If there is one aspect of marriage which caught Eric and me completely off guard, it was the dynamic our different drives would play in our relationship. Before we got married, I knew Eric loved to learn and had a driven personality, but I had no idea how that would influence our communication and ability to work together.
We were in graduate school at the time; so, Eric did not have an accurate picture of my full personality. After marriage, he found out I am laid back, tend to procrastinate, and prioritize relationships rather than avenues typically associated with success (e.g., higher education, career building, etc.).
Back in 2004, the questions below would have been a huge help to us. In fact, having our parents and friends weighing in on a few of them would have been especially enlightening!
- When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? Take notice of how your boyfriend or girlfriend answers this question. Look for themes. If you were to ask my best friend and me this question, the response would be vastly different. I would say, “When I was five, I wanted to be a teacher. When I was six, I wanted to be a nurse. When I was eight, I wanted to be a writer. When I was nine, I wanted to be a lawyer.” With each passing year, my aspirations changed. The only consistent dream I had though was to be a wife and mother someday. Lauran, on the other hand, knew what she wanted to be from the time she was eight-years-old and never strayed from her goal. She is one of the most driven people I know and I am extremely proud of her. When I was younger, however, I considered her dedication to her dream and felt guilty for not loving something as much as she loved (which is producing television and movies). It took some time to realize that people are driven in different ways and given different personalities. The world needs us all! However, it is somewhat (or extremely – depending on the situation) stressful for a driven person and a laid-back person to coexist in a lifetime partnership. It is not impossible, however, and such couples can provide balance for each other. However, if one person is determined to reach his or her goals no matter what, and the other person is more interested in living for today and having fun, then there will be conflict, hurt feelings, frustration, and eventually, loneliness. Take an interest in his or her answer to this question, but also notice body language. Which topics (occupations, hobbies, family responsibilities, etc.) make his or her face light up and which topics seem neutral? How do his or her answers compare with yours?
- If money were no object, how would you spend your time? This question is an excellent way to get to the heart of what a person loves. If you had to spend your time doing something, but you did not need to make money, what would you do? I would probably be frolicking in a field of golden retriever puppies, opening an ice cream shop with hundreds of flavors, or surprising people all over the world with gifts or money. What about you and your sweetie? How would you spend your time? Which occupation would you pursue if you had zero monetary needs?
- What are three adjectives which best describe you? After answering this question, ask friends and family to give adjectives. Sometimes, we see ourselves in a completely different light than our loved ones. Like, when I told Mom I thought I was going to be so good at submission in my marriage because I am typically a submissive person, only to have her respond with, “I’ve never thought of you as a submissive person.” Well, okay! (I guess she would also know better than most!)
- You and I are going out on a date. You are ready, but I need ten more minutes. What do you do with that time? When I was sixteen, my boyfriend and I were getting ready to leave his house, but I needed a few more minutes. When I came out, he was vigorously sweeping the carport. It boggled my mind because I doubt it would have occurred to me to sweep – especially in a nice shirt and dress pants. I probably would have gone to the truck, turned on some music, and checked my watch every few minutes. When I asked him why he was sweeping, he said he was taught to maximize his time. I respected his reason even though I knew I would not be adopting his philosophy. Personally, five minutes to sit in the car and listen to music seems like a gift! People are different. It takes all kinds!
- Your boss surprises you with an unexpected day off from work. How do you prefer to spend it? When I was a child, my parents frequently disagreed on how to spend their days off from work. Dad thought a day off meant party time! And, by party time, of course, I mean sitting in his recliner with a snack and watching some westerns before surrendering to the all-powerful cat nap. Mom, on the other hand, saw a day off as a chance to get caught up on projects around the house. They sometimes got frustrated with each other. ~wink~ Since I am the female version of my dad in many ways, I agreed with him. Why spend a vacation day doing different work? Rest! Have fun! And then I up and married someone who is driven like my mom. ~smile~ When Eric has a day off, he still feels the need to accomplish something. To me, a day off still means fun. Let’s eat out! Let’s binge watch some show! Let’s see friends! You can learn a lot about someone from this question alone!
- What gifts and talents did God give you and how do you plan to use them to benefit the world? Answering this question may feel awkward at first, especially to those who are careful not to brag or sound arrogant. Others know they have talents but are uncomfortable sharing them for fear of gaining too many responsibilities. And, some struggle to believe they have anything to offer the world. We all have something, even if it is an award-winning smile, to offer the world. Before you choose a partner, it is important to discover how your gifts and talents complement each other. As believers, we know our marriages are not only about us and our happiness but more so about bringing glory to God through our unions.
- “What would you do if you knew you could not fail?” – Jerry Falwell, Sr. As Liberty University students, we heard this question asked a lot, and from a man who accomplished more with his life than most people ever will. It is an interesting question which removes barriers. It allows crazy dreaming. Would you build amazing skyscrapers? Would you open an affordable adoption agency? Would you work tirelessly to change laws? Would you have a dozen children? If you knew you would succeed, what would you set out to accomplish?
- When you think about your final days, what regrets do you fear the most? Eric and I have two completely different answers to this question. Eric fears nearing the end of his life and not having accomplished enough. I worry about getting to the end of my life and not having experienced enough. He wants to know his life was well spent and the world is a better place in some way because he was on this planet. I respect that! When I look back, I want to see friends and family I loved well, and remember the experiences which made me feel alive. What about you?
How did you answer? How did your partner answer? What will you do with this information now that you have it?
If Eric and I had gone through these questions fourteen years ago, it might not have changed our decision to pursue a relationship (though I cannot be sure), but it would have given us a better understanding of what we were heading into – assuming we were both completely honest in our answers.
When we fall in love and hope to spend our lives with someone, it is tempting to convince ourselves we are more alike than we truly are – so we do not risk losing him or her. Even if it means taking some time to soul search before answering, be willing to give brutally honest answers. It is better to see each other for who you really are before getting married.
Do you and your significant other have similar drives, life attitudes, and life goals?