Just as there are no guarantees in life, there are no guarantees in marriage.
But we can prepare ourselves for marital challenges by asking ourselves the right questions before we step to the altar.
Below is a list of 19 such questions covering the conflicts that most commonly bring couples into therapy. Feel free to use them as a template for premarital or even pre-engagement discussions. Not all questions are deal-breakers, but chances are if you and your potential spouse can’t answer yes to a majority of these questions you should seek some counseling to investigate why that is.
- Do we agree in essential areas of religious faith (theology, practice, church participation)?
- Are we close on how many children we want to have (if any) and how to parent them?
- Do we have compatible attitudes toward money and material possessions (spending, earning, bill paying, budgeting, financial planning, status, pride)?
- Do we agree in the area of decision-making (who gets the final say, collaboration, compromise, power sharing, agreeing to disagree, mutual respect)?
- Can we agree about sex (frequency, preferences, when to talk about it)?
- Do we communicate well (listening, humor, conflict resolution, mutual respect, openness, honesty, intimacy, vulnerability, intellectual and philosophical depth)?
- Can we work out how much time to spend with the in-laws and family (boundary setting, geographically how close to live to them, frequency and duration of visits and phone contact)?
- Can we work out how much time to spend with friends (hers, his, mutual friends, balance, quality, style)?
- Can we divide up the chores equitably (cleaning, cooking, yard work, maintenance)?
- Can we agree on how to spend our time(work, leisure, chores, together, alone)?
- Do we agree about addictive substances and activities (alcohol/drugs, food, gambling, computer/online, video games, shopping)
- Can we agree on our attitudes toward anger and abuse (styles of conflict resolution, deciding that abuse is never okay, definitions of abuse, strategies and contingency plans)?
- Can we agree on the ongoing need for the counsel of caring others (accountability utilizing family, friends, church counseling, psychotherapy)?
- How much have we identified or worked through our emotional baggage (traumas, abuse, family issues, past relationships)?
- Are our career goals compatible with a good marriage (prioritized below marriage and family, stability of geographic location, one’s career advancement more important than the other’s)?
- Can we agree on the definition of marital fidelity (monogamy, guarding against affairs, limiting activities with the opposite sex, rules for phone calls/email/chat/IMs/texting)?
- Can we trust each other (resolving past hurts in the relationship, honesty, openness)?
- Do we have mutual interests (outdoor/active vs. indoor/homebody, introvert vs. extrovert, independent vs. together, high-brow vs. low-brow)?
- Can we agree on how we define marital commitment (lifelong duration, defining “for better or worse”, deal-breakers, strategies for dealing with tragedy/disappointment/
mental illness/mid-life crises)