When we are in the early stages of a love relationship, it’s difficult to imagine being unable to work out any conflicts we might have in the future with our partner. After all, love conquers all, right? While it’s a beautiful fantasy to think that love is enough to smooth over the fact that your spouse cannot seem to remember to put down the toilet seat before he leaves the bathroom, the fact is that you both will be confronted with all sorts of issues during your married life. Some of these issues can spring from unexpected events, such as job loss, or fertility issues, but others are less surprising. Unfortunately, you didn’t see those coming, because the all-encompassing loving feelings you were experiencing in the heady times of early love clouded your vision.
This is why reflecting on the following marriage questions is important. These are not questions intended to make you hesitate about saying “I do”, but rather to allow you to move forward with the relationship with clarity about the different ways you and your partner might navigate challenging situations. Are you ready to ask yourselves some deep marriage questions? Read on!
What is the role of money in your life?
Are you someone who systematically sets aside 10% of your monthly paycheck to put into savings? Is your partner freer with his money, claiming that you have to live for today in case you aren’t around tomorrow? Is his motto “carpe diem” while yours is “it’s best to save for a rainy day”? Does he take “YOLO” (You Only Live Once) as his personal mantra? While you might appreciate his free-wheeling nature, the way a couple views money is an important predictor of relationship success or failure. Sit down and talk about how you might align your saving and spending habits before your move in together or get married. If you just can’t get on the same page, either agree to keep your money separately (and maintain strict accounts) or rethink the relationship. Money and finances are important components of a relationship, and this can’t be stressed enough. And speaking of money, it can cause unimaginable stress. It is far better to work out differences before you walk down the aisle than to have arguments and major money-related problems after you are married. Bottom line: one’s attitude and actions in regard to money seldom change nor are likely to be changed by the other partner.
How do you express stress?
Are you someone who shuts down and draws inward when faced with a stressful situation, such as a delayed airline flight or non-existent customer service when dealing with the cable company? Is your partner a hot-head, raising his voice and using inappropriate language when annoyed? These are important things to look at closely because if one of you has anger management issues, it is going to make conflict resolution in your own relationship extremely difficult. Observe how your partner treats people in service positions. It will tell you a lot about him. Ask yourself truthfully how you deal with stress. One positive way of dealing with stress is fresh air—take a walk or go running. There are plenty of other positive ways of dealing with stressful issues. The difficult thing is making sure both you and your partner have compatible styles when it comes to dealing with and vocalizing stress. If you both have negative ways of dealing with stress—yelling, spending money you don’t have, overeating, insomnia, you may run into major problems down the line. It is best to tackle the stress question before you get married. It has the potential to be very dangerous to a marriage.
Is either of you an addict?
This term does not apply only to what is typically regarded as addictive substances, such as drugs, alcohol or cigarettes. Think larger: do you indulge in “retail therapy” when under stress? Are you a shopaholic? Has that led to money or credit card problems? Have you ever canceled some sort of social event because of a sale at Nordstrom’s? Is your future husband addicted to extreme sports such as adrenaline-inducing activities like sky-diving or motorbike racing? Does your partner rush home from work to play video games? Do either of you use anything tangible or intangible to “check out?”: internet, gaming, television, or drinks and/or food? While it may have been easy to close your eyes to this during your dating period, you need to look at this behavior seriously and talk about how it might affect your married relationship. If you both have additions of any sort, are you both enablers? These behaviors could be serious impediments to a successful relationship. Remember: if the addictive behavior bothers you now, it’s only going to get worse when you marry.
Is there something that you want to change in your partner?
Is there something your future spouse does which causes you to say to yourself « it will change when we are married. »? Let’s say your future husband job hops. It seems like he can’t stay in a position more than six months at a time. « I’m just trying out different careers, « he tells you. Don’t make the mistake of telling yourself that he will settle down and stick with a company once you are married. People’s core traits do not radically change upon or after marriage. What you see now is what you are getting. When someone shows you who he is, believe him. A good marriage question to ask yourselves is « do I love this person exactly as he is right now? Warts and all? Everything he is showing me? » If you think that marriage will tweak him into the partner you fantasize about, you are wrong. Millions of divorced people can attest to this.
Your partner is great except for that one little flaw which you know you will be able to change. Um, no. It does not work that way. If only it did, but it never works that way. This is called self-delusion. You can not mold someone into somebody they are not. You can wish and wish and wish, but just because you want your husband to change one of his traits to better suit you, does not mean he will—or can—do this. As was mentioned earlier in slightly different words: what you see is what you get. He ain’t going to change.
What if your partner’s appearance changes?
You think your future spouse is the hottest guy on the planet. But what if he were to gain 80 pounds, or lose his sexy hair? A good marriage question to reflect upon is the importance you give to physical appearances. There are some couples who make it very clear to their partners that they would not tolerate a fat spouse, or a spouse who did not pay attention to dressing attractively or one that neglects personal grooming, even on weekends. Have the talk about what each of you expects in terms of maintaining a healthy, attractive body. You should discuss how important physical appearance is to you both. It may sound a bit superficial but get this question answered. Will sweatpants and a t-shirt be acceptable attire for lounging around the house or taking out the garbage? How important is age-appropriate clothing—why is he still wearing his high school football jersey? Sure, looks will change over the years, but what if they go south sooner than what you would expect? Are you prepared for how his looks may change over time? You know yourself best. That sexy head of hair you so admired when you first met may transform over time to a bald head. Those six pack abs may dissolve into six-pack flab. Do you think this may affect how you view and feel about your partner? On the opposite side of the coin, if every free moment of your partner’s off the job time is spent in the gym lifting weights, outdoors training for marathons, and engaged in every form of physical fitness ever invented, he may be a bit too concerned with his body. Like so many things in life, a balanced realistic attitude to physical beauty, both your own and that of your partner, is best.
Your physical, intimate life
Sure, your sex life may be rockin’ now, but several years of married life, and children, and just the passage of time may impact your bedroom antics. You’ve heard of the seven-year itch? For some couples it may even occur before seven years. It’s better to talk about sexual expectations before you marry so that you can come up with a game plan if the spark dies down. Can you both agree on what you think is the ideal frequency per week for sex? Do you both feel comfortable discussing issues regarding sex and sexuality or is either partner too shy to discuss this important area? Whose responsibility is birth control? Do you choose a method together, or is it totally the wife’s responsibility? Are you open to introducing sex toys when you think things need a little variation, a boost or help? What are your sexual deal-breakers, which would be things you would never consider doing, even if your partner expressed a desire to engage? Can you share your reasons why these are deal-breakers? And what if your partner does not want to try some of your ideas? Would that also be a deal-breaker? Have you both talked about your sexual pasts (and been tested for STDs?) Do you both think it is important to divulge everything about your sexual history? How much do you share and do you feel it is necessary to share everything about your past?
Your professional work life
You have worked hard to get where you are now in your career. Your partner also has seriously devoted many hours to climb up the career ladder. What happens when one of you is offered a better job in another city or state? Would you move, or would you consider a commuter marriage? Do you feel your position is more important than your partner’s? What if there is a serious imbalance in the money each of you earns? How does this affect how you spend money? Does one partner always pick up the bar tabs and dinner checks or do you split these fifty-fifty? Will you both work after getting married? Are your work hours roughly the same? What about weekends? Are those sacred in terms of time off or is one partner checking email every forty-five seconds? Are you both happy in your chosen professions and present work situations? How would you feel about taking maternity and parental leave in regard to your career? Would your partner consider taking parental leave? What if one of you is offered an overseas posting? Would you consider expatriate life if it meant a large pay increase for one partner but no guaranteed job for the other partner? If you are in the same line of work, do you “talk shop” when you’re away from work or is that time strictly recreational? Do you both agree to the division of work and play time?
All of the questions above are food for thought and many discussions. Some will be relevant to you, some will be relevant for your partner, and some irrelevant, but they will get the conversation rolling. The goal is to come up with solutions for potential problems before those problems develop and begin impacting your marital life. Good honest communication is very important in all aspects of marriage.