Now that you understand why marriage is such a big decision, it’s time to figure out what it is you want out of the marriage, and whether or not she’s a good fit. Usually when it comes to big decisions, I talk about checking your three boxes. This process helps narrow down and prioritize what’s most important so that you can move forward with confidence. When it comes to the weight of a marriage decision, it expands to your “big five” boxes. I’ll lay out the top ten categories you should consider for your big five, but it’s on you to decide what those five are, and how they’re ranked in order of importance to you.

1- Loyalty: without this, you have nothing. If she sides with other people over you, or has you low on the totem pole of priorities, it may be time to reconsider that ring. Any hint of infidelity should be grounds for immediate dismissal, under any circumstances. A woman who’s totally in love with an alpha male will give her entire self to him. She will not hold back, and she will not act shady.

She shouldn’t have active accounts on dating apps, she shouldn’t be receiving DMs from guys, and she shouldn’t disappear for several hours at a time without letting you know where she is. If she’s overly protective over her cell phone, there’s a reason. If you’re ordering delivery on her phone and she acts panicky while you scroll through the menu, buyer beware. Ex boyfriends should never be hanging around, nor texting or calling her. She should be willing to drop any of them at your request. If she doesn’t oblige, move on. She was never yours to begin with.

2- Morals and Values: do you share the same beliefs about life, morality, and the world? If you don’t, this is a red flag. I’m not saying you have to both vote for the same political candidate (although it makes things much easier), but you have to agree on what’s right, what’s wrong, how consequences should be implemented, and how life should be lived. You can’t expect to build a home with someone who has a wildly different vision of what a home should be. Anything built on a shaky foundation is vulnerable to collapse.

3- Religion: for some this is a deal breaker, and for others not so much. It’s helpful to practice the same religion, partly because your morals will certainly align, and partly because it’ll be an easy decision how to raise your kids. If you’re not the same religion, one of you will have to deal with the fact that your children and you won’t share a religion.

Keep in mind, if you DO share a religion, holidays can be a lot more complicated as you’ll have to decide which side of the family to visit on which holiday. For couples with mixed religions, there’s no concern about missing Christmas because only one of you will be celebrating it. If religion doesn’t matter to one of you, this will be easy. Just make sure you agree on how your children will be raised if you actually want them.

4- Kids: first and foremost, you must be aligned on whether or not you both want kids. If you can’t agree on that, the relationship will fail. One of you will grow to resent the other, and you’ll feel as though you’re missing out on one of life’s great gifts.

If you decide you both want to start a family, then you’ve got to have a conversation about how many kids, how you’d want to raise them, and so on. If she wants five kids and you only want one, that’s a problem. If she wants to raise them Jewish and you want to raise them Muslim, that’s also a problem. Get on the same page about what kind of family you want with her before actually starting one.

Pro tip: you should also discuss what you’d want to do if she can’t conceive for whatever reason. Having a baby isn’t as easy as one might expect, with many couples facing more challenges to fertility than ever before. Would you keep trying? Would you attempt IVF? Would you adopt? Have this conversation so you’re prepared for anything. Problems conceiving have been known to break many couples apart.

5- Long term goals: so many relationships fail because the couple isn’t aligned on long term goals. People talk about “outgrowing” their partner, but in reality they never aligned on what was most important in the long term. What may work today might not work tomorrow, so it’s on you to communicate with her and get on the same page about the future. If you’re confused about what this means, consider these major life goals:

  • Family: Kids vs. no kids, how many?
  • Geographic: Where will you live? NY or LA?
  • Lifestyle: Cabin in the woods or mansion in Beverly Hills?
  • Goals: Travel the world or run for local office?
  • Focus on career and travel versus family

Ask yourselves where you want to be in twenty years. If the answers are extremely different, you may want to reconsider proposing.

6- Attraction: this needs to be there. Awhile back I wrote a piece on kiss chemistry, and all of those same rules apply. Do you want to rip each other’s clothes off, even when you’re mad at each other? Is the sex forced, or natural? Are both of your needs being met? A bad sex life can kill an otherwise good marriage, so it’s crucial that you’re both satisfying each other. If not, resentment and infidelity can occur in the future.

7- Money: finances are another relationship killer. I encourage transparency here, so that there are no surprises on either end. If she is irresponsible with money and puts herself (and you) in debt, it’s a huge red flag. The two of you need to understand and accept the level of lifestyle you’ll have as a couple. If there’s misalignment here, it will cause a major break in the relationship, and could leave you divorced and in debt. Are you both big spenders, or are you a frugal couple? A big spender who enjoys nice things will have a hard time being married to a cheap person. If for one second you think she’s a gold digger, it’s time to reevaluate your potential proposal.

Before you propose, have a sit down conversation about your income, your joint expenses, and the expectations once you’re married. Decide how you will manage finances: will there be two separate accounts And a joint account? A joint account only? Two separate accounts? Who’s responsible for what bills? What does your monthly budget look like? If you want to take a vacation or buy a new car, how’s that being handled?

Pro tip: it’s probably going to be impossible to go 50/50 on everything. When examining your core joint expenses (rent, utilities, etc.) a fair way to divide up the burden is to do it based on percentage of base salary as it relates to your combined income. Example: she makes $50k/year and you make $100k/year. Your salary is 66% of your joint income, so you are responsible for the 66% of the bills. Make sense?

8- Bad Habits: nobody’s perfect, and we all have bad habits. She’s going to have them too; it’s just a matter of how bad the habits are, and what level you can sanely tolerate. Is she a little disorganized or messy? Okay, no big deal. Is she used to living in a filthy pig sty? Well, that’s an issue. Is she able to maintain a home, or does she live like a college student in a dorm? How bad is she with money? Does she try to take care of herself by working out and eating right most of the time, or is she consistently unhealthy? Does she have a drug problem, or does she occasionally smoke weed? Identify her flaws, figure out how severe they are, and evaluate whether or not you can deal with them.

Pro tip: you’re not going to change her. Who she is entering the marriage is who she will be. Don’t expect marriage to magically transform her into a better person with less flaws. Accept the fact that the person you’re marrying is the person you’re committing your life to, flaws and all.

9- Family: I am not one to preach that you’re “marrying her family if you marry her”, but you are becoming part of it. The person you choose to marry may be nothing like her family, and if she allows for some separation between you and her kin, it’s all good. But if you’re potentially marrying someone who expects you to solve her family’s problems, consider this a big red flag. You are not obligated to be her family’s savior, and you cannot burden yourself taking on their problems. Be cordial, respectful and kind. Understand who they are and what they stand for.

If your woman comes from a good family, you are blessed. People with morals, good values, and a strong financial situation will be the perfect in laws, providing they don’t try to run your life. If her parents have a healthy marriage, this is a good sign. It means she’s had a model of excellence to strive for. There’s a reason why girls with “daddy issues” can end up on the pole: they have no idea what a healthy marriage is supposed to look like, and they seek the wrong type of approval from men.

Pro tip: be careful when accepting financial assistance from your in-laws. The moment you do, you are obligated to give them some level of voice or control in your marriage decisions. To remain fully independent, maintain financial independence. No handouts.

10- Friends: you can tell a lot about a person based on who they spend time with. Her circle of friends should be respectable, moral people, and if they’re not she shouldn’t want to associate with them anymore. The last thing you want to do is wife up a woman who’s friends are a terrible influence on them. Friends like these will plant seeds of dissension, manipulate your wife, and eventually destroy your marriage. The woman you’re about to commit your life to should be mature and intelligent enough to know which friends to move forward with, and which to leave behind. If you have major concerns about her group of friends, voice them in a respectful manner.

Oh, and another thing… there should not be a male “best friend” in the picture. You should be her best male friend, end of story. Unless he’s flamboyantly gay, in no way should you tolerate a male best friend. He’s got to move along, because there won’t be room for both of you. If another man (outside of a family member) is providing something for her that you can’t, there is a problem in your relationship. There’s only one alpha in her life, and that alpha is you.

-Your Big Bro

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