Monday, August 25, 2014

An Ounce of Prevention: '50 Conversations to Have Before You Get Married' (Part 1)

Extensive wise counsel (Proverbs 24:6) is *always* recommended before marriage...

Yet in seeing why it's so vital, here's a (S-C-A-P) list of 50 conversations to have with your significant other *before* marriage per a married individual. If it seems extensive, good. If you don't have the time to thoroughly prepare, you're not ready to get married. Simple as that.
I would like to preface this post by saying that this list started out very small, and grew very, very quickly. As it turns out, there are quite a few things that I think would be really helpful to talk about before you get married!

I began thinking of things that I wish my husband and I had talked with each other about before we got married. We dated for two and a half years before marrying, but most of these conversations were not on our radar until much later- usually when a problem arose, and we had to fix it. How many fights we could have saved ourselves if we had talked about these things ahead of time!

Not to say that we don't still fight- of course we do. I don't think you could ever live with another person without some sort of misunderstanding or miscommunication coming up from time to time. But now that we understand these basic things about each other, we aren't starting from ground zero every time we get into an argument. I'm happy that we have made that kind of progress in the short time we have been married; I hope to say, fifty years down the road, that we have made much, much more.

I encourage you to do a few things with this list.

First, go through each question and reflect on your own answers. It's tough to understand someone else if you do not understand yourself. If nothing else, these are just some good questions to help you have a deeper sense of self-awareness and understanding.

Second, take one or two questions to your girlfriend/boyfriend or fiancé(e) (or to your spouse- most of them are still awesome conversations to have after marriage). Spark up a conversation and see where it goes. Tell them that you want to understand them more and explain why, and see if you can expand your relationship. I don't recommend trying to talk about all fifty in one sitting. I love to talk about these things, and even I would find that tedious. :)

And third, be conscious of the vulnerability that a lot of these questions bring. Some of them might be a little too heavy to start off with. Some people aren't comfortable rattling off such sensitive details, even to their significant other. Be understanding if your partner isn't ready to open up quite yet, and encourage them to meet you there when he or she is ready.

I hope you find these conversations to be helpful in developing and deepening your relationship. :)

1. What are the most important/memorable parts of your childhood?

What are your first, favorite or most painful memories?  Things you remember most vividly? Times you don't like to remember?

[The more you know about your partner’s past, the more you can understand how he or she developed into the person you know today.]

2. How do you feel about your relationship with your mom?

Are you happy with it? What would you change about it? What do you love about it?

3. How do you feel about your relationship with your dad?

[Same as above- knowing how your partner relates to his or her parents is crucial to  empathizing and understanding him or her on a deeper level. It can help reveal some wounds or issues that may have come from either parent.]

4. How did your parents argue or fight?

Did they yell? Did they leave? Did they fight fair? Did they resolve it? Did they never let you see them fight?

[The way your partner’s parents fought can give you valuable insight into habits he or she may fall into when you fight.]

5. How did your parents raise you?

How connected did you feel to them? How were you disciplined? What kind of rules did your parents have? How strict were they? How do you feel about it now?

[Knowing how your partner was raised will give you an idea of how he or she might parent children someday- or possibly how he or she does not want to parent them.]

6. How do you want to parent your children? (if applicable)

Do you want to raise children like you were raised? What would you keep? What would you change?

[Not everyone has the same idea of how to parent a child; do your ideas coincide with your partner's? Can you compromise with your differences?]

7. What do you prioritize?

Work? God? Spouse? Kids? Other family? Write a list of your priorities and put them in order. What would win out against another? What is at the top of the list?

[Knowing your partner's priorities is very important. Do those priorities match up with yours?]

8. Do you want kids?

If yes, how many? How long do you want to wait? How sure are you that you do or do not want kids? 

[This is extremely important to know before you get married. Remember that you may not be able to change your spouses mind. Can you live with their decision? Can you compromise?]

9. What is your relationship history?

What previous relationships have you had? How serious were they? How intimate were you emotionally and physically? Why did they end? How do you feel about them now?

[You should be aware of whatever significant relationships happened in your partner's past so that you can better understand any underlying ideas, expectations or wounds he or she may bring into your relationship.]

10. What are your religious beliefs/views on spirituality?


What do you believe? How important are those beliefs to who you are? Do you believe the same things that I do?  Do you expect me to believe what you believe?

[Again, don’t assume that you will change your spouse. Can you live with their belief system?]

11. What are your important political views?

What issues are you passionate about? What issues are a trigger for you?

[While political issues may not be a big deal to some people, to others, they are very important. It's good to have the conversation and discuss any areas you may disagree on.]

12. What traditions do you value?

Social/cultural traditions? Religious traditions? Family traditions? Personal traditions? How important are they to you? Why? 

[Knowing what traditions your partner values will give you insight into what he or she will value. This may come up, for instance, when you plan to work on Christmas Eve, and your partner expected to spend it with you. Or it could come up when you want to sleep in on Sunday, and your partner expects to go to an early church service. These kinds of things are fixed earlier if you understand what the other person values and why.]

13. Where do you want to live? (or where won’t you live?)


Why or why not?

[It’s good to know, for instance, if you want to live abroad someday and your partner absolutely will not!]

14. What are your career plans?

What are your ambitions? Where do you want to go, eventually? How do you plan to get there?

[Do your partner's plans match up with your future plans?]

15. What are your long term goals?

Where do you see yourself 5 years in the future? 10? 20? What do you want to accomplish in life?

[Can you mesh your partner's plans with yours?]

16. How do you handle money?

Do you tend to spend it? Save it? Do you have any bad habits with it? Do you spend when you are emotional? Are you responsible? What is your history with money?

[The way your partner deals with money will be very important when he or she begins dealing with your money as a couple. If there are any problems, better to deal with them earlier than after the fact!]

17. Who has a lot of influence on you?

Your mom? Your best friend? Your sister? Who has the ability to change your mind? Who influences the way you think?

[It’s important to know who your partner listens to and respects; it's especially important to know what kind of advice your partner will be receiving from those people, as one day he or she may be going to them for advice about your marriage.]

18. What are your expectations of sex?

How often do you expect to have it? Who should initiate it? What if one of you doesn’t want to and the other does? 

[The more in depth you understand your partner’s expectation of sex, the better off your marriage- and your sex life- will be.]

19. What are your expectations of marital roles?

Who is responsible for what in the home? Who is responsible for what in your marriage? 

Who do you expect to fulfill certain relationship roles?

[Do those expectations match up with yours?]

20. What are your expectations of housework?

Who is expected to do what chores? Who takes out the trash? Who cooks dinner? Who cleans the toilets? Who does dishes? Who does laundry?

[This was a very important question a mentor of ours asked us before my husband and I got married. Don't underestimate the power of hidden expectations! Knowing your partner’s preconceived expectations of roles in housework will save you many misunderstandings and fights later on!]

21. What are your "non-negotiables" in marriage?

What is unacceptable, no matter what? What do you see as an "unforgivable" offense? 

What would be your response to it?

[It's crucial to know what things your partner will not tolerate in a relationship so that you can avoid problems before they happen.]

22. What are your views on divorce or separation?

Do you think it’s acceptable? In what situations?

[Talking about your expectations for the longevity of your marriage is also extremely important. If one partner thinks that divorce should never happen, and the other thinks that marriage should end if the love is gone, they are coming into the marriage with two entirely different expectations.]

23. What is your view on marriage counseling or couples' therapy?


Are you willing to go to it? Under what circumstances? Do you think it’s helpful? Who would you go to? 

[Even if your marriage never gets to a breaking point, you may find yourself in need of a third party to help you work through some relationship problems. Do you and your partner see eye-to-eye about how those issues should be addressed?]

24. What are your expectations of my relationships with others?

How often do you expect me to see my friends? How close do you expect me to be with friends of the opposite sex? How much information about our relationship do you expect me to divulge to others? What are your limits on my emotional or physical closeness with others?

[Whether it's with your coworkers, friends or family members, your partner will have some ideas of how close you should be to the people around you. It's important to discuss what his or her expectations are, and to assess if you are willing to respect those wishes.]

25. How do you tend to try to hurt others when you feel hurt?


[When we feel cornered, we tend to aim to hurt others in the way that we would be most hurt by. Those who are most hurt by harsh criticism will be highly critical of others. Those who are most hurt by abandonment will try to make others feel abandoned. Those who are most threatened by being controlled will become very controlling. It's helpful to know what your partner's tendency is in this area so that you can recognize it when it arises, thus giving you more understanding into their mindset and giving you the opportunity to address their hurt. This is a habit your partner may not recognize in themselves offhand; you might find this out by observation, later.]

Part 2 to follow...



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