So you've found the one? You're head over heels in love and ready to say "I do." Deciding to get married is a huge, happy step in a relationship.
Whether you've been together months, years, or since college, you have decided that you are ready to take the next step together and begin building a life together.
It's important to remember that although it may not seem like it, things do change when you go from dating to marriage. You have to plan and be ready for more than just one stress-inducing and beautiful wedding day.
You are essentially deciding to combine all aspects of your individual lives into one life and one big adventure to come. With this comes the good, bad, happy, and sad, and all things before your marriage together.
It can be assumed that you've talked about some things to get to this point, but have you asked any of those uncomfortable questions that perhaps you've wondered about or were afraid would potentially be a deal breaker?
Talk about it now, so you don't have to deal with it later on. Ideally, your love and commitment to one another will help you overcome any hardships and help you prepare for any friction you potentially see arising along the way.
Here are a few questions to help you start an honest dialogue and hopefully get some of the more difficult conversations out of the way before your wedding day.
1. How many children do you want and what will be your parenting style?
At some point, it is likely that the two of you will expand your family, planned or not. Whether it be a puppy, baby, or both, more responsibility will come with the expansion. Regarding the number of children, you hope to have and when be truthful.
Discuss what means of pregnancy prevention you will use, what location you'd prefer to raise a family, who will take care of the children until school-age, and any financial requests surrounding growing your family. Ideally, the two of you can come to a reasonable consensus.
If this is a conversation you've never had with your partner, buckle up. Maybe you'll decide to get a dog or two together first to practice parenting and to see if the two of you function well as parents.
Parenting style simply takes into account how you predict you will raise and discipline your children when the time comes. At what age should they begin sleeping in their room? Do you believe in chores?
What means of discipline do you think are most effective and how much freedom will we allow them as they age? Run through a couple of scenarios and see if your views align or are different.
2. What are your religious/spiritual beliefs?
Religion can be a hard topic and often can be difficult to discuss. Will you acknowledge religious holidays? Share any religious or spiritual beliefs you may have or your lack thereof.
Share with your partner why you believe what you believe and how important or unimportant religion and spirituality are to you and your future together. Discuss whether or not you actively practice your beliefs and how you can best respect one another's opinions and religious/spiritual background.
If your religious and spiritual beliefs don't align with your partner's, you may want to learn more. This should help you to better understand their ways of thinking, certain ideologies, and why.
3. Do your family and closest friends approve of me/us?
Does your family think you two are good for one another? Does your partner fit right in? Is it awkward? If your family and closest friends do not like your partner, and you know it, think about the strain of this on your relationship long term.
Figure out the root of the issues to try to repair relationships moving forward as it would be extremely difficult to have the most important people in your life not get along. If everyone approves already, great, just make sure the two of you are entirely honest with one another. This is not the time for reservations.
4. What are your political views?
It's important that you each have shared and thoroughly discussed your political views. This is not to necessarily say that your views must align perfectly, but it is likely that things will be a bit more difficult for the two of you if there are countless issues, institutions, and ethical principles that you don't agree on.
Bare minimum, discuss which party each of you supports and identify with and why. You don't want to exist in complete silence or have a huge fight every four years when the election rolls around, do you?
5. How will we set up our finances?
Money, money, money. Finances can be difficult to talk about, but before fully committing to a life together, the two of you will have to figure out a financial plan for the future. Will you have a joint bank account?
Will you all put half of the bills in your name and the other half in your partner's name? How much rent or how much of a house payment and bills can you each afford to contribute towards each month? If student loans or existing debt is an issue, will you take on that responsibility?
What works for you all, may not be exactly what works for everyone else and that's okay. Talk about "fun money," too. If you picture vacation as a long weekend in the mountains, but your partner envisions a week in the Carribean, you're looking at drastically different budgets. Be realistic and honest about what you're up for.
6. Where will we live?
If you're not already living together, once you're married it is customary that you will be. The question is where - what state, city, neighborhood, house or apartment, roommates or no roommates.
It's also a good idea to talk about where you hope to live in the short term and long term. Consider how where you're living will affect your career and extended family, if at all. Coming to a consensus will be important to ensure happiness for the both of you and provide you with an idea for the future.
7. What makes you feel loved?
The last thing you want is for your partner to question whether or not, or how much you love them. It is important to understand what makes your partner feel loved. Whatever makes you feel most loved may or may not be the same for them.
A few examples include kind words, thoughtful gestures, physical touch, and affection, or spending time together. This will give you insight as to how you can tailor your expressions of love to fit your partnership best. Talk about this to avoid conflict and heartache in the long run.
8. How do you show love?
This question goes hand in hand with the above question, "What makes you feel loved?". While this may seem quite obvious, there are many methods of showing love.
Your partner may exhibit love in ways that you don't or ways that you don't readily recognize what they are trying to convey. This question will open up the opportunity for you to even provide examples of times in which you were trying to show love, too.
9. Do you believe in divorce?
To some, this may seem like an pessimistic question to ask before even getting married, but it is essential to know. According to the American Psychological Association, 40-50 percent of marriages end in divorce.
This doesn't mean that you'll be preparing for your divorced life together post-marriage, but it does mean that you both have a similar idea as to whether or not you have an out or how things will be handled if, by chance, your marriage ends up not working out in the years to come.
If you both are on the same page regarding beliefs surrounding divorce, great. If not, this conversation will be a crucial one. Continue this conversation by sharing why you either do or don't believe in divorce.
10. What are your deepest fears and greatest hopes?
Our deepest fears are based on something larger than the fear itself. This conversation will likely lead to learning something valuable about your partner that you didn't know before. Figure out the root of their fear and how you can best support them moving forward and when their fear strikes. Go deeper than fears of spiders or clowns.
One's greatest hopes give insight into their dreams and goals. Delve into what their greatest hope is and why. Talk about other hopes and dreams, too and any that have already been achieved in their life thus far. Find ways to encourage them en route to achieving it and figure out your specific role, if any about their greatest hopes.
11. Do you have any concerns regarding my approach to health? Habits?
We only have one body, how we nourish and treat it is up to us. Your partner can play a huge role in supporting you to live your healthiest life. Discuss whether or not they have any concerns or feelings surrounding your exercise regimen, diet, relationship with food and exercise, the frequency of illness, neglect of doctor's visits and so forth.
Follow up questions include: Does my frequent exercising encourage or bother you? Does my lack of exercise concern you? How can we better support one another to make healthy decisions? Regarding habits, if there are any healthy or unhealthy habits of concern, be truthful. It may be as small as eating ice cream for breakfast or as serious as smoking a cigarette every 30 minutes.
12. How will we handle conflict?
Whether it be an argument about taking out the trash or accusations of cheating, conflict happens inevitably in relationships. The way in which you go about handling it will determine your route to a solution.
Do the two of you want to hash it out each time conflict arises? Do you typically need space? Are you going to cry? Throw things? What are you okay with and not okay with? Talk about it - you'll be surprised what you may learn about one another, and hopefully, you'll come to a consensus regarding a means that is doable by both you and your partner.
This is not to say you will come up with a cookie cutter response to every argument or disagreement that arises, but ideally, it will give you an idea as to how to best approach the issue(s). The last thing you want is to inflict more conflict.
13. What do you hope to accomplish together from now until forever?
When you publicly say "I do," you're committing to doing life until death does you part with another person. It's beautiful. Forever is a long time though, right? You're going to be building a beautiful life together, through the good and the bad, sick and healthy, happy and sad.
See what your partner hopes for the two of you to accomplish together and share with them your hopes, both big and small. Discuss tangible hopes as well as intangible hopes. Ideally, you'll find these as motivators and encouragement in the years to come.
Remember, these questions are just conversation starters. Be willing to be vulnerable and honest so that you feel 100% confident on your wedding day in knowing your partner and handling whatever may come your way in the future as a couple.