11 Things to Ask Yourself (and Your Partner) Before You say “I Do”

by Rhonda E. Frost

I’ve been married and I’ve been divorced. I’ve now been single (in the technical sense) for 12 years. This time spent, outside of the covenant of marriage, has given me plenty of time to think about what I want and need, and what I hope to give to my husband; it has also allowed me the quiet space to think about what I will do different when I remarry. For starters, I needed an honest examination of my beliefs, behavior and choices. I wanted a clearer prism. And I needed meaningful questions to ask myself, and my partner.

Full disclosure (as one of my dear friends often says, before he tells me anything), I am no guru. In fact, I have more questions than answers. I am however, a woman who has risen from the ashes of past mistakes; a woman in full transformation mode who has had her share of painful love lessons and relationship regrets. I am also a woman who has read hundreds of relationship self-help books and articles and have had the privilege to interview married and divorced people over the years, to gain perspective.

I am wiser now.

A little back story: I was a wife at 23. It was an impromptu decision one day; we just went and got married. We were madly “in love”, and we didn’t want to lose that, or each other, so we drove to Reno, Nevada, found one of those chapels and tied the knot. And for almost two decades, we rode the wave of love and marriage dysfunction. I won’t speak on him here. I will only speak on me. I didn’t understand the gravity of the title of “wife”. I didn’t know what I wanted or needed. I did not know what to expect. I did not know how to love and give selflessly; nor did I fully understand or value commitment. I was without a point of reference. And the tumultuous events leading up to my marriage, didn’t help(that is a whole other blog). Everything was broken: my boundaries, thoughts, expectations, trust and self-esteem. What I learned is, being “in love”, isn’t enough when two people are broken and operating without a love and happiness plan.

Having said all that, if I knew at 23, or 33 what I know now at 54, about love, marriage, and commitment and how rare it is to find someone of quality who genuinely cares; who is willing to step-in, hold you up, and add value to your life, while being an “all in” partner, I would have likely still been married. but alas, we don’t necessarily grow from doing things right the first time, we learn and grow the most, through suffering.

The late great Dr. Maya Angelou said, “but when you know better, you do better”. I honor and value marriage today. I understand the work that it entails and I see the blessings and joy that come from a committed, healthy and happy union.

It’s taken years for me to even think about marriage, but now that I have begun to do so, there are questions that I deem important to ask. This list is not all-encompassing. You can certainly add to it or not entertain any of it, but the fact is, fifty percent of marriages end in divorce. That’s a five zero(50)! That means there’s a one in two chance that if you get married, it will end in divorce. Imagine hearing those odds on every flight you take. Imagine the airline staff announcing, “excuse me ladies and gentlemen, we are so glad you are flying with us today to sunny Florida, we just want to let you know there is a fifty percent chance that this flight that you are about to board, won’t make it to its destination. Some of our pilots are trained, some not so much, but we trust them to get us there. Thank you for flying with Delta, we know you have a choice, but we are glad you chose us”. Would you still fly? Or would you look for other viable ways to get to where you are trying to go, with better odds? Or perhaps, you might decide to just stay home.

The point of that imperfect analogy is: all of us want to get there successfully, and with as little turbulence as possible. So, if you are going to take the chance, and if you actually want it to work, and enjoy the beautiful journey, we have to prepare for it. These questions are just a start. The rest is up to you.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself before you take the marriage flight:

1. What do I want? -It’s imperative to know what you want and to examine if it’s reasonable.

2. What do I need? -Make a list of what you believe you need from your mate. Talk about those things while dating i.e., sex, communication, attention, financial help, religious connection, someone to guide you, a chef, a prayer partner, a workout partner, a parent for your children, a business partner, etc.

3. What do I expect? -Examine your expectations. Are they reality based or fairytale driven? Do you believe every day is going to be blissful, and without conflict? Do you think your mate is supposed to pay all the bills, initiate sex every night, keep the house clean, never get angry, be ready for sex on cue, look amazing waking up, cook 7 days a week, never get tired or frustrated…? I could go on, but you get the idea. Expectations can kill relationships.

4. What can I offer? -Every person needs to examine what they bring to the relationship. Ask yourself what you offer besides sex, having a six-pack stomach or being fine or sexy. Physical attributes are lovely and they add icing to the cake, but who are you without that, or in addition to that? Do you bring stability? A good credit score? Loyalty? Wisdom? An ability to plan and organize? Financial management? Humor? A good heart and loving spirit? Parenting skills? Communication skills? Another language to teach? Dreams and goals to share? Kindness and clarity? Prepare for that question. Think about how you will add value to your partner’s life. If all you have to offer someone is beauty, booty, a nice body, or a snazzy car and “things”, then you might want to beef up your relationship resume.

5. What am I willing to sacrifice? -I read this quote in a Christian article that aligns with this question. It said If we want to have a satisfying marriage, one where the passion and excitement never ends, we must be willing to sacrifice our own needs for the needs of our mate. In other words, we need to be selfless.

To that point, one of my single male friends called me recently to talk about the idea of marriage. He is 58 years old. I’ve known him for 9 years and he’s been running the streets as a single man and enjoying his freedom. But this call was different. He called to talk about marriage and how much he wants companionship now and how conflicted he is about sharing a life with someone, even though he believes it’s something he wants now. I asked him if he was fearful of sharing his money and assets (because he’s done well for himself financially and is nearing retirement) and surprisingly, he said “no, not at all, that’s the least of my worries”. He went on to say “I am more concerned with sharing my space and having to answer for my time.” There was a lot more to that conversation, but my point here is that the longer we are single, the more selfish we might be about time, resources and sharing space. And the less we want to sacrifice for someone else. Marriage is about sacrifice and caring for someone else. Think long and hard about what you are ready and willing to sacrifice.

6. Can I commit? -This is self-explanatory. It’s a yes or no question. And it’s not a convenience thing. It’s a lifetime thing. Commitment is real even when someone gains weight; even when days aren’t good, even when someone is sick, and money is tight; even when that sexy new coworker is smelling good and looking good sitting in the office right next to you, and you just had an argument with your spouse last night. Commitment, in today’s throw away, swipe left or right, effortless access to new ass, society makes this challenging. If you can’t commit and stay through a couple of forever’s, don’t commit or say “I do”. Period. You can’t straddle the single fence, in marriage. There’s no harm or foul in remaining single.

7. Will my baggage interfere? -We all have some sort of baggage, especially any of us over 40 or 50 years old. But yes, even young people can have baggage depending on what they have experienced growing up, and what they’ve experienced in love relationships. But the question is, will your baggage make your mate suffer and will it impair the relationship?

Baggage is anything you’ve been carrying from the past into the present moment that hinders you from being happy or living your best life. It is anything that will impact your relationship in a negative way. Baggage can be: trust issues, fear, low self-esteem, inability to allow your mate to feel free, inability to communicate, shutting down emotionally, violent tendencies, selfishness, non-productive financial habits etc.. You know what your past looks like. You know what issues have come up over and over again. You know what you’ve been through. It’s unfair to bring someone into your life and expect them to fix you or “just deal with it”, (though some will). And no, you don’t have to be all together to fall in love and marry (there are lots of married folks who didn’t have it all together, found a way to make it work and are still happily married), but you should have at least identified your issues and be actively working on them.

On a personal note, after carefully looking at my dating and relationship history, I sought counseling. I knew I didn’t’ want to go into my marriage(you notice that I am calling it into existence?) with baggage, and repeating old thoughts and patterns. I knew I wanted to do something different. I wanted to offer a better me. And perhaps I won’t be baggage free, but instead of having the type of baggage noted in the arrival scene of Coming to America, (only Coming to America movie watchers will get this), I will instead, enter with just a “carry on”.

8. Who am I when I am alone? -It’s been said that you have to know how to enjoy your life alone and be whole, before you get coupled up or marry. Your time being single(alone) is precious and is necessary. Being single allows you to do everything you want without accountability or sharing your time. It also is the time you learn to appreciate who you are, work on self and identify what you like about you. It’s the time when you can be completely naked. If you don’t like spending time with you, why would anyone else?

9. What is it that I think marriage will do for my life?- Ask yourself why you want to be married. Is it just to avoid feeling alone? Is it for financial reasons? Is it to have someone help with raising kids? Is it to be Facebook official; to be able to tell your friends you are married? Know why you want to be married.

10. Do I know what love is? And can I love? – Yes, I realize that is two questions in one, but both are so good! Listen, I don’t have the lock (aka the skinny) on what love is, but I do know saying “I love you” is easier than actually showing love on a daily basis to the same person. In my humble opinion, those words are over used, in feel good moments, and underperformed, in real life. I bet right now you can name some people in your circle who claim to “love” someone or who once “loved” someone and their behavior didn’t match what you thought love looked like. When is the last time you even examined what the word is and what love actions look and feel like? To “fall in love” with someone or to say “I love you” is supposed to represent the highest form of feeling for another person, and the highest level of care. So the question is, what made you say that or feel that and what will it mean to say that to someone in terms of your actions? It can’t be just emotion during good times and great sex. When I was 20 and 30 those words didn’t mean the same as they mean today.

To go a little further with this subject: What makes us “fall in love”? To “fall in love” with a person, should mean you’ve seen something good from them. You’ve seen their light and promise. Perhaps they’ve shown consistent and demonstrative behavior that shows you how much they care. In my mind, it means they’ve established that they’ve got your back; they’ve been consistent in their truth and kindness, they’ve shown an undeniable level of attention; they answer your calls and texts, they show up when you need them, they support and encourage you, they laugh and cry with you, they ask about your life and dreams and they care about what impacts you. This application applies to both parties. Also for the sake of clarity, it’s worth it to find out each other’s love language.

11. What will I do different this time? -If you’ve been married or in a long-term relationship, and it didn’t work, ask what you will do different this time. Yes, it’s easy to blame the other person and to think you were perfect in your relationship; but if you are completely honest, you will acknowledge that you probably didn’t get it all the way right and that perhaps you even did some things that were just wrong, selfish, and hurtful. The key here is not about blame or dredging up the past, but to learn from what you didn’t get right in your other life, and to avoid repeating the pattern.

There are many other questions we can ask before thinking about getting married, but these will get you started in self-reflection. What I’ve learned is that baggage, unrealistic expectations, lack of commitment, and just not knowing how to be a partner, are just as problematic for marriage, as are money and sex issues. I realize that this is a non-scientific statement, but I’d like to be proven wrong.

There is a quote that says, “to have what you’ve never had, you have to do what you’ve never done”. There is also a quote that says, “doing the same thing, and expecting different results, is insanity.” If all of your previous relationships have worked, this isn’t for you(and you should write a book that tells the world how that’s done). This is for the rest of us. We have to do what we’ve not done before, think like we’ve never thought and be open to seeing it from a different view, in order to grow in our relationships. Our future marriages depend on it.

*This is a chapter from the upcoming book: Relationship Soul Food: A Collection of Heartfelt Stories, Inspirational Quotes and Powerful Lessons about Love, Dating and Marriage, due out Spring 2019

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Dear Future Husband: I Can’t Love You Like This

 

Dear Future Husband,

If I am to love you, and give myself to you…if I am to trust you, and we are to have a future together, some things have to change. I can’t love you like this.

If every woman you meet is introduced to your false narrative and your soulless accosting of her gifts (both physical and emotional), how then will any relationship flourish?  If deliberate truth isn’t your M.O., how will we move forward as a unit or a culture? If you lack integrity, how can you be respected? If you don’t share your real feelings or intentions, how do we get beyond silly games?

And if one good woman is never enough for you, how will we ever get to “I do?”

Social media, the perceived(and real) male/female ratios, greed and overall nonchalance about commitment, have changed the dating game. Things seem out of control! The rotating bed partner effect, is real. They say, “why settle for one, when you have options galore at your fingertips?”-And that’s a literal statement. Literally, within minutes, and with little to no effort, a man can have a new body in front of him with just a swipe to the left or right or the right mix of words in a message said to a woman in need. Sheesh! How do we compete with the feeding frenzy and seemingly insatiable appetite of your world?

When and how can we ever heal from this relationship abyss of the 21st century, if nothing ever changes in you?

To the social media point-my Facebook (FB) “inbox” stays full. I could literally go on a date every other night, and take several trips a month, hell, I could even get married, if I acted on the messages, requests and offers presented to me weekly. So this isn’t speculation, it’s fact. I’ve been proposed to at least 4 times in 3 months. More proposals than any woman should have. But I am not naïve, I don’t look at any of this as real(though my future husband may be in one of those offers). I look at it as a game for most. There are serial social media predators. No, not all. But many. They use the same lines, and offer the same prizes, they inform you of their cars and wealth, they send you the daily “hey beautiful” messages. No, I am not saying some aren’t genuine, I would imagine some of you are actually looking for me(a wife) just like I am looking for you(a husband). But most, aren’t. Most are looking to score some a** and a notch. Some of that “good, good” as the young hip folks call it.

I am a realist, my “inbox” isn’t the only one with options. Some of my female friends have told me that a few of the male folks from my page, have trickled on to theirs and that they also get some offers and these same men use similar catch phrases with them. Hell, a few of my friends send me the pictures of him and ask “what’s this guys story, he is getting at me hard”, it’s laughable and sad. And there’s no doubt men are getting their fair share of direct messages from the more aggressive women as well.

But back to the point. It’s like asking a shark, not to follow the bloody chum trail. It’s not possible! Once they smell blood, they must have it-they want the meat. So is that where you are? And if so, how much of it do you need, before you are full and ready?

The lies, the hustle, the games. Aren’t we all too grown for that? I am privy to too many broken dating and relationship stories. Single women dating men who send their representative to meet them, reps who sell women the “I am single, ready and I have it all together” dream, they get her to buy into it and sign the contract, only to find the product he was peddling was a lemon, it didn’t work as promised, the quality or size  of the parts were not up to par, or the entire product was broken inside and out and rendered unusable for the long haul. And no refunds are ever given.

Or they come in like a wolf in the “Little Red Riding Hood” story, covered in false clothing, with false story’s and bad intentions (sharp teeth and all), ready to shred the unsuspecting female soul and take everything they can take from her. It’s enough to drive single women into the monastery! Oh the stories!

And so future husband, I have some questions…

I want to know: When did you learn to lie? When did you become a predator of sorts? And when did taking advantage of those who love you, and hurting them without basic human regard, become your “standard operating procedure”? How is it that you became a taker and not a giver? What pushed you to that?

I want to know: And to those whom this applies, how do you look yourself in the mirror after each sexual conquest and each “come up”? Do you beam with pride, like a college student when they get an “A” on a Final exam? Do you feel relieved and excited, like a runner who trained for months and then took 1st place in a marathon?

How do you reward yourself as you add to the trail of cracked hearts and to the unhealthy experiences and bitterness of women?

Where exactly are you going with all of that jive?

And who taught you that was OK?

Did you witness abuse and disrespect in your home? Did you see men hitting women, calling them “b*tches and h*es, and taking money from them and their children? Did the men in your life operate in infidelity? Or worse…did someone take your virginity against your will like the Antwone Fisher story? I want to know when callousness set in?

What created the anger and disconnect in you? Are your walls built from eye-witness pain? Did your Mom abuse you? Was she on crack and abandon you? Did your father fail to show up to your basketball games, give you a hug or provide financial support? Were you raised by pimps, gang bangers and pushers who taught you disdain for women and that it’s best to “get them before they get you?”

I need to know: When you are home on quiet evenings, do you sit on your couch for hours with a note pad and pen writing out the stories, compliments and promises to say to the next woman you meet on Facebook or in the club, or are you a natural wordsmith, freelancing and spitting compelling words with ease, like Pac, or J.Cole?

Do you use the same set of phrases and words on everyone? You know like these for instance…”good morning beautiful”, “baby I can’t wait to see you”, “call me, I miss you”, or “let’s put some stamps in your passport”-I could go on, but you get the point.  If these are standard, then what words are “special” for the people who matter for real?

I need to know: When does it stop? When is enough new p*ssy enough? Is it really that hard to be committed and honest?

Are the fast paced offerings of the next “best thing” or “greener grass” (aka better ass) that tempting and so out of control that you don’t know how to stop the runaway train and just love someone?  Hasn’t enough damage already been done to us, to you and the culture?

My dearest future husband, we need you and we want you. But we can’t keep up with this perpetual game of nothingness. We don’t have time for it. It’s making us bitter and cold.

We can’t love you like this. Something has to change.

A strong, loving and committed man, makes a formidable marriage and home.

If not you, then who? If not now, then when?

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Dear Future Husband: A Grown Woman’s Thoughts on Dating

By Rhonda E. Frost

I don’t necessarily want to know what college you went to and what degree you obtained. I need to know if you can communicate in good and bad times in the wee hours of the morning and late at night, about things that matter.

I don’t care how many S550s, Bugatti’s, BMW M6 special edition cars you have, what your 401K balance is, or where you go for vacation; I need to know if you will be there when I call, to make sure I’m OK and to talk me through my issue or share in my joy. I need to know if your word is “bond”, and if I can trust you to protect my heart. I need to know if you care enough to be fully present, when we spend time.

I’m no longer impressed by titles and the extras after your name, (Dr. MA, Ph.d, VP, or President of so and so- I’ve dated them). I need to know if you are kind and affectionate, if you will care for me if I become sick, and if you will pray for me when I can’t pray for myself.

I need to know what makes you feel alive. I want to know your fears and your back story. I want to know the parts of you, you’ve never told anyone. I need to know how you treat your Mama, your children, and those you say you love. I need to know who you are when you are angry. I want to see you laugh til you cry. I want to know your love language and I want to show you mine.

I don’t need to hear another promise, or necessarily be told how beautiful I am (though I am not opposed to genuine compliments ), but more importantly, I need to know that you see my inner being, the beauty and grace of my soul, the struggle in my story and that you want to be here. It’s important that you see and accept my broken parts, that you keep my secrets, protect my scars, and value my stretch-marks. I need to know that when you look at me, you see the blessing in our union.

I don’t need to spend weekend after weekend on another pointless date, hanging out with you at the “spot” or making love without purpose or meaning (that’s something I don’t need to practice); I need to know what you want to do and where you want to go…with us. I don’t have any more years, to donate to the game.

I don’t really care how much “swag” you have, how many Purple Label fine suits you can pull out of the closet, or how many Gucci driving loafers and silk ties you can rock on any given day. I need to know who you are when I’m not looking, and who you are when I am.

Your fine-ness, collegiate accomplishments, snazzy cars, gift of gab, credit score and dollars in your bank are icing on the cake-of-you. But if the rest of the above is missing, if your character is broken, and your words don’t match what you do, we won’t make it.

Just let me love you. Let me laugh with you, spend time, develop trust and move towards eternity with you as my partner, my backbone, my supporter and friend and let me be that her for you. That’s what matters. Take my hand, lead the way…I’ll follow.

That’s where this grown woman is today.

(updated 2/5/2018)

 

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Dear Future Husband: We Almost Had Forever

by Rhonda E. Frost-12/15/16

You are this enigma. This amazing man who pours on the appeal and feeds a woman everything she needs to hear and feel, and then you disappear for inexplicable periods of time, leaving her “fiend-ing” for more, craving a hit, like a washed up heroin addict.

You communicate with precision, grace and fluidity when you feel like it and then you shut down on a whim, like a level IV prison after someone’s been stabbed. It’s the most complex thing I’ve seen.

I wish I understood this. I wish I understood why the Universe felt like I needed you to enter my life? What was the lesson or purpose? And why didn’t it let us get to the promised land?  Yeah that’s what I want to know.

I wanted to know you. What you felt about love, trust and relationships. I wanted to go to a park and run or walk with you, go to concerts and plays. Have get-together’s with friends and play dominoes and spades, while Kem, Tamia, J.Cole and Ne-Yo entertain us from the playlist.

I envisioned making love in the morning and then making you breakfast before you left for work.

I wanted us to cook dinner together and try new recipes, while sipping on Patron margaritas (with salt on the rim) and that tasty splash of Grand Marnier.

I wanted to work with you and learn from you. And build an empire.

I wanted to trust us.

I wish I had gotten past the surface to know your secrets, to learn your hustle, and see your real feelings.

Mostly I wanted us to fall in love and stay there. I guess the Universe had other plans.

Perhaps you were saved from me and I was saved from you. And perhaps instead of mourning the loss of us, I should stand in gratitude for having shared those beautiful, temporary moments in the first place.

Sure-fire Way to Get Over Your Ex- Make a List!

There’s no pain like break up pain and there’s no task harder than letting go of a bad relationship when you still love someone. It takes work and a definitive plan to move forward. And while you will need a strong support group and lots of care during this time, you will also need a list. Yes a list! One of the most helpful things you can do during this fragile time to get over your lost love and unhealthy relationship is to write out why you broke up. This isn’t just any list, it’s a lengthy “post-it” note on college ruled paper to remind you why he wasn’t good for you. Make a list of every time he hurt you, make a list of all the things he did to disrespect you or show you he didn’t care. And make a list of all the reasons it won’t work. Be honest with it. Tell the truth to yourself.

Let me help you get started. It goes something like this:

He allowed his ex girlfriend(s) to call, send texts and pictures
He never checked on my well being or went out of his way to uplift my life.
He didn’t listen, always blamed or played victim
He was selfish(and say how)
He cheated on me (and name her and the number of times)
He made promises he didn’t keep (remind yourself of which ones)
He took more than he ever gave
He was abusive
He was disrespectful (say how)
He didn’t communicate worth a damn!
He was rude: talked on the phone, took calls in my presence, text folks etc
He didn’t handle his business in the bedroom(or whatever fits here)
He lied to me not once but many times about…(fill in the blanks)
He forgot my birthday
He’s married or in love with someone else (Duh! but yes this is a real situation)

Anyway, you get the point.

When you have completed your honest list, post it everywhere: your bathroom mirror, the refrigerator, your computer at work etc. So the next time you start waxing nostalgic about what you had and how much you miss him, just go stand in front of your list and remind yourself why it was best to let him go and remind yourself that you deserve a whole, happy, loving relationship one on one with a good person.

If you don’t remind yourself of why he wasn’t good for you, the emotional part of you will succumb to the non-sense (aka bullsh*t) again. If you aren’t armed with the truth at all times, that next text or call from him will make you weak in the knees and he will have you caught up again, sipping the Jim Jones juice, killing off more of your life, all to your peril.

And lastly, give yourself the extra help you need at this difficult time, use the “block” button on your phone. It works and saves you from checking your phone every 15 minutes to see if he called or text you (Lord knows I did that sh*t before LOL and SMDH). You have to do all you can to get over anyone who hurts you and takes more than they give. It’s your responsibility to love you and take care of your heart. Let them go!

The only time you should think about taking them back, is if they undo all the wrong, apologize and SHOW you in every way, they learned their lesson and then come correct. Yes, that means they need to put a ring on it (in my Beyonce voice) and invest time and money! Otherwise tell em boi bye!

By Rhonda E. Frost

Published author, of the book Why Do I Have to Think Like a Man? , writer of all things relationship, formerly married, current serial dater, lover of life and 100% Steeler fan.