“People tend to spend more time preparing for their wedding than they do preparing for their marriage.” – Dr. Naima Cherie Price (who came up with this invaluable document that is the basis of today’s post)

Getting to know the person that you are about to marry is really important. I think so many people get wrapped up in the lovey-dovey feelings or the planning of the wedding, that they don’t spend time really getting to know each other and asking each other the “hard” questions. Hell, sometimes we don’t ask each other the simple questions. And that can lead to putting yourself in a bind years down the road when you find out something you should’ve discovered early on but now you feel “invested” in the relationship so it’s that much harder for you to walk away.  For example, after a year, I should know how much money you make. You should know how much money I make. We should know where the other person stands financially. But maybe that’s just me. I’m not at all saying that money determines whether or not you should be with someone. Instead, I just think you should know who you are with. You should get to know this person inside and out.

When you are buying a house or looking for a new apartment, you check the place out. You read reviews. If it’s a home purchase you look at the historical sales prices. You look at the records of the property. And most importantly, you go through every nook and cranny of the house – opening cabinet doors, moving appliances out of the way, paying for an inspection, just so that you can make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into. And not saying that your home/apartment will be perfect. Not saying that if the inspector finds water damage in the basement then you won’t move in – no it’s just saying that at least you have done your homework and can make an informed decision about your home purchase. Now, you are much more prepared to deal with the water damage, whether that means you save up for some renovations before moving in or just take extra precautions, at least you know! Imagine the horror of signing your name on the dotted line, instantly becoming hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt, and then discovering a long laundry list of items that you didn’t know were wrong with the house. That’s the worst. We do the inspection before the purchase for a reason. I just wish we practiced that same due diligence when choosing and learning about our mate.

My aunt shared this document with me that she found when she was preparing to be married. It’s called Getting to Know Your Mate: Before You Say I Do. It’s 10 pages  (yes, 10!) of questions that you and your mate can work through to get to know one another. Ten pages. Single spaced. Yes, it’s that serious. And you really get into the nitty gritty. Some of the questions are admittedly for couples who are in the latter stages of an engagement, but there are definitely some here that can help lay a great foundation for a relationship at any stage.

Some good ideas to help work through this document:

-Do it for yourself! Before you even get in a relationship, think about these questions and figure out what you want and who you are without the influence of some adonis looking young man clouding your vision. We spend a lot of time talking about the type of mate we want when we should really be figuring out the type of mate that we actually are.

-Do a question a day. This is what the author suggests. She says it should take about a year to do it that way.

Do a section a week. The questions are divided into various topics and this is the way that we started to work through them. It was cool because each week at dinner we would have an in-depth discussion about either family life, religion, finances, etc. It sure the beats the typical “how was your day” conversation.

-Do it individually and then swap answers. I think it can be beneficial to write down your responses and then share them with each other (as opposed to just saying the question out loud and then responding together). Sometimes, in conversation, you don’t get the opportunity to share everything you were thinking. Or you may find that your answers are influenced by your partner’s response. This helps make sure your voice gets heard and makes sure you’re not just saying something because it matches what your partner said.

-Have a “question jar.” Or something.  This would involve cutting the questions into strips of paper. Then whenever you are just sitting at home chilling, or even about to take a ride or go out to dinner (set your own rules!) you can pick out a question from the jar and discuss it. You could have a question jar in the car, at the dinner table, and on the coffee table!

-Set some ground rules. Example: There can be no judgement. Or have a code word that lets the other person know when you can feel yourself getting upset and want to table the conversation for another time.

-Just insert the questions into your regular conversations. Some of the questions will be easier than others to adapt into your conversations. But if you feel like your significant other wouldn’t be down to do this type of “homework” just find yourself asking him/her questions at random times. “Babe, do you think you and your future wife will have separate bank accounts or a joint account for everything?” could lead to a really rich conversation and tell you something about your potential mate without it even seeming like a “task” you have to do.

-Have fun! This is work. It’s a lot of work. And it won’t always be pretty. But you can either put in the work now, or you can be surprised and upset later. Look at it as a challenge. It’s the discovery of your potential mate. And it’s one of the best investments you can make towards a lasting, and transparent, marriage. And if you find out something that causes you to want to end the relationship, aren’t you glad you discovered that sooner rather than later? That’s definitely a win-win.

Check it out. Getting to Know Your Mate: Before You Say I Do by Dr. Naima Cherie Prince.