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5 Tests to Pass Before Proposing (Guest Post)

So you’re in love. 

Congratulations! There’s no better feeling, and as terrifying as true love can be, it holds all the promise in the world, and the potential to define the rest of your life. And if you have reached the point at which you feel genuinely in love with that special someone, you’ll probably be tempted to propose, or at least to discuss the possibility of an engagement. 

These feelings are perfectly natural, but that doesn’t mean you should act on them just yet. The divorce rate is falling in the U.S., and that’s great news for those interested in marriage. But marriage can still be a very fragile commitment for those who rush into it or don’t approach it carefully. It’s easy enough to feel certain that you’re in love with somebody, but are you equally certain you can build a life with that person? 

Unfortunately, there’s no exact way to be sure about this. At some point, a proposal is a leap of faith! However, there are a few lifestyle changes and practices that can effectively serve as tests for whether or not you and your partner are ready for marriage. Here are five to keep in mind for your own relationship checklist. 

1. Can You Articulate The Day-To-Day Benefits?

Sounds easy, right? Well, this is a surprisingly tricky proposition even for some devoted couples. A Huffington Post column on questions to ask before marriage phrases a similar idea as, “What would marriage give you that you don’t already have?” If you can answer that question honestly—and without resorting to clichés—then you may be on the right track. For example, if your answer is “love” or “constant support,” you may not have thought hard enough about what exactly your marriage will mean. Try to prove to yourself that you have a detailed understanding of how a life together will benefit you—both “you” personally and “you” as a couple—every day. 

2. Can You Share A Living Space?

This is a big one, and one that far too many couples ignore. One reason some couples don’t move in together is if they’re abstaining from sex until the wedding night. While that’s understandable, I’d encourage even couples that fit this description to share a home, if not a bed. An Adam & Eve article titled “How Will I Know?” phrased the idea with decisive clarity: “No one truly knows if they are compatible or if the love will stay without sharing a roof, bills, and a life together in this intimate way.” Really, it’s that simple. You may know somebody’s personality inside and out, but until you actually live with her you’ll miss out on all the little habits and tendencies that are her most personal and intimate—and that will become a big part of your life. 

3. Can You Share Financial Responsibility?

I just mentioned “sharing bills” in the same category about sharing a living space, but this is important enough that it deserves its own bullet point. According to another Huffington Post article, financial disputes early in a relationship can be a predictor of divorce, and it’s fairly thoroughly documented that finances can be some of the most stressful factors in a relationship. Before you propose, you need to be absolutely sure you and your spouse-to-be can comfortable and openly share financial responsibility. 

4. Would You Change Her If You Could?

This one sounds a little harsh to consider, but it’s important. An article in Bustle, more directed toward women, made the incredibly important distinction that you may be ready for marriage if you don’t want to change your partner, but rather understand that the two of you will evolve together to suit each other’s needs. Evolution in a happy marriage can be a natural process. But if you think about this privately and you can come up with more than a few (or a few major) ways you’d change her if you could, you may want to give it more time before committing long-term. Nobody’s perfect, but the person you marry should be pretty close to it in your eyes! 

5. Can You Raise A Dog Together?

I realize not everyone is a dog person, but consider this question conceptually. Really, it’s best as a test for couples who want to be parents in the future. Raising a dog properly requires a great deal of time, devotion, teamwork, and mutual love. But whether or not you and your partner hope to be parents, caring for a dog together can be a very revealing process. There may be no better way to see how well you can work together—and in the end, that’s the most important factor of all!