questions to ask before marriage

Marriage 101: Questions to Ask Before Walking Down the Aisle

Thinking about walking down the aisle with your partner? What you don't know about each other can affect a marriage down the road.

Here is a list of 20 questions you should ask your partner before walking down the aisle:

What does marriage mean to you?

People’s concepts of marriage are inspired by their parent’s relationship, other relationships they have witnessed and even other relationships that they have been in. All of these things affect people’s view of marriage and what they are looking for in a marriage. All marriages are different, and our exposure to different marriages (happy and sad or unfulfilled) colors our perception of it. It’s important to understand that you and your partner are on the same page about what marriage means before you decide to tie the knot.

What marriage vows are most important to you?

In a similar vein, it’s also important to understand what the most sacred parts of the marriage are to your partner. Understanding which marriage vows are the most important to your partner will help you to understand what they prioritize in the relationship.

How did your family resolve issues?

Our family dynamics (especially childhood family dynamics) play a huge role in how we navigate conflicts as adults. Some families hash things out with fights, others resort to passive aggressiveness, while others have more healthy coping mechanisms and are able to talk about conflict in a more constructive way. Though it is possible to learn healthy conflict management strategies even if this was not your family dynamic, it is still important to understand how your partner learned to resolve issues in their family. This will give you insight into conflict management in your relationship and help you manage inevitable conflicts with their family in the future.

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What is your relationship with your family?

In addition to understanding how your partner’s family handles conflict, it’s important to understand your partner’s relationship with their family in general. What are the family dynamics? Are they close with their parents? Their siblings? Are they expected to be caretakers at some point? As the saying goes, you don’t just marry the person, you marry the family. This can be a blessing in some cases and a curse in others, but either way, it’s important to understand family dynamics (and disclose your own family dynamics) before deciding to spend your life together! This is by no means a make or break for the relationship, just something you should discuss before saying « I do ».

What is your relationship with your exes?

As painful or awkward as it can be to talk about old relationships with your current partner, it’s important to understand what your partner’s past relationships were like. Understanding how the relationships ended, why it ended and their current relationship to one another is helpful as you and your partner become more serious and consider walking down the aisle.

Will debts be shared?

Before getting married, it’s super important to understand each other’s financial standing. Again, while this should not make or break the relationship, you don’t want to blindside a partner with overwhelming debt. If you do have debt, it’s important to understand how the debt will be managed moving forward. Do you plan to share your assets? Combine bank accounts? Or keep things separate? How will this work with debt? And if you take on more debt as a couple, how will this be managed? Financial conversations can be awkward, especially given the taboo nature of money in some families. But sitting down and having these conversations will help set you up for a more successful union.

What are your priorities in terms of finances?

In addition to talking about debt, it’s important to talk about your priorities in terms of finances. If you have debt, do you want to pay it off as quickly as possible? Do you have long term saving goals in order to buy a house? Or would you rather spend your money on travel? It is also important to understand your respective levels of comfort related to financial risk.

Are you willing to invest in a risky venture? Or are you conservative with your spending and investments? Though finances are not the sexiest thing to talk about, they can actually make or break relationships! Financial stress is a leading cause of divorce, so making sure that you and your partner are on the same page about finances, spending and risk is important before walking down the aisle.

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How important is religion?

Are you and your partner religious people? Are you of the same religion? Is religion important to your relationship? Do you expect a partner to convert if you are not of the same religion? Is your family supportive of your religious practices? For many people, religion is at the core of who they are and all of their relationships. For others, religion is not an essential part of their life. Understanding where you and your partner stand when it comes to religion is important before taking your union from a relationship to a marriage.

How important is sex?

Sex is often a super important part of relationships in the early stages (unless you and your partner are waiting for marriage), but is often something that becomes less common over time. After the honeymoon phase, sex can become less frequent as you and your partner build a connection beyond your chemical pull to one another. Some people are comfortable with sex taking a backseat in the relationship, while others want sex to remain a priority. It is important to talk to your partner about your sex life and your sexual needs before deciding to get married.

Is independence a priority for you?

Are you an independent person? Is your partner? How important is your independence? And do you expect to become more or less independent as a married person? It is important to make sure that you and your partner are on the same page about the amount of time you plan to spend together and apart as a married couple. Though this is probably something you have navigated as a couple, sometimes people’s expectations for this changes when marriage is on the table.

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Do you believe in monogamy?

Even though you and your partner are discussing marriage, it’s important to understand if they believe in the possibility of monogamy in the long term. It is possible to have a happy and healthy marriage even if you do not believe in monogamy, as long as you and your partner are on the same page about monogamy or polyamory.

Do you want to have pets?

How important is having an animal to you or your partner? And are your views on pets compatible?

Do you want to have children?

A super important question to ask before marriage is whether or not you and your partner are on the same page about children. Do you want to have biological children together? Are you open to adoption? Do you or your partner have children with other people? How do you plan to co-parent or step-parent moving forward? Or are children not in your future at all?

What will be the division of labor in the house?

If you and your partner do decide to have children, how will you divide the labor in the house? Will one of you take parental leave? Do you both plan to? Are you on the same page about who will take on the role of primary caretaker? Even if you do not plan on having children, it is still important to consider how labor will be divided in the household. Are you both planning to work? If so, how will you split up household chores? If not, how will the household labor be divided up? Like the other questions in this list, there is not a correct answer here. Each couple has to find what formula works in terms of dividing household labor. But it is important to have a discussion about this and for straight couples not just rely on traditional gender roles to dictate who does what in the relationship.

What are your short term goals?

Understanding what your partner wants in the next few years is important for the future of the relationship. If you have had conversations about children and pets, are these things that you want in the next few years? Or five years down the line? Do you want to be married as soon as possible? Or is marriage something you want to pursue once you have reached a certain age? Or point in your career? Understanding each other’s short term goals can help you support each other as you work towards these goals and make sure that you are on similar paths moving forward.

What are your career goals?

If both you and your partner are working, it is important to understand each other’s career goals and the implications of these goals. Will you have to move a lot? Will you have to help put a partner through school so that they can achieve their career goals? Will one of you have to put your goals on the backburner to help support the other? Talking through these goals will give you a clear vision of the future and whether you have compatible aspirations.

Where do you see us in 10 years?

Aside from short term goals and personal goals related to your careers, it’s important to understand your long term aspirations for your relationship and make sure that you and your partner are on the same page. While there is no way to anticipate or plan for all the things that life will throw at you, you can talk in general terms about the things you want to prioritize. Do you want to focus on traveling as a couple? Do you have financial goals you are trying to reach? Do you want to live close to family and stay in one spot for the foreseeable future? Do you have interest in volunteer work and philanthropy? It’s important that you and your partner are on the same page about these types of things so that you are both moving towards shared relationship goals.

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Are there any deal breakers for the relationship?

Another super important question to ask a partner is whether or not they have any absolute deal breakers that would end the relationship outright. Though this is not the most pleasant thing to talk about (especially if you are discussing marriage) it is important to understand their standards and boundaries for certain things, and to ensure that your standards are compatible with theirs. Deal breakers can be anything from disagreements about religion, to children to how you will spend your money. If there are incompatibilities with how you view these things, it is often impossible to overcome the differences. Understanding this can save you both a lot of heartbreak in the future.

What will you do when things just aren’t working?

During the course of your relationship, there are bound to be highs and lows and conflicts that arise. When you are having a conflict over something that is not a dealbreaker, how do you plan to address the conflict. This question is related to conflict management, but also how you will show that you are fighting for the relationship. Are you willing to take time apart to work things out? Are you willing to go the extra distance to fight for the relationship? It is important to understand how you and your partner plan to solve the problem moving forward. Though you will never know what life will throw your way or what conflicts you will have to address, you can ensure that you are well equipped to deal with these hurdles if you talk about strategies before these conflicts arise.

Are you open to counseling?

In addition to discussing how you plan to manage your relationship when things aren’t working, it’s important to discuss if you are open to counseling with your partner. Marriage counseling is a great way to keep your relationships healthy and communicative even if you are not necessarily having problems. Counseling can be the saving grace for many relationships if both partners are on board with the process. It’s important to understand if your partner is open to the idea of counseling before deciding to walk down the aisle.

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