Before getting married, it’s important to come to several layers of understanding with your partner. Obviously you’ll want to discuss where you think you’d like to live, as well as fun things like how often you’d like to go on vacation. (You know, couple-y stuff.) But you’ll also want to have some serious conversations before getting married.
While not always the most fun, it’s important to ask the hard questions and learn as much as you can so you know who, exactly, you’re marrying. To figure out which topics are most important, I spoke with 11 relationship experts who shared the one thing they think is necessary to know about your partner before tying the knot.
But before we get to any of that, let’s talk about why it’s important to have these chats. As NYC-based therapist Kimberly Hershenson, LMSW says, “You want to go into your marriage feeling supported so you can focus on starting a new chapter together as a team. Being open helps build trust, communication, and commitment. [And] having openness allows for a dialogue for you and your partner to iron out many issues before marriage.” Read on for some of the most important things to know, should you be thinking about marriage.
1. How They Plan To Pitch In
If you’re looking for a true partnership, it’s important to make sure you’re both on the same page when it comes to how you’ll divvy up tasks. “Do you both have the same notion of sharing household duties, parenting responsibilities, and supporting each other on career paths?” asks relationship therapist Rhonda Milrad, LCSW, founder of the online community Relationup. If not, you might want to work on that before getting married.
2. What They Think About Their Parents’ Marriage
Since we’re shaped by what we see growing up, you’ll want to know what your partner thinks about their parents’ marriage. “By asking this question, you become more aware of your partner’s unconscious conceptions of what constitutes a marriage,” says intimacy and relationship coach Angela Tan. Yes, people can change. But this question will help you see what lies at their core.
3. What They’re Like When They Aren’t Trying
It’s normal to put your best face forward in the beginning of a relationship, but you’ll both need to drop the facade before getting married. “Often times, people rush into a marriage because they fall in love with the dream and not the reality,” says relationship expert Jennie Lynn. ” They also don’t really know this person inside and out and ensure that they aren’t trying to change this person. Most people fail to communicate or ask the right questions to ensure they really know each other.”
4. Whether Or Not They Have Any Addictions
If your partner has a current addiction, or an old one that might resurface, ask yourself if you’re OK with that. “This can be anything from food or shopping addiction, to alcohol, work, sex, drugs, gambling, or porn,” says relationship counselor Shirani M. Pathak, LCSW. “It’s important to know about this before you get married because any sort of addiction, whether it be to work or drugs, are an indication that a person is emotionally unavailable.” And that can cause all sorts of marital problems.
5. How Their Family Dealt With Conflict
Did you partner’s family argue intensely, or were they relatively calm and good at communicating? As relationship therapist Evie Shafner says, “We unconsciously revert to those same behaviors, so if your partner grew up with reactivity, drama, abuse, etc. are they committed to being a conscious communicator? And are they willing to go get help with you if needed?” These are things you’ll need to know.
6. What Their Deal Breakers Might Be
The sooner you can both agree on the “rules” of your relationship, the healthier your marriage will be. “Things people should know before getting married are the things they most need in a relationship, and their deal breakers (i.e. cheating, drug addiction, etc.) so they can discuss them before hand,” psychologist Dr. Paulette Sherman tells Bustle. Talking about it now means staying on the same page, and that’s always a good thing.
7. What You’re Both Expecting Sexually
Whatever your sex life is now, it’s bound to change as the years go by. So go ahead and chat about expectations. “When it comes to marriage, partners should absolutely be talking about sex beforehand,” says NYC-based licensed therapist Jor-El Caraballo, LMHC. “It’s important that you and your partner not only talk about how often you have sex, but also what kind of sex you’d like to be having, too.”
8. Be Clear About All Things Financial
This one’s certainly not romantic, but it is a grown up thing worth discussing before you sign any papers. After all, “money is one of the most common topics couples fight about,” certified matchmaker and dating expert Michelle Frankel tells Bustle. “It is crucial to know that both partners have the same views on debt, spending, saving, and money management. If one person is frugal and the other person spends carelessly, conflict may be induced.”
9. Know Their Physical And Mental Health History
While this is certainly a personal subject, you should still sit down with your partner and discuss both your physical and mental health histories. “Any issues such as addiction, STDs, eating disorders, cancer, etc. are really important to know so you can be supportive as well as have awareness should there be a relapse,” says Hershenson.
10. Figure Out How They Handle Themselves In A Crisis
Problems will occur in your relationship, so make sure you’re marrying someone who can navigate issues with a level head. “It’s easy to be a great partner when things are going well, but married life will inevitably throw you a curve ball,” licensed marriage and family therapist Dr. April McDowell tells Bustle. “Do they shut down? Do they blame you for things going wrong? Or do they rally and do what needs to be done, while making sure your needs are not ignored?”
11. Find Out How They Act During An Argument
Arguments are bound to happen, which is why you need to know how your partner acts when they’re upset — as well as how they resolve issues. “You need to know that you have a willing participant in open communication without defensive postures,” says author and Beverly Hills-based psychotherapist Dr. Fran Walfish. “You want to know that your partner has self-examination skills and a capacity for accountability who won’t always blame you for problems that arise.”
While this isn’t an extensive list of things you should know before getting married, it’s definitely a good start. Can your partner argue effectively? Do they plan to stick by your side through conflicts? Then you may very well have found someone worth marrying.