When we think about finding someone, falling in love, and settling down, we rarely like to think about one of the possible outcomes of getting married: getting divorced. Divorce is, unfortunately, a real part of a some relationships. But there's a thin line between realism and scaremongering—even though divorce definitely happens, that doesn’t mean it has to happen to you. While you can’t prevent life from getting in the way (and unexpected barriers and obstacles coming up) you can make sure your relationship is as strong as possible to withstand them.
And, ideally, that starts way before you even get married. Although you might imagine that everyone has those big, important, relationship conversations before they tie the knot, you’d be surprised how many issues get swept under the carpet or ignored completely. Asking the right questions can start you on the right foot for married life—and help keep divorce at bay. Here are seven questions to ask your partner before you get married, because an uncomfortable conversation now can save you so much heartache later.
1. What Are Your Financial Goals and How Can We Try to Reach Them?
First and foremost, you need to talk about money. Money is the number one source of relationship stress between couples, so being on the same page about money early on is crucial. Asking about financial goals is a lot more positive than saying, “How come you never seem to pay your bills on time but splurge on delivery three nights a week?”. You want to start a conversation and get a sense of whether the two of you are financially compatible—not in terms of how much you earn, but in how you view and manage money.
2. How Can I Help You When You’re Stressed?
One of the best things you can do for your partner is to learn how to help them when they’re down. Some people need reassurance, others need space, others need a pep talk—everyone is different. But when we’re actually stressed and struggling, we may not be able to communicate these needs fully. Establishing what you need in advance means you and your partner are able to help each other and cope with stress as it arises.
3. Do You Want Children and What Would You Do if We Struggle to Get Pregnant?
You’d assume that everyone would touch base about children before they get married—but sometimes it doesn't happen. While you should definitely discuss whether or not you both want them, you also should have a broader conversation. Struggling to get pregnant can be devastating in a relationship, and it’s not the time you want to realize that one of you wants to go through IVF and the other thinks it’s too challenging—or one of you is open to adoption and the other isn’t. Although your opinions may change over time, and when/if you’re actually in that position, talking early can make sure you’re entering the situation as a team.
4. What’s Your Communication Style?
Everyone hears that communication is crucial for a relationship, but it can be tricky to know how to have healthy communication if you both seem to have different communication styles. So while it seems meta, communicated about communication! Does one of you need time to think things over? Does one of you speak off the cuff and then regret it? Does one of you communicate better in writing? Unlock the communication issue and everything else gets easier.
5. What Are Your Deal-Breakers?
Everyone has deal-breakers. They may be about traditional issues—whether you want children, what religion you want them to be raised, what you need from a partner, but they can also look totally different. Your deal-breakers could be about where you need to live, passion projects you want to pursue, or career goals you need support to meet. Knowing these nonnegotiables will give you a good sense of the landscape of your future and whether it works for both of you. If your deal-breakers fit together, your marriage has a much stronger chance of survival.
6. How Much Alone Time Do You Need?
Everyone needs alone time, but some people need more than others. If you don’t know that alone time is a normal need for your partner, you may assume that they’re withdrawn, angry, or resentful when they seek space. Establishing early on that you both need alone time—and how that manifests—will not only strengthen your relationship, it will prevent confusion in the future.
7. What's Your Biggest Fear?
It might not be an easy question, but it’s one that can get you right to the bottom of what makes someone tick. Marriage is about understanding—and not just understanding your hopes, dreams, and ambitions. It’s also about understanding fears, regrets, and struggles. Make sure that you’re asking the tough questions and your marriage will have a much deeper level of understanding.
8. What Does Marriage Mean to You?
Marriage doesn’t mean the same thing to everyone. Some people think it’s an almost all-consuming partnership, some people think it’s a legal agreement. Talking about your expectations can make sure that neither of you has needs or expectations that aren’t being met—you can feel like you’re approaching it together.
There’s no guaranteed way to divorce-proof your marriage, but you can give it the best chance at surviving and thriving. Having conversations before you get married on these big issues and making sure that your needs, wants, and expectations all line up can ensure you’re going into married life on the strongest possible foot. When in doubt, communicate—ask questions, listen, and discuss. It’s the shortest path through any obstacle.