The day the person you love most in life asks you to live happily ever after is truly special. But it’s also overwhelming and not the ideal moment in which to make a wise decision.
I mean, how many women are eager to ruin all of that good, old-fashioned fairy tale romance by blurting out, “Uh, you know I love you, but maybe you need to put that diamond back in your pocket until we iron out a few details?”
Long before a single dollar is put down on a ring, couples should be crystal clear on a few burning issues so that both feel like they’re entering the greatest commitment of their lives with the knowledge that they’re on the same page when it comes to key life decisions.
“Love, unfortunately, does not always conquer all,” said marriage and family therapist Allen Wagner. “There are beliefs, behaviors, and lifestyle choices sometimes that can’t or won’t be modified by the other. Knowing what these are at the outset, prior to getting married, is essential in really finding a long lasting compatibility.”
Here are eight questions to ask your partner (and yourself!) before agreeing to share your life with that person.
1. Do you want children?
If so, how many? Do you want to adopt? How would you feel if we learn we can’t have children? Would you be open to other fertility options? If you don’t want to have children, is there a reason that you can share with me?
2. When do you want children?
Not to put you on the spot, but… “If he wants to wait five years before having children and your dream is to have them right away, you really need to work through this before walking down the aisle,” said Lori Bizzoco, executive editor of CupidsPulse.com. It’s one thing to say you want children, and quite another to plan them as part of your future together.
3. Will our children be raised with specific religious beliefs?
Maybe you’re Catholic and he’s Jewish and everything has been honky dory until now so you figure: What’s the big deal? We’ll just teach our kids a little of this and a little of that and they’ll wind up the most well-rounded humans on Earth. Perfect solution! But not all couples ultimately agree on faith once children are brought into the equation. If one of you believes your child should be baptized (or not), it’s crucial you be open about your feelings.
4. Where do you see yourself in 40 or 50 years?
Crazy question, right? You’re still so young! But Wagner warns that couples should be clear on their ambitions. If your partner is totally content with what you have now, but you’re striving to retire with a boat, second vacation home and lots of time spent abroad, discuss your vision of the future to ensure you can both be happy years from now.
5. How often will we visit/entertain family?
Before you get married, you may have dinner with each other’s parents once a month. You may both be very happy with this arrangement. But things sometimes have a way of radically changing after tying the knot. Mother-in-laws may drop by unexpectedly — maybe your own mother has weekly Sunday dinner expectations, while your husband would prefer to make that day a quiet one spent at home — alone. Be very clear on how often you want to entertain and how close and intimate you wish to get with each other’s relatives.
5. What is your financial situation?
No matter how uncomfortable the question may be, this should be first on your list, says Bizzoco. You need to know everything about each other’s spending habits, debt, bank accounts and line of credit. This discussion will affect where you live, how you live and how to raise your children. There are absolutely no exceptions here — have the dreaded money talk!
6. Where/how will we live?
Where do you want to live? What type of neighborhood — suburban, urban, rural? Do you want to rent or have you always wanted to save up and purchase a house?
7. How will we divide responsibilities?
Instead of feeling like a nag bringing this one up, think of it as an effective way to ensure you’re each taking on as many chores as you don’t mind doing (whenever possible). “When you move in and marry someone there will be a lot of responsibilities in maintaining a household,” Bizzoco said. “By talking about it in advance, you can hopefully get a sense of your partner’s habits and make the transition to married life smoother. Granted, you may leave the toothbrush cap off, or he may leave the toilet seat up, but those little things can be worked out. However, if he expects a home cooked meal each night and you hate cooking, you just found yourself something new to work out.
8. Who will leave his/her job to raise our children?
Sorry, kid-related question again. Those little rascals make everything more complicated, don’t they? Bizzoco says roles have changed so much in the last few years because more and more men are staying home with the kiddies, especially if the wife earns more money. Maybe your partner is old fashioned and has always dreamed of providing for his family while you stay home. Or perhaps you both have careers you don’t wish to sacrifice and day care is the only viable option. Iron this out now and save yourselves a lot of headaches later on in life.