Questions to Ask Before You Say "I DO"
Many little girls play wedding. As they grow up, they dream of the perfect proposal, the perfect dress and the most romantic setting for their wedding and reception. However, when a woman does fall in love and is proposed to, her first thoughts should not be of the flowers and a champagne fountain, but of the marriage. The wedding is a few hours on one day, but the marriage is the rest of your life. Before you start picking out your place settings, you need to sign up for premarital counseling.
You might think that everything is wonderful, and it probably is, so why would you need to discuss anything else? You wouldn’t be getting married if things weren’t great. The sobering truth is that half of all marriages end in divorce, and many more are unhappy marriages. No one goes into marriage thinking they will get divorced or be miserable. You need to put the time and energy into making sure you are on the same page for the long run. And, think of it this way, it isn’t going to hurt you any to think ahead, at worst, it is time lost. Even if you have been living together, there are things that one or both feel changes once you’ve cemented the deal with marriage—those that have lived together before marriage are more likely to get divorced. If you don’t take a class, you and your future spouse need to at least sit down and discuss certain things:
You want to know each other’s backgrounds. Yes, it does matter. How we were raised and what we experienced influences who you (and your partner) are today. How are your parents’ marriages? Were they happy, unhappy or just neutral co-existence? Did your parents’ divorce? What about subsequent marriages, if any? Did they do little things for each other, with each other or was all the work divided up? Which aspects of your parents’ marriages do you want to bring into your marriage and what do you want to leave behind?
What are your views on religion? Are the views the same? Are either of you practicing, and to what extent? Weekly? Several times a week? Only on holidays? Will you lead separate religious lives—different religions, or different churches? Does any of this bother you? Under whose beliefs will you raise your children?
CHILDREN AND PARENTING
Speaking of children, do you want children? Does your partner? When? Would you like to start a family right away or would you rather think about it after your fifth wedding anniversary? How many? Will you want to move out of the city when kids come? Would you want to leave a rural area to go where more kids are? Do you want to send your children to public or private schools? What about homeschooling? What are your beliefs on vaccinations? Circumcision? Birthday parties? Will one of you stay home, work from home, work part-time or will both of you continue to work full time? What type of daycare will you have—family, a nanny, a private sitter (your home or theirs?), or a traditional center? What type of discipline do you believe in? What about allowances? Will you give an allowance; will it be a straight amount or based on chores or some hybrid method? It may seem trivial, especially now, but many fights with marriage are about kids—having them and raising them.
How do you plan on spending and saving money? Will you maintain separate accounts, joint accounts, or both? If you do both will you put equal amounts into a separate account and the rest into a joint account or vice versa? What if one of you can’t/won’t work down the line? How will you split expenses? How will you decide on the big purchases like a house, vacations, furniture? Who will do the actual bill paying? What are your credit histories?
Who will do which chores, and when? Will you take turns cooking or will one of you be solely responsible? Does the cook also clean or does the one who didn’t cook clean? Does one person do the laundry or do you each take care of your own? What about picking up the dry cleaning? Who is going grocery shopping? Who makes the grocery list? Do you buy organic? Do you buy the skim milk or 2%? Mayonnaise or Miracle Whip? Who takes the car in for maintenance? Do you want pets? What kind? How many? Where will you spend the holidays, birthdays and anniversaries? How do you feel about alcoholic beverages, smoking and guns in your home?
INTIMACY AND SEPARATION
Are you comfortable talking about sexuality with your partner? What are your sexual expectations? Is sex a weapon? Are you getting the affection you need? What is your love language? How will you handle friendships with others? How much of your leisure time will be spent together? Do you enjoy the same activities? Will there be a girls/boys night out? How often? What about friendships of the opposite sex?
POSSIBLE RED FLAGS
There may be things that come out in counseling that even though you love each, makes you realize that your fiancé just isn’t “the one”.
- Emotional outbursts
- Unwilling to compromise
- Lack of respect
- Abuse towards you or others
It’s OK if your answers don’t match up. That is what premarital counseling is about—finding out where you are and where you want to go. You negotiate your own relationship; there has to be a little give and take on both of your parts. You both also must realize that as your marriage continues, there will be times that items must be renegotiated. Maybe you didn’t plan on children, but: Surprise! You’re pregnant with twins. Or maybe a special needs child will just make having more too much of a strain. Maybe an illness will render one of you unable to work. The important thing is to get as close as possible now and work out your negotiation style now. Also, if you can’t come to agreements or find any deal-breakers, it is better to find out now then after you’ve invested years into the marriage, or thousands of dollars into the wedding. It’s best to give your marriage the smoothest start possible.