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All the Questions I Was Supposed to Ask Before Marriage

I am often shown ads for the New York Times even though we already have a subscription to the New York Times.  (I’m pretty sure that is not how targeted ads are supposed to work.)  Anyway, one of the recent ads linked to an article from 2016.  Odd choice except that I clicked on it.  (That is the way targeted ads are supposed to work.)

It was about the 13 questions I was supposed to ask Josh before we got married.  I’m going to be honest: it’s a little late for us.  We’re 16 years into this marriage thing.

I asked them anyway.

And then answered a bunch of questions for him because I’m nice like that and wanted to save him time.

They’re all good questions, and I think people should discuss everything on this list before they commit.  But as I was reading it, I thought about how you can’t really answer a bunch of these questions until you’re in the moment.  Like there are the answers you give from the sofa when you’re not in crisis because it’s how you think you’ll feel down the road.  And then you’re actually in a stressful situation and things change.  Suddenly it’s not a hypothetical, it’s an actual, and you need to live your words.

I guess because marriage isn’t neat.  Melding two lives isn’t neat.  I mean, it’s wonderful and I love Josh.  We’re about to celebrate our 16th anniversary, and I think we mostly have this marriage thing mastered.  It hasn’t felt like work, per se, but we’ve both made compromises.  It’s a little weird to let parts of yourself go in order to have others.

Maybe I also wish the questions weren’t quite so rosy.  (Will we have children? especially raised my eyebrows considering no possibility was listed for what happens if you can’t have children.)  I don’t know what I would add, but it would probably skew towards the worst case scenarios.  Not just so you could discover your partner’s thoughts, but because acknowledging those scenarios means that you can start formulating a plan.  Sometimes it’s just good to start thinking through the Plan B even when you’re hoping the Plan A works.

What would you add to their list?  Information you wish you had known before you committed?


1 omdg { 11.08.17 at 9:47 am }

I actually think the “Will we have children” question is completely appropriate. Of course if you are on the same page and can have them the old fashioned way, great! But if you can’t have them the old fashioned way, wouldn’t it be nice to know in advance whether your partner would be willing to consider IVF, adoption, having a foster child, and various other paths to becoming a parent that many people don’t even consider before trying. I know plenty of couples where both really want children, but one has religious objections to IVF, or wouldn’t consider adopting because it wouldn’t be their’s. To me, that seems like it would be nice to know in advance, because as you point out you have no idea how this is going to go until you try.

2 Sharon { 11.08.17 at 10:21 am }

Knowing a few couples who have divorced over different views on the question of whether to have children, I definitely think that should be discussed before marriage. I would imagine that the reason no question about what will happen if the couple can’t have children is included is because not many people think that they will have difficulties (and in fact about one in six couples do).

3 nicoleandmaggie { 11.08.17 at 12:58 pm }

#1 seems a bit unfair. Surely before you get married you’ll actually have *experienced* conflict resolution with your partner so knowing what their parents did will be less helpful. Similarly, if exes is a problem, presumably that would have come about before marriage is discussed. And hopefully they’ll have been together long enough that they’ll have I dunno, done things apart from each other. Some of the standard stuff (children, finances, etc.) is there, but some of that list seems a bit odd.

4 Cristy { 11.08.17 at 1:40 pm }

I completely agree with you. Sure, there are questions that absolutely need to be addressed prior to marriage (the kid one is a biggie), but a lot of this stuff comes with the moment. And it can change!!!! So often, I hear about people going into marriage thinking they were solid and then one partner either changed their mind or wasn’t entirely honest (even with themselves). So I don’t think this is as black-and-white as the authors paint it to be. Though it’s also good to have this as an outline for further discussion (how about that . . . can we run with that?).

5 nicoleandmaggie { 11.08.17 at 5:02 pm }

I did have the pornography discussion today because of this post, not having realized we should have had it 18 years ago instead. It has not changed anything, though I suppose people who care about pornography one way or the other (my only concern is that the actors be treated well and standard no rape kinds of stuff) should probably address it before marriage.

I will probably continue to not have lived My Best Life (TM) in my late teens and early 20s based on all the things I should have done according to the NY Times and other lifestyle pubs.

6 Ana { 11.09.17 at 11:59 am }

I agree that while its awesome to discuss all those things, how you answer the hypotheticals may differ vastly from how you react when the reality hits. But still, having the discussions is worthwhile and may give you insight into the other persons values and belief system, with the caveat that you are free to change.

7 Mali { 11.10.17 at 6:43 am }

I had to laugh a bit at the questions, because our answers to most of these have changed over time, and the relevance and meaning of the answers have changed over time too, for each of us.

Including “will we have children?” Or, as another commenter suggested, would you go as far as IVF, adoption, etc. We certainly didn’t know the answers to that ourselves until a) we’d suffered loss, and b) we confronted the reality of the situation.

And the actual question they’ve quoted is sometimes quite different to the explanation, e.g. ask not “do we like each other’s parents?” but “do you have a dysfunctional relationship with your own parents?” Because I think it’s all about the relationship the partner has with their parents.

8 loribeth { 11.10.17 at 2:39 pm }

I agree, Mel. It’s true that you never know exactly what you’re going to do or how you are going to react until you are actually faced with a situation. And your opinions and desires can certainly change over time. Still, I do think it’s important to at least entertain some of these questions and think about them and talk about them and all the “what ifs” with your partner — because if/when you do confront these issues, it won’t be completely foreign territory, or a shock to learn that your partner has totally different ideas on this subject than you do.

Dh & I went on an Engaged Encounter weekend before our wedding, 30+ years ago. I don’t remember exactly what all we discussed, but it was sponsored by the Catholic church (even though we had an Anglican/Episcopal wedding), and so it was assumed that everyone was having children… I do remember we got handed pamphlets about natural family planning, which was the only form of birth control the leaders were willing (or at any rate supposed to) discuss with all of us. 😉

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