6 05 2011
Most failed marriages are the result of poor courtship. Courtship is supposed to prepare couples for marriage. It should not just be about having fun, rather, also about getting to learn as much as you can about each other.

I know a couple that rushed through courtship, only for the man to bring home two boys, his sons from a previous relationship the woman knew nothing about.

When they came to me for counselling, their young marriage on the verge of a breakdown, the man confessed that he feared that he would lose her if he confessed that he had children.

Now, if this is not ironical, I don’t know what is. Courtship is a time for full disclosure, time to get honest with each other, to reveal those secrets that are likely to injure your marriage should they come out in the open later.

It is also the time to find out about the health history of your partner’s family because some illnesses run in families. If you have had a miscarriage before, talk about it.

Find out about any episodes of childhood trauma, for instance sexual abuse, abandonment, and death of a parent, because these are significant events that could influence one’s mental and behavioural make up.

If it is difficult for your spouse to talk about such issues, be supportive and understanding. Assure them that you will always be there to listen when they are ready to talk about it.

I always advise couples against rushing to get married. Marriage is unlike any other relationship, specifically because it is meant to be a lifelong commitment.

A whirlwind courtship, though exciting, means that you may not have enough time to really get to know the person you are committing yourself to.

Getting married to someone you met just a few weeks or months ago is setting yourself up for failure.

Issues you should discuss and agree on during courtship

A successful courtship should be long enough for a couple to get well acquainted.

However, if you don’t make your courtship a learning journey, it will not matter whether you court for years.

  • Don’t assume that like you, your partner would want to have children. Some people are not keen on having children.

Once you determine that both of you want children, agree on when you would like to have them, as well as a number you are both comfortable with.

  • Talk about money. How much will each of you chip in? Who will pay for what? It is important to go into marriage with a clear picture of your financial responsibilities.
  • Talk about your values and goals and the role that each of you will play towards achieving them.
  • Talk about your in-laws. Will you help them financially? If you will, how much help will you extend to them? Do you intend to live with them? If yes, for how long?
  • Have important tests, such as for HIV and STIs.
  • Knowledge about one’s religious views are also important. If you profess different religions, where will you say your marriage vows? Which religion will your children follow?
  • Discuss significant aspects of your past as well as the future with your partner.

These seemingly minor issues could turn out to be explosive in future if they are not discussed as early as possible.

If you want a successful marriage, begin to lay the foundation right now.

The writer is a clinical psychologist. Do you have any relationship questions? Write




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