I haven't made it down the aisle quite yet (that's another article for another day) but as a wedding planner, I get to talk to many newly engaged couples. One of the first things I like to ask them is how they knew that he or she was the one. Oftentimes, that answer is tied to a conversation the couple had. It's a surprisingly hard question, but couples usually have a set answer that works for them and fits in with their story as a couple. Personally, though, over time meeting with engaged couples, I've come up with a few questions that you absolutely must ask your partner before you take the plunge into marriage.
Chances are, you've already talked about what kind of wedding you want (a rustic barn or exposed brick in an urban warehouse?) and how many kids you want. But have you talked about the kind of marriage you want in specific detail? Do you believe in spanking a child? What if you have an unplanned pregnancy? What if you're faced with infertility? Do you want a TV in the bedroom? Believe it or not, that seemingƒhely small detail was a real breaking point in one of my relationships. Everyone is different, and it's important that you're aware and accepting of those differences before you decide to get married. Take my list as a starting point and go from there as you start to have marriage-focused conversations in your relationship.
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1. What Are You Like When You're Mad?
This is one of my favorite questions to ask someone I'm dating, because I think it provides real insight into someone's character and how they cope with problems. If they need to talk a fight out immediately after having it, but you're the type who needs to mull conflicts over for a few days, how will you handle it when one or both of you is mad?
2. Do You Understand Each Other's 'Love Language'?
You may have heard of the book The 5 Love Languages . It sounds totally corny, but I really believe it's true. The book is based on the premise that each of us wants one main thing out of a relationship: Words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service, or physical touch. To determine yours or your partner's love language, ask yourself what you complain about or how they respond to you and other people.
For me, it's absolutely "words of affirmation." That's how I show someone I really care about them, either by saying it verbally, through a random text, or written in a card. The flip side of that is that I crave the same thing, and if your partner is unable to show love in the way that you need it, that can be a problem. Take the time to figure it out now!
3. By What Rules Or Guidelines Do You Live Your Life?
This sounds like a philosophical question, but I think it probes deeper than asking "What are your core beliefs?" By asking someone what rules, guidelines, or statements they live by, you're asking them a question that will give you insight into how they handle everything from problems at work to conflicts within a relationship. If you really think about it, could you put your life ethos into words? How does that mesh with your partner's?
4. What Are You Willing To Give Up?
It's not as negative of a question as it sounds. What if one of you gets a dream job offer in Seattle, but you had previously agreed to stay close to your families? Likewise, if your spouse's mother needs to either go to a nursing home or move into your home, are you willing to give up time and resources to allow that? Decide now who can or wants to stay home with kids, who can make a career sacrifice and for how long. If one person feels that you spend too much time at the office, can you adjust your workload or give up another commitment in order to spend more time at home?
5. Does One Of You Hate Something That The Other Loves?
Yeah, differences are great. But if you partner absolutely can't stand something that you love, it's bound to become a dealbreaker as time goes forward. For example, I love country music, and I often date men who don't. At first, we find common ground — but eventually, I get tired of not being able to play the music I like in the car, and I get tired of taking friends to country concerts. Even if it's just that you love sushi and your significant other doesn't, will you get tired of eating sushi by yourself in 15 years?
6. How Will We Deal With A Break In Trust?
Everyone wants to believe that the trust between partners is unbreakable, but the fact of that matter is that trust is very, very breakable. From something small, like snooping through texts, to something bigger like infidelity, how will you deal with it? Talk about the reasons behind divorce and the pros and cons of therapy now, before you're in a high-pressure situation.
5. Do We Have More Than Just Love?
This is a question to ask both yourself and your partner. Chances are, if you've been in enough failed relationships, you know that love just isn't enough to sustain a relationship forever, let alone a marriage. Can you work together — whether it's on a committee, painting a room, or building a crib? Bonus points if you actually have fun working together.
My ex and I couldn't even pick up a paintbrush without getting into World War III, and I eventually realized that you don't want a partner you can't complete tasks with. Can you make decisions together, and how will you go about it? Does one of you make a list of pros and cons, and the other just follows their gut? Respect is in some ways just as important as love, and if you can't respect differences (even the little ones), your relationship will suffer. If one of you is religious and the other isn't, you have to learn to truly respect their beliefs and not just secretly think that your partner is way off base. Relationships are hard, marriage is harder, and both become nearly impossible when you don't have much else to go on other than love.
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