Falling in love is one of the most wonderful things that can happen to a heart. It’s exciting and breath-taking and makes us feel warm and cozy and special. Shouldn’t we just feel it in our hearts when we’ve found the right one? If we take a minute and think about how marriage is one of the most important, if not the most important, decisions we make in our lives then it’s easy to see how finding the right one to marry should involve both our hearts and our head.
So, here are several questions to think about to get your head involved in the decision, too.
Personality and Individual Traits
- Do your combined strengths and weaknesses make a good team? One way to discuss how your personalities interact is by taking a serious personality test (i.e. something like 16personalities.com that’s based on the Myers-Briggs Personality Test and not Which Disney Princess are You Most Like?).
- We all focus on what we love about the person when we get married, but what are the things that annoy you the most or are his or her greatest weaknesses? Are they attributes you can work with for the rest of your life?
- How do you resolve conflict together? It’s been said that happy marriages aren’t dependent on whether or not you fight, but how you fight.
- Do you still feel respected and loved even when disagreements arise?
- Are you able to work out conflicts so you are both satisfied? Are you making relationship-building compromises or individuality-breaking concessions?
- What is it like when you agree to disagree?
- How do you treat one another on bad days? Are you able to take a breathe and then communicate well and listen to each other’s concerns? Or is contempt, name-calling, or severe silent treatment the norm?
- These questions being asked, do you feel like there is a greater number of positive interactions to negative interactions in your relationship?
- Do you appreciate the way that you show your love to one another or are there difficulties in the romance department? How do you/will you resolve it if one of you isn’t in a romantic mood?
- How do you want to spend your evenings and weekends? Do you both like watching movies or is one of you a home-body while the other wants to go rock climbing every weekend?
- How often do you want to spend time with your friends separately? Are you okay with the amount of time that he goes golfing with buddies or she goes shopping with her friends?
- Do either of you have a physical or mental illness? How will this impact your life together?
- Do you agree on how you want to seek treatment for a physical or mental illness if necessary?
- Do you agree on unhealthy ways to cope that you want to avoid? Examples include not spending x number of hours playing video games to escape feelings of anxiety, drinking alcohol, or spending x number of dollars on clothes or trinkets to try to compensate for low self-esteem.
- Are there any red flags or indicators of high-conflict challenges such as addiction or infidelity/affairs? Addictions might include substance abuse, pornography, gambling, or gaming.
- Do you have similar educational aspirations? Do you feel you are on equal IQ grounds and appreciate their views and opinions?
- Do you agree on how much each of you will be working? For example, do you expect dinner to be promptly at 5:30 every day and everyone should be present, or do you expect that one of you will be working on Wall Street and will be gone for very late hours?
- Where do you want to live after you are married? Do you both like small towns or want to live in a large city?
At first glance it may seem difficult to articulate your views on child rearing since you may not have kids yet. But, there are many ways to approach the topic even if you don’t have any experience with it yet.
- How many kids do you want to have?
- How did your parents discipline you and your siblings growing up? What would you change about it? What did you like about it?
- How might you respond if a defiant child is talking disrespectfully?
- What might be a potential response if a teen ager is sneaking out of the house and you’re concerned they’re engaged in inappropriate or unsafe activities?
- How would you respond if a child is crying every day and doesn’t want to go to school because she’s anxious?
- What activities do you view as very important to family culture?
- List the family rules, routines, and values that you believe are essential to your future family. For example, do you think it’s important to make dinner together, have a set list of chores to be done every day, or pray every night?
- If step-children will be involved, do you agree about your co-parenting responsibilities after you’re a combined family?
- If children will be coming into the family as well, do the children like your potential future spouse and the idea of you getting married?
Dividing Up the Roles
- Do one or both of you plan on working both now and when you have kids?
- How do you plan on dividing up household chores both now and later with kids?
- When a baby cries at night, who is responsible for getting up with him or her? Who is primarily responsible for discipling when your child acts out?
- How will you make major life decisions such as where to live?
- How do you make minor decisions such as where to go on date night?
They often say that disagreement about finances is a major contributor to divorce. Here’s a couple things to think about before tying the knot.
- Are you able to agree on roughly the same principles of a budget? What part of your income do you want to go to mortgage/rent, to a car or transportation, to eating out and date nights, to savings etc.?
- What do you think about debt? Are there certain areas that are okay to go in debt for (i.e. a house) versus not (i.e. a private jet)?
- What household income are you expecting to make based on your career choices? Is this more or less than you both had growing up? How will this influence your future family lifestyle?
- What is the game plan if one or both of you cannot find a job?
- Who will be in control of the finances? Will it be a joint effort or will the primary breadwinner have control of them?
Family of Origin
I probably don’t even need to mention the impact that in-laws can have on a marriage. Here are some things to think about.
- How does your potential future spouse talk to and about his or her parents? When you make decisions together as a couple do your future in-laws hold sway over the decision?
- How do your potential future in-laws talk to you?
- Who does your boyfriend/girlfriend stand by if you are in disagreement with his/her parents?
- Are there any red flags that your family or friends are trying to warn you about? If so, seriously consider whether or not they’re valid. Often friends and family don’t have on rose colored glasses so they can see potential problems that we can’t see…but they may also have their own issues that are contributing to invalid complaints.
- Do you come from different cultural or ethnic backgrounds? How does this differ from yours? Is there anything about your different cultures that come in conflict with yours or may be hard for you to live day to day?
- Do you come from a tight-knit nuclear family or love doing huge, extended-family gatherings all the time?
- Do you agree on boundaries that you want to set with each of your parents and families? For example, some parents expect to live with their children when they reach a certain age. Do you agree with this?
- How much time do you expect to spend with each of your families? Do you want to live in the same town, spend every Sunday dinner with them, or split up holidays so equal time is spent with each family?
- What happens when there is a family event that one of you doesn’t want to attend?
Values and Principles
- What are your religious views and the strength of them?
- What are your political views and the strength of them?
- What values and principles do you feel contribute to a happy and balanced life?
- Do you share the most important values, such as loyalty or service or kindness?
- What might your future family motto or mission statement be?
- Oftentimes couples talk about simply drifting apart after years of marriage and no longer being in love. What do you want to do to make sure that the love stays alive during the often monotonous days?
Need More Help?
Remember, no person is perfect so no relationship is perfect either. Every marriage will require some amount of forgiveness and learning. The key to a happy marriage is finding someone that helps make your relationship more than the sum of your parts. Find someone whose strengths help you and vice versa. Marry someone who is a strength and blessing to you now and to whom you are a strength and blessing, but also find someone who can grow and learn along with you and you enjoy the journey of life together.
What if you want more help than simply these questions provided? There are many different research-based premarital counseling and education classes and books that can help prepare you for the big day. Dr. John Gottman has written several books and articles that are easy to read and apply to one’s life. However, there are many more theorists and classes besides Dr. Gottman’s classes, but I won’t go into reviewing them all here. There are also many marriage and family therapists or other marital counselors who can help navigate the waters to marriage; you can hopefully find one near you.