Many couples wonder what they need to discuss before getting married. After many years of working with marriages, I have selected these as the most important topics, along with questions for you to explore before you walk down the aisle.
Set aside some special time when you are both relaxed and creative. Print out two copies.
Explore only as many questions as your feel like for each discussion time. If you run into any that push your buttons, you may find it easier to discuss these questions with some premarital counseling.
1. Meaning of Your Marriage Commitment
A. How do you describe what you are committed to being for the other because of being married?
B. Of all of the persons in your life that you have met and could have married, why are you choosing your partner?
C. What attracted you to your partner initially?
2. Your Life-Long Goals
A. What do you hope to achieve in the near future and the distant future in terms of your career?
B. How do you plan to care for your community alone or separately?
C. Do you hope to leave a legacy after you die?
3. Your Mutual Expectations
A. What do you expect of a marital partner in terms of emotional support during exciting times, depressed times, periods of illness and job loss?
B. Is it important that you set aside one night just to be together alone to catch up with each other and have fun?
C. What size house is important and in what kind of neighborhood do you hope to live in both now and in the future?
D. Are you both clear how much alone time the other needs?
E. How much time does your partner need to spend with friends separately and together?
F. Do you agree how much time is appropriate to give to work?
G. Do you both expect to support the family financially and will that be different when kids arrive?
H. Are you both comfortable with the salary differential between you?
I. How will you deal with times when one or both of you has reached a midlife career point and you need to change some aspects about your life?
4. Your Living Arrangements
A. How do you plan to live together?
B. Where will you live after the arrival of children?
C. How do you determine if a new career path or job is reason enough to move?
D. Do you hope to live in the same house or area for a long time?
E. Will you need to be close to your parents either now or as they get older?
A. Will you have children and if so how many? When do you plan to start a family?
B. How far apart would you want your kids to be in age?
C. Would abortion ever be acceptable before or after that?
D. What kinds of philosophies did your parents have about child raising and do you agree or disagree?
E. How do each of you intend to shape your children’s values?
F. What kinds of punishment are appropriate or not appropriate?
G. What kinds of expectations do you each have about money spent on toys, clothes, etc.?
A. Will you have separate or joint checking accounts or both?
B. If you do have separate accounts, who will be responsible for which expenses?
C. Who will pay the bills?
D. Do you agree to have full financial disclosure about each of your own personal financial situations at all times?
E. How will strong disagreements about spending money be resolved?
F. Is there any debt that either partner has incurred before the marriage (college or graduate school loans or credit card debt)?
G. What amount of available money does each of you need to feel comfortable?
H. Will there be a savings plan for the first house?
I. Do you plan to keep trading houses as you can afford it?
J. How much credit card debt or home equity loan debt is acceptable?
K. Agreement about taking care of financial needs of parents if likely?
L. Do you plan to send your kids to private or parochial school?
M. What will be the plans for children’s college education?
N. When do you hope to begin savings for retirement?
O. Will you use of a financial planner?
P. How will the taxes be completed?
7. Parents and In-laws
A. How much time does each of you need to spend with your parents and how much do you expect your partner to join you?
B. How do you plan to spend holidays?
C. What will be the holiday expectations of each of your parents and how will you deal with those expectations?
D. What kind of support do you expect from your partner when the parents are putting pressure on you?
E. Is it ok for either of you to talk with parents about the problems of the relationship?
F. What kind of relationship do you expect your kids to have with your parents?
G. Do you expect that you will ever want a parent to live with the two of you when they grow old?
8. Gender Role Expectations
A. What did your parents model for you in terms of who did what in the family?
B. Did you feel that was fair and do you expect something different?
C. Does each of you have some preferences that might be totally unrelated to gender?
D. If both of you do not want to do something in terms of children, household or yard maintenance, how will you divvy up these responsibilities?
E. Do both of you expect to work if you have children?
F. When the children get sick, how do you decide who stays home with them?
A. How often do you want to enjoy an intimate evening with each other?
B. How do you intend to resolve differences in sexual preferences?
C. Can you work out an agreement about how to deal with differences in sexual desire in terms of frequency?
D. Are there certain things that are clearly off limits?
E. Do you agree to talk about your sexual concerns at a time when you both are feeling creative and relaxed and not during sex?
F. Do you agree on issues around erotic moments together?
A. How did your parents settle their differences? Or what are the tribal customs that may affect what you expect in terms of expressed anger?
B. What feels comfortable to each of you, as your partner gets upset?
C. Can either of you ask for a time out to calm down and be creative in your problem solving?
D. What rituals will you develop to reach out to each other after a big fight?
E. How will you resolve heated conflicts?
11. Spiritual Life
A. What does spirituality mean to each of you?
B. What kind of participation do you expect in each other in some form of spiritual community?
C. How will you share what means something to you with them?
D. Will your children be expected to attend any regular services or religious education?
E. Will the children go through certain rituals like baptism, christening, first communion, confirmation or bar or bat mitzvah?
12. Agreement about Extramarital Relationships
A. Do you want to establish from the beginning that affairs are not an option?
B. Do you agree that affairs of the heart are equal to a sexual affair?
C. Will you talk to your partner about someone that you feel drawn to as a colleague or erotically since this can build the bond between you and your partner rather than the outside person?
D. Will you commit to never talking to a person of the opposite sex (except a therapist or clergy) about your relationship with your partner since this builds a bond outside of your relationship?