14 Big Questions To Ask Before Getting Married, From Marriage Therapists
Hard facts: Divorce is exceedingly common, not to mention expensive and emotionally draining. Even among people who don't believe in divorce, unhappy marriages abound. Marriage can also be awesome, of course, but considering these facts, it's extremely important to spend the time to pause and critically consider whether you really should marry your partner.
We reached out to licensed marriage therapists Beverley Andre, LMFT; Kiaundra Jackson, LMFT; and Elizabeth Earnshaw, LMFT; for their thoughts on what couples should talk about before getting married. Here are some of the most important, eye-opening questions to ask before marriage:
Do you want to have kids, and if yes, how many?
It's imperative to get on the same page about kids before getting married, Andre says. "Starting a family is not everyone's plan once they get married," she explains. "Having children is a life-changing choice. Not having this conversation prior to marriage can lead to disastrous outcomes for the relationship."
How do you want to raise your kids?
If you're hoping to have kids, you should also talk about how you envision raising your kids once you have them.
Consider questions like:
- Will you be strict parents or more easygoing?
- How would you discipline your children?
- Will one of you take time off work to care for the kids while they're young?
What role will religion play in our lives?
Consider whether you expect to participate in daily prayer, weekly services, or religious holidays together, as well as how you might interact with religious family members and whether you intend to raise your kids to be religious too. This is particularly important if you've got different religions or differing levels of engagement with religion.
How will we manage finances?
Talk about your expectations around finances before getting married, Andre recommends. "Money is one of the top reasons for divorce," Andre notes. "While it can be anxiety-inducing to lay personal finances on the table, partners being honest with each will help maintain the overall health of the relationship."
Consider questions like:
- Will we merge our finances? Share a bank account?
- How will we make big financial decisions? How about little ones?
- Do you have any debt? Will we share responsibility for each other's debts?
- Are you a spender or a saver? How much do you have in savings?
- Do you expect one of us to be the primary earner in this relationship?
- What happens if one of us loses our job?
How will we balance professional and domestic responsibilities?
"A common frustration with millennial couples is the balance of professional responsibilities and domestic duties," says Andre. "Are there gender roles, or other preconceived notions affecting the expectations of each partner? Is there room for flexibility when it comes to managing the home, or are there rigid boundaries?"
What does a "perfect marriage" look like to you?
Talk about each other's dream or fantasy when it comes to marriage, Jackson recommends.
"Everyone who plans to get married has created a story or a narrative in their head about what that will look like for them. This question is important because it will give you a glimpse into the areas of marriage most important to your partner," she explains. "Then, you can compare 'notes' about the similarities and differences of what a perfect marriage means to you both."
Consider questions like:
- What does "marriage" mean to you?
- Why do you want to get married?
- How do you think our relationship will change once we're married?
- What does it mean to be a good husband, wife, or spouse?
Is this the right time for us to get married?
This can sometimes be a scary question to ask, especially if you didn't discuss a relationship timeline together prior to getting engaged. Are there any reasons it would make sense to wait a while longer before getting married? For example, maybe you haven't been together that long, or maybe you have some issues you're still working through, or maybe it'll be hard to think about wedding planning for the next year because of your jobs. Remember, if you both know you're going to spend forever together anyway, what's the rush?
Where do we see our lives going?
Getting married happens in just one day, and then you have the whole rest of your lives to think about. So talk about your visions for your lives.
Consider questions like:
- What are your career aspirations?
- If we want to have kids, when would that happen?
- Do you want to live where we are now for the rest of your life?
- What kinds of things will we be doing 10 years from now? 20 years from now? In retirement?
How do you handle stress, frustration, and disappointments in your life?
"This question speaks to your partner's ability to self-soothe and cope well," Jackson says. "When life happens, we either cope with things positively or negatively. It is good to know how your partner handles things when life might throw him/her an unexpected curveball."
Additionally, Earnshaw recommends asking what you need from each other when you're stressed, sad, angry, or dealing with other tough emotions.
"People have what is known as meta emotions. Meta-emotion is the way we feel about feelings," she explains. "Many couples have a meta-emotion mismatch. This means that one person feels and thinks emotions are good, healthy, and important to talk about while the other person believes that they are unhelpful and shouldn't be discussed. The first person might like to explore and process while the other person is more likely to jump to solutions. When you find out how our spouse likes to be responded to in terms of their emotions, it can make a huge difference."
How should we deal with conflict?
By the time you get married, you should already have some sense of how you deal with conflict as a couple. Nonetheless, Earnshaw recommends directly asking about how you plan to handle disagreements when you're married.
She also recommends going one step further: "If we change our minds about something really big in our lives, how should we talk about that?" People change their minds about kids, money, career aspirations, and more all the time. What would you do if that happened?
"Just asking this question brings to light the reality that you will change your mind about things and that this is normal," Earnshaw says. "Normalizing change is a good thing and results in transparent and honest communication down the road."
How important is sex to you?
It's important to be on the same page about sex before you're married, whether you have an active sex life currently or are waiting until marriage to share that experience. Sex in long-term relationships often ebbs and flows, and desire discrepancies are common.
Consider questions like:
- How often do you want to have sex?
- What will we do in situations where one of us is having a period of lower libido?
- How can we make sure we stay connected even when our libidos aren't aligned?
(Here's how often married couples have sex, in case you're curious.)
Are there any relationship issues or past conflicts you're still thinking about?
Sometimes there's an unfinished conversation or lingering worry that you just never find the right moment to bring up. By setting aside a dedicated time to ask about these worries directly, you allow each other to air out all your thoughts and feelings without feeling guilty about dredging up the past. It's important that you feel totally secure in the relationship and that you've addressed all issues head-on before getting married.
Who are the people in your life you have needed to forgive, and how did you accomplish this?
"I always say that marriage is about two people getting really good at forgiving one another. This question is important because if your partner tends to be a forgiving person in other areas of his/her life, then it will be easier for them to forgive you when you do something wrong," Jackson says. "It is great to know that your partner is actively forgiving and not holding on to grudges that could negatively affect your marriage at any given time."
Why would someone want to spend the rest of their life with you?
"This question is powerful and will require them to do an internal reflection," Jackson says. "Hopefully, your spouse-to-be is able to speak to their positive qualities, core values, and personal characteristics that will continue to win you over even when life gets hard."
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Kelly Gonsalves is a multi-certified sex educator and relationship coach helping people figure out how to create dating and sex lives that actually feel good — more open, more optimistic, and more pleasurable. In addition to working with individuals in her private practice, Kelly serves as the Sex & Relationships Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a degree in journalism from Northwestern University, and she’s been trained and certified by leading sex and relationship institutions such as The Gottman Institute and Everyone Deserves Sex Ed, among others. Her work has been featured at The Cut, Vice, Teen Vogue, Cosmopolitan, and elsewhere.
With her warm, playful approach to coaching and facilitation, Kelly creates refreshingly candid spaces for processing and healing challenges around dating, sexuality, identity, body image, and relationships. She’s particularly enthusiastic about helping softhearted women get re-energized around the dating experience and find joy in the process of connecting with others. She believes relationships should be easy—and that, with room for self-reflection and the right toolkit, they can be.
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