Informed Commitments

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—Knowing a partner

’Till divorce do us part.

Introduction[edit | edit source]

You are deeply in love with your romantic partner and both of you are looking forward to a long and happy marriage. Yet you recognize that too many marriages become unhappy and sadly they often end in divorce. What can you do now to avoid entering a marriage that is at high risk for failure?

Objectives:[edit | edit source]

The objectives of this course are to:

  • Help you get to know more about your intended marriage partner,
  • Identify issues that may need to be addressed before you can be happily married,
  • Identify factors that may increase the risk of an unhappy marriage or divorce before you make a marriage commitment,
  • Uncover information about your partner that may lead to a decision to postpone or cancel wedding plans,
  • Practice discussing difficult topics that are vital to the relationship,
  • Increase the basis for trust in the relationship, and
  • Increase your chances for a long and happy marriage.

This course is part of the Applied Wisdom curriculum.

Interpersonal Commitments[edit | edit source]

The interpersonal commitments that are the central topic of this course include: marriage, the decision to conceive a child, and to a lesser extent the decision to form a business partnership, invest money, or join an organization.

Failed Relationships[edit | edit source]

Unfortunately, failed interpersonal relationships are quite common. Perhaps because love is blind many marriages end in divorce. Although divorce rates vary considerably by country and other demographics, the divorce rate approaches half of the marriage rate in many countries.

In the United States, almost a quarter (23%) of the children under the age of 18 live with one parent and no other adults.[1]

Marriage partner screening questions[edit | edit source]

Marriage is a huge commitment that will profoundly affect the rest of your life. The decision to marry, including whom to marry, is perhaps the biggest and most important decision you will ever make. It is best to make a carefully informed decision.  However, love is often blind. It is tempting to overlook difficulties in your partner's past and present, fantasize about a perfect marriage, and speed toward a marriage commitment. Discussing in depth with your partner answers to the questions in the following assignment can be difficult but is essential. You are likely to find this an immensely rewarding experience in the long term. If instead it leads to a pause in the relationship or a breakup, then as painful as it may be at the time, this is probably for the best in the longer term.

Assignment:[edit | edit source]

Before or during the engagement period, and certainly before the actual marriage vows, discuss in depth or write down your answers to each of the following questions completely, accurately, and totally honestly. Share those answers with your intended partner. Ask your partner to do the same.

Also, the decision to conceive a child carries with it a long-term commitment to raise the child responsibly. It is essential that you are prepared to become a reliable parent for the next 18 years or more before conceiving a child. With or without marriage, it is essential to answer the following questions before conceiving a child.

The following questions are designed to foster open and honest communication, helping the couple understand each other's perspectives, values, and expectations before entering into marriage or conceiving a child.

The only correct answers are totally honest answers. The only incorrect answers are incomplete, misleading, or inaccurate answers. This is an especially good time for you to be impeccable with your word.

  1. Communication and Values:[2]
    • What are your core values, and how do you see them aligning with mine?
    • Complete the Wikiversity course Finding shared values to help discover what is most important to you as a potential couple.
    • How can we continue to communicate effectively?
    • How do you handle disagreements, and what role does effective communication play in your view of a healthy relationship?
  2. Life Goals and Aspirations:
    • What are your short-term and long-term goals, and how can we support each other in achieving them?
    • How do you envision our life together in terms of career, family, and personal growth?
  3. Financial Matters:
    • How do you approach financial decisions, and what are your views on saving, budgeting, and spending?
    • What is your income? What are your sources of income? What are your financial assets? What are your financial liabilities?
    • What are your career plans? What is the outlook for your career path?
    • What are the financial obligations, debts, or concerns that we should discuss and address before marriage?
  4. Family and Children:
    • Do you look forward to raising children? How important is this for you?
    • How do you envision our roles as parents, and what parenting styles do you think would work best for us?
    • Are there any specific cultural or familial expectations that we should be aware of and discuss?
  5. Personal Habits and Preferences:
    • What are your expectations regarding personal space, alone time, and socializing with friends?
    • What do people notice as your most annoying characteristics or habits
    • Are there any habits or lifestyle choices that might be important for us to understand and discuss?
  6. Conflict Resolution and Problem-Solving:
    • How have you handled conflicts in past relationships, and what have you learned from those experiences?
    • Do you have anger management issues? What happens when you lose your temper?
    • Describe any instances where you have become violent.
    • Complete the Wikiversity Course Transcending Conflict.
    • What strategies do you think are effective for resolving conflicts and making joint decisions?
  7. Trust and Transparency:
    • How do you define trust in a relationship, and what actions build or break trust for you?
    • Complete the Wikiversity course Earning Trust.
    • Are there any aspects of your past that you feel are important for me to know to build trust between us?
  8. Intimacy and Emotional Support:
    • How do you express and expect emotional support in times of stress or challenges?
    • Are you emotionally competent?
    • Are we best friends?
    • What does intimacy mean to you, and how do you envision maintaining a strong emotional connection in our marriage?
  9. Social and Religious Beliefs:
    • How important is religion or cultural identity in your life, and what role do you expect it to play in our marriage?
    • Are there specific traditions or rituals that are significant to you, and how can we incorporate them into our shared life?
    • How do you view the role of religion or spirituality in our lives, and how do you see it influencing our decisions and values?
    • Complete the Wikiversity course Real Good Religion. Are you willing to adopt a real good religion?
    • What are your expectations regarding social activities and spending time with extended family and friends?
  10. Knowing yourself:
    • How well do you know yourself?
    • Complete the Wikiversity course Unmasking the True Self.
    • Invite your partner to complete the personal inventory with you. Alternatively, invite your partner to complete the inventory, independently for you, and then compare results.
    • What to you regard as your most important strengths?
  11. Reasons for Marriage:
    • Do you want to get married? Why do you want to get married?
    • Do you want to marry this person? Why do you want to marry this person? When do you want to get married? When is the best time to get married? Why then?
  12. Collective Wisdom:
    • The Collective Wisdom Assessments helps teams understand if they are working well together. It can be instructive to consider the relevant questions on that assessment to understand if the two are likely to make a good team.
  13. Future Contingencies:
    • How do you feel about the possibility of facing unexpected challenges, and how would you like us to support each other during tough times?
    • How can we best keep our marriage vibrant throughout the years?
    • What do you anticipate coping with a midlife crisis?
    • Have we discussed all major aspects of our lives and potential issues to ensure there are no surprises in the future?

Discussing past life events, especially those with potential negative impacts, allows a couple to better understand each other's resilience, coping mechanisms, and personal growth.[3] It promotes empathy and establishes a foundation for supporting each other through challenges that may arise during their marriage. The following questions explore these areas.

  1. Previous Relationship Experiences:
    • What have you learned from past relationships, and how do you think those experiences might impact our marriage?
    • Have you ever been previously engaged, married, or co-habitant with a romantic partner?
    • Have you ever been a prostitute or other sex worker or spent time with a sex worker?
    • Describe your previous pregnancy experiences, if any. (E.g. have you ever become pregnant or have reason to believe you have impregnated anyone?) Have you donated to a sperm bank or have any reason to believe you may have biological children?
    • Are there any unresolved issues from previous relationships that could potentially affect our relationship, and how do you plan to address them?
  2. Family Background and Upbringing:
    • How does your family handle conflict, and what aspects of your upbringing might influence our communication and problem-solving?
    • Are there any family patterns or dynamics that we should be aware of to navigate potential challenges together?
  3. In-Laws:
    • How well do you know and get along with the (prospective) in-laws?
    • How well do you know and get along with extended family members?
    • What problems do you anticipate?
  4. Traumatic Experiences or Loss:
    • Have you experienced any significant traumas or losses in your life, and how do you cope with the aftermath of such events?
    • Are there triggers or sensitivities related to past experiences that might arise, and how can we support each other during difficult times?
  5. Health Challenges:
    • Are there any past or current health challenges that may impact our marriage, and how do you envision handling these challenges together?
    • What birth defects, genetic disorders, or disabilities do you have, if any?
    • Is there a history of physical or mental health issues in your family?
    • Are you presently suffering from any illness; sexually transmitted, mental, infectious, or otherwise?
    • What is the most serious disease you have ever contracted?
    • What is the most serious injury you have ever suffered?
    • If you are planning to have children, consider obtaining genetic testing and sharing the results to uncover any carrier status or other incompatibilities.
    • How have you coped with health-related stressors in the past, and what kind of support do you anticipate needing?
  6. Financial Setbacks:
    • Have there been any significant financial setbacks or hardships in your past, and how did you navigate through them?
    • How do you handle stress related to financial difficulties, and what steps have you taken to prevent or overcome such challenges in the future?
  7. Career Struggles:
    • Have you faced any career-related challenges or setbacks, and how did those experiences shape your attitudes towards work and success?
    • How do you balance career aspirations with personal life, and what support do you need from a partner during times of professional stress?
  8. Legal Issues or Liabilities:
    • Are there any legal matters or liabilities from your past that might have consequences for our marriage?
    • Have you ever been arrested? Convicted of a crime? The defendant in a civil suit? Are you a party to any lawsuits or other legal actions? Describe each.
    • How have you addressed legal challenges in the past, and what proactive steps have you taken to avoid potential issues in the future?
  9. Addictions or Unhealthy Habits:
    • Have you ever struggled with addiction or unhealthy habits, and what steps have you taken to address and overcome them?
    • Is there any history of addiction, of any kind, in your family?
    • How do you envision maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and how can we support each other in making positive choices?
  10. Past Mistakes and Lessons Learned:
    • What mistakes have you made in the past, and what have you learned from them?
    • How do you approach personal growth and learning from past experiences to ensure a positive and evolving relationship?
  11. Support Systems and Coping Mechanisms:
    • Who are your support systems, and how do you rely on them during challenging times?
    • What coping mechanisms have you developed to deal with life's difficulties, and how can we integrate them into our shared life?

The following questions delve into the intricate details of a couple's expectations, values, and preferences in various aspects of life.[4] Open and honest communication about these topics fosters a deeper understanding, aligns expectations, and lays the groundwork for a successful and fulfilling marriage.

Parenting is an awesome responsibility.
  1. Expectations for Fidelity:
    • How do you define fidelity and what level of commitment do you expect in terms of emotional and physical exclusivity?
    • Are you expecting and committing to a monogamous relationship?
    • Have past experiences shaped your views on fidelity, and how can we ensure a trusting and monogamous relationship?
  2. Pets:
    • What are your feelings about having pets, and are there any specific animals you would or wouldn't want in our home?
    • How do you envision sharing responsibilities for the care and well-being of pets?
  3. Intellectual Compatibility:
    • What is the highest level of education you have completed?
    • Do you estimate your intelligence as average, above average, or below average? Why?
    • When do you prefer big talk over small talk?
  4. Children:
    • What are your expectations regarding the number of children and their upbringing?
    • How do you envision sharing parenting responsibilities, and what role do you see for each of us in our children's lives?
  5. Work Roles:
    • How do you see the division of labor when it comes to work responsibilities, both inside and outside the home?
    • What do you foresee as the ideal work, life balance?
    • How might we achieve that balance?
    • How will our careers and professional aspirations impact our marriage, and how can we support each other's ambitions?
  6. Housekeeping Roles:
    • How do you approach household chores and responsibilities, and what are your expectations in terms of cleanliness and organization?
    • Are there specific tasks that you feel more comfortable or skilled in, and how can we create a fair distribution of household duties?
  7. Sexual Pleasure:
  8. Intimacy and Emotional Connection:
    • How do you prioritize and maintain emotional intimacy in our relationship?
    • Are there specific ways you prefer to express and receive love, and how can we ensure our emotional connection remains strong?
  9. Quality Time and Leisure:
    • How do you envision spending quality time together, and what activities bring you joy and relaxation?
    • What do you foresee us doing for fun?
    • Describe your preferred balance among work, leisure, socializing, solitude, and spending time with the family.
    • Are there expectations or preferences for alone time, and how can we balance individual interests with shared experiences?
  10. Personal Growth and Development:
    • How do you support each other's personal growth and individual pursuits?
    • How can we keep from growing apart?
    • Are there specific goals or dreams you have for yourself that may impact our marriage, and how can we work together to achieve them?

The following questions address potential challenges related to addiction and abusive behaviors, promoting open dialogue and a proactive approach to creating a safe and healthy marital environment.[5] Discussing these topics allows for mutual understanding and establishes a foundation for addressing potential issues with empathy and support.

Alcoholism stresses relationshps.
  1. Drug Use and Abuse:
    • What is your stance on recreational drug use, and are there any specific substances you consider off-limits?
    • Describe your own use of alcohol, including specifics about the frequency, duration, quantity, and effects of alcohol use.
    • Are you an alcoholic, actual, borderline, or potential? How do you know? Who is your closest relative who is an alcoholic? Name all of you alcoholic relatives, suspected or confirmed.
    • Describe your own use of recreational (or potentially addictive) drugs, including specifics about the frequency, duration, quantity, and effects of drug use.
    • How have past experiences or the experiences of those close to you influenced your views on drug use, and what boundaries do you propose regarding substance use?
  2. Emotional and Physical Abuse:
    • How do you define emotional and physical abuse, and what are your expectations for maintaining a safe and respectful environment in our relationship?
    • Have you or any of your family members been victims of emotional or physical abuse, including bullying? Have you ever abused anyone?
    • What steps would you take if you felt either of us was engaging in harmful behavior, and how can we work together to create a healthy and supportive atmosphere?
  3. Spouse Abuse:
    • What is your stance on any form of abuse within a marriage, and how can we ensure that our relationship remains free from harmful behaviors?
    • Are there past experiences or family dynamics that we should be aware of to address potential triggers or challenges?
  4. Child Abuse:
    • How do you view the role of discipline in parenting, and what strategies do you consider appropriate and inappropriate?
    • What are your thoughts on seeking professional help or counseling if challenges arise in terms of parenting and potential issues with child abuse?
  5. Compulsive Spending:
    • How do you approach financial decisions and spending habits, and what are your views on compulsive or impulsive spending?
    • What is your spending history? Is there any reason to anticipate problem spending?
    • Are there specific financial goals or boundaries you propose to avoid potential issues related to compulsive spending?
  6. Gambling:
    • What are your thoughts on gambling, and how do you view the potential impact of gambling on our financial stability?
    • What, if anything, is your gambling history? Is there any reason to anticipate problem gambling?
    • Are there limits or boundaries you suggest regarding gambling activities to ensure responsible behavior?
  7. Other Forms of Addictive Behavior:
    • How do you define addictive behavior, and what signs would you look for to identify such behavior in yourself or your partner?
    • Are you a workaholic?
    • Are there past experiences or family history that might indicate a predisposition to addictive behaviors, and how can we work together to address and prevent them?
  8. Seeking Help and Support:
    • What is your perspective on seeking professional help or counseling if either of us faces challenges related to substance abuse or addictive behaviors?
    • How can we create an environment where open communication about these issues is encouraged, and seeking help is seen as a positive step?
  9. Preventive Measures:
    • What preventive measures or strategies can we implement to maintain a healthy and supportive environment, reducing the risk of engaging in harmful behaviors?
    • How can we hold each other accountable and support one another in making positive choices for our well-being?
  10. Understanding Triggers:
    • Are there specific situations, stressors, or triggers that might contribute to engaging in addictive or harmful behaviors?
    • How can we work together to identify and address these triggers proactively to maintain a strong and resilient relationship?

After asking and answering these questions, please carefully reevaluate your decision to make this interpersonal commitment.

Business Partnerships[edit | edit source]

Romance aside, business partnerships often resemble marriages. If you are planning on forming a business partnership, it can be useful to go through the relevant questions presented above to uncover any incompatibilities that may challenge your planned business partnership.

Consider agreeing to run background checks on each other.

Avoid Fraud[edit | edit source]

You may be tempted to invest money or engage in some endeavor that turns out to be a costly fraud. According to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), many Ponzi schemes share characteristics that should be "red flags" for investors. Consider their list of red flags before investing.

Many confidence tricks have successfully defrauded unsuspecting victims. Author Edward H. Smith lists these "six definite steps or stages of growth" of a confidence game. Be sure to disengage before it is too late. Confidence games evolve to meet the current challenges and opportunities. Beware of various forms of Internet fraud, romance scams, and pig butchering, along with other modern forms of deception and fraud.  

Avoid Cults[edit | edit source]

A cult is a relatively small group which is typically led by a charismatic and self-appointed leader, who tightly controls its members, requiring unwavering devotion to a set of beliefs and practices which are considered deviant (outside the norms of society).

This term is also used for a new religious movement or other social group which is defined by its unusual religious, spiritual, or philosophical beliefs and rituals, or its common interest in a particular person, object, or goal.

If you are facing formal or informal barriers to exit, you are in a cult, not a community. It is best to exit as soon as you can.

Recommended Reading[edit | edit source]

Students who are interested in learning more about informed commitments may wish to read these books:

  • Fromm, Erich (August 6, 2019). The Art of Loving. Harper Perennial Modern Classics. pp. 192. ISBN 978-0061129735. 
  • Fisher, Helen (January 2, 2005). Why We Love: The Nature and Chemistry of Romantic Love. Holt Paperbacks. pp. 320. ISBN 978-0805077964. 
  • Ruggiero, Vincent (January 1, 2003). The Practice of Loving Kindness: A Guide to Spiritual Fulfillment and Social Harmony. New City Press. pp. 152. ISBN 978-1565481800. 
  • Salzberg, Sharon (July 17, 2018). Lovingkindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness. Shambhala. pp. 272. ISBN 978-1611806243. 
  • Horstman, Judith (December 27, 2011). The Scientific American Book of Love, Sex and the Brain: The Neuroscience of How, When, Why and Who We Love. Jossey-Bass. pp. 256. ISBN 978-0470647783. 
  • Kennedy, Eugene C (January 1, 1975). If you really knew me, would you still like me?. Argus Communications. pp. 118. ISBN 978-0913592519. 
  • Lewis, Thomas (January 9, 2001). A General Theory of Love. Vintage. pp. 274. ISBN 978-0375709227. 
  • Covey, Stephen R. (January 17, 1996). First Things First. 

References[edit | edit source]

  1. U.S. has world’s highest rate of children living in single-parent households, Pew Research Center, December 12, 2019.
  2. ChatGPT generated text in this section responding to the prompt: “Propose a list of questions that a couple might pose to each other before marriage to ensure trust, compatibility, no surprises, and a long and happy marriage” The generated text has been subsequently edited and augmented.
  3. ChatGPT generated the text in this section responding to the prompt: “Continue this list emphasizing past life events that may have a negative impact on the marriage” The text has been subsequently edited and augmented.
  4. ChatGPT generated text for this section responding to the prompt: “Please continue considering expectations for fidelity, religious or cultural beliefs and expectations, pets, children, work roles, housekeeping roles, sexual pleasure”. The text has been subsequently edited and augmented.
  5. ChatGPT generated the text for this section responding to the prompt: “Continue with questions about for drug use, drug abuse, emotional and physical abuse, spouse abuse, child abuse, compulsive spending, gambling, and other forms of addictive behavior”. The text has been subsequently augmented and edited.