Questions To Ask Your SO Before Getting Married

The romanticism of dating, an engagement, a wedding, and a honeymoon can really overshadow the reality that marriage is intended to be a lifelong commitment to one person. Although you'll likely know a lot about your betrothed by the time the wedding rolls around, many couples fail to discuss some pretty important topics and ideals that truly impact the rest of their lives together. It's ultra-important to be on the same (or at least similar) pages about these issues because no matter what obstacles you've already overcome, life has a way of throwing much, much bigger stuff at a couple the longer they're married. 


Although marriage is often filled with a lot of joy, the current divorce rates show that it is truly a case of "only the strong will survive." But ideally, you don't want to just survive, but also to thrive in a marriage. They call it "happily ever after" for a reason, right? 

So, well before you walk down the proverbial aisle, have a serious chat with your significant other about these important issues. Bear in mind that people do change over time (no matter how much they claim they won't), so both of your answers to some of these questions may morph as you age and gain life experience. Because of that, it's critical to really understand how flexible you are willing to be in regard to these all-important questions.


Do you want to have children?

It's pretty incredible how many people enter into a marriage without talking to their partner about family plans. Many a bride or groom has been stunned after the fact to find out that their spouse doesn't ever want to have children, or on the other end of the spectrum, that they want to have, like, eight kids. 


For many people, this is a non-negotiable issue. While you don't necessarily have to determine the exact number of children you want, it's still critical to know that the other person wants to be a parent, as it's a truly huge (but also rewarding) responsibility. Also, make sure you're both clear on timing. Perhaps your betrothed is fine with having a couple of kids but wants to wait five or 10 years. Discuss the reality of that preference as a woman's fertility starts to decline around age 30. If you're already in your early 30s when you marry, then waiting a super long time to get pregnant is pretty risky. 

While you're on the topic of kids, discuss the kind of parenting style you envision. Does someone want to be a stay-at-home parent? Do you lean toward being a strict disciplinarian or are you going to be a zero-tolerance household for yelling? There's a lot of flexibility in this discussion, as a lot of parenting is learning by doing, but it helps to know that you have similar ideals.


What kind of budget will we have?

When one person in the relationship has designer tastes and the other prefers bargain brands, things can spiral out of control quickly. Before you get married, sit down and hash out a budget that works well for both of you. Be sure to include categories like entertainment, vacation, utilities, rent/mortgage, auto expenses, retirement savings, home improvement savings, and so on. 


Many people are "financially incompatible," meaning that they prioritize financial matters differently from their partner, according to a survey by Bread Financial Newsroom. In fact, "financial infidelity," or when one person hides things like purchases or credit cards from their partner, is extremely common, as well. It's no wonder that so many couples argue over finances. So plan ahead with a starter budget and adjust it as needed to reflect pay increases/decreases, the addition of children, pets, and other variables. The right budget for both parties will include some give and take, so be realistic and flexible when tweaking it. 

Be sure to also discuss other financial topics like who's going to pay the bills and how. Will you have a joint checking account? Or will you keep your money separate and instead divvy up the bills? Also, if you're coming into the marriage with significant assets, be sure to ask for a prenup. You worked hard for that cash and deserve to keep it protected, just in case. Anyone who balks at this reasonable request is a little bit suspect.


How are we going to divide the holidays?

Some couples marry and it's automatically one big happy extended family. Most people don't live super close to both sides of the family, however, which makes things like holidays, special occasions, and vacations a little bit sticky. Then there's the fact that maybe one or more of your parents or siblings are difficult to get along with, making things even harder.


Try your best to keep things relatively even by scheduling out those high-value days of the year well in advance. For example, one year spend Memorial Day weekend and Thanksgiving with the bride's side, and Labor Day plus Christmas with the groom's. Then switch the next year. This is going to obviously vary widely depending on where everyone lives, vacation days, and so on. But as long as you're making an effort to see everyone, it shouldn't be too hard to keep them happy. 

Do keep in mind that not every extended family is going to want it to be even Stevens. Some grandparents, aunts, and uncles are fine with a visit once per year and others want to be at every single baseball game and birthday dinner. So a lot of success in this endeavor is just knowing your audience and coming to terms with it.


Is there anything in your past I should know about?

By the time you get engaged, you should hopefully know the most important things about your betrothed. Are they kind? Hard-working? How about welcoming, loving, and optimistic? That said, there are bound to be a few things that have not come out in conversation that would be helpful for you to know. 


Be sure to have an open and honest conversation so that no massive surprises show up down the line, as we've seen in so many soap operas. Frankly (and non-judgementally) discuss any past arrests or brushes with the law, marriages and/or children, credit score issues, outstanding debt, major family drama, illnesses, etc. 

Everyone has a skeleton or two in their closet, and once you legally join with someone else it could very well impact their life, as well. You don't necessarily have to tell them about that time you shoplifted a pencil when you were 10 years old, but sharing the big stuff is pretty important. 

How will we split household chores?

Society is well past the days of the woman doing all the housework and the man smoking his pipe. Now, all chores are fair game for all genders. If you're already cohabitating before the wedding this should be really easy to talk about and tweak. 


Sit down and list all the household chores, including vacuuming, dusting, sweeping, mopping, washing dishes, cleaning bathrooms, laundry, all types of yard work, etc. Set up a schedule for who will do each chore, or if you plan to split them. Also, discuss the expectation for how often they'll be done. This is very important because some people are A-OK with once-a-month laundry or biannual bathroom cleanings.

If one person starts to fall behind on their chores, gently remind them rather than yell. Once you settle into a schedule, it'll be easier to stay on top of tasks so that you don't end up buried under a pile of clutter. 

How will we deal with conflict?

People have lots of big, messy opinions and feelings. Even the happiest pair together will likely clash at some point. In fact, most couples have already had a number of arguments by the time they get engaged. Draw on that experience and discuss what worked and didn't work for you during these clashes. 


Do you shut down when someone starts to yell at you? Tell your partner that nothing will get solved with screaming if that's the case. Some people prefer to handle everything in writing (like by text or email) so that they can carefully word their concerns and re-read their partner's. Whatever your personal style, try to agree on constructive disagreement resolution tactics. 

This can include common couples therapy methods like listening without judgment, adopting a positive, win/win mindset, and even doing regular check-ups so that problems are handled before they get out of control. Also, broach the subject of pre-marriage counseling with a licensed professional, or at least find out your partner's thoughts about enlisting an expert if needed down the line.


Will we practice religion?

It's incredibly common today for couples of all types of faiths and ideologies to marry and thrive. It's even more common for this to happen if everyone's open and honest about their religious beliefs. Talk upfront about expectations on how you will or won't practice religion as a couple. For example, maybe your betrothed doesn't practice any religion, but you'd really like for them to be there for Christmas Eve services. Or maybe they are interested in dipping their toe back into religion but don't want to be pressured. 


No matter how it shakes out, remember that faith is not something that can be forced and that it is absolutely fine for people to have different views on religion. Above all else, respect their religious beliefs. It might not have been how you were raised, but that doesn't make it wrong. 

While we're on the topic, make sure this chat includes something about how children will be raised in religious terms. This is not a discussion you want to wait to have until after a baby is born.