Should You Run a Background Check Before Getting Married

We accept that getting a background check on a potential romantic interest before going out on a date is a proper safety protocol. We know we will encounter background checks when we decide to look for a new job. We run background checks or expect someone else to, for anyone we entrust with caring for our children. So, why is running a background check before marriage, not the accepted norm?

Background checks where once both costly and time-consuming. Now, they can be ordered in a matter of moments, and there are dozens of reputable companies, like UnMask, to choose from online. We can choose to tell our future spouse, or not, but the process itself is quick and painless. Hopefully, by the time you have reached the point of considering marriage, everything about both your pasts has been discussed.

Reasons to get background check before marriage

So, why bother with a background check? You love and trust this person, or you wouldn't be considering nuptials. There are numerous reasons it is still smart to get a background check done, and many couples decide to do it together before marriage.

  • Finances—Getting married means pooling both your resources and debts, and you need to know your partner's financial history because it will have a significant impact on your financial future. If they have a poor credit rating, evictions, or bankruptcies on their credit history, it will affect your financial future together. Future joint purchases will be affected by both your credit scores, so it is only fair that you are both aware of what financial baggage the other is bringing into the relationship. If your partner has been open about their financial mistakes in the past, then you still need a background check to know precisely how bad things are and to plan accordingly. If you, or your partner, have poor credit, you need to research the best way to proceed. Do you keep everything in the name of the partner with good credit? This move might help save on interest payments, but it will take the other partner longer to re-establish their credit.
  • Making sure there are no surprises in either of your backgrounds—Your potential spouse may have forgotten about that broken lease right after college, or you might not have realized that you never paid off a store card that now leaves a black mark on your credit. Mistakes also happen on background reports. Finding and addressing those allows both partners to move forward with the confidence that there is nothing from your past that can damage your future.
Though most background checks, before marriage, should not reveal anything shocking, some things should be considered red flags. Those include:
  • A change in identity—Unless your partner has been upfront about their reasons for a change in identity, you have to assume there is some nefarious reason they are hiding their past.
  • A criminal history that they have kept secret—A past criminal history is a definite red flag unless it was a misdemeanor charge where they were cleared. Something small may have slipped their mind, or never seemed important enough to bring up. However, if there are arrests, charges, or prosecution for violent or serious crimes and your partner has kept that from you, it is probably a deal-breaker for marriage.
  • Prior marriages—If your potential spouse was married before you and did not tell you, you should seriously weigh why they would keep that a secret from you.
  • Addictive behavior—Again, this is one of those things that depends on whether your partner was candid upfront. Now, if all they told you was that they "used to drink too much," but you find evidence of a sordid past of addictive behaviors, you should be concerned. They may still be in denial about the seriousness of their addiction. A history full of possible DUIs, narcotics convictions, and patterns of erratic behavior should be a definite red flag.

In most cases where a background check is done before marriage, both partners agree, and both partners participate. If your potential spouse refuses, becomes angry, or you feel uncomfortable even suggesting it, you may want to ask yourself why? A marriage will only survive if it is built on trust, and trust starts with being completely honest about your past.

5 min read

3 Healthy Ways to Relieve Stress Each Evening (Instead of Reaching for Another Cocktail)

When we envision a person who is suffering from substance use disorder (SUD)—defined by having a history of past misuse, experiencing increasing mental health symptoms, or having a family history of addiction—we often picture someone waking up and instantly grabbing their first drink. However, in my experience working with those battling SUD for nearly a decade, I've learned that everyone's relationship with alcohol looks different and having a few too many drinks at night can be just as dangerous.

The time of day, amount, or type of alcohol one drinks doesn't define if they suffer from SUD or not—it's the compulsion to drink. By focusing on healthy stress relievers and implementing them into your daily routine, you aren't just avoiding another glass at night, you are curbing any inclination for SUD that you may have.

While you may feel the desire to reach for another drink after dinner and putting the kids to bed to relieve some of the stress you incurred that day, there are other things that you can do that are much more beneficial to your mental health and wellbeing.

Risks of Reaching for Another Drink

Reaching for another cocktail or glass of wine can feel like a great way to relieve the stress of the day at the time, but over time it can actually lead to the opposite. Excessive drinking is known to lead to increased anxiety, depression, and other mental health disorders such as increased risk of family problems, altered judgment, and worsened sleep quality. These can all lead to increased stress and create a continuous cycle I have seen in many of my patients, which often prove difficult to break.

Increased alcohol consumption can directly impact an individual's mood and temperament, too. In my patients, I've seen a connection between increased alcohol consumption and irritability, fatigue, and loss of interest in activities that previously brought that person joy—activities that people should always put time into, especially right now during the pandemic.

While drinking in moderation doesn't have serious implications for some, others are already at increased risk for SUD. One drink per day is considered moderate for women, while eight drinks or more in a single week is categorized as heavy drinking. It's important to monitor your intake—whether you are at increased risk for SUD or not. It is all too easy for one glass to become another, and then another. And if you keep reaching for just one more drink, you can start to build a tolerance, as it requires more and more alcohol to achieve the desired effect. This can result in dangerous, addictive habits that will alter your life, and the lives of those who care for you.

Three Healthy Ways to Relieve Evening Stress

Stress relief from alcohol is short-lived, but choosing healthier, alternative stress relievers can provide long-lasting benefits for both your mental and physical wellbeing. At Wellbridge, our team not only focuses on treating addiction but also on teaching healthy habits to support ongoing sobriety. And many of these learnings can be implemented to avoid addiction by handling stress better as well!

Below are three healthy stress relief ideas you can implement into your routine:

  1. Mindfulness exercises can be a powerful and mentally stimulating stress reliever. Throughout our therapeutic program at Wellbridge, we provide different opportunities to cultivate mindfulness. For example, breathing exercises, such as box breathing or diaphragmatic breathing, mindful walking, and progressive muscle relaxation. If you're looking for entry, guided meditation, check out this YouTube channel where experts post mindfulness exercises each week.
  2. Human connection is invaluable. Whether it is your spouse, your children, a friend, or even a therapist, connecting with someone else can be a great way to relieve stress. The additional perspective that another person provides can also help us feel that the anxieties and stressors we are experiencing are more manageable. If you are feeling increased stress from loneliness or isolation, reach out and schedule a Zoom coffee hour with a friend, or call a loved one to check-in and chat.
  3. Physical activity is an excellent stress reliever as well, for so many reasons. Not only can it help us get our mind off of stress, it enables our bodies to release endorphins and provides long-lasting physical health benefits. Physical activity doesn't need to be a full-blown workout if you don't feel up to it, or simply don't have extended periods of time to dedicate to a longer exercise regimen. Even a short walk or some stretching can go a long way towards improving your mood. I enjoy following guided, online yoga practices for both mindfulness practice and physical activity.

Despite my years working in this space, I am no stranger to giving in to stress. However, I've learned that by allotting myself a little time each morning and evening for activities that set a positive tone in my life—like meditation, journaling, and exercise—I've been able to better manage my stress and feel more prepared for heightened periods of stress. Do I manage to set aside personal time every morning and evening? Definitely not—life happens! But by doing our best to take regular time out for ourselves, we're all certain to be in a better place emotionally and mentally.

Putting Your Mental Health & Wellbeing First

It's important to also recognize that it isn't just stress that causes us to reach for another drink at night. With the added pressures and responsibilities of women in today's world, having another glass of our favorite drink at the end of the day can often seem like a quicker and easier option than other healthier ways to relieve stress.

However, it's essential to put your mental health and wellbeing front and center in your priority list—something that many women struggle with. But just like the oxygen masks on an airplane, you can't take care of others if you don't take care of yourself first. By focusing on implementing small, healthy habits and making them a seamless part of your daily routine, you ensure that you can show up in all aspects of your life and for all the people in your life.

If you are struggling with increased stress, be specific and honest with your support system about your need to preserve your mental wellbeing. Prioritizing your needs will help you be there for other people you care about in your life.

I always refer back to a quote from a Dar Williams song—a song about therapy no less! "Oh, how I loved everybody else when I finally got to talk so much about myself." Talk about your needs with others and find time to develop healthy coping habits. And if you feel as though you've already created an unhealthy relationship with alcohol, discuss that relationship with a medical advisor to learn if advanced treatment is the right option for you.