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By the time you are engaged, you know your partner pretty well. Or do you? You probably know their quirks, pet peeves, favorite pizza, among other things. And you’re very clear that this is the person you want to spend the rest of your days with.
That being said, you may be wondering if you even need premarital counseling. We’re definitely in favor of it. After all, a wedding is an investment into your future together.
Premarital counseling will give you a space to explore what you need from a relationship and how to handle hardships, changes, family, and other aspects now and down the line.
Below are 78 questions you’ll probably discuss in premarital counseling. Take a peek at them below to see what you can expect. If you want to take the time, sit down with your partner and go over these together.
Many couples seek premarital counseling while others don’t. We think premarital counseling is a great way to make sure you’re both on the same page and clear about your future together. We’ve put together some questions for each other that will help you plan your future together. If you disagree on any of these, it might be helpful to schedule some premarital counseling. It’s better to find out now than later – start on the right foot as you build your relationship to last a lifetime.
The Meaning of Marriage Commitment
- What does marriage mean to you? How do you feel about walking down the aisle?
- Why are you choosing this partner out of everyone you’ve ever met?
- Why are you attracted to your partner?
- What initially attracted you to your partner?
- What do you think your partner will help you accomplish or become?
- What do you want to accomplish together?
Your Life Goals
- What do you hope to achieve soon regarding your career?
- What do you hope to achieve in the distant future regarding your career?
- Do you wish to leave a legacy after you die?
Your Mutual Expectations
Although we feel that it’s best not to have any or many expectations for a marriage (click here to read why), there are some things you may want to discuss before your wedding day. Consider the following:
- What sort of emotional support do you expect during exciting times, sad times, traumatizing times, sick times, or times where you experience hardships such as family deaths or job loss?
- What time do you expect to spend with each other? Do you want to set aside time together to be alone? Do you enjoy spending more time apart?
- Are you clear on when you need time apart?
- Do you understand how much time your partner needs to spend with friends and family separately and together?
- Do you both agree how much time is appropriate to dedicate to your career?
- Do you support each other financially, or is one of you the “breadwinner”? If and when you have kids, will this change? If so, how?
- Are you comfortable with the salary your partner makes?
- Lots of things change over time: kids, health, career, family, and more. Once you reach a midlife career point, develop a new hobby, or have other changes, how will you handle that with each other?
Your Living Arrangements
If you don’t already live together, you may be surprised by your partner’s habits. Sometimes things that are seemingly frivolous or insignificant can get under your skin and cause more significant problems. You also will want to talk about your living arrangements now and in the future. Think about the following:
- Are you tidier than your partner?
- Do you need privacy when in the bathroom? I.e., Do you want your partner to knock before entering?
- Are you a night owl or a morning person?
- Do you enjoy a particular style of furniture or decor?
- If you don’t already live together, when do you plan to make that transition?
- If you plan on having children, will you move into a larger house?
- If one of you decides to change your career path and requires location, will you be willing and able to move?
- Once you settle into a house, do you want to stay there for a long time?
- Do you need to be close to both or either of your parents as they get older?
Your Future Family Planning
Not everyone wants to have children, or maybe you want to have six kids. Either way, it’s a great idea to keep an open dialogue and an open mind about it. These questions will lay a foundation for continuing the conversation later. The most important question is, how flexible are you in your family planning? Consider these questions:
- If you plan to have children, how many do you want to have?
- How long after marriage do you plan to start a family?
- What are your philosophies on raising children? Do you agree or disagree with how your parents raised you? What would you do differently?
- Do you want more than one child?
- Do you care whether you have a girl or boy?
- Do you want to hire a nanny or babysitter? Do you want your children to go to daycare? Will one of you stay home to take care of the children?
- How far apart do you want your children to be in age?
- What punishment is acceptable and not acceptable?
- What expectations do you have about money spent on toys, clothes, hobbies, vacations, school, sports, etc.?
Your Financial Situation
Money is one of the leading causes of stress in a relationship and family. Many studies show that finances are one of the top reasons for divorce. You don’t have to agree on everything, and one of you is possibly better at financial planning and saving than the other, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ask yourself these questions below. Dealing with your financial future together and understanding your short and long-term goals will give your marriage a better chance.
- Do you plan to have separate or joint checking accounts?
- Who is responsible for what expenses – rent/mortgage, utilities, phone bills, food, gas, etc.?
- Who will be responsible for actually paying the bills (online, auto-pay, etc.)
- Do you want to and agree to have full financial disclosure about your financial situation?
- I.e., credit card or student loan debt, etc.
- How will strong disagreements about how and where you spend money to be resolved?
- What amount of money in your checking and savings account after all bills and expenses are paid do you each need to have to feel comfortable and secure?
- How much credit card debt is acceptable for either or both of you?
How much home equity loan debt is acceptable?
- Do either of you need to or plan to take care of your parent’s financials as they get older?
- Do you plan to send your children to private or parochial schools?
- When do you want to start saving for your retirement?
- Do you want to use a tax assistant or financial planner?
- Who will complete the taxes?
Your Parents, Family, and In-Laws
Your family is probably different from your partners. Understanding your expectations and their expectations of your family time together and their relationship is beneficial. When you marry someone, you are essentially marrying into their family. It’s best to try to understand them before you make that commitment. Some things to consider are:
- How much time does each of you need to spend with your family? Do you expect your partner to join you?
- How do you plan to spend or split up your holidays?
- What time does your family expect you to spend with them?
- How do you plan to deal with these expectations if they don’t meet yours?
- How do you want your partner to support you when their parents or your parents are putting pressure on you?
- Is it OK for either of you to talk to your family when you’re having relationship problems?
- If you have kids, what relationship do you want your parents to have with them?
- Do you anticipate that either of you will need a parent or parents to live with you when they grow old?
Your Communication, Style of Arguing, and Conflict Resolution
It’s undoubtedly true that communication is the key to a successful marriage. Your marriage will be tough, trying, and will have lots of conflict at times. It’s a natural part of spending your life with another person. How you handle arguments and disagreements with each other will mold and shape your present and future together. Start right by talking about how you’ll handle these situations below:
- Are we willing to face difficult areas or places we disagree? Or do we avoid conflict?
- Is there any significant problem or something eating you away from that you need to deal with before the wedding?
- How do you think you handle conflict? How do you think your partner handles conflict? Would you change anything?
- How are we different?
- Do you feel that your differences in communication could create problems in your marriage?
- Can you both forgive each other for saying things in the heat of the moment, making mistakes, or anything else?
- Are you both willing to work on your communication skills and share intimately with each other?
- Do you tend to “fight or flight” when starting an argument? In other words, do you want to shy away, or do you get defensive? What about your partner?
- What feels comfortable to you when your partner gets upset?
- Can you ask for a time-out if things become too heated? What about your partner? And can you respect and adhere to the time-out?
- Do you feel weaker after an argument or stronger? Does it make your relationship stronger? How does your partner feel?
- How do you handle your emotions after a big fight? What about your partner?
- What problem-solving tactics do you implement before, during, or after a fight?
Your Home Life Expectations
- Who will do the majority of the cooking, laundry, other household chores, and yard maintenance? Will you divvy these up? Will you hire someone to help you?
- When your children get sick or need to come home from school, how do you decide who stays home with them?
- Do you expect your partner to handle your children’s punishments or be more strict than you or vice versa?
Your Spiritual Life
Spirituality plays a huge role in your marriage. It affects both of you and your future children if you plan to have any. Consider these questions:
- What does spirituality mean to each of you?
- What does spirituality mean to each of your families?
- Do you share the same spiritual views as your partner? If not, how do you handle the differences?
- What participation do you expect from your partner in your spiritual community?
- Do you expect your children to adhere to your or your partner’s spiritual views?
- Do you expect your children to go through certain rituals such as baptism, attending church, christening, communion, bar mitzvah, etc.?
- Do you want your children to attend any regular services or religious education? Do you want your children to participate in religious school?
- Do you or your partner want to celebrate religious holidays? If so, to what extent do you want to celebrate? What do those holidays look like to you? How will you handle these holidays if you disagree with them?
BONUS: Why expectations can cause issues in your marriage
When you pay attention, there is always something to be appreciative of. When learning how to manage expectations in your relationship or marriage, you will both be better off if you demonstrate appreciation for your partner every day.
Rather than focusing on the negative or what your partner doesn’t do, focus on your partner’s positive qualities. This will progress your relationship and keep you both happier with each other. Your partner may have put away the dishes exactly how you like, but at least they tried to do their fair share or more by helping. If you pay attention, there’s always something to be appreciative of. What was it that attracted you to your partner in the first place? It certainly wasn’t their dishwashing skills – it was something more profound.
You may feel that you have pointless arguments in your relationship. Have you ever fought and not even remembered what started it? Everyone knows a couple who continually bickers or has conflict in their relationship – maybe that couple is you. Perhaps you argue so frequently that it becomes routine. If you’re nodding your head, don’t despair. If you and your partner are willing to grow together and work things out, you can significantly reduce your bickering or frivolous arguments.
What joy would it bring you if the amount of fighting and bickering in your relationship could be eliminated almost completely? It all boils down to expectations. Expectations in your relationship form the basis of whether or not the partnership works for both of you. By changing your perspective and shifting your mindset, your connection will become happier, more peaceful, more rewarding, and more productive.
Here’s why expectations in your relationship can and will cause problems
Before you can look deeper, you need to answer yourself why the bickering happens in the first place.
The short answer: what we presume a relationship should be and look like shapes our contribution to the partnership.
Expectations in a relationship differ from person to person. Some people may be “needier” than others. Some people want more time together while others value gifts or compliments and reassurance. Maybe you want your spouse to take out the garbage or scrub the toilet, and they want you to have breakfast on the table every morning. But if both people assume either person knows their expectations automatically – without talking much about it – it only leads to tension in the relationship.
The problem with expectations is that they’re just like an opinion; everyone has one (or many), but they don’t always match the other person’s thoughts. This essentially is the start of bickering.
This isn’t to say that you don’t have a right to expect anything out of your relationship. The opposite is true; you deserve to be treated with kindness, dignity, and respect. So does your partner. This is true even if your expectations are mismatched at the moment. You may not even realize what expectations you have – they may be buried deep in your mind.
Make sure you both are on the same page about what a quality partnership looks like. When you can articulate your needs to your partner, you put yourself in a position to make those expectations work.
How can you manage expectations in your relationship?
There’s a light at the end of the tunnel, so don’t fret. When we focus our attention on our differences in expectations instead of our appreciation for what your partner does “right,” conflict is inevitable. The way you put away dishes may differ from your partner’s, but does that mean he or she is wrong? Of course not. Expectations with no appreciation lead to nagging, whining, and leading to frustration, which, of course, leads to bickering.
Take a minute to think about what you and your partner fight about. How many of these fights are actually over something of extreme importance? Have any of them had a productive resolution? If your answer is “no,” you’re not alone. Many people often say, “we argue about the smallest things,” or “I don’t even remember what we were fighting about.”
Consider your relationship expectations. Are the dishes worth the emotional turmoil? Likely not! There are more healthy and productive ways you can be spending your time – that are more beneficial and will strengthen your relationship and give it a chance for more longevity.
Ten ways to manage expectations in your relationship – now and throughout your marriage
1. Prioritize appreciation over expectations
As we mentioned earlier, if you focus on gratitude over expectations, your relationship will thrive more. Rather than focusing on trivial negative qualities, make it a point to praise your partner’s positive attributes.
“Turn your expectations into appreciation, and your whole life will change.” – Tony Robbins.
If you apply this quote to your relationship, appreciation can trigger mutual happiness and stomp out unhealthy expectations.
2. Express empathy and compassion toward your partner (and yourself!)
You and your partner must express compassion for each other by prioritizing your love for each other over your expectations of each other.
What is the difference between empathy and compassion?
Empathy is your awareness of others’ emotions and an attempt to understand their feelings, whereas compassion is an emotional response to one’s suffering and a desire to help.
Expectations exist for you to facilitate warmth for each other. But at the end of the day, your love for each other and partnership takes precedence over expectations.
3. Demonstrate respect for each other
Respect means different things to different people. It means to value your partner’s perspectives, desires, wants, needs, and values. Respect is the foundation for effective communication. If you’re going to show respect for your partner, don’t criticize them or correct them. Instead, find a playful, silly, or even empathetic way to redirect an argument. If you can do this successfully, you’ll find solutions without creating unnecessary tension.
4. Demonstrate consideration for each other
The more consideration you show toward your partner, the healthier your relationship will be. Have consideration for their interest, desires, dreams, and more. The best and easiest way to show consideration is to remember to value your relationship over your “relationship rules.” This is a hump for most to get over because many people view the “relationship rules” as the basis for your partnership, but this isn’t the best way to have a healthy relationship. Instead, when you value your partner over your own rules, you’ll pave the way to fulfill both of your expectations.
5. Devote time and undivided attention to each other
Life can get busy – we understand. One of you may need more time and attention than the other partner. Devoting time to your partner is an expectation in a relationship that is fundamental and reasonable. Devoting time to each other allows you to reinforce your connection, gain a closer understanding and appreciation for each other, and demonstrate that your relationship is your top priority.
6. Never question the nature of your relationship out of your doubts or insecurity
One of the worst ways to damage your relationship is to challenge your partner’s intent. When you question your partner’s intent, it’ll weaken your trust, which takes a toll on any partnership. If you’re projecting your insecurities onto your partner, recognize that your issues don’t mean the relationship or your partner is the problem. Communicate your doubts or insecurity to your partner so you can walk through it together and walk away a stronger couple.
7. Avoid argument repetition
Ever feel like you’re arguing yourself dizzy or in a circle? It’s common. If you’re in a pattern with your partner or return to a past argument, it’s time to change that approach. Because if you don’t, you’ll risk creating a loop where neither of you is listening to each other, and you’ll both feel unheard and defeated. It may be difficult, but the best way out is to take the high road and dismiss yourself from the argument – give yourself at least 5 minutes or ten deep breaths. If you can make this a habit and lead the way for your partner, you’ll set a higher standard for both of you. This will lead to better quality expectations in your relationships and more productive arguments.
8. Never (and we mean never) threaten your relationship with your partner
In any relationship, there is give and take. You should expect a mutual and respectful dialogue with each other. That being said, if you get into a heated argument, threatening your relationship does nothing except damage your partner’s trust in you and shuts down communication. If you feel like you’re at the point of threatening your partnership, it’s time to step away, take some deep breaths, and rethink the conversation.
9. Don’t settle or stop growth in your relationship with your partner
Managing expectations isn’t a one time deal. It’s a never-ending, continuous, symbiotic process and conversation where you both need to touch base to see whether your needs are being met. Don’t ever assume that your relationship is fine just because you didn’t argue or bicker that day. When you both commit to never-ending improvement in your relationship and managing expectations, you’ll build a deeper and more beautiful relationship.
10. Never (and we mean never) compare your relationship to any other relationship
You may be tempted to turn to social media to look for textbook expectations in your relationship as the template for your own. This approach never works. This is because it doesn’t take you and your partner’s unique needs and personality into account. It also doesn’t help you to value what makes your partnership unique and special. You should never turn to anyone else’s relationship to compare – work with your partner to develop your own needs, communication style, expectations, and love. Besides, most relationships you see online are fabricated or only show the highlight reel.
Carrying these principles and expectations into your marriage will help you thrive and be happier with each other.
Nothing worth having is easy, and the same goes for your relationship. Building a healthy romantic relationship takes a lot of work, effort, and swallowing your pride. But if you know you’ve found the person you want to spend the rest of your life with, it’s well worth the effort.