Monday, March 25, 2013

Co Parenting Marriage Questionnaire

If you are looking to marry someone who already has children, it is important to have many conversations about how you plan to raise those children together and what your priorities, values, and rules are.  Below is a guide for that conversation with some starting points for some issues that could arise.  

**As a married couple, you will have many new adventures, celebrations and challenges. As co-parents, there will be many others to add to that list.  It is important to foster communication on every level as a couple, and even more so as parents.  Below are a number of questions relating to different areas of life.  I would encourage you to look through them and answer them for yourselves as individuals and then share them with each other. After you talk through them together, I would encourage you to choose the relevant areas to talk about with your child(ren). Remember communication is important, not just for you as a couple, but also for your whole family.

What is your role as a parent as far as instigating work or education?
·         for biological parent(s)?
·         For step/co parent?
How much are you willing to pay to support each kid? For how long?
·         For School?
o   Are grades a factor?
o   What actions or behaviors would cause you to limit or stop financial support?
o   If support were lost, are there actions that could earn it back?
·         For Living?
o   How much?
o   How often?
o   What actions or behaviors would cause you to limit or stop financial support?
o   If support were lost, are there actions that could earn it back?
o   Where does this money come from?
o   What if one of you loses your job or takes a pay cut, how will that affect financial support of the child(ren)?
·         For clothes? Shoes? Necessities?
·         For movies, shopping, food, or fun stuff?
What are the chore responsibilities for kids? For the adults/parents/couple?
·         What is currently happening as far as chores?
·         Are there things you would like to change now?
·         Is there a schedule?
·         When are chores expected to be completed?
·         What happens if they aren’t done?
·         Who is responsible for calling attention to undone jobs/chores?
·         Are there incentives (like an allowance) for completing chores?
·         **It would be good to discuss this as a couple and then with children living in the home so everyone is clear about expectations, rules, and consequences.
Who is responsible for cooking/meals?
·         Who buys groceries?
·         What is the budget for groceries?
·         For meals out?
·         Is there a set time for when meals should be ready?
·         When do you (each) need/prefer to eat?
·         If there is designated cook, what happens if someone else wants or needs to cook? 
·         If there is a designated cook, how often would that person not be responsible for meals?
·         If there is not a designated cook, who decides who will cook each main meal?
·         What are your expectations as far as eating together as a couple?  As a family?

How do you handle discipline for the kids? Who reprimands the kids? Asks them to follow through?
·         What if discipline is needed?
·         Are there set rules?
·         Consequences?
·         Are there currently any problem areas? 
·         What are the kids doing well already that they can be praised for?

Who has what level of authority in terms of parenting? In terms of running the house? How will you establish it?

What are your priorities as a couple? What are your goals?
·         Where do you see yourselves
o   in 5 years?
o   10 years?
o   20 years?
o   30 years?
·         What are your aspirations for work?
·         For your home?
·         For your family?
·         For your budget?
·         For travel?
·         For personal goals or accomplishments?
·         Where are your priorities different?
What are your holiday customs and rituals?
·         Where do you spend the holidays?
·         Which holidays do you celebrate?
·         Which customs/rituals are extra important to include (a certain food on Thanksgiving? A certain custom around decorating the house for Christmas? When do you open Christmas presents?)
·         Which family and/or friends do you spend your holidays with?
·         What new customs/rituals would you like to establish for yourselves as a couple? As a family?
·         How will custody be shared with the kids’ biological mother? Is there already a schedule in place? What about with additional family or in-laws?
How important is practice of faith/religion to you?
·         What are your expectations for _______________________ (both for yourself and for your spouse)
·         worship?
·         For bible study?
·         For prayer?
·         For mission?
·         For fellowship?
·         What are your expectations for the kids and church?
·         Will you pray at meals?
o   At home?
o   In public?
o   Together?
o   A set prayer or a spontaneous prayer?

5 Love Languages

I am a huge advocate of the 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman. I use it in marriage counseling all the time. I have also referred to them a number of times here on this site.  Below is a summary I use or overview in working with couples.  It is not complete nor does it suffice for reading the book yourself, but hopefully the overview piques your interest.

Words of Affirmation
Actions don’t always speak louder than words. If this is your love language, unsolicited compliments mean the world to you. Hearing the words, “I love you,” are important—hearing the reasons behind that love sends your spirits skyward. Insults can leave you shattered and are not easily forgotten.
Quality Time
In the vernacular of Quality Time, nothing says, “I love you,” like full, undivided attention. Being there for this type of person is critical, but really being there—with the TV off, fork and knife down, and all chores and tasks on standby—makes your significant other feel truly special and loved. Distractions, postponed dates, or the failure to listen can be especially hurtful.
Receiving Gifts
Don’t mistake this love language for materialism; the receiver of gifts thrives on the love, thoughtfulness, and effort behind the gift. If you speak this language, the perfect gift or gesture shows that you are known, you are cared for, and you are prized above whatever was sacrificed to bring the gift to you. A missed birthday, anniversary, or a hasty, thoughtless gift would be disastrous—so would the absence of everyday gestures.
Acts of Service
Can vacuuming the floors really be an expression of love? Absolutely! Anything you do to ease the burden of responsibilities weighing on an “Acts of Service” person will speak volumes. The words he or she most want to hear: “Let me do that for you.” Laziness, broken commitments, and making more work for them tell speakers of this language their feelings don’t matter.
Physical Touch
This language isn’t all about the bedroom. A person whose primary language is Physical Touch is, not surprisingly, very touchy. Hugs, pats on the back, holding hands, and thoughtful touches on the arm, shoulder, or face—they can all be ways to show excitement, concern, care, and love. Physical presence and accessibility are crucial, while neglect or abuse can be unforgivable and destructive.

To learn which love language you speak, take the assessment at

5 Languages of apology

In any relationship, we have struggles, disagreements, fights, and hurt feelings.  For each relationship, we need to be intentional about healing the trust in our relationships. To do so, it requires an apology. Like love languages, we each have an apology language that speaks to us more clearly than another. 
For more information, go to

You, Me, & Us

Navigating the roads of marriage can be exciting, challenging and even frustrating.  Trusting another individual with the raw materials of who you are and allowing them to love you for all you are, and all you aren’t is one of the greatest risks a person can take in life.  Your partner will hopefully love you more fully than any other person you have ever known.  (Remember to use one another’s love language to help the other feel loved, not just know they are loved. )  Your partner also has the potential to wound you more deeply than any other person simply because you have entrusted them with so much.  The expectations for love, compassion, understanding, fun, affirmation, communication, and mutuality are often high, and sometimes, they are even unreachable.  It is important to communicate openly and honestly as often as you can so you know how best to love, care, and honor one another. 
As part of your covenant in marriage, you will promise to love, honor, and respect one another.  You will promise to love your spouse above all else, to choose to be the best partner each day, to forgive even when you have no desire, and to try even when you have lost hope.  As part of your covenant, you will need to submit your own will and desire for the well-being of “us”.  Submission in marriage is not about dominance, or power, or control. Submission in marriage is about honoring your spouse and creating the best “us” you can.  At times, that will mean completely forfeiting what you want.  Other times, what is best for “us” will be choosing the job, health, or needs of one partner over the other.  That shouldn’t be a choice of dominance, but one that respects that your covenant is for the long term and not for the short term.
As you prepare for your wedding, I hope you will focus instead on the quality of your marriage. Your wedding and festivities will only last a day or two, but your marriage should last a lifetime!  Marriage is not a 50/50 contract, it will require 100% from each of you each day (sometimes more), with occasional times of “coasting”. 
When you face times of discernment about jobs, housing, and family, may you focus on “us” and not on yourself.  When you face times of conflict, may you remember it is ultimately not about “you” (you gave that up in singleness) it is about “us”—you and your partner—for better and for worse, for richer and for poorer, in sickness and in health! 
May God bless you in the love you share and your relationship as you grow together!