It should be understood that you and your partner will have different opinions on a few philosophical ideals, plus life goals and values. But what goals or philosophies do you want your partner to share in order to give the marriage a better chance of success?

For example, if you have a more liberal mind set, would a partner's conservative viewpoints be troubling? Are you a woman who wants to be married but pursue a career or home business instead of tending to home and family? Would it make a difference to your partner? If you're a man who would prefer a career woman as a wife, would you want to marry someone who wants to be a stay-at-home mom to three kids? If you and your partner have completely different priorities for a relationship or marriage which are unresolved beforehand, problems after marriage will surface very quickly. Differing philosophies and values should be discussed honestly, freely, and resolved before marriage is even considered, let alone planned. You may be so far apart on one or more issues that chances of a successful marriage to your current partner are slim to none. Don't wait until after the wedding to find out!

If you've never heard the term before, a "deal breaker" is simply a characteristic, conflict or issue that would eliminate any ideas of continuing the relationship to the point of marriage. For example, if your partner was a heavy smoker, drinker or substance abuser, that might be a serious deal breaker. And in the case of alcohol or substance abuse, it should be. Not all questions may apply directly, but you might want to make a list of the ones that do. When your list is complete, begin asking them of yourself, before you ask your partner, especially if you have never considered them before. It is well known in the legal profession that a good trial lawyer never asks a question unless he or she knows the answer. In the same manner, you cannot expect to discover whether or not a partner shares your views on a subject that's important to you unless you know for certain what your own views are.

Casual Dating

Too many couples spend more time than they should on relationships that simply won't work in the long run. This is often because they are afraid to ask the questions that could save them a lot of time and heartache. If you know what your personal deal breakers are, you can make it a point to ask the critical questions over the next few dates. Why waste a lot of time in a relationship where you and a partner are so far apart on an issue that a marriage is doomed to failure?

Everyone has their own idea of what their own preferences for a relationship are, and trying to second-guess each person is simply impossible. So I will provide some questions that I consider important for any relationship I decide to have in the future. You may agree with some of them or all. Questions you might not give as much weight to can be substituted with those of your own.

1. Do you consider yourself a conservative, liberal or libertarian? - Some people believe that political differences shouldn't matter in a relationship. However, there are others, myself included, who consider that very important. Each of the main political parties have different philosophies, and there are often serious conflicts when two people who have widely opposite viewpoints get together. Personally, as a self-declared libertarian, I would find it very

difficult to sustain a relationship or marriage with a man who is a strong conservative. You may not consider politics that important in a relationship, but if you do, you need to make sure your partner shares most of your important viewpoints, if not all of them.

2. Must all marriages include children to be successful? - About two years ago, I read The Good Marriage, by authors Judith Wallerstein and Sandra Blakelee. The book was a result of a study of about fifty couples personally interviewed by Wallerstein, and on the surface made some valid points. However, there was one key omission that in my opinion cast serious doubts on the entire book's credibility. She had decided to eliminate all childless couples, whether by circumstance or by choice. I found that omission curious at best and strongly biased at worst. One of the quotes in the book, from one of the people she interviewed, stated the following: "Marriage needs children. That's what it's all about. Otherwise, it's just a date." Of course, this was just one more opinion, but it is surprising how many people will treat this statement as an absolute. It seemed obvious to me, from reading her book, that Wallerstein believes that marriages should include children as a rule. However, that is a belief, not a fact. What are your views on children in marriage, and more important, does your partner share them? Whether you want kids or you don't, both of you should be in total agreement. Otherwise, you are just leaving yourself open for serious marital problems after you're married.

3. Does religion matter in your relationship? - Your answer will be a simple yes or no, for both you and a partner. If you haven't thought much about your own religious views before, spend some time thinking about them now. It could be that you have no belief in a religion or in God, which is perfectly acceptable. Many people are humanist, atheist or agnostic. The problems occur when a religious person, whatever the denomination, and an atheist try to persuade a partner to his or her point of view. This is an exercise in futility, if both are strongly committed to their own ideology, or lack thereof. The only thing you can do in this type of conflict is agree to disagree about religion, or if you can't, to simply end the relationship. It's a tough call, but do you really want to be spending your time arguing and trying to convince someone that your way is right and your partner's is wrong? Debating religious views is fine in a casual friendship. In a romantic relationship, it is a different matter entirely.

4. Do you want a traditional marriage or a modern one? - Traditional marriages were more common in our parents' and grandparents' generations. The structure was a simple one, where the man worked at a job outside the home and provided the money for his family. The woman's job was the home, and her duties included and were usually limited to cleaning, cooking and child care. If she did anything outside the home, it was usually volunteer work, and it was done only if the children were in school. Modern marriage, to clarify the definition, is more of a partnership than a hierarchy. Both partners work together to keep home, work and family life, (whether children are part of the marriage or not) running smoothly. What is your preference, and do you know whether your partner will share it? Knowing what you want in a marriage helps you to eliminate potential partners who have different or opposite goals.

5. Is Sex A Priority For You? - If you value sexual compatibility in a marriage, you will probably want to have a sexual relationship before marriage as well. Whether you and a partner are sexually on the same page in terms of desire and preferences is very difficult to know for certain just by talking about it. But what if your partner is opposed to having any kind of sexual activity before marriage? You need to find out why he or she has these feelings.

If for some reason, they remain firm on it and refuse to compromise on this issue, you might want to ask yourself what the partner is possibly holding back. You don't want to find, if you enjoy a good sexual life as part of your marriage, that your partner actually dislikes sex and goes to great lengths to avoid it. You also must make it a priority to determine if your partner has sexual practices you consider undesirable or even harmful. You don't want to marry someone who considers sadistic sex, for example, his or her idea of a good time.

Although there are only five questions given here, they should get you started on your own list. Whatever your deal breakers are, it is important to get these established early, to determine whether you and a future mate are suitable for lifetime partnership.