Marriage is a big deal. It’s messy, confusing, and complex. It’s two people who have decided to smash their lives together. For better or for worse. Which is why getting to know your partner as much as possible before getting married is a really good idea. Consider it, doing your research, your due diligence even. Be patient with yourself and your partner during your relationship, and always treat each other with the respect you both deserve. It’s helpful though to have a framework for the conversations that you engage in prior to getting married.
Marriage counselling or couples therapy is one way to make these conversations super constructive. Another way is simply by knowing the right questions to ask. The following are twelve soul searching questions that both you and partner should be able to answer. Bear in mind, that not all relationships are created equal. In fact, no two relationships are alike! These questions are designed for those couples who desire a “til death do us part” relationship. They are rooted in a traditional conception of marriage, and may not apply to your relationship. However, they are a great jumping off point for a conversation with your potential life partner.
1. Why do you love me?
This deceptively simple questions actually sheds a lot of light on the reason your partner has decided to spend their life with you. To love someone is both selfless and selfish. It requires sacrifice and perseverance, but when the planets align and you are loved back it feels so very good. You love how the other person makes you feel special and valued, and in return you want to make them feel the same way. Provided that you are asking this question near the beginning of your relationship, your partner will have a long list of reasons that they love you. Make sure that the things they are saying now are what you will want to hear in a decade or two.
2. Why do you want to spend your entire life with me?
And no, “because I love you” won’t cut it here. What is it about you that makes your partner so sure you are the best thing since sliced bread? Is it your determination and ambition, or how you will make a wonderful parent, or perhaps you are the perfect combination of hilarious and supportive? You have a lot to offer, and if your partner can’t quite pinpoint what it is that they are so compelled by, you might have something to investigate further. Your partner should be able to tell you what they want out of their life, and how they see you not just fitting into their life, but enhancing it. And vice versa – how will they enhance your life?
3. How will we keep the romance alive?
Ah, romance. In the honeymoon stages of your relationship it was all candlelit dinners, romantic strolls, and dreamy gazes. And hopefully you haven’t forgotten how close it made you feel, how connected, and how loved. There is no statute of limitations on romance.
There is no rule that once you have been married for six months the candlelit dinners are over. If romance is important to you, ask your partner how they expect to keep it alive. You should also ask yourself the same question. Romance is after all, a two way street.
Keep in mind that as you grow, your definition of romance may change.
4. How will we make sure we don’t grow apart from each other?
Relationships are incredibly difficult. They’re even more difficult when you take into account that two unique individuals going through dozens of life changes every year are trying to stay best friends throughout the whole thing. How does your partner plan to make sure you don’t drift further and further apart? For some couples, once they have checked all the items off their to-do list (engagement, marriage, children, etc) they start drifting apart, as if their job here is done. While the societally imposed peaks in your relationship may have been achieved, start defining your own!
5. Can I count on you during the rough times?
Being the partner you know you should be when the going is easy is, well…easy! Being a supportive, loving partner when everything seems to be going wrong is the hard part. Every relationship has it’s ups and downs, and you will experience them all. From stressors at work to a death in the family, or issues with your teenage children there will always be something looking to drive you apart. But remember, you are stronger together. So lay the foundation now for exactly how you will support each other during the rough times.
6. Do you know how to pick your battles?
Knowing what battles to pick, what fights to have, and when you need to be “right,” is a skill worth learning. Are you comfortable walking away from a potentially disastrous fight? Is your partner in control of their ego? Given that most arguments aren’t over facts, but instead over opinions it helps to know that your partner has the ability to agree to disagree.
7. Will you prioritize our relationship?
Every single day there are a dozen different things vying for your attention. Between your social life, work life, and personal life there is never a dull moment. How will your partner make sure that you always feel valued, and prioritized. Ask your partner if they feel that your relationship is the most important element in their life, and if they see it continuing to be. If so, how will they make sure they put your relationship first?
8. Do you want to be a parent?
Not all couples will have children. Instead of assuming that your partner wants to become a parent, just ask them! Furthermore, don’t rely on the first date conversation you have about children three years ago. Check back in, ask if they still feel the same way about the house in the suburbs with the vegetable garden. People change their opinions on nearly everything, parenthood might very well be one of those things. If one partner does not want children, can your relationship survive this?
9. Do you promise to always tell me you love me?
Reaffirming feelings of love and commitment throughout the relationship is important. Without this affirmation, you are relying on your partner to fill in the blanks. To glean how you feel about them based on your actions and behaviour. As humans, our actions and behaviour don’t always align with our intentions. So, ask your partner if they can promise to remind you often that they love you, and you will do the same.
10. How will we stay attracted to each other?
Over the course of a lifelong relationship, your appearances and those of your partner will change. As will your personality, your sense of humour, your interests, and your ambitions. How do you both plan to stay attracted to each other? Ask your partner how they plan to stay healthy, and continue being their best for you? Similarly, how will you be the best partner for them?
Setting fitness and health related goals is a great way to ensure that you both retain the youthful vigour you undoubtedly want to carry into your maturing relationship.
11. Can I count on your emotional, mental, and financial support if necessary?
Of course you hope that nothing is going to go wrong, but if and when it does, ask your partner if you can count on their support. Financial support is one thing, but how about their emotional and mental support? Will they be there during thick and thin, holding your hand, making sure dinner gets put on the table, and looking out for both of your best interests? Between medical issues, mental health differences, financial hardships and more, knowing that you can count on your partner to pick up the slack is vital. Importantly, will you do the same for them?
12. Will you continue growing as a person?
In the beginning stages of your relationship, you loved that your partner had their own interests, goals, and ambitions. Do they promise to keep up this incredibly attractive habit? Will they keep setting goals for themselves, learning new things, and being the person you fell in love with? Will you? Keep in mind also that your partner doesn’t have to be the exact same person throughout their entire life for you to keep loving them. That said, can they promise to retain the best parts of themselves while continually striving for more?
Relationships are tricky. They require hard work and perseverance. At Capital Choice Counselling we have seen the benefits of marriage therapy time and time again. If you would like to learn more, or schedule an appointment, call us today!