We’re always hearing that we could be having better sex, a better orgasm, or a better relationship. But how often do we hear the nitty-gritty of how we can actually better understand our deepest desires and most embarrassing questions? Bustle has enlisted Vanessa Marin, a sex therapist, to help us out with the details. No gender, sexual orientation, or question is off limits, and all questions will remain anonymous. Please send your sex and relationship inquiries to email@example.com. Now, onto today’s topic: the most important questions to answer before getting married.
Q: “My partner and I have been talking about getting engaged and married in the not-so-distant future. We have a pretty good relationship, but of course we have our ups and downs just like any other couple. I know there’s no easy way to predict whether or not this will be a successful marriage, but I’m curious if you have ideas of specific questions we should be asking ourselves, or specific conversations we should be having with each other, before we take these next steps.”
A: Thanks for the question! These certainly are some big next steps, so it’s important to make sure you put a lot of thought into them. I’m glad that you’re thinking about this before actually getting engaged or married. It’s easy to get swept up in the logistics of planning an engagement and wedding, and forget about the more important stuff — namely, what this marriage actually means to you both. Here are nine important conversations to have before getting married, each with plenty of follow-up questions to consider.
Are We On The Same Page About Kids?
Let’s jump right into it with the three most common dynamics that cause couples to break up — kids, money, and sex. Here are some of the kid-specific questions to consider:
- Do you want to have kids?
- How many do you want to have?
- When do you want to have kids?
- How will you split up childcare duties? Will one of you be primarily responsible?
- How will children fit in with the rest of your plans for your life, like your careers, your financial goals, and other goals?
- What are your beliefs and values about how kids should be raised?
Money is such a huge topic, and it can cause conflict in a relationship in so many different ways. Here are some of the most important topics to consider:
- Are you going to combine your finances? Or will you keep them separate?
- How will you divvy up shared expenses?
- Do either of you have any debt? Will you share that debt, or keep it separate?
- Do either of you have any savings or trusts? Will you share that money, or keep it separate?
- Do you need or want to create a prenup?
- Do you have similar approaches towards saving and spending money?
- Do you have financial goals?
Of course, as a sex therapist, I’m particularly interested in making sure couples are on the same page sexually before taking the next steps. Make sure you discuss all of these sex questions:
- Do you understand each other’s sexual needs?
- How will you continue prioritizing your sex life?
- Have you addressed any sex issues you already have?
- What will you do if we start having problems in the bedroom? Do you both feel comfortable reaching out to a sex therapist for support?
Are Our Spiritual And Religious Needs In Alignment?
Religion is probably a close number four when it comes to common reasons couples break up. You don’t have to be of the same religion or spirituality, but it’s important that your beliefs aren’t wildly in conflict with each others. Here are some other questions to consider:
- Do you expect your partner to change religions? Do they expect you to?
- Do you understand each other’s religious or spiritual needs?
- What religion will you raise your child/children in, if you have them?
- What holidays will you celebrate? Will those celebrations involve your extended families? Do you want each other to participate?
How Do We Feel About Being A Part Of Each Other's Families?
In-laws are another big source of conflict between a couple. Here are some important questions to answer:
- Do you see your in-laws causing any tension? Have they already?
- What roles do you want your families to play in your marriage?
- Do your families have any expectations of you and your marriage?
- How will you manage any family tension that may come up?
Do We Know How To Fight Fairly?
One thing all of the previous categories have in common is that they frequently lead to fights. Fighting in and of itself isn’t necessarily bad for a relationship, but it’s important that the two of you build the skills to fight fairly. Relationship researcher John Gottman found that the ability to fight fairly was actually one of the biggest predictors of relationship success.
- Do you understand each other's needs during a fight?
- Do you avoid criticism when you fight?
- Are you willing to listen to each other’s point of view? Or do you get defensive?
- Do you ever resort to name-calling or hostility?
- Do you shut each other out when you fight?
- Have you been able to successfully resolve arguments in the past?
- Do you have any unresolved fights or issues still looming over you?
What Does Marriage Mean To Us?
When I’m working with a soon-to-be-engaged or newly-engaged couple, one of the big topics I help them explore is what marriage actually means to them. It’s important to realize that your marriage can mean whatever you want it to mean. You just need to be purposeful about communicating those desires. Make sure to think about these questions:
- Are you going to be monogamous? Monogamish? Poly? Open? What are the boundaries in your relationship?
- What does commitment mean to you?
- What are the specific vows you want to make to each other?
- What are the vows you want your partner to make to you?
- What are your opinions about divorce? In what cases would you consider divorce?
Do We Know What We Want From Our Wedding?
The wedding itself can actually bring up a lot of interesting dynamics between a couple, and can highlight differences in your values. Here are some important wedding questions:
- How much do you want to spend on your wedding? How will you split or share the costs?
- What do you want to do for your honeymoon?
- What role do you want your friends or family to play in your wedding?
- What are the most important or meaningful aspects of the wedding? What are you willing to spend on? And where do you want to save?
What Do We Want For Our Future?
Like you said, there’s no way to predict the future. But it’s still important to have conversations about where you see yourselves going, and what you want for your relationship.
- Where do you see yourselves in five years? 10? 20? 50?
- Do you have any individual goals you want to accomplish? How does your partner fit into those goals?
- Do you have any specific goals you’d like to accomplish together?
Wishing you both the best of luck!