Are you ready to get married?
Having a discussion right from the start of a relationship that you are looking for a life partner is a great approach. Do not agree to stop dating others until you and your partner have discussed where you’d like the relationship to go.
Are you both thinking in the same direction or do you have different goals in dating?
After a time of exclusive dating, for a maximum of 6 months, we recommend you have a conversation about a timeline for marriage.
Here are the tops questions you should ask before getting married.
Do you want to have children?
One of the most common challenges that we see with our clients revolves around women who have the conflicting pressure of building a career as well as a romantic relationship with enough time to honor their biological clock for having children. Starting to create a family over the age of 36 years old can be difficult for women.
It is very painful for a woman to be in a relationship for five or more years only to learn that her partner does not want children. Unlike a man who can have children at almost any age, women need to be asking questions about children early on in their relationships.
One of our patients, Donna, is a woman who is 36 years old and is now freezing her eggs because she desperately yearns for a child. Her husband of eight years is just not interested in children. She hopes someday he will change his mind.
If you want children, do not continue to be in a relationship where the other party is not sure if they want to have children. We recommend that you politely and lovingly tell your partner that should they change their mind, they can let you know.
Can you both make your marriage the number one priority?
Are there commitments to parents or prior children that prevent you from making this relationship your priority?
This question is the most challenging and very important.
There are invisible loyalties that can undermine marriages. Parents, overworking, passionate hobbies, health issues, and even friendships are some of the commitments or obligations that can prevent a couple from coming first with each other. It is devastating to find out after your wedding vows that you are not the priority in your partner’s life.
These issues can be negotiated but it needs to be done before you make your relationship official.
What is your attitude towards drinking and drug use?
Another important issue you need to address before you take yourself out of circulation relates to your partner’s attitude towards alcohol and /or drugs. Frank discussions about drugs and alcohol use are essential.
Do not think that you will change your partner’s attitude towards drugs and alcohol because of your love for each other. Alcohol and drug use is a huge problem that can lead to loneliness, disconnection, and divorce.
What is your involvement in religion?
You also need to discuss your perspectives about participation in religion. If you have important differences, that could be a big problem. Having different religions can also be problematic.
If you’re going to have children, what religion will you raise them with? Do you want to be at home raising the children and be a full-time domestic partner or do you want both of you working?
If you come from a culture that expects the mother to be home with the children and your partner does not, this could be a big conflict. If both partners feel comfortable about working full time, that could be fine. It is important to talk about your financial and domestic roles before committing yourself for marriage.
Does your philosophy of managing money match your partners?
Discussions about financial goals are important before committing to marriage. Arguments about money are a common cause for divorce.
Do you have debt? Is it important that you have a plan for retirement? Do you pay your bills on time? Do you work for the purpose of travel and adventure or are you more interested in building your savings, or just living within a budget?
Who will pay the bills? Over what amount of money would you want a joint decision to spend? $100? $500?, $1000?, $10,000?
Do you have health issues which could impact the relationship?
Not disclosing your history of depression, debilitating migraines or other ongoing health problems can explode later. If discussed ahead of time, your partner will not feel betrayed by your withholding information about major health issues.
Recently, a couple came to see me for counseling because the wife had a dramatic episode of depression just days after the wedding probably due to the stress of organizing the event. She had been on bipolar medication with on and off depression for a year but had not disclosed this to her new husband. He knew she was on some medication, but he did not know the details.
She was unable to function for 12 hours after the wedding and only then told him of her problem. He felt betrayed. Their lives have been greatly affected by this intermittent cycle of depression and his distrust has grown as he now contemplates divorce.
Love and passionate romance are an important value in modern marriage but unless you are open and honest about these issues, your marriage will just have a shaky foundation.
Sitting down and honestly talking about your expectations will not sound like an exciting venture. However, this is an important conversation that needs to happen if you want to avoid painful surprises.
Don’t think that you can change your partner. If you are not able to negotiate important differences, know that these are the issues that will inevitably show up in your relationship and cause stress and crisis eventually. We encourage couples thinking about marriage to ask the questions we have discussed. You need to use your thinking (not feelings!) and you need to inquire about your differing values and life goals to save yourself from a preventable life of discord and disappointment.
Dr. Barbara Grossman is a PhD marriage counselor with over 30 years of experience with 60,000+ client hours. Michael Grossman MD is an antiaging rejuvenation physician specializing in bioidentical hormone replacement and stem cell therapy. They have conducted marriage workshops for over 25 years to thousands of couples. They are the authors of The Marriage Map: The Road to Transforming Your Marriage from Ordeal to Adventure.