What to Ask Before Marriage
Let's acknowledge that we live in an extremely status-oriented society, with emphasis placed on marrying a person with the "right" professional identity. How often have you heard people brag (or maybe you've bragged yourself) about a partner, saying, "He's a doctor" or "She's a model," as if status alone were enough to guarantee a good relationship. Unfortunately, you don't hear people bragging, "He's a kindergarten teacher" or "She's an administrative assistant at a not-for-profit organization in the Bronx." This is part of the problem. When we focus on status, we destroy any chance to live an authentic life with a partner who shares our values. These are the questions you really want answered:
- Are you working in your chosen profession?
- How many hours a week do you work?
- What is your dream job?
- What is your retirement plan? What do you plan to do when you stop working?
- What does your job entail? (For example: Do you often travel for business, work at home or perform dangerous tasks?)
Money is a loaded topic. Many couples stop talking at the point of "how much," assuming the rest will take care of itself. But questions about money will infuse themselves into every area of your life and show up on a daily basis. These are a few questions you should ask:
- What is your annual income?
- Should individuals within a marriage have separate bank accounts in addition to joint accounts?
- Do you have significant debts?
- Do you believe in establishing a family budget?
- How important is it for you to make a lot of money?
Men and women have different issues with owning their sexuality. For men, it is denying the significance of sex and not seeing the sacredness in the act. For women, it is more often ignorance and shame, not giving themselves permission to know what they need and then matching it with their behavior. In a conversation about your sexual expectations and fears, be sure to respect each other's boundaries. Your goal in asking these questions is not to pry into every detail of sexual history, but to open a conversation about the most intimate aspect of your relationship.
What sexual activities do you enjoy most? Are there specific sexual acts that make you uncomfortable? Be specific!
- Do you feel comfortable initiating sex? If yes, why? If no, why?
- What do you need in order to be in the mood for sex?
- How often do you need or expect sex?
- Is sexual fidelity an absolute necessity in a good marriage?
Although Lies at the Altar
is about marriage and intimate relationships, having children is also for grown-ups, and there are all too many "adult" couples bringing children into marriages where the foundation is shaky on a good day. Being a mature adult involves recognizing that much of what you re-create in your marriage and as parents has to do with unresolved issues with your own parents and family. If you are married and don't have children, give them and yourself the gift of building a strong foundation before subjecting them to the chaos of parents who haven't shown up and haven't grown up.
- Do you want children? When? How many? Are you unable to have children?
- Do you believe that children should be raised with some religious or spiritual foundation?
- How important is it to you that your children are raised near your extended family?
- Do you believe in spanking a child? What type of discipline do you believe in (time outs, standing in the corner, taking away privileges, etc.)?
- Should boys be treated the same as girls? Should they have the same rules for conduct? Should you have the same expectations for their sexual behavior?
Religion cannot be reduced to affiliation. That's especially true today, when religion has become complicated for people. Dr. Robin has friends who chose not to be actively involved in a formal religion. However, she was raised as a Catholic, and he was Jewish, and these strong historical and familial influences constantly showed up as surprise guests in their lives.
They thought they had rejected the religious affiliations of their parents, but when they became parents themselves, they found themselves automatically being drawn back. Naturally, this created a serious conflict about which religious influence would dominate their child's life. Because these were not dogmatic people, they eventually found a way to give their child the gift of a mixed religious heritage, but not every couple will find that possible. So when you're having a conversation about religion, open it up beyond affiliation, and find out what religion means to each of you.
- Do you believe in God? What does that mean to you?
- Do you have a current religious affiliation? Is it a big part of your life?
- Does your religion impose any behavioral restrictions (dietary, social, familial, sexual) that would affect your partner?
- How important is it to you for your partner to share your religious beliefs?
- How important is it to you for your children to be raised in your religion?