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5 Questions You Should Ask Yourself Before Getting Engaged

Love & Relationships

Recently, I read an article about a couple who've been engaged for—count 'em—11 years. Not months, y'all. Years. While the current average of how long an engagement lasts is close to 14 months, for many, engagements aren't seen as simply the time it takes to plan a wedding. These days, a lot of couples are using it as no more than a way of publicly declaring that their relationship is a little more than the standard boyfriend/girlfriend dynamic.

Personally, if a man were to ask me to marry him and I said "yes," I'm not interested in waiting longer than a year (two, tops and that's really pushing it). I'm not really into big weddings, I'd rather put all of that money towards the down payment on a home or car.

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So rather than planning a big ceremony, I'd want to read some books, maybe attend a couple's retreat or two, and get into some counseling—oh, and go through the checklist that I share with the couples I give premarital counseling to: "276 Questions to Ask Before You Marry." Yeah, I know that's a lot but if you're intending to spend the rest of your life with someone, you should know as much as possible about what you're signing up for…right?

Actually, before even getting into all of that, I'd want to ask my own self a few questions because before I can be good for someone else, I need to really know who I am and what I would be bringing to the table. This is essential because something I'm a firm believer of is, marriage is like a mirror and a magnifying glass. Nothing shows you the good, bad, and straight-up ugly about yourself quite like a spouse does.

So, what are the questions I think that every woman (myself included) should ask themselves before getting a ring on their finger?

5 Questions To Ask Yourself Before Getting Engaged

1. What Kind of “Baggage” Are You Bringing into Your Future Marriage?

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A few years ago, I wrote "10 Most Common Reasons for Divorce." Since my "specialty" when it comes to marriage life coaching is reconciling divorced couples, I have seen infidelity, financial issues, and the lack of intimacy (of every kind) come up. But if there's one overlooked reason why so many couples quit, it's because they brought a ton of baggage into their union. Sometimes without even realizing it.

Baggage like what? Unresolved issues with exes. Boatloads of financial debt. Childhood trauma. Things that not only weigh them mentally, emotionally, and spiritually down but also things that they expect their spouse to fix. That's not only unfair; it's unrealistic.

If there is a person or even a memory that, when they or it comes to mind, you wince, do yourself, your beloved, and your future marriage a big favor and try and address that before saying "I do."

A spouse is designed to be a life partner. Not our personal savior.

2. Are You Ready for Daily Acts of Compromise for the Rest of Your Life?

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I know some people who are married but honestly should've stayed single. I say that because they are selfish. Super selfish. Some of them buy things that totally blow the family budget on a whim. Others keep issues in their marriage going for weeks on end because they would rather hold a grudge than apologize. Then there are those who don't make decisions that are best for their marriage as a whole; they only think about what is best for them. And yes, that is the textbook definition of selfishness because to be selfish is to be self-consumed.

If you know you're not a good listener; if you know that you have an "It's my way or the highway" kind of attitude; if you suck at empathizing; if prioritizing needs vs. wants is way over your head and/or if you'd rather "win" than keep harmony and peace in your relationship—not only are you bad at compromising but you are about to make you and your future spouse absolutely miserable.

There's not one marriage on the planet that doesn't require daily acts of compromise. If the thought of doing that makes your stomach turn, again…do everyone involved a favor and stay single.

3. Have You Done Everything That’s Not Up for Compromise/Negotiation?

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Speaking of compromise, something that my mother used to always say that is a big pearl of wisdom is "Do everything you can't compromise before marriage." I like that bit of advice for a couple of different reasons.

For one thing, it's a reminder that being single is just as much of a blessing as being married. There are things that I can do that my married friends can't because they have to take someone else into consideration. I also like this insight because I know far too many wives that, when they were single, they were so obsessed with getting married that they didn't even stop to think about what they would be giving up.

Getting married doesn't mean you lose yourself. It does mean that you signed up to make a major life transition, though. The things on your bucket list that you know would be easier to do without having a spouse, do those now. Your time and money will not be quite as freed up once you become a Mrs.

4. What About Your Current Life Will You Be Giving Up?

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This one is a biggie. Unfortunately, a lot of times, as single women (I'm speaking of the ones who actually desire to be married), we're so focused on what marriage would bring to our lives that we overlook what we'd be losing once it happens.

One wife has told me that she misses sleeping in the weekends. Another wife has told me that she misses talking on the phone all hours of the night with her girls. Still another wife has told me that she misses being able to spend every Thanksgiving and Christmas with her family.

There's no doubt about it. Marriage isn't just about daily compromise. It's also about making certain types of concessions. If you're not someone who does well with sacrifice and change—at the very least wait. It's not fair to you or yours to get married if you're not prepared to give up some things.

5. Aside from Being in Love, Why Are You Considering Marriage?

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Something I'm notorious for is folks saying to me, "I'm getting married!" and me following up with "Why?" I'm not being a hater. I honestly want to hear the response. More times than not, I get blank looks or something along the lines of "Because I'm in love."

Love is good. But, believe it or not, there are a lot of divorced people who love their ex. Like? Compatibility? True partnership? That's something totally different.

I remember asking one of my once newly engaged male friends why, after watching him make dating look like an Olympic sport, was he ready to jump the broom. His answer has always stayed with me. "She's my best friend, totally incomparable and I know that we're specifically customized to take each other to the next level in life." Yeah. That's some good stuff right there.

Disney and rom-coms have done a real number on us. It's programmed a lot of us into thinking that marriage is going to be like a scripted film rather than a lot of work. Fun, sex, and companionship? Yes. But also a daily concerted effort to provide what is needed in order to make a marriage last. And that, is not always a cakewalk.

When you pull back attraction, sex, idealistic views of marriage and your wedding day, whatever is left, that is what will reveal what your relationship is truly made of. If it's solid, awesome. If it's not, it's OK to not get engaged just yet.

While you are single, you are your top priority. Love yourself enough to be self-aware enough to know if it's truly time to prepare for a wedding or if you need a little more time to work on you.

If it's meant to be, he'll not only wait but give you mad props for pumping the brakes.

If it's not, still consider yourself blessed. You just dodged a bullet. The fact that it may have come in the form of a diamond ring is totally irrelevant. Trust me on that.

Featured image by Getty Images.

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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Featured image by Shutterstock

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