Not too long ago, I penned a piece for the site entitled "What Should You Do If You Feel Like You Married The Wrong Person?" Ultimately, I did it for two reasons. One, I think it's a topic of conversation that isn't addressed nearly as much as it should be. Secondly, although it does indeed happen, my own work with couples has shown me that, when a lot of people feel that way, it's because they realize that while they may have loved their partner, they simply didn't know enough about them before saying "I do" (hence other pieces like "10 Things Married Couples Wished They Paid More Attention To While Dating" and "Ask These Sex-Related Questions BEFORE You Marry Him").
I say it often because it can't be said enough—going out on dates shouldn't only be about romance and spending quality time. Once you get past around the third one and you both decide that you see a potential future together (I can't tell you how many women I know who made this kind of decision all on their own; yes, you can think you are in a relationship all by yourself), the time spent really should be about getting to know each other way past the surface level.
Then, if after a few months or a couple of years, it looks like you guys are headed towards that stroll to forever, there are definitely some things that your man needs to have in place before you put on an engagement ring. For starters, things on this list that, if you take them seriously, can significantly decrease your chances of regretting marrying him later up the pike.
If I need to put all of this more plainly, I don't care how much you love a man, if he's lacking any of these things, do you, him and your potential future together a favor and wait until he gets these issues handled.
1. Clarity Concerning His Purpose
Please allow me the opportunity to use the Bible to illustrate the first two points because, whether you follow Scripture or not, I think you'll get where I'm coming from. If you read Genesis 1-2, you'll notice that before Adam was joined to his wife, there are two things that he already had—a relationship with God and a purpose/job. What this means to me is that a man is not in the position to provide, protect or lead any woman if he's not clear about why he was put on this planet. Plus, it's going to be really difficult for you to be a vessel of support and encouragement if he doesn't know what the heck he is doing with his life.
This is why I'm not big on people putting pressure on each other to get all serious in college. College is the time to figure out what your life path is going to be with as few distractions as possible. Then, once you know, it's easier to figure out who will be a great complement for you.
Your purpose, by definition, is "the reason for which something exists or is done, made, used, etc." I know a few grown men who have no clue what their purpose in life is. Not only does this bother them, but they tend to get involved in counterproductive habits—lots of women, etc.— to cope with the frustration that they feel. I get it too because there's a bit of an identity crisis that comes with not knowing what you're put on this planet to do. Do you really want to marry a man who doesn't really know himself yet? Especially since, once he finds out what his purpose is, it could totally change him as a person? Don't answer right away. Give this one some real thought first.
2. Healthy Boundaries with His Parents
Even the Bible says that once a man and woman are joined in marriage, they should leave their parents and cleave to one another (Genesis 2:24). Unfortunately, there are a lot of folks who seem to miss the memo, big time, on this. Parents are still co-signing on loans and paying their bills. Women are going behind their husband's backs to get daddy to buy them things (SMDH). And, a lot of men are mama's boys.
How can you know if your man is one of them? Does it seem like his mother is constantly at his beck and call? Does she seem to know more about his current life than you do? Does she do things for him that he really should be doing for himself (cooking, cleaning, etc.)? Does she offer you unsolicited advice without him telling her if/when she's crossed the line? Does he always seem to take her side even when she's dead wrong?
I've got a friend who is married to a mama's boy. She has told me on more than one occasion that while she loves her husband, had she known how dependent he was on his mother (and how much he allows his mother to manipulate him), she would've never said "yes" to his proposal. That's a pretty heavy statement.
A man who loves his mom is endearing. But if he doesn't have established and consistent boundaries with both of his parents, don't assume that will miraculously change after the two of you jump the broom. That's something that needs to be discussed on the front end. As soon as possible too.
3. A Spiritual Foundation
The word "spirituality" comes from the Latin one spiritus which means "breath of life". If you think about the fact that the Scripture tells us that God "breathed life" into Adam's nostrils (Genesis 2:7), it makes total sense why most of us associate spirituality with having a relationship with a higher being.
When you think about the fact that there is plenty of data to support that having a sense of spirituality makes us more humble, compassionate and forgiving, that it makes it so much easier to deal with life's trials and challenges, and that it also makes us more optimistic and self-aware—why wouldn't you want a husband who comprises all of these attributes? Someone who relies on something bigger than himself?
There's another benefit of being with a spiritual person. Author Henry Ward Beecher, "Spirituality without morality is rootless." Although spirituality is not automatically synonymous with morality (it should be but that's another message for another time), someone who makes their spirit a priority tends to be more sensitive when it comes to their conscious and life choices. This is definitely important when it comes to honoring their marriage vows on day one—and fifty years later.
4. Good Credit
I already know. This is the discussion that people try and avoid like the plague, but if they want their marriage to go smoother, they really shouldn't. According to reports, nearly a third of Americans have a credit score that's lower than 601 (although the current average for 2019 is sitting at around 695). 30 percent have bad credit. We all know that credit is important, especially when it comes to making major purchases like a home or car. Yet, you'd be amazed by how many dating or engaged couples don't share their score with their significant other.
I once heard a financial consultant say that our credit score says a lot about our character. The reason why is because if we say that we're going to do something, including pay a bill, we should keep our word; that it speaks to our level of integrity. While there are extenuating circumstances that can sometimes make this challenging, for the most part, he's right. I know the times when my credit has been jacked up, it's because of late payments or tax issues; things that I could better control if I had been more financially proactive and responsible. Ask any wife in the world and they will scream from the rooftop that you definitely want a man who is financially on top of things.
So yeah, mostly definitely, credit scores should be a topic of discussion. If his is under 700, I'm not saying don't marry him. But I do think it's a good idea to give the relationship time for him to get those points up (you too, if need be).
5. A Financial Plan
Fail to plan. Plan to fail. Since one of the leading causes of divorce is financial stress and strain, it's also a good idea to see if you're dating the kind of man who makes financial plans for his future; that he's not the type of guy who is a financially irresponsible individual. And just what does a financially irresponsible man live like? He doesn't have any money in savings; he borrows money a lot; he has little, if any money after paying his monthly bills; he uses his credit cards more than cash; if you even remotely bring financially planning or retirement up, he changes the subject; he is always spending money on things that depreciate in value (like clothes, electronic "toys" and even cars), and he doesn't give you the impression that he pays his bills on time.
The reason why a lot of this stuff doesn't matter, nearly as much as it should, when people are dating is because, for the most part, their partner's money issues do not spill over into their own world. Oh, but once you are husband and wife, they most certainly will. Daily.
It can't be stressed enough that if your man is crazy with money, you should pump the brakes until he can get that under control. You know what they say—love is a wonderful thing, but it doesn't keep the heat on. So true, so very freakin' true.
6. The Ability to “Keep House”
A couple of days ago, I was talking to a wife who has been with her husband for many years. For whatever the reason, cleaning up came up. One of the things that she said has consistently been a point of contention in her marriage is her man sucks at making up the bed and picking things up off of their bedroom floor. His lack of cleanliness in that way made it hard for her to sleep; it has even affected their sex life because she "can't relax in mess".
When I give advice to people in new relationships, if there are two rooms of their partner's house that I recommend they check out, it's the bathroom and the bedroom. If the toilet and bathtub aren't clean and/or there's a stench in the bedroom, you're going to be in for a very uncomfortable ride in marriage; even more so if he's the one with the jacked up home and, when you bring it up, he's got an "that's what I've got you for, babe" attitude.
There are plenty of studies that support that couples who do chores together are happier in their relationship. You know what else? They have more sex too. That's why I don't care how fine he is, how well he dresses, even how great of a line-up he has—if there are always shavings in his sink, his appearance is gonna fade real fast if you make him your husband and you're always the one cleaning up after him.
7. Resolved “Baby Mama” Issues
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are 13.7 million single parents in the United States. Studies also reveal that 59 percent of Black American women have children with more than one father and 24 percent of single-parent homes are led by men. All of this is enough data to make this point a relevant one.
There's one guy who I once considered "forever" with. In hindsight, I'm glad that I took a pass because he had four children by two different women. With one woman, I could never really tell if they are fully over one another. With the other, because their child came from a one-night stand, there was always profound tension between the two of them. Between hearing about the "bond" with the first one and the drama with the second, it started to get draining—to the point of being a deal-breaker.
Being a stepmother is a beautiful thing because it is an awesome responsibility that a woman chooses to do. But if your man isn't co-parenting in a healthy way with the mother of his children, ask any woman who minimized the importance of that before marrying her husband. I bet she has days' worth of stories that will make you rethink getting married until he has peace and resolve—or at the very least respect—with the mother of his kids.
8. Being Civic Service-Minded
I don't know about you, but there's nothing sexier to me than a man who sees a cause and puts his own time, effort and resources into them. Not only does it display a certain level of selflessness and sacrifice, it also shows that he cares about his community and humanity, at large.
Case in point. I recently read an article about 50 Black men who were honored several years ago for the contributions that they made to their community. Keith Young teaches youth how to design and develop their own video games. Chris Rabb teaches entrepreneurship to low-income individuals. Rashuan Williams teaches youth how to care for their environment. Norman Hurns has a youth camp for young men to develop necessary life skills. Wayne Jacobs assists ex-offenders.
I have no clue what any of these men look like. I don't need to in order to already recognize something that's very beautiful about them. There's something that is just so good about a man who gives back. It can only improve the quality of your marriage if you choose a husband who has this in his character.
Tip: If you suggest to your man that he should volunteer or contribute to his community and he gives a lot of push back, don't sleep on that either. You want a man who is giving. It helps him to be a good partner for you.
9. A Desire to Be Intimate Without Always Being Sexual
I remember a wife once telling me, "Shellie, getting married isn't about sex so much as it is about cuddling. You realize that so long as you get that, you won't need sex quite as much." First, speak for yourself, sis and two, I should've asked her husband if he echoes those sentiments. Because sex is one of the main things that makes a marital union different from any other type of relationship, I 100 percent believe that it's important, exponentially so, in a marriage (see "10 Wonderful Reasons Why Consistent Sex In Marriage Is So Important"). I also believe that if two people are physically capable of having sex and they don't, something is very wrong in the relationship (also see "What You Should Do If You Find Yourself In A Sexless Marriage").
At the same time, I will say that it's a pretty significant red flag if you're in a relationship with someone who only comes close to you if he thinks or expects that sex—any type of sex—is about to go down. A man (especially a man who is preparing to be a husband) should be mature enough, romantic enough and self-controlled enough that he doesn't think that every kiss or even make-out session should result in nakedness.
Any married couple will tell you that there are ebbs and flows in sex. That's why it's critical that you get with someone who knows how to pull you close and be intimate without sex having to be on the menu each and every time he does so.
10. Wanting to Be Married Without You Prompting Him
Have mercy, y'all! Without a doubt, a HUGE mistake that far too many of us make is getting involved with and emotionally attached to a man who doesn't desire marriage when we most absolutely do. Unfortunately, a lot of us assume that just because someone is a great guy and has feelings for us that it will eventually blossom into a marital union. It's an epidemic, just how much that is absolutely not the case.
Yeah, never ever ever assume that. Personally, I am a huge supporter of someone saying three dates in that they are interested in a long-term relationship. Wait, let me be more specific; if what they mean by that is marriage, they should say marriage. Although some people say that bringing this topic up comes off as pressuring a person or desperation, what I think is it separates the men who want the same thing from the commitment-phobes.
I mean, don't you want a man who desires to marry you without any prompting on your part? If you can't say that's what you have right now, it's perfectly OK—encouraged even—to wait before hinting, throwing ultimatums or whatever other ideas you've got that you think will convince him to marry you. You deserve a man who wants to all on his own. Don't marry "him" until you know for a fact that he does.
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