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5 Questions You Need to Ask Before Getting Married – | Designing a Life Well-Lived

Marrying someone is a big decision, but it’s also one of the most important ones you’ll ever make. Before you take that step, there are some questions to ask yourself and your partner that will help ensure your marriage will be successful.

5-Questions-You-Need-to-Ask-Before-Getting-MarriedUnsplash photo by Gemma Chua-Tran

Complete disclosure: I’ve been married for twenty-eight years, four months, and twelve days to the same man. I honestly don’t remember addressing the things I’m going to ask throughout our five years of dating, which started in college and then continued into graduate school. To be honest, my memory isn’t as good as it once was. Also, my memory isn’t as good as it once was… But, well, at least I’m still amusing, right?

What I do know for sure, as a marriage researcher and educator as well as someone who has successfully navigated almost three decades of a very happy marriage—one that has included all the ups, downs, and mediums, conflicts, near misses, nights slept in separate bedrooms, the having babies phase that somehow careened into the glorious empty nest phase, and now the moving to a new city/quitting my job phase—is that there is no such thing as a perfect marriage. 

Why? Because, according to the Pew Research Center, “love” is the #1 motivation for marrying someone in the United States. That’s great, but love is a verb, and if you want it to survive, you’ll have to keep rewriting, rethinking, and rebuilding it. I’m not here to put a damper on your romantic notions. In the early years of marriage, it’s a beautiful, delicious, happy biological sensation. It will, however, alter. It will change over time. It will transform into something much more complicated. Yes, it’s more lovely. However, it is also more negotiated. More experienced. Yes, it will still be love, but in a different form. And the co-creation of a relationship in which you both may thrive is at the heart of the verb-sense of loving each other over the long haul. In which you are both capable of and ready to support and adore each other while you strive to be your best selves. The aim of contemporary marriage is to achieve this.

According to the Pew Research Center, “love” is the top motivation for marrying someone in the United States. That’s great, but love is a verb, and if you want it to survive, you’ll have to keep rewriting, rethinking, and rebuilding it.

That maturation will need not just talking about everything, but also learning how to disagree and establish appropriate boundaries. Oh, and decide out what you’re going to do with your money. Also, toilets that are clean. Also, battle. As well as maintenance. Then debate some more. Everything has to be on the table when you’re in it for the long term. Here are five important questions to address well before you marry to get you started.

1. Is there anything that neither you nor I are prepared to give up after we’re married?

I swear this isn’t a trick question. It really addresses an important aspect of every good relationship: the concept of limits. “Nothing is viable without boundaries,” says the ever-wise researcher and life guru Brené Brown. And marriage is included in this. In fact, in her thirteen years of study, Dr. Brown discovered that the most compassionate individuals are also the most “boundaried.” 

Being empathetic with each other in marriage, as well as respecting what each of you needs to flourish, is essential to co-creating a long-term marital mini-culture. And limits come in all sizes and shapes: large, medium, and micro—anything you designate as acceptable or not okay, must-have or must-not-have. Those are the limits.

Boundaries may be large, medium, or small—anything that you designate as acceptable or not okay, must-have or must-not-have. Those are the limits.

My husband, for example, has been a walleye fishing nut since he was able to grasp a rod and reel in his chubby little baby hand. We have proof in the form of photographs. Over the years, I’ve had to respect his strong and deep-seated need to escape to the north woods of Minnesota with his father and nephew at least a few times a year. Isn’t it straightforward? Go fishing, honey, and have a good time! However, in those early years of marriage, when we were raising children and establishing jobs, even three days seemed like 2.9 days. It never seemed like the right moment for him to go fishing. Yet, when I thought on this fundamental truth, I became much more compassionate: his desire to go out on the wide ocean jigging for the elusive walleye was no different from mine need to spend an hour or two in my sewing studio converting antique fabrics into a skirt or cushion. Or my need for at least 10 hours of sleep once a week. A Saturday afternoon yoga session, for example. 

Every healthy twosome consists of at least two healthy people.

Talk about what you and your prospective spouse think your marriage’s walleye, sewing machine, or power sleep are. Then keep talking about it, understanding that it may alter as you and your marriage develop organically. Did I mention that marriage changes with time? Also, talk about it. 

2. Can you take it if I do things on my own?

As you go through your dating years, you should be able to have a good grip on this with a partner, but it’s also essential to talk about it openly. Because the question touches on an important fact in every good relationship: the need for both autonomy and connection at the same time. 

In fact, it’s a long-held belief that autonomy—the ability to separate yourself from your partner—is the death knell for a happy marriage. In fact, if your spouse says you shouldn’t have some alone time or spend time on self-care; if they don’t support you going away for the weekend with friends; or if they have an issue with you doing the things you need to remain well and whole: this is a big red flag. Flag is a bright red color. Partners who insist on being in continuous contact are unlikely to enable you—and therefore your marriage—to flourish. The ideal time to observe and evaluate this is now, before you get married.

As you and your spouse speak about this, make sure you’re also talking about any marital rules you may have on privacy in various aspects of your relationship, from money to what subjects are appropriate to share with closest friends or extended family.

For example, when it comes to money, my husband and I have a simple rule about spending: If it’s less than $100, there’s no need to talk about it. We should talk if you have more than $101 in your account. Yes, we sometimes break that rule…which is simply another opportunity to talk about our rules and our ultimate goal: helping our family flourish.

3. When your family was in dispute, did you employ the silent treatment, calmly address issues, or smash doors?

Yes, of course. We need to speak about conflict styles, you know. In other words, you and your partner need to have a meta-discussion about how you and your partner have heated discussions. 

The study on this subject is very clear. It’s how you behave and express yourself throughout those disagreements, not how much conflict you have, that determines the direction and ultimate narrative of your marriage. And, unless otherwise and consciously worked on, many of those behaviors and expressions will revert to default mode, those learnt in your individual families of origin.

It’s how you behave and express yourself throughout those disagreements, not how much conflict you have, that determines the direction and ultimate narrative of your marriage. And, until otherwise and consciously worked on, many of those behaviors and expressions will revert to default mode—those learnt in your individual families of origin.

The good news is that healthy conflict styles may be learned in a short amount of time. And a wonderful way to start is by talking about how you want your conflict discussions to go, how you feel about conflict, what you need from each other, and how conflict feels in each of your bodies when it happens (Hot? Flooded? Is it pleasurable or enraged?). When you’re not in a dispute, try talking about conflict wants and desires. Is it difficult? Certainly. Essential? Yes. You’ll be less emotional and more receptive to approaching the discussion with a kind heart and an inquisitive posture. 

Finally, let me whet your appetite for learning extremely successful conflict approaches—and maybe inspire you—by providing one of the most essential conflict skills any couple should acquire. And then there’s practice. According to The Gottman Relationship Institute at the University of Washington’s finest relationship research, the first three minutes of disagreement are a major predictor of whether you and your spouse will divorce in the following six years. True. Story. In those three minutes, what was the key? Begin discussions in a calm and kind manner. When you have anything to say that irritates you, avoid harsh, criticizing tones. 

Isn’t it straightforward and self-evident? It’s difficult to soften your position while you’re filled with rage. I’m speaking from personal experience. However, the tone of the discussion you’re about to have, as well as your marriage, will be established in the first three minutes of dispute. And that’s something worth talking about and doing year after year…hopefully into your own 30 or 40-year marriage.

4. How much would you be willing to pay for a light or a pair of shoes?

Many of us grew up in households where discussing money was as forbidden as discussing Grandma’s sex life. (What does Grandma do?) But, in 2020, we must not only have open and continuous conversations about our financial methods, but we must also talk about our feelings regarding money. 

You and your spouse should discuss everything from spending and saving to how you interpret the words “prudence” and “recklessness” when it comes to money. What does the word “splurge” mean to you? To your partner? 

The research on this subject is straightforward: Talking honestly, early, and frequently about what money means to both of you can help you through the various stages of your marriage, particularly when it comes to the major financial decisions (kids, homes, college). Oh, my goodness, just typing those words had my adrenaline racing. When you think about paying for a college degree, how does it affect your adrenal system? When you think about your spouse buying the newest and most fashionable pair of high-tops, what comes to mind? Regarding your partner’s suggestion that you extend your mortgage by just bumping out the kitchen: “It would increase value!” Those may be good questions to start a discussion about a subject that can’t be avoided.

5. Are you prepared to change diapers at 3 a.m. and miss an important meeting if our child is sick if we want and are able to have children?

The following is the bargain, which is backed up by decades of research: Women still handle the bulk of the housework and childcare in heterosexual couples. Sorry for the inconvenience, but I was just reporting on the findings. (See, for example, this Pew Research Center piece and this one from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.)

Even yet, in the happiest of marriages, spouses share equally and appreciate each other’s time, skills, and needs. 

They may see that taking the lead on diaper rash isn’t so much about caring for our beautiful baby’s butt (yeah, baby has the prettiest gorgeous butt…awwww) as it is about the nonverbal acknowledgement that we’re both in this together. It’s more about the reality that participating in the labor of co-creating a house and family is the greatest expression of love, the ultimate desire to participate fully in both good and difficult times. Even the poopy, to be sure.

Here’s another interesting fact: Most couples want to feel equally valued in their marriage, to participate equally in the daily duties and, eventually, in child care. However, many heterosexual couples find that elements of the more conventional gender roles in child-rearing and domestic duties creep in over time. And when they do, it generally leads to a lot of strife. 

If you’re thinking about having children, talk honestly about how you individually envision yourselves as a potential parent. Even if you don’t want to have children, having a conversation about the kind of home tasks you’re willing (or not willing) to perform is crucial.

Why don’t we start talking about it right now? If you’re thinking about having children, talk honestly about how you individually envision yourselves as a potential parent. Even if you don’t want to have children, having a conversation about the kind of home tasks you’re willing (or not willing) to perform is crucial. You know, the table with the crumbs that drives you crazy but not your partner…I’m only joking, of course.

So, while you speak about everything as you speed up the onramp to marriage, keep in mind the following: Marriage is a discussion that lasts a lifetime. It’s also “an unending sleepover with your favorite oddball,” according to a sign I once saw in a Prague giftshop window. Choose your oddball carefully. Then agree to continue quietly conversing with that wonderful oddball about everything.

The things couples should talk about before marriage is a list of 5 questions that couples need to answer. These questions are important in order to understand how the other person feels and what they want out of life.

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The most important questions to ask before marriage are Do I love this person? and Is this person who they say they are?”}},{“@type”:”Question”,”name”:”What are 5 things couples should discuss if they are considering marriage?”,”acceptedAnswer”:{“@type”:”Answer”,”text”:””}},{“@type”:”Question”,”name”:”What are good marriage questions?”,”acceptedAnswer”:{“@type”:”Answer”,”text”:”
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Frequently Asked Questions

What are the most important questions to ask before marriage?

The most important questions to ask before marriage are Do I love this person? and Is this person who they say they are?

What are 5 things couples should discuss if they are considering marriage?

 

What are good marriage questions?

The best marriage questions are those that help you to find out if the person youre talking to is someone who shares your values and interests, or not.

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