Marriage really is a beautiful thing. I used to think it was a bit pointless, just a piece of paper that allows you an extra tax cut. However, the more I thought about it, the more I learned to appreciate what marriage could be.
Marriage gets a bad rap because most people are really bad at it. It's not marriage's fault. It's the couples' fault for being neither mature enough nor smart enough to manage.
I used to believe people couldn't possibly promise to love someone else in 10, 20 years when neither their partners nor they will be the same people they are now. But that's the point. We know that the future is filled with uncertainty.
Regardless, we still want that promise because it gives us courage to give ourselves to another without reservations.
You may not be able to keep that promise, but you can keep the promise to do your best to be an amazing life partner. That's all anyone can really ask for. If you're thinking about tying the knot then be sure that your future life partner to-be can honestly answer these questions to your liking:
1. Why do you love me?
People seem to feel this is a question that doesn't especially need answering. Most will say we love others simply because we love them -- a horrible answer. All people need to know exactly why it is that they love the people they love.
Loving someone is a very selfish act, and it's okay. You love the person you love for what that person does for you and how he or she makes you feel.
We may all have slightly different answers as to why we love someone, but if we aren't able to exactly define the parameters of our love, then we're likely to struggle later on once the initial intensity dies down. If your partner can't answer why he or she loves you now, then imagine the inevitable uncertainty down the road.
2. Why do you want to spend the rest of your life with me?
"Because I love you" is not a good answer. Life is a journey -- one that is best not traveled entirely alone. However, not everyone has the same destination in mind. Wanting to take different pit stops along the route is one thing. Wanting different things out of life is another entirely.
Your partner should be able to tell you what life experiences he or she hopes to share with you. It's these little goals you set for yourselves that make your life special.
3. Will you do your best to keep the romance alive?
Keeping the romance alive is not an easy task. Yes, it's all mental, but keeping interest for such a long time is difficult. It takes a lot of work and creativity. It takes the other person regularly trying to please and impress you, which in itself becomes increasingly difficult with each new year.
Romantic love cannot survive on its own; both of you are going to have to maintain it constantly. Is your partner willing to keep the romance as one of his or her main priorities?
4. Will you grow with me, and not away from me?
We may not know exactly where our lives will take us and what we will learn -- who we will become -- along the way, but we can make a conscious effort to grow closer together and not apart.
Most people grow apart over the years because they feel like they've accomplished everything in their relationships that needs accomplishing.
This is one main reason marriages end up being so horrible -- people think that there is no greater peak to climb than the one their relationship is already resting on. Marriage shouldn't be the end, it should be the beginning.
5. Will you stick through the rough times?
The good times are a piece of cake. The difficult times, however, will destroy your relationship if you allow them to. There comes a point in every relationship when you have to make a decision. It's a decision that, if made, is only made once. You will reach a point where you will either decide you are going to be there for this person for the rest of his or her life, or not.
If you decide you're going to stick with this person then you can't allow any tragedy or outside force to shake that decision. This is one of the most important decisions we make in our lives -- or, as it often turns out, fail to make decisively. Has your lover made the decision? Have you?
6. Are you willing to lose some battles in order to keep the peace?
The key to a successful marriage is taming your ego. No matter how competitive we are, sometimes you just need to pick your battles. Sometimes the arguments and the stress just aren't worth it.
What you need to understand is that 99 percent of arguments aren't arguments over fact, but rather over opinion. An opinion is neither right nor wrong. Sometimes you just have to let things be.
7. Can you promise to put us ahead of everything else?
Life has a lot to offer. And if you're anything like me, you have a very large appetite. We want everything life has to offer, and then some. The problem is we don't have enough time to have it all; our lives are too short. We can only pick a few things we consider important and do our best to flourish in those areas.
The beauty of marriage is that it can be used as a base to build the rest of your life on. Your partner should be just that: your partner. Your relationship is the most important thing in your life because it's what makes the rest of your life possible.
8. Will you be a great parent?
Again, how could anyone know he or she will be a great parent? Easy. You just decide you're going to be. That's it. No tricks. No gimmicks. Just a decision and then action.
Some things don't need too much thinking involved. You're going to be great because you decided you will be. Will your lover do the same and be a great role model for your children?
9. Will you be sure to remind me how much you love me regularly?
People not only want, but need to hear it. We need to be reminded you love us because we know that love doesn't always last forever. We want to hear the words and then have that reassurement reinforced with actions showing how much you love us.
It really is enough just to love us, but understand you need to love us the way we need to be loved -- just like we need to love you the way you need to be loved in order for you to be happy.
10. Can you promise to do all you can to keep that spark alive?
Sparks don't spark on their own. Think about how a lighter works. You have a spark that lights the fuel, which creates a flame. But how does that spark, spark? You have to create a force that will result in the energy creating a spark.
Just the same, you can't expect sparks to keep flying if you're not trying. If you want to have a happy and healthy marriage, then you need to find someone willing to devote the necessary energy.
11. Will you support me if I can't support myself?
Not just financially, but mentally. Maybe even physically if necessary. No one knows what life holds. The unexpected happens, often leaving us weak, hurt or even permanently damaged. Will your partner carry you when you can't walk?
Will your partner support you when you're weak at the knees? Will your partner carry the family you've created until you regain your strength? Is your partner capable of mustering the strength to fight battles for the both of you?
12. Will you promise to continue to pursue your personal goals and dreams?
Marriage is not entirely the end of the person you were and the start of a new you. Sure, being in a serious relationship does require a person to change in many ways.
Yet, there's a part of us we can never, under any circumstance, let go of. The dreams, wants and hopes we have -- our personal goals -- must stay alive.
When we lose them, we lose ourselves and inevitably lose the person we love. Marriage isn't just an "us." It's also a you and him/her. You have to juggle being the person you have always been with being a part of a larger whole. It's not easy. But it is necessary.
13. Will you not allow yourself to let go?
Will your partner take care of him or herself by eating healthy and exercising? Will your partner get regular checkups and take vitamins? This may sound silly, but I've seen what letting yourself go can do to a marriage.
Moreover, I've seen how not maintaining your health can make the lives of those closest to you incredibly difficult.
Yes, your family should take care of you when you need to be taken care of -- but it's your responsibility first and foremost to take care of yourself. No people should become a burden to those they love.
14. If I'm the first to go, will you be there with me until the end?
Will your partner hold your hand when you're too weak to hold it back? Will your partner kiss your forehead and tell you he or she loves you, that you made life worth living? That, because of you, life made sense? Will your partner be there for your last breath, when you find yourself pressed betwixt fear and content?
No one should leave this world alone. It's said that we leave it the way we come into it, but even when we come into it, there's someone there to hold us. I understand most people don't like to think about death, but seeing as it's an inevitability, it's better to plan ahead.
15. Can you promise me that if my time is cut short, you'll continue to live on for the both of us?
You love this person. You want him or her to be happy regardless of whether he or she is with you or without you. If death collects you ahead of schedule, you'll want to know during those last few seconds that the person you love will continue to live life to the fullest.
That your partner will continue to do great things, continue to be happy, and -- if you have children -- continue to love your children and guide them through life.
The death of a loved one can ruin you. It can break you in ways that make full-recovery impossible. Can your partner promise you to find the strength and courage to press forward?
I don't know about you, but the last thing I'd want for the woman I love is for my departure to be her downfall. If my being in her life or leaving her life will in anyway destroy hers, then I clearly made a mistake by allowing myself into her life.