Archive for January, 2015

Questions to Ask Before Getting Engaged (or . . . The Marriage Prevention Questionnaire?)

Wednesday, January 7th, 2015

Recently, a former student of John’s emailed him. “I hear you have a list of 50 questions to ask before getting engaged?” she wrote. “I want it!”

John didn’t have such a list, although it’s not surprising that a student would think that he did. (John, not unlike a certain someone else I know, is full of opinions and beliefs about what makes relationships work.) But the very idea of such a list was so tantalizing that he, and I, immediately set about writing one. And here is what we came up with. No doubt it’s incomplete and somewhat arbitrary. It’s certainly very personal—to what we feel is important—although, in our hubris, I wouldn’t put it past either of us to argue for its universality.

John would like you to know: Some questions point to conversations that a couple should be sure to have before getting engaged, while others more directly point out potential issues that could come up in the relationship.

I would like you to know: You don’t have to ace this. Yeah, you want to like your answers, and definitely pay attention if you’re feeling not-great about something important. I think it’s easier to work on issues before engagement than after, when you may feel “locked in” (you aren’t) or be wedding-obsessed. As I hope is obvious, every couple has issues, and being in a happy relationship means working on those issues in an ongoing way. So it’s unrealistic to expect an absence of conflict. In fact, if you think you have no conflict, what you probably have is a situation where somebody is not paying attention to his/her own needs.

What to Ask When You Want to Get Engaged

  1. Why do you want to get married?
  2. What is your vision of marriage?
  3. Do you think marriage will change your relationship, and how?
  4. Do you want to have children?
  5. Why do you want to have children?
  6. What is your vision of raising children?
  7. Can you do your emotional work with your partner?
  8. Do you respect your partner? Do you feel respected by him/her?
  9. Do you feel safe with your partner?
  10. Do you feel seen and heard by your partner?
  11. Do you feel met by your partner?
  12. Can you be (compassionately) honest with each other?
  13. Can you play with your partner?
  14. Can you collaborate on and finish projects together?
  15. What are your values?
  16. What aren’t you talking about?
  17. Do you have a path through conflict?
  18. Are you allowing small resentments to accumulate?
  19. How do you maintain connection and emotional intimacy?
  20. What makes you feel loved? Have you asked your partner for it?
  21. Is it easy to give and receive love in your relationship, including saying “I love you”?
  22. How do you feel about couple’s therapy?
  23. What would it feel like to postpone engagement for a year?
  24. How do you grow as an individual?
  25. Are you able to identify your feelings and share them with your partner?
  26. Is there room in the relationship to do your own thing and be your own person?
  27. Is there room in the relationship for you to take care of your own needs?
  28. What do you think the purpose of life is?
  29. What does your spiritual life look like? What do you want it to look like?
  30. What are your beliefs about money?
  31. What are your beliefs about extended family?
  32. What are your beliefs about how you want to spend your time?
  33. What are your beliefs about sex?
  34. Can you talk openly about the four topics above with your partner?
  35. What is your partner’s relationship to his/her family, and how do you feel about it?
  36. How do you feel about your partner’s friends?
  37. What do you and your partner argue about?
  38. Do you and your partner accept influence from each other?
  39. Do you accept your partner’s limitations, or are you waiting for him/her to change?
  40. Are you or your partner addicted to something, and how is that being handled?
  41. Are you repeating, or reacting to, a pattern in your parents’ marriage?
  42. How do you handle stress, separately and together?
  43. How do you divide labor and chores?
  44. Can you ask for what you want?
  45. Can you say no?
  46. What does your support network outside the relationship look like?
  47. Is there anything about your relationship you’re afraid to tell other people about? And/or have people you trust expressed reservations about your relationship?
  48. What will you do if you’re attracted to someone else?
  49. Do you like who you are in this relationship?
  50. What does a happy marriage look like to you?