When you’ve been with your partner long enough that marriage is on the table, you might think you know everything there is to know about them. Chances are, though, you might not. You may know their favourite music and political views, but do you know how they feel about dividing domestic chores? What exactly counts as infidelity? If they’ll volunteer to get up and feed a crying baby in the middle of the night, or whether they’d save — or immediately spend — a bonus check?
While it’s normal to be giddy as a relationship approaches marriage, you want to be grounded with a deep sense of reality in how you and your partner’s goals, values, and long-term emotional needs line up. Don’t wait until it’s too late. (Read: It’s in your best interest to address these potential issues before getting engaged.)
How will we handle money?
With financial conflict being one of the leading causes of divorce, the money conversation is crucial. Will you create a joint account, where all earnings will automatically go? Or will you keep separate accounts? What about assets you may have prior to marriage — do those become shared? Where will you prioritise spending? How much will you put away each month to build for the future?
How will we divide the domestic labour in our home?
Also known as just plain crappy housework, domestic labour can also be a source of friction down the road. Even if you’re fortunate enough to have a housecleaner for periodic deep cleaning, nothing except nightly takeout will stop the flow of dishes, counter-spraying, and crumb-sweeping. Add children and their unending parade of toys, misplaced shoes, and dirty clothes into the mix, and you’re staring down the barrel of hours of extra work per day.
How will it be divided? Are there gender-based expectations of how this work will get accomplished? Remember to include cooking, kitchen clean-up, laundry, yard work, home repairs, and bill-paying in the discussion.
How will we handle disagreements?
Hopefully you’ve already had a few humdingers to get a sense of how you, as a couple, create and resolve conflict. All healthy couples have arguments; the key is whether you can resolved them without lingering resentment. Does your partner need time and space after an argument? How much? Is name-calling and throwing things things ever ok in a fight? Do they believe in the trope: “never go to bed angry” (nearly impossible, FYI) or do they have a habit of shutting down and stonewalling? Figure out how to work through these patterns before getting hitched.
Are you open to counseling if we need it?
If you and your partner reach a point where you can no longer successfully navigate your disagreements without holding onto hurt, anger, and disappointment, it’s probably time for marriage counseling. Is your partner open to it? Would they go with you or by themselves, if necessary? You’ll want to know if they have any hang-ups about getting help.
What are your expectations around sex?
Every relationship has sexual peaks and dry spells. How will you and your partner cope with the changes in frequency? It’s helpful to discuss what each of you will tolerate in terms of getting your sexual needs met outside of the relationship. What are your partner’s views on masturbation, pornography, and having an open marriage?
Will we live together before marriage?
Some people think cohabitation is essential before taking the plunge, while others prefer to wait until after marriage. Where does your partner stand? How will you split home expenses? Whose place will you move into? (Answer: whichever one has more bathrooms.) Here are some other helpful questions to consider.
Where will we spend the holidays?
Holidays can be a fraught time for couples, with one partner willing to travel anywhere to have those cosy family times around the hearth while the other would rather go skiing. Particularly if you and your partner have different religious beliefs, your families live far apart, or you hold different values than your partner’s parents, it’s important to discuss how and where you will celebrate.
Do you want kids? And if so, what are you open to?
This seems like a no-brainer, but sometimes the prospect of having a family isn’t explicitly discussed. If your partner wants kids, how many do they want? What if you struggle to get pregnant; is your future spouse open to IVF, surrogacy, or adoption?
How will we parent the kids?
Once you’re on the same page about kids, you can continue on to the next big question: how will we take care of them? Is one partner expected to stay home full-time? Who will take care of them if both partners are working? Does any of this change if you have a child with special needs?
Even if you and your partner don’t have the language for various parenting styles, try to get a sense of how they would parent. (You can do this by asking how they were raised, and what they did and didn’t like about it, or by creating scenarios like: What if our child got caught stealing? What if they talked back to you?) Does their style seem more hands off and permissive? Authoritarian and old school? Gentle? Will you have to be the disciplinarian?
Would you ever get a divorce?
Of course, opinions can change over time, but gauging someone’s thoughts and feelings around divorce is key. Is your partner a “ride-or-die” who could never fathom splitting up once you’re married? Or do they see it as more of a sometimes necessary evil when things aren’t working out? If they would consider getting divorced, what are some of the reasons, or deal-breakers, that could push them there?
Getting married is exciting, but being married is a challenging work-in-progress. Addressing these questions before saying “I do” is a great way to set yourself up for nuptial success.