While your wedding day is an undeniably special time in your life, it’s only one weekend of your marriage. A relationship that can survive the many unpredictable ebbs and flows of life is built on honesty, trust, support, kindness, and love. It also requires open and consistent conversation, where both parties feel appreciated, heard, and celebrated. Those dynamic duos who stand the test of time are aligned on the most important values and beliefs, allowing them to be a united front, no matter what. That’s why therapists recommend having specific discussions—and asking some important questions—before marriage.
By answering the most important questions to ask before marriage below together, you can better understand if you’re on the same page. And if not, how to get there before your happily-ever-after begins:
Do we want children?
While there are some areas where people feel comfortable compromising on—say, choosing a house a few miles out of a preferred neighborhood—the decision to have kids is not a gray area for most. That’s why Dr. Yvonne Thomas, Ph.D., says it’s essential to select a life partner who shares your same family-planning goals. “It can be quite a shock and can sometimes cause a breakup to discover after you are married that you and your significant other are not on the same page about this topic,” she warns. “It is imperative that you and your partner have this talk and be transparent and honest with each other about the subject of children.”
What are our thoughts and beliefs about financial management?
For first marriages, typically, differences or conflicts about finances are the issues leading to divorce, according to psychiatrist and author Gayani DeSilva, MD. And though money matters aren’t a cozy convo for most people, partners should feel empowered to speak openly and candidly about all financial issues—and ask important questions before marriage. This includes but is not limited to saving, spending, retirement goals, debt, and so on. Don’t wiggle around the nitty-gritty either, DeSilva says. “The issues or conflicts that arise will be in the details, like the everyday expenditures,” she continues. “The key is not to agree on everything but to be able to express oneself to their partner and to be able to hear what the partner has to say, too. It's all about creating a safe place to be able to discuss anything.”
What does our support network look like?
Though fairytales and romantic comedies send the message that your partner is your everything, the reality is that no one can fulfill your every whim and wish. In addition to being self-aware of your needs, it’s also important to build and foster a community. Not only for yourself but for your relationship, too. This doesn’t mean you and your soon-to-be spouse should tally up your friends and make sure it’s even, instead, it’s about each partner feeling as if they have the support they require, according to Amy Cirbus, Ph.D., LMHC, LPC, the director of clinical content at Talkspace.
“One partner might be introverted and only have a few close friends. Somebody might be super extroverted and recharge with other people,” she continues. “Whatever way their support network is defined, there should be a sense of satisfaction rather than a sense of disparity because disparity could make the relationship feel imbalanced.”
Do we want to follow a religion? If so, which one?
Some people build their lives around religion, while for others it's not as big of a focus. Regardless of whether you choose to follow the same beliefs, understanding where you both stand will ensure a happy marriage, according to Dr. Thomas. Misalignment could be a deal-breaker for some people, but not everyone.
“You both would need to see if you and your partner could agree on this or could blend or co-exist with each other's religions or lack of religion if there is a difference between the two of you. If there is a significant clash or discomfort for either or both of you, the issue of religion may be something you two cannot compromise on and could be too insurmountable for you and your partner to resolve,” she adds.
What are our expectations with our families?
You may come from a close-knit family that joins together frequently, but what about your partner? How close are they with their immediate and extended family members? Because everyone’s experience is different, DeSilva suggests exploring questions like these:
- What are your expectations about relationships with other members of the family?
- How do you expect me to interact with your family?
- What do you imagine my relationship with your mom to be like? What do you expect my relationship with your dad to be like? Your siblings?
“Exploring and describing the ideal of what one hopes relationships with the in-laws will look like helps put unspoken expectations out on the table,” she explains. “Knowing these nuances of the ideal will help keep expectations realistic and attainable. Few things are worse in a marriage than feeling like one can't meet the expectations or can't please their spouse.”
How do we envision the role of a spouse?
When two people join together in a marriage, they bring their baggage, beliefs, values, and expectations with them. But how you define ‘spouse’ and how your partner does may vary significantly. That’s why licensed clinical psychologist Dr. Erika Updegrove recommends exploring this topic before you wed. “You will want to take a look at how they see the division of household labor, finances, and family obligations divided between you. You will want to have a clear understanding of whether or not you can successfully fulfill that role for them and vise versa,” she continues. “It is important to know whether you are entering into a marriage based on traditional, progressive, or free-formed norms and values.”
How do we need to give and receive love?
Or another way to phrase it to your partner: “How best can I show how much I love you?” As DeSilva explains, the devil is in the details and having the ability to illustrate your care and support so they can hear it matters much. This simple question can lead to more intimacy and increased satisfaction in your marriage.
“The goal should be creating the environment where the partner can express themselves: their differences, commonalities, and fantasies. Having awkward conversations allows for creating this safe space,” she continues. “The more often couples have awkward conversations and ask important questions before marriage, the easier and more fun those conversations will become.”