Moving from casual dating to a serious relationship to the final stage — getting married — is a gradual process for most people. Unlike the whirlwind marriages we read about in romance novels, for most couples it’s not a decision made quickly or lightly. Nor should it be — if one is serious about making a marriage last.
But dating someone — even being engaged to them — is a lot different than marriage itself. Suddenly you’re not just sharing your lives together in the most intimate manner possible, you’re also sharing a lot of other things you may not have counted on.
So before you tie the knot, you may find it helpful to ask these five questions.
1. What’s your family like?
History constantly repeats itself — especially in families. While unhealthy family patterns can be broken, it takes commitment and effort in order to do so.
So your partner’s family will give you an insight into how your partner is likely to deal with a whole host of issues in marriage, from how he handles stress to how she interacts with children. While we’re not doomed to repeat negative family patterns, being aware of what to expect ahead of time will allow you to enter into the marriage eyes wide open. 1
2. Children — Do you want them and if so, how many, and how should they be raised?
Most people probably talk about children long before they get married — indeed, it’s often a filter some men and women use to determine if the relationship has long-term potential. People who don’t want children (or more children if it’s not their first marriage) generally aren’t going to have much of a future with people who do.
Not only do you need to talk about having children, but you need to consider all the secondary issues related to kids. What if you have trouble conceiving, are you both agreed on in-vitro or other fertilization methods? What kind of religion, if any, will you raise the kids under? What are your thoughts about discipline? About spending time daily quality time with the child? About changing diapers? Is the expectation that one partner will be the one primarily responsible for raising the children?
As you can see, the list is endless. The important thing aren’t these specific questions (although they may be a start). The important thing is to have the conversation and get a lay of the land to ensure you’re both on a similar, if not the same, page.
3. What is your approach to finances and money?
Before marriage, two individuals co-habitating may never even talk much about money. But suddenly when the marriage makes things official, money becomes a hot issue, because it was rarely directly discussed ahead of time.