If your relationship is getting serious and he has committed to you, the engagement ring may seem like the climax of it all. Before you get too excited and agree, you may want to be prepared to discuss the Engagement Trinity with him. If he is asking for your hand, he has taken the risk of rejection. Now it is your turn to take the risk by bringing up the big three questions that every couple should agree upon before marriage and live up to throughout the union. It is easy to observe that some things change, but the purpose of marriage is to have a stable agreement that withstands the shifting sands of convention and the many trends that come and go. You do not want to enter into an engagement, let alone a marriage, without having each question of the Engagement Trinity agreed upon to your mutual satisfaction.
The Engagement Trinity is: Religion, Children, Goals. You need to talk about each of these subjects separately and seriously. You need to reach an agreement and agree that the conclusion is written in stone. If your agreements come to define the marriage that is to be, you will have a much stronger foundation on which to build your union.
Some people don’t believe in anything beyond the material world. Others tithe a large percentage of their annual income to a church. There are many degrees of belief in between these two. If you are spending thousands of dollars a year going on religious or meditation retreats and your partner almost mocks your devotion, a serious chasm between you two has already developed. Imagine if you get married and your partner objects to you pulling funds from a joint account to pay for a donation to your spiritual leader. What if your partner and you are saving up to buy a new house and your church suddenly asks its members for an emergency donation? Does your religion involve dietary practices that your partner will need to respect? Are there days on the calendar on which your fiance-to-be will have to know to never schedule things?
Find out what you are getting into – will his family expect you to convert? Will yours be accepting of someone from another faith? If your lover is an atheist, is it a deal breaker? Is your partner willing to pretend to follow a certain belief to make things look good?
There are so many questions about individual faith beyond whether or not you will be sleeping in on Sunday morning. The biggest of them all, though, is in what religion will you two be raising your children? And before you can answer that one, you have to bring up the subject that is the second member of the engagement trinity…
Do you want to be a parent? Do you want to bring a child into this world? How many children do you want to have? If you have a child from a previous relationship, will your fiancÃ© be adopting this child? Will he or she be a stepparent? If neither of you have children, do you foresee where you will live when you do start a family?
With the question of children comes the role that love and fulfillment play in a relationship. Are you two capable of putting the children you create ahead of anything and everything else in your lives? Consider that you two might never take a vacation again because of the cost and complexities that family brings.
If neither of you want children, will one or both of you be willing to agree to undergo a vasectomy and/or tubal ligation? Doing so will make certain that this agreement is taken seriously and with a sense of responsibility.
If one of you wants children and the other doesn’t, the conversation you two have may end up with one of you capitulating to keep the peace. This is a bad precedent. When your lover insists that he does not want children one minute, but soon says that he does want to have a family one day, pay attention to how vague that “one day” is. What are his goals? This brings us to the third part of the Engagement Trinity…
One secret to Internet dating cuts to the core of whom you are meeting by asking your date, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” You have to know a bit about where you two are headed; it is good to flesh out the specifics of what you want out of life, why you want it and how you intend to get it.
Suppose one of you is an aspiring singer. Will you both be dependent on the other partner going to work every morning while the other works on the craft of singing and performing in the hopes of making it big some day? While we all have our dreams, the partnership of marriage exists to define them as goals that benefit you both. Nobody has to get married to follow their dreams, but all of us must compromise our dreams into tangible goals for the benefit of the partnership. The Engagement Trinity demands that the two of you agree just how long the dream of establishing a singing career will be allowed. What are the tangible results that are required in order for the two of you to proceed with making the sacrifices necessary to keep a dream going?
Many couples spend quality time on shared hobbies. Do you two have enough mutual interests that keep you united in your spare time, or do you each have separate interests that ensure time spent at home together is always fresh and interesting?
Do you have a corporate career, a college degree or a fantasy to climb Mount Everest? You must explain your goals and know that your spouse approves of them and will be there for you. If his goal is to travel to every major league baseball stadium in the next ten summers and yours is to visit every national park for an extended hiking trip … are your passions so divergent that you will be able to afford the time and money that multiple vacations require?
And so in closing, it must be asked: five years from now will one of you be staying at home to raise your children in an agreed-upon faith while the other works to support the family? The time to agree upon the complexities of married life is before the marriage is agreed to. Embrace the Engagement Trinity as the foundation of your successful marriage.