Before two people become engaged, it’s important for them to have honest conversations about the successes and failures that have led them to the moment they knew that marriage was the right step for their future. Each relationship is unique, but there are universal themes that every couple should discuss. Here are the five common questions I recommend couples ask before getting down on one knee.
What are your long-term goals?
When you’re in love, it can be hard to look over the horizon to the future. Why leave the here and now where everything is perfect? But life will keep moving, and it’s important to talk about where you see yourselves in the future to ensure that you can travel down that road together. Are your goals similar to your partner’s goals? Do you see yourself living in a specific area or having a specific job? Having this conversation allows you to plan the trip called life together, as one.
Are there absolutes in your relationship?
When it comes to relationships, everyone has deal breakers. The key to a healthy relationship is being open to expressing your deal breakers prior to your engagement. One of the biggest absolutes is whether or not you or your partner wants kids, and if so, how many. If you want a large family and your partner wants a dog instead, that may be an issue. Another big topic to cover is religion. Do you need your partner to share the same faith, or do you have a strong insistence on the children’s religious upbringing? Then of course there’s the ever-dreaded topic of politics. This may or may not be a deal breaker for you, but wouldn’t it be better to find out their political leanings now than at the next presidential election?
While opposites attract, can you live with your differences?
I can tell you from experience, it’s nice to be married to someone who fills in my gaps and covers my weaknesses. I’m convinced that if I were married to someone just like me, it would be a disaster! Although opposites attract, sometimes your differences can become the thing you fight about the most. Take for example an extrovert who decides to marry an introvert. This may work beautifully and you may balance each other in group settings, but it can also blow up if one member of your team always feels left out when the other needs alone time. Bottom line, there are many things that make each of you different, and more than likely those things are what attracted you to one other. You just need to acknowledge how you’re different and ensure you can agree to use each other’s unique personalities to build a stronger relationship.
How do you feel about one another’s families?
Make sure that you know how you feel about each other’s families and just how much they are going to be a part of your new life together. You don’t want your first Thanksgiving to be a fight that doesn’t end until Cyber Monday! How much advice do you both agree is welcomed from your parents? Will any judgment hurled your way about your partner affect how you treat each other? After 23 years of marriage and raising a 19-year-old daughter, I can assure you that your parents will have a lot to say about the wedding, marriage, kids and life in general. Knowing where you stand will help you, I promise!
Why do you want to get married?
This is a must ask. Have you both really thought about why you want to take this next step? Is there family pressure, cultural pressure or even a biological clock that is ticking constantly in your mind? Of course, we would all love to think the answer to this question is that you found your life partner and best friend and can’t imagine life without each other—but you should find out either way. This is a deep question, but hey—this next step is forever, and knowing you‘re both in it for the right reasons is an amazing foundation.
After 20-plus years of helping couples at Robbins Brothers find the perfect ring to symbolize their dedication to each other, I’ve had the privilege of being part of many amazing conversations. Learning to open up and talk honestly with one another is a cornerstone of a happy marriage.