you like your future in-laws?
  • How strong are the marriages in your families?
  • What would you like to do the same, or differently than your parents?
  • How do you feel about your in-laws being your children’s grandparents and relatives?
  • How will you split time between the families? Holidays?
  • Will you both put your spouse first before your original families?
  • How much time would you each like to spend with your families?



  • Will you both work?
  • How will you combine your incomes? Separate accounts?
  • How will decisions about major purchases be made?
  • What are your thoughts about credit, savings, debt? Are they compatible?
  • How would you each feel if she made significantly more than he?
  • What are your thoughts about mothers working?
  • Are husbands’ financial responsibilities different than wives’?
  • How would you feel if the other didn’t want to or couldn’t work?
  • Where would you like to live: city, country, suburb, apartment, house?
  • Do you know the financial situation of the other? Level of debt? Income potential?
  • What type of wedding/honeymoon do you each think is financially reasonable?
  • How do you feel about budgeting?



  • What are your expectations of the other?
  • Have you discussed your relationships of the past so you both are comfortable with them now?
  • How do you see yourself responding to infidelity?
  • Have you discussed your fears about this?
  • Do you feel completely confident in the other’s commitment to you?



  • Are you comfortable with your own sexuality, as a gift from God?
  • Can you openly discuss it when you are uncomfortable about something sexual?
  • Do you feel cherished and respected?
  • Have you discussed and agreed on your feelings about premarital sex?
  • Have you talked with a doctor or tested for any medical concerns you have?
  • Can you both accept the necessity to abstain and be faithful during separation or medical restraints?
  • Can you tell each other what you like and don’t like as it comes up?
  • What do you think about artificial birth control? Natural birth control?
  • Do you both strive to please the other?



  • Do you both want children?
  • How many children would you feel comfortable with?
  • When would you hope to start having children?
  • Have you discussed your concerns about being parents?
  • What were your parents’ means of discipline?
  • How would you discipline differently than your parents?
  • Would you want your children to attend private religious schools?
  • If so, how much of a financial sacrifice would be reasonable for private schools?
  • Would you expect and plan for your children to go to college?
  • What are your thoughts on abortion? Adoption?
  • What if your child had special needs/disabilities?
  • Have you discussed what medical issues run in your families?


Division of labor

  • Who will cook, clean, launder, shop, maintain the car, etc.?
  • Will one of you stay home with children? How long?
  • What do you think of daycare?
  • Whose work will determine where you live?
  • What are your career dreams?



  • Do you expect to spend time apart with your friends? How much?
  • How might you enjoy evenings?
  • Do you enjoy the same types of activities? Can you play together?
  • What is your idea of a vacation?
  • Do you both enjoy talking to each other? Are you best friends?
  • Do either of you worry about the other’s drinking? Drug use? Health?



  • What are some of your dreams for your future? Fears?
  • Where do you picture yourselves in 5 years? 10 years?
  • How do you behave when you are angry? How does your fiancé? How about when sad?
  • What do you both do to work out disagreements? What do you wish you both would do?
  • Do you always feel safe around the other?


Questions from Before You Say “I Do:” Important Questions for Couples to Ask Before Marriage by Todd Outcalt covers a wide range of topics: sex, values, religion, money, education, in-laws, careers, ethics, commitment, snoring, parenthood, cooking, cleaning, love, friends, exes, hopes, dreams, romance, travel, savings, secrets, taxes, children, space, holidays, television, pets, interests, fears, retirement, and trust. It also offers questions to ask parents, friends, religious leaders, lawyers and children. Here are a few:


Questions for your friends and family:

  • Do you think we make a good match? Why?
  • What kinds of problems, if any, do you see us having if we get married?
  • Have you ever witnessed him/her mistreating me in any way?
  • What advice would you give me before marriage?
  • How does he/she make me a better person?
  • Is there anything you know about him/her that you think I should know about?
  • How happy do you see us being ten years from now?
  • What do you consider his/her strong points? Weaknesses?
  • What values do you think we have in common?
  • In what ways have you seen us grow together?


Questions for his/her friends:

  • Has he/she ever been a heavy drinker? Had a gambling problem?
  • What is the craziest thing you’ve ever seen him/her do?
  • How does he/she react when angry?
  • How does he/she help others?
  • When you think about him/her, what positive attributes come to mind?
  • In what way do you think he/she will change me for the better?
  • How would you describe his/her values and morals?
  • What is the most memorable experience you’ve had with him or her?
  • What does he/she say about me when I’m not around?
  • What do they say about him/her when he’s/she’s not around?
  • How does he/she act toward other women/men?
  • What do you know about past relationships?
  • What does he/she worry about?


Questions for future in-laws:

  • How and when do you see us celebrating holidays and family traditions together?
  • How often do you expect us to visit?
  • How often do you expect to visit us?
  • As a new daughter/son-in-law, what expectations will you have of me?
  • As a new in-law, what do you hope I can bring to the family?
  • What do you hope we can do together in the coming years?
  • Are there any family concerns you think I should be aware of?
  • What advice do you have for me in marriage?
  • What would you like to know about me?
  • What would you like for me to know about your family?
  • What would you like to know about my family?
  • What are some of the best times you have had together as a family?
  • What are some of your hopes for our marriage?
  • What are some of your concerns about our marriage?


If you don’t want to make people feel grilled, these are questions that you might gain answers to gradually. One or two at a time would make great discussion springboards.

Blessings on your relationship!

Betty Arrigotti

 To read more:

Outcalt, Todd (1998). Before You Say “I Do:” Important Questions for Couples to Ask Before Marriage, Perigee/Penguin

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