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January 07, 2007

What Questions to Ask Before Getting Married

By Sarah

Wedding_rings Here's a funny question: Before you got married, did you sit down your future spouse and soberly ask whether or not there would be - gasp - a television in your marital boudoir? Well, you should have. Because, according to various relationship experts, this is one of the key queries engaged couples should discuss before walking down that aisle.

For the past couple of weeks, the most frequently emailed article from the New York Times has been Questions Couples Should Ask (Or Wish They Had) Before Marrying. (See below.) And no wonder. It's not that so many people are on the verge of wedlock that they, thoughtfully and prudently, are running each other through this quiz. Puhleeze. They're too busy having wild monkey sex or deciding on chicken or fish at the reception. At least, that's what they should be doing. (The wild monkey sex, I mean. Who cares about chicken or fish?)

My hunch is that married people - more likely divorced people - are zipping this quiz across the Internet for sheer laughs. Because as well intentioned as it is, anyone who's been in love and engaged knows that it's almost impossible to expect two sexually charged young adults to ponder such romantic downers as whether each has a clear understanding of the other's financial goals and obligations. Listen, I've been married for 17 years and I still can't figure that one out.

Look at the list. These are issues that maybe, possibly, after five or so years of marriage Charlie and I had hashed out. At times painfully. I challenge any couple to answer these questions fully and then stick to the answers five, ten, fifteen years down the road. Life happens and what might have been a clear understanding of the other's financial obligations when you were twenty five is likely to be very unclear when children come along or when Mom breaks her hip and has to move in for a few months, maybe a year.

But the one that really cracks me up is this: Have we discussed our expectations for how the household will be maintained, and are we in agreement on who will manage the chores?

That's when I knew the whole thing was a joke.

Here's the list. What do you think?

1) Have we discussed whether or not to have children, and if the answer is yes, who is going to be the primary care giver?

2) Do we have a clear idea of each other’s financial obligations and goals, and do our ideas about spending and saving mesh?

3) Have we discussed our expectations for how the household will be maintained, and are we in agreement on who will manage the chores?

4) Have we fully disclosed our health histories, both physical and mental?

5) Is my partner affectionate to the degree that I expect?

6) Can we comfortably and openly discuss our sexual needs, preferences and fears?

7) Will there be a television in the bedroom?

8) Do we truly listen to each other and fairly consider one another’s ideas and complaints?

9) Have we reached a clear understanding of each other’s spiritual beliefs and needs, and have we discussed when and how our children will be exposed to religious/moral education?

10) Do we like and respect each other’s friends?

11) Do we value and respect each other’s parents, and is either of us concerned about whether the parents will interfere with the relationship?

12) What does my family do that annoys you?

13) Are there some things that you and I are NOT prepared to give up in the marriage?

14) If one of us were to be offered a career opportunity in a location far from the other’s family, are we prepared to move?

15) Does each of us feel fully confident in the other’s commitment to the marriage and believe that the bond can survive whatever challenges we may face?


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I held out on the television-in-the-bedroom for 15 years. I finally caved, and I'm not proud of that. But I must admit, my husband isn't the only one who watched the tube after 10pm now.

The what-does-my-family-do-that-annoys-you question might have ended our marriage before it started.

Let's not forget this one: "Are you already married?"

That could save a lot of time.


Ha, ha! Very funny, Victor!

And, yes, Nancy, that what-does-my-family-do-that-annoys-you question is just asking for trouble. Another indication that, along with who's going to wash the socks, tells me the thing is a hoax. One Thanksgiving is all it takes to get the answer anyway so who needs a quiz? And what does the question accomplish? Bad feelings. Sensitivities. A glass thrown at your head.

Anyone who's been married for some time knows the only way to deal with the inevitable annoying family is to suck it up and make nice. That is, if you love your spouse.

If everyone sat down to seriously consider this list before they got married, NO ONE would make it down the aisle.

The thing that is so crazy about it the list, is that it seems to assume that neither person is going to change, how's that for healthy? I should hope that my husband is not the same guy at 42 that he was at 21 and ditto for me.

Whatever complaints someone has about their in-laws, I always remind them that somehow they helped make the person that you love, so somehow it is all good.

I agree with Annette. All those people worried about gay marriage as a threat to the institution should gang up on the New York Times. This list is much more dangerous.

It's interesting to me that #12 is phrased as "What does my family do that annoys you?" as opposed to "Does my family do anything to annoy you?" The annoying assumption is there. A given. A fact of life. I'm not arguing with it, I'm just saying. I'm also glad my husband didn't see that question, because he'd still be writing the answer. And we've been married cough cough years.

When we were preparing for marriage, we endured, I mean enjoyed, a wonderful experience called Engagement Encounter. It was a requirement before getting married in the Catholic church, particularly in my case, because I was entering into a "mixed marriage." (My husband is an Episcopalian.) So a group of affianced people with absolutely nothing in common spent a day with a six thousand year old priest, who guided us through a similar set of questions. One I recall as "If you only have a limited amount of money, do you pay your car insurance, or buy a new stereo?" Yep. That sure got us through the hard times.

Father Time then went on to extoll the evils of premarital sex. The pregnant girl sitting next to me didn't seem to enjoy that part very much.

If you agree on everything up front, what's left to do during the marriage? With no arguments, there'd be no make-up sex.

Once again, Michele proves her wisdom.

We hashed out all the questions------without knowing them------in the 13 years we lived together before the official act. Bliss. And the TV in the bedroom, lights out and cuddling up to watch our favorite movies.....more bliss.
mary alice

I was fortunate in that I did not meet The Boss until we were both in our 30's. By the end of the first date, all of the Manly Man "I need my space", "I can't be tied down, baby", and "I've got to be free" nonsense went right out the window, and all I was concerned with was "What do I have to do to spend the rest of my life with this woman?" The second date, I asked point blank, "What do you want in a relationship?" She thought for a moment, and said "I don't know...but I can tell you what I won't put up with." We were married less than 90 days later, and celebrated 21 years this past November...:)

As far as a TV in the bedroom, that was easy. Neither of us wanted one in there....

You know, maybe it's because my husband and I didn't get married until I was 38 and he was 41 (and yes, it was a first marriage for both of us), but we knew the answers to the vast majority of these things without having to ASK. That's what I think is so funny--it assumes that you have to ask and that, as Cheryl pointed out, neither of you is going to change.

This whole list strikes me as things you should know before you get married unless you only date for a week or two.

Here's how it worked for us:

1) Children? Not on your life. Came up when discussing birth control. I can't have them (I had an infection years ago that closed my tubes) and he had a vasectomy in his 20's.

2) Finances -- if you can't figure this out when you're dating, what the hell are you doing getting married?

3) Chores? Surely, you jest. Now, that's something that has changed. When my husband was traveling for a living and bringing in most of the money, I did them all. Now that he's home and I work more, he does the cooking and kitchen cleaning and I do laundry, etc. Whoever gets up first deals with the dogs.

4) Health histories -- if you can't tell you're marrying a nutcase, you deserve what you get.

5) Affection -- again, you had better know this from dating!

6) Sexual needs -- ditto.

7) Well, since there was a TV in his bedroom when we were dating, I assumed there would be one in ours when we got married. Since I made him turn it off before I could sleep when we were dating, he assumed I'd be the same way when we got married.

8) Not only should you know this without asking, but gimme a break. Who does this???

9) Uh...again, shouldn't you know from dating whether your spouse-to-be goes to church on Sunday or synagogue on Saturday or spiritual retreats at solstice?

10) oy vey, again with the "if you have to ask, you deserve what you get."

11) Not a problem. I hate his parents and so does he.

12) Since he doesn't speak to his family, that's not a problem. And the only things my family does that annoy him annoy me, too.

13) If you're not ready to adjust, the things you aren't willing to adjust should be evident while you're dating. The one thing that surprised my husband was that I was willing to move to the place he wanted to. I'd always wanted to live in Boston but he wanted to live in NY. He assumed I wouldn't move and adjusted himself to that, so he was very pleased when I said I would.

14) Again, since he already lived half across the country from his family, not an issue. The first holiday you spend together as a couple before you get married should tell you all you need to know about this.

15) When you're 40 before you get married, this is not an issue. It might be the only thing on this entire list that I think is a valid question.

Whew! Thank God we have normal people on this list (at least, on Sundays.)

William - that is truly a beautiful story and may I say one that every woman wants to hear. Deep down we all believe that when the dashing Lothario meets us he will, by reason, drop to his knees and beg to know what he can do to spend the rest of his life with us. Thank you for that. You truly are a prince. And "the Boss" must be the best.

Mary Alice - we have gone without a TV in our lives, strange but true. And we've lived without one in a bedroom. But with two kids at different ages and viewing potential, I have to say that I like having a TV in the bedroom for those nights when you just want to cuddle up and watch. We don't have it on very often, though I turn on the news when I'm making the bed.

Which brings us to chores. My college roommate had it all planned out that she and her husband (whom she hadn't yet met) would divide the chores 50/50. That is completely impossible. All I hope for is consideration. Also, a good cleaning person. I swear, my cleaning lady Rita has saved more than my marriage - she's saved my sanity.

No TV in the bedroom for us either, but when we're in a hotel, we turn it on and ogle it like it's something from outer space.

As to the rest: we just muddle through. I did tell my husband, on our 3rd date, that I was dying to have children, and as soon as possible, and would probably want HIS the minute I had sex with him, and if the idea frightened him, now was the time to running screaming into the night. He stayed. The rest is history.

Oh: he's not big on chores. Neither is our cleaning lady, but I love them both, so . . .

In the immortal words of Indiana Jones: "I'm just making this up as I go."

As hokey as these questions seem, my pastor went over something very similar during our pre-marital counseling. Some things were a given even though DH and I had only been together for four months before we got engaged for the others we just told him what he wanted to hear and we've been figuring out the rest as we go along.

I am still single however think there is a learning curve to these questions that is more times than not pre-marital. A successful relationship, especially short distance, should learn these by virtue of being together.

Actually, I went through this list with my SO and it helped straighten out a lot of uncertainties we were both having.

We're going ring shopping next week.

Everything in marriage has to be a give and take. People don't change, and if they do, they resent the person they had to change for, and besides, changing one's self to accommodate a potential spouse simply means the person doesn't like you as you are.

As for all the others, if they can't be realized during the dating period, I agree with William, you deserve what you get, ..can't go into a life-long commitment with eyes wide shut and think everything will work itself out because we love each other..been there, done it, got the t-shirt and pay the alimony.
As for the TV, the bedroom should be a sanctuary, reserved for sleep and the most intimate moments, all inclusive.

With your help only some people know just about buy dissertation service! Hence they order the good enough thesis mba about this topic at the thesis writing services.

I would never think this question is so serious that it just must be discussed before proposing to a girl

I'm sorry but this quiz is not funny it can really help. Couples should be taking as much time to plan their marriage as they are their wedding day!!! maybe if more people took marriage more seriously and actually took time out from your so called wild monkey sex to sit down and open up about their expectations of marriage and the life they see themselves having maybe there wouldn't be so many divorces. Marriage should be untill death do us part thats a long time and it makes it a lot easier if you at least start out on the same page, that doesn't mean what you want for your future never changes but by starting out in the same place it's easier to change and grow together.

My husband and I didn't have this list but we definitely talked about almost everything on this list for months before we married. I only wanted to do this once so I wanted to be very sure, so we talked about what we exspected out of each other as a wife/husband, how many kids we wanted, who would handle the money ect. I was only 17 years old when we got married and he was 18 and we just celebrated our 19 wedding anniversary.

The one thing we didn't think to talk about was mental health and frankly I wish someone had handed me a list with that on it because it would have be very important to us. The comment that if you don't reconize a "nutcase" you deserve what you get is just missing the point. There is anxiety issues on both sides of our family that we were not aware of until our 1st born who is now 13 started having problems at 3 yrs old. Turns out both of our kids have servere anxiety,depression and panic disorders, if I had know about the potential for this it wouldn't have stopped me from having kids but there are things I could have done, like breast feeding, that may have made their symptoms less or who knows maybe prevented it all together. My point is you plan for everything because you don't know what life is going to throw at you and the more prepared you are the easier it may be to deal with.

I would never think this question is so serious that it just must be discussed before proposing to a girl

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