This has been one of the most interesting columns I’ve ever written: I got to ask lots of happily- and formerly-married couples what questions they wish they had asked their future husband/wife before they got married. Boy, I got some really interesting answers!
I also did some research to see what the so-called experts advise couples to talk about once the marriage proposal is accepted and the wedding day approaches.
Not surprisingly, these experts advise asking some pretty unromantic questions and most newly engaged couples don’t seem too psyched to talk about stuff that feels more like a business negotiation than a commitment of love.
However, let’s be real folks. Frank discussions at the beginning can help you avoid many painful misunderstandings later on.
While it’s good to ask these questions, it’s better not to assume that you can count on them. A sign of a good, strong marriage is that the couple can talk about almost anything and not yell at each other or run out of the room. This is hard to do. Most of us have subjects that make us extremely uncomfortable, and we would do a lot to avoid feeling that anxiety.
And yet, in a marriage, everything will (eventually) hit the fan. There are very few secrets in long-term marriages. All your ugliness, fears and dark sides will be seen by your mate. So, why not ask some of these questions before you tie the knot and learn a little more about your fiancé?
For many couples, sex is a predictable stumbling block in a long-term relationship, You could ask each other questions like: “What would we do if we find ourselves sexually unfulfilled in our marriage? Or if one of us finds that we’re strongly attracted to someone else?”
This is hard stuff.
I was surprised to find, in my research, that some experts advise engaged couples to share their credit reports. People have been burned by not knowing their spouse’s financial situation. But how can you talk about this without feeling like Donald Trump?
I suggest that you skip the credit report request. Instead, you can ask your honey about his/her financial picture and tell them about yours. Be honest. It’s good to work this stuff out now before your financial futures are inextricably intertwined.
It’s also helpful to find out about your fiance’s previous relationships. Usually, by the time you’re engaged, you both know all about the exes. But, if not, try asking in a neutral, open-ended way: “I know you were with Jamie for 3 years, what happened?”
Open-ended questions will give you the most information and are usually the least threatening. The purpose of these questions is to make your relationship BETTER: stay focused on that. Remember: you’re not auditioning for CSI:San Diego. For example, a question like: “Name two couples that you admire and tell me what you like about them.” will tell you a lot about your future spouse in a positive way.
Another great question I found in my research: “Who should I have on speed dial for the days when I just can’t figure you out?” After all, what could be more important than having someone who can give you insight into your partner when you’re at a loss what to do?
How will you and your honey handle potential conflicts? if you’re an avoider and your fiancé is confrontational, you want to know this. So why not ask your fiancé: “How can we handle conflicts that will come up?” Keep it open-ended, not accusatory.
From my experience, every couple has 2 or 3 challenges that never completely go away. It’s helpful to talk about how you will work with them. Conflicts are an inevitable part of marriage: how can the two of you work through your stuff and still maintain a sense of teamwork and respect for each other?
Are you and your fiancé ready now to talk about this stuff? A suggestion: Do not ask all your questions at once. A lot of these subjects are very unromantic. Remember: you are trying to understand your partner better, not interrogate them.
Enjoy your questions. Enjoy learning more about this wonderful person you’re going to be marrying.
May your marriage be a great adventure and your relationship be a great teacher to you both.