Don’t walk down the aisle without having these conversations first.
Marriage experts often advise couples to ask the same standard set of questions before considering a long-term commitment, like, “Do you want to have kids?”; “What are your religious beliefs?”; “How much debt do you have?”
But there are plenty of less-conventional conversations that can reveal even more about a person and their expectations for marriage. We consulted relationship experts to find out which important questions people may not think to ask their long-term partners, but should. Take a look at these before walking down the aisle.
1. How much alone time do you need?
“At the start of a relationship, two people are usually so eager to spend time together, it can misrepresent the fundamental needs for time alone. You’re eager to forgo your cherished Saturday mornings with coffee and a book when you’re falling in love, but you may crave that again when the hormones return to their normal state. A simple discussion of the time you like to spend by yourself or with close friends could help avert hurt feelings in your partner so they know you’re not rejecting them, you’re just recharging your batteries.” ― Ryan Howes, psychologist
2. If we won $5,000, how would you want to spend it?
“Dating couples almost never talk about money, and yet financial issues are some of the most difficult that they encounter over the long term. If you are a conservative planner, you will be happier with the answer, ‘Let’s save it for a down payment on a house,’ versus ‘Let’s blow it on a trip to Vegas.’ Making the question concrete can help you diagnose whether your values about money are too different to make things work over the long term.” ― Karl Pillemer, professor of human development at Cornell University and author of 30 Lessons for Loving
3. Are you more afraid of being abandoned or being smothered?
“This question can begin a deeper look at each of your attachment styles. Are you more anxiously attached or avoidantly attached in a relationship? The more you know about your attachment styles, the more that differences in your needs will make sense and the less you will take these differences personally.” ― Celeste Hirschman, sex expert and author of Making Love Real
4. How do you envision supporting your parents as they age?
“Generationally speaking, many of you will be what is fondly referred to as the ‘sandwich generation,’ which means that you will have dependent kids in the home and dependent parents that also need care. How do you envision supporting your parents as they age? Will you be financially responsible for them? Will they move into a mother-in-law suite until end of life? Would you prefer if your parents lived in a care facility? Having some understanding of your own wishes and your partner’s wishes can dramatically affect big life decisions, like where in the country you choose to live, how large of a house you buy, your long-term investment and saving plan, etc. For many, care of your parents is also a non-negotiable item and should be outlined and discussed early in the relationship.” ― Laura Heck, couples therapist and creator of the online couples therapy series “ForBetter”
5. In the middle of a fight, do you prefer to keep talking until you come to a solution? Or walk away, think and revisit the conversation later?
“I find that many of my client couples have different styles of conflict resolution. One person wants to keep hammering away and can’t rest till a solution is found. The other one gets flooded and can’t think and needs time alone to work it through before they can come to a solution. The former feels abandoned. The latter feels overwhelmed. If they recognize the pattern early on, it can head off a lot of misery.” ― Vikki Stark, psychotherapist and the director of the Sedona Counselling Center of Montreal
6. Are you monogamous?
“Unfortunately, we act like there is only one choice on the relationship type menu, but there are many. The approach of assuming your partner is monogamous and ignoring the other options can cause big surprises, hurt feelings and broken promises in the long term. Hint: If you want an honest answer to this question, you will need to ask it from a nonjudgmental place or your partner will not feel safe to tell you.” ― Danielle Harel, sex expert and author of Making Love Real
7. What do you consider cheating?
“No one wants to talk about this, especially when they don’t foresee any problems on the horizon. But it’s still good to know where you stand in the realm of fidelity, because you may have different expectations. Can they talk or text with eligible others? Go to lunch? Happy hour? What feels safe? Is talking with an ex OK? How about Facebook friendships? What feels safe for you? How about porn, does that cross the line? Or something more than that? Clear boundaries from the get-go will serve you well in the long run.” ― Ryan Howes
8. What role will your family play in our life together?
“Early on, most people want to make sure their partner’s family likes them, so they’re eager to please and make a good impression. But they don’t often consider how much time and energy will be spent with them in the long haul, and how that fits into their relationship. Talk about how much time and influence the family will have so you and your partner will know what to expect.” ― Ryan Howes
9. What will you do if I get in a fight with someone in your family?
“Just because you’re marrying someone you love, doesn’t mean you’re going to love their family — not all the time, anyway. So it’s important to know what your partner expects if you get in a fight with someone in their family. This will help you know how close they are to their family, whether they can tolerate distress in their family, and if they will be supportive of you if a fight does happen. You’ll get to compare their family values to yours and you’ll get a deeper understanding if they have the same expectation about family as you do.” ― Aaron Anderson, marriage and family therapist
10. Would you rather finish all of the housework first and then relax and have fun? Or have fun first and put the housework off until later?
“Couples often fight about this one. One partner needs to have everything just so before she or he can chill and the other puts off the work and sometimes doesn’t get to it at all, but makes sure that there’s time for fun. If those styles are articulated before resentment builds up, couples can work out compromises ― for example, take turns and do it one way one week and the other way the alternate week.” ― Vikki Stark
11. What do you believe is your life’s purpose and how do you envision a partner fitting into that?
“Let me first preface this question by saying that I by no means expect the vast majority of people to know offhand what their life purpose is, but I do think it is an important question for couples to explore together. A life purpose resides at the deepest depths of your soul and cuts through life’s little distractions. It is your motivation, inspiration, energy force and when life aligns with your purpose, it seems to just naturally flow. In healthy, long-lasting and fulfilling relationships, couples seek to honor one another’s life purposes and support them in whatever they do. In stark contrast, when you feel as if you need to compromise your life mission for a relationship, resentment builds and darkness creeps in. To simplify, I encourage couples to ask this question every year and instead of thinking of a ‘life purpose,’ think of what your purpose is right now at this stage in your life.” ― Laura Heck
12. What turns you on sexually?
“Many times couples will go for years without really finding out about their partner’s deepest turn-on and desires. Don’t wait until the honeymoon period is over and your sex drive has gone down to find out what you both really, really want in bed.” ― Celeste Hirschman