In an ideal world, couples get engaged – and then married – already knowing they’re on the same page when it comes to life’s big issues.
But sometimes, that’s just not the case. Maybe they’ve deftly steered around difficult or potentially thorny matters. Or, maybe, the romance hasn’t yet given way to more practical matters.
However, that doesn’t mean it’s too late to act. In fact the engagement is the critical time to ask yourself – and your partner – any searching questions that mightn’t have yet come up and, of course, any other major topics that could be an issue moving forward. Many of them, of course, will already be water under the bridge. But this checklist will help you make sure.
Life has some pretty big questions to consider, and when you’re planning marriage, you need to bring your partner in on the answers. Here are some questions to discuss.
- Why do you want to get married? And do you think that’s a strong enough reason to see us through the good – and hard – times?
- What do you want us to achieve in life as a couple?
- Where do you see yourself in 20, 30 and 40 years from now?
- How important is monogamy to you?
This is also where you need to think deeply for yourself and note if there are any red flags when it comes to your partner’s behaviour. Look at how much and how often they drink, whether they’ve ever been violent inside or outside the home, whether they bully other people in any way. If the answers are less than ideal, find someone to talk it through with, as it could be that you have some big decisions to make.
Marriage unites two families absolutely, so it’s crucial to know what you’re getting into, especially since childhood is what shapes people’s reflections and considerations of family. Here are some questions to discuss.
- What was your childhood like?
- Is your family very affectionate?
- Is your family likely to cause issues during the holiday season?
- What values do you want to bring into the marriage?
- What qualities do you like and dislike about your family?
- What qualities do you like and dislike about my family?
- What aspects of your parents’ marriage do you want to scrap, and also emulate?
In raising self-image, it’s not about vanity but about taking a very real look at how your potential spouse views themselves, since poor feelings of worth can manifest in myriad ways down the track. Here are some questions to discuss.
- How do you feel about yourself on a general basis?
- Are you happy with the person you are, or do you feel you have work to do?
- How do you believe I view you?
- How do you feel about me on a general basis?
- Is there anything you think I need to look at?
- Are you a jealous person by nature?
- Do you have any trust issues or insecurities?
- Is constant affirmation something you need?
- How well do you accept compliments?
- Do you think we listen well to each other?
- Have we shared all the relevant information about our mental and physical histories?
- Do you consider it a priority to take care of yourself, and also me?
Financial and money issues
Money and financial issues are the number one cause of disagreements and fights in marriages, which is why it is important to make this a key topic for discussion. Here are some questions to discuss.
- Are you comfortable to have discussions about money, and be honest about your situation?
- What is your current financial position, including all debts big and small, and also all assets?
- Do you consider yourself a spender or a saver?
- Where does all of your money go?
- Do you keep a budget? If not, are you willing to start?
- What are your financial goals for the future, including the potential purchase of property?
- What type of accounts should we have – joint, separate or both?
- How much should we each contribute to ongoing regular expenses?
- Who is going to take responsibility for ensuring bills are paid on time?
- Is going to the movies or being able to go on vacation annually a luxury or a necessity in your opinion?
Starting a family and parenting
Many people take the plunge with a view that children will be the next step, if they don’t already have them. But it’s not as simple as wanting kids – or assuming that you’ll have them. Instead, you need to make sure you’re on the same page. Here are some questions to discuss.
- Do you want to have children?
- How many would you ideally like to have?
- How long do you want to wait after the wedding before we start trying?
- What type of parent do you believe you will be?
- What is your philosophy on parenting, including discipline?
- What are your thoughts on IVF or adoption if we can’t fall pregnant naturally?
- Do you believe one parent should stay home with the children? If so, who do you think it should be?
Day-to-day life is made up of thousands of small moments – some interesting, some boring. But these are the reality of married life, which means considering how you will tackle them, from doing housework to catching up with friends. Here are some questions to discuss.
- How will we divide the household chores?
- Are you willing to clean the toilet? If not, will you take responsibility for something I loathe doing?
- Where do domestic duties fit in with your schedule?
- Do you understand that I shouldn’t have to ask for your help around the house?
- How do you like to spend your days off?
- Do you think we need to do everything together?
- Are you happy for me to pursue my personal interests?
- Do you have a problem with me socialising without you?
- How will we ensure we spend plenty of quality time together?
- How much time are you happy to spend with your family and mine?
How much will each of your bridesmaid dresses cost?
Spirituality and religion
Religious and spiritual beliefs can be very personal and hugely important. And there’s a potential for conflict if you don’t share the same views, or at least respect your different approaches. Here are some questions to discuss.
- Is religion an important part of your life?
- Are spirituality and faith important for the success of your marriage?
- How do you want to raise our children in regards to your faith?
- Are you willing to compromise and change your faith to mine?
- How do you feel about celebrating occasions not recognised by your faith but important to my family and friends?
Even the happiest marriage will have conflict – but what stands couples in good stead is being able to navigate through it together. Here are some questions to discuss.
- How will we make decisions? And who gets a deciding vote if we disagree?
- Are you good at facing disagreements head on, or do you avoid conflict?
- Are there issues we need to deal with prior to marriage?
- Can you handle conflict well?
- What differences in our relationship have the potential to cause conflict?
- Do you expect me to change?
- Do you hold on to past conflict?
- Are you able to forgive – in reality as well as sentiment?
It’s fair to say not all of these issues will be easy, but they are essential to lay the foundations for a long and happy marriage. And one that you go into with your eyes wide open.
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