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Let's be real. Even though most of us wish that our relationships channeled The Bachelor — full of roses, romance, and trips to exotic islands at all times — a marriage is a BIG, serious step in a relationship, filled with twists, turns and, of course, lots of love. But, before you start your wedding planning and joyous trip down the aisle, there are a few core marriage discussions to get out of the way.
It's common knowledge that the key to a happy marriage is communication — and once you have that, the rest will follow. Luckily for us, The New York Times talked to relationship expert, Robert Scuka, the executive director of the National Institute of Relationship Enhancement, about the big (life-altering!) questions you need to ask your partner before getting married.
"If you don't deal with an issue before marriage, you deal with it while you're married," Scuka shared. It doesn't just go away because you tie the knot. So, he says, there are some questions you need to ask your partner in order to make sure you're on the same page. Here are the eight questions we rank as the most important — that you must ask your fiancé before you live happily ever after.
1. How did your family argue when a problem arose?
The way a husband and wife's separate family handle their issues and conflicts can have a profound effect on the way that a couple will handle their differences. Your family's dynamic, Peter Pearson, founder of the Couples Institute, says, "will give you insight into whether your partner will come to mimic the conflict resolution patterns of his or her parents — or avoid them."
2. What are your thoughts on parental roles when we have kids?
In a nutshell: will you change our baby's diapers? And, taking it a step further (or back, if you will) — do you want children? How many? When? These are all crucial questions in a marriage that must be dealt with early on.
3. How important is religion to you?
In some cases, Dr. Scuka told the Times, spouses can experience conflicting traditions — especially when children are added to the mix. Some couples will pursue their own separate religious affiliations, and others will convert or decide to create their own traditions together. Either way you slice it, it's important to have this discussion.
4. What's the most you'd be willing to spend on a car, a couch, shoes?
Ahhh, luxury. In some cases, this is a no-brainer. However, if your husband doesn't know that you like to buy $1,000 pairs of shoes or that you think Italian leather couches are the only way to survive living in your apartment, then it's time to have the talk. Reckless spending is something that can create major issues in a marriage, so it should be addressed ahead of your nuptials.
5. Do you like my parents? Do I like yours?
What's more important — even than these questions — is if you are a unified front, Dr. Scuka shared. "If a spouse is not willing to address the issue with his or her parents, it can bode very poorly for the long-term health of the relationship."
6. How important is sex to you?
There's good news: throughout their lifetimes, couples today "expect to remain sexually excited by their spouse," Seth Eisenberg, president of Practical Application of Intimate Relationship Skills, told the Times. This, he said, is a different expectation that relationships that have existed in the past and throughout history. How you view sex — pleasure points, frequency, and enthusiasm — are big factors in your satisfaction.
7. What do you love about me? And what really drives you crazy?
But really, what drives you nuts? "Ideally, marriage is a life commitment," Anne Klaeysen, leader of the New York Society for Ethical Culture, advised, "and it's not enough to just 'click together,' as many couples describe their relationship." Yes, in the beginning, that's what it will be, but as you get older, you don't want the pet peeves to outweigh the desires.
8. In 10 years, where do you see us?
And while we'd all like to answer that question with, "together sipping piña coladas on the beach, watching the sunset," the reality is that a relationship needs to raise this question. "Keeping the answer to this question in mind can help a couple deal with current conflict as they work toward their ultimate relationship goals," said Eisenberg.
See the rest of the important marriage questions raised by The New York Times here.