When I used to counsel with church members before officiating at their wedding ceremonies, I would have them go home and answer these ten questions honestly. Then we would meet and discuss the answers. There are two ways you can take this advice: 1) Charles has no credibility when it comes to marriage advice; or 2) Charles has failed and learned some very valuable lessons, and therefore has credibility to give marriage advice. It's up to you.
1. Is the person your best friend or at least becoming so?
It is easy to get excited about a new person. But if you cannot say that the person you are considering marrying has become or is becoming your best friend, you need to figure out why before you decide to marry. This is probably the single most overlooked question among couples. Many people cannot answer this in the affirmative. But you have to answer it. Over time, friendship is the greatest bond between a couple. If the person you marry does not become your best friend, you will either seek someone who will be or simply drift apart. What is a best friend? Someone you tell just about everything to, someone you want to be with as much as possible, and someone you need. One of the most devastating ideas is that depending on another person is a sign of weakness. The opposite is true. The inability to need is a sign of weakness - you are afraid to relinquish power or afraid to be hurt.
2. Do you enjoy each other?
This sounds trite, but enjoying each other (aside from physical intimacy) may actually be the single most important characteristic of a happy marriage.
3. Is there chemistry between the two of you?
As essential as being best friends and enjoying each other are, there should be a vibrant physical component to your relationship. Dating for marriage is not an interview for a strictly platonic best friend. If there is insufficient physical attraction after all other criteria are met and time has passed, you may be in the tragic position of having to end a relationship with a great man or woman.
4. Does the person have at least one very close friend of the same sex?
It is a bad sign if the person you are thinking of marrying does not have good friends of the same sex. Something is very wrong. A woman who cannot hold female friends and a man who cannot hold male friends have issues that will probably sink your marriage.
5. How does the person treat others?
It should go without saying that if the person is not kind to you, quit while you can. But it is far from sufficient that the person you are considering marrying treats you kindly. Watch how they treat waiters, employees, family members, and anyone else they come into contact with. How the person treats others now is how this person will treat you later.
6. What problems do the two of you have now?
Whatever problems you have before the wedding day, you will have during your marriage. Do not think that marrying will solve any problem you have with the person. You have three choices: Make peace with the problem, see if it can be solved before deciding to marry, or don't marry the person. It is imperative that you be ruthlessly honest with yourself. And that is very hard. Nothing is easier than denying problems when you are in love.
7. How often do you fight?
It is normal for couples to fight, but it is a bad sign if you are doing so frequently while dating. That should be the easiest time to get along - no children together, no joint financial problems, and the excitement of a new person. If you fight, do you quickly make up? Does he/she hear your side? Do you apologize after a fight? And most important, do you fight over the same issues with no resolution? Also, Do you miss the person when you are not together?
8. Do you share values?
Opposites attract in the very beginning. Likes stay together for the long term. The more you share, especially values, the better your chances of a good marriage. For example, if you think television watching is a form of self abuse and your prospective spouse loves watching for hours a day, you may have a big problem. Likewise if you have opposing political and social views to which you are passionately committed.
9. Is the person unhappy?
The importance of marrying an essentially happy person cannot be exaggerated. If you are basically happy, do not think for a moment that you can make an unhappy person happy by marrying him or her. On the contrary, the ability of the unhappy to make the happy unhappy is far greater than the ability of the happy to make the unhappy happy.
10. What do people you respect think of the person you're considering marrying?
Young people are certain they know better than anyone else in the world what is good for them. So a lack of enthusiasm for the person you are considering for marriage on the part of family or friends may mean little or nothing. But if objections come, let’s say, from a parent you respect for reasons that are not easily dismissed, and if others you respect are unenthusiastic as well, you should take their objections seriously.