You have been dating each other for some time now and are now considering building a life together. As a couple, this can be an exciting step for you; believing that you have finally found the one and both of you are willing to take your love to the next level. Marriage counsellors recommend, however, that whereas marriage is undoubtedly a beautiful thing, couples need to examine a number of factors before they take that leap. Emmanuel Gatsinzi whose wedding is set for May this year, says one important thing he found crucial is for him to discuss expectations with his fiancée. He says, when they had just started dating, their biggest clash came with what they expected from each other. After understanding their weakness, they both decided to sit and come up with a conclusion. “We did this for our relationship and are also doing it for our marriage. Whether its finances, our careers and individual lives, we have decided to discuss the basics of what we both plan and want to see as ground rules,” he says. Leticia Mukase has been married for six years now. When she first met her husband, it didn’t cross her mind that that was the man she was going to marry. However, as months went by, she realised he had the character she would want in a life partner. “He was honest and a man of his word. He always meant what he said and came through with his promises. I knew he was the one I wanted to start a family with,” she says. They now have three children and Mukase says even though their marriage isn’t without hitches, she doesn’t regret her choice for a marriage partner. She, therefore, advises couples who are planning to get married to always look out for qualities that define a person’s character because this is the base that determines the success of a marriage. “Consider your values as a couple and as individuals. Misunderstandings in marriage usually arise from conflicting beliefs and values. Discuss them from the beginning and decide if you can or can’t live with them.” Your partner’s relationship with drugs, alcohol, and gambling should be an issue to consider, writes Andrea Bonior, a licensed clinical psychologist. If you are thinking of committing for life — or even just living together — it may be very helpful to contemplate some of the issues that can frequently drive a wedge in long-term relationships. Sure, problems with substance abuse and gambling can crop up unexpectedly in a marriage. But all too often, the signs of potential problems with alcoholism or addiction were there all along but were wilfully not talked about or even acknowledged—perhaps out of fear or denial. Take a hard look at your partner’s and your own relationship with substances. As much as you might want to ignore potential problems, it is invariably true that the earlier they are addressed, the better chance there is that they can be dealt with successfully, she notes. She also adds that discussing children—whether to have them or not—earlier before marriage is as important. Virtually everyone would acknowledge that opinions about whether or not to have kids should be openly discussed and clarified before getting married. But you may be surprised how often this becomes an issue anyway, because of one important and often overlooked phenomenon: People change. It’s important not just to discuss your preferences, but to assess how much wiggle room you each have. If each of you vaguely imagines having two children, that might sound like you’re perfectly compatible on that score. But what if after one child, one of you wants to stop? What happens if infertility is an issue—how hard will you continue to try, and how do you feel about adoption? What happens if one person still has the itch for more children after the second one? What happens if one person unexpectedly wants to be a stay-at-home parent? Or not? It’s important to dig deeper, she warns.