So you’ve both been together for some time. Whether it was a few months or several years, you see yourself settling down with this person.
Whatever your romantic journey, before you get to the engagement, here are some practical questions you should probably consider before tying the knot. They’re important if you want your ‘forever after’ to last a lifetime.
1. Does his/her family like you?
They say that if you marry someone, you marry their entire family. There are a few good reasons for this.
The first one, is that family reunions happen at least once a year. Whether it’s Hari Raya, Chinese New Year, Deepavali, Christmas or Hari Gawai, you’ll have to at least spend once a year with the extended family. If that person’s family likes you, it makes it that much easier.
More importantly, whether you like to admit it or not, community support plays a big role in the long-term health of the relationship.
Don’t believe me? In a recent economic study in the US on the relationship between wedding expenses and marriage duration, it was found that couples who eloped were 12.5 times more likely to divorce than couples who had well-attended wedding ceremonies (and money had nothing to do with it).
Locally, the Fifth Malaysian Population and Family Survey (MPFS) in 2014 showed that interference from in-laws was among the top reasons why the first marriage didn’t work out.
When I got together with my current fiancé, one of the things we were thinking about was how to break the news to her parents. To help you understand the situation, I was from a different race from her. Also, while we are both Christians, her parents are not.
Fortunately, by miraculous coincidence, her parents were good friends with my grandmother and knew some of my family members already. I wasn’t the first interracial couple in their family, so that made things a lot easier. Also, her mother did have a chance to meet me when we were still friends.
According to them, I left a good impression. They’ve been very warm and generous, receiving me with open arms into their family and helping us set up a life together.
Maybe you’re not so fortunate and getting into the in-laws’ good books is tough. Don’t give up. Remember that they’re human just like you, and with patience, perseverance, and time, you can still win them over by being the best version of yourself.
If, however, you are stranded with in-laws who are toxic to both of you, be respectful but draw lines you feel are necessary to protect each other.
 Francis-Tan, A. & Mialon, H.M. “ ’A Diamond Is Forever’ And Other Fairy Tales: The Relationship Between Wedding Expenses And Marriage Duration” Economic Inquiry Vol 53 Issue 4 10th March 2015.
2. Can your cultures get along?
Since the dawn of the Malaccan Empire, Malaysia has been a melting pot of different races and cultures. With mixed races like the Peranakan and Serani, it comes as no surprise if you end up with someone from a different culture or belief system.
Even if both of you are from the same community, your family culture is probably different. He may be used to dinners together as a family, while she may have grown up taking care of her own meals by herself.
Whatever your backgrounds, it helps to sit down and ask some serious questions about life together.
If both of you have different faiths, does one have to convert to the other? What values will you emphasize when raising your family? What cultural practices are both of you comfortable incorporating?
Whatever you choose to do as a couple, make sure it’s something both of you can comfortably agree on. This helps both of you manage your expectations after tying the knot with each other. That way, you won’t have any major disagreements down the road.
3. Are both of you on the same page about the future?
Speaking of expectations, what do both of you expect from each other? One of the biggest relationship killers is to get married and then learn that both of you have very different ideas of what your married life would be like.
As with the previous point, the most important thing is to ask the right questions and discuss them. Areas to consider could include whether both of you want children or not, what your life goals are, and where you see your careers heading.
Also take some time to reflect and ask yourself what you can and cannot handle in a relationship. One thing I learned is, if you’re brutally honest with yourself and your partner, you may be surprised by the answer.
When I got together with my partner, one of the first things I told her was that I loved strong, independent ladies. I told her I would never feel threatened even if she earned more or was more successful than me.
Imagine my surprise after months of dating to learn that deep down inside, I was insecure about it. Some progressive guy, huh?
But when I dug deeper, I realised that the real issue was not my expectation of her but, ironically, of myself. I drilled it into myself that as the man in the relationship, I was supposed to lead and provide for her.
When I discussed the matter with her, I was surprised to learn that she never expected me to earn more. She just wanted me to fulfil my passion and lead with my strengths, rather than focus on my weaknesses.
Always take time to observe each other and manage your expectations well. Be brutally honest about what you can live and live without. Once you’ve done that, also learn to compromise, and be willing to see things from a fresh perspective.
At the end of the day, a relationship should be a partnership, not a competition.
4. Are both of you financially stable?
Let’s face it. Love makes the world go around, but money talks. Even the most loving relationships can fail because of bad money management. To put things in perspective, the Malay Mail estimated that it costs an average of anywhere between RM50,000 – RM200,000 to get married.
Now, before both of you hit the panic button, we’re not saying you must earn as much as Tony Fernandez to settle down. Admittedly, in today’s world with escalating costs, earning enough by itself is a challenge.
Still, simple adjustments like cooking instead of eating out and going to Lazada instead of KL Pavillion for your outfits can save you a lot. With a bit of ingenuity, you may even find ways to earn a side income.
At the end of the day, both of you should decide it on your own terms. Most of you would probably have big families with parents wanting to invite the whole kampung – but if you’re footing the bill, you should have a say. After all, it’s your wedding. Make it as magical as you want, but remember that it is the future that matters, not the event.
5. Can both of you handle the worst of each other’s personalities long-term?
Someone once told me that marriage is a toss-up between “I love him so much” and “I know him so well, I could hide the body and no one would know”.
The truth is you never really know if you’re ready for heaven together if you haven’t learned to handle hell from your partner. And let’s be real: Sometimes, you don’t think you can take it.
The important thing is to remember to fight for each other even when you fight with each other. Learn to accept how your partner is feeling even if what they say is hard to swallow. And always make it a point to make up after the fight.
Me and my fiancé are very different. She had lived on her own for the most of her life and is very strong and independent. I lived with my folks and used to help around the house but to be honest, my living skills are not great.
Things got difficult as we got to know each other because she was frustrated that what was the simplest of things to her did not occur to me. It didn’t help us that she is very organised and meticulous and I have a more laid back personality.
Because of that, small matters like parking and even doing the occasional housework was a cause of conflict. She had a very specific way of doing things that I didn’t necessarily follow. And to be fair, I am quite absent-minded.
But we stuck things through and talked them out. It wasn’t easy for her to understand that when she expressed her frustrations because she didn’t want to see things get messed up, it was a bit stifling for me. And I had to appreciate how disappointed and frustrated she was even though it was hard for my pride to swallow.
She learned to be more gracious in letting me learn as I stepped up to gain these living skills. A little compromise on both sides to accommodate each other made things a lot easier.
One last thing: When tempers run high, learn to take some breathing space to really cool down and evaluate what both of you are really concerned about.
For example, instead of simply accusing your partner of something, focus on expressing how the action made you feel (e.g. Say “What you did felt like a betrayal even if you didn’t mean it” instead of “You betrayed me!”). Walk away when you feel like you’re going to explode and calm down first before addressing the issue.
At the end of the day, whether you’re compatible as a couple or not depends on whether both of you are willing to work things out together for the long term. , as long as both of you are committed, you’ll forge a stronger connection that is true and tested.
And for those who have been through heartbreak for whatever reason, let nature take its course. Walk your road, and who knows – you may find someone who’ll help you realise why the rest didn’t work out.