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[COMMUNITY] Questions Couples Should Ask Before Marriage

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  • madchinaman
    Questions Couples Should Ask (Or Wish They Had) Before Marrying http://www.nytimes.com/2006/12/17/fashion/weddings/17FIELDBOX.html?
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 22, 2006
      Questions Couples Should Ask (Or Wish They Had) Before Marrying

      Relationship experts report that too many couples fail to ask each
      other critical questions before marrying. Here are a few key ones
      that couples should consider asking:

      1) Have we discussed whether or not to have children, and if the
      answer is yes, who is going to be the primary care giver?

      2) Do we have a clear idea of each other's financial obligations and
      goals, and do our ideas about spending and saving mesh?

      3) Have we discussed our expectations for how the household will be
      maintained, and are we in agreement on who will manage the chores?

      4) Have we fully disclosed our health histories, both physical and

      5) Is my partner affectionate to the degree that I expect?

      6) Can we comfortably and openly discuss our sexual needs,
      preferences and fears?

      7) Will there be a television in the bedroom?

      8) Do we truly listen to each other and fairly consider one another's
      ideas and complaints?

      9) Have we reached a clear understanding of each other's spiritual
      beliefs and needs, and have we discussed when and how our children
      will be exposed to religious/moral education?

      10) Do we like and respect each other's friends?

      11) Do we value and respect each other's parents, and is either of us
      concerned about whether the parents will interfere with the

      12) What does my family do that annoys you?

      13) Are there some things that you and I are NOT prepared to give up
      in the marriage?

      14) If one of us were to be offered a career opportunity in a
      location far from the other's family, are we prepared to move?

      15) Does each of us feel fully confident in the other's commitment to
      the marriage and believe that the bond can survive whatever
      challenges we may face?


      Marriage Is Not Built on Surprises

      IN love, as in other matters, what you don't know may hurt you.
      Amanda Campo and Todd Johnson realized that last April, when the two
      28-year-olds participated in Catholic Engaged Encounter, a retreat
      with 44 other couples who were planning to marry in the Roman
      Catholic Church. They remembered being surprised that so many of the
      couples seemed so seriously out of sync.

      For instance, when the couples were asked whether they would start a
      family within a year of their marriage, nearly three-quarters said
      they hadn't discussed the timing and were in disagreement on that
      point, recalled Ms. Campo, a graphic designer in San Francisco for
      the Banana Republic Web site.

      "That's a big thing to talk about," said Ms. Campo, adding that she
      and Mr. Johnson had decided around the time of their engagement to
      wait three to four years after the marriage before having children.

      Even so, Ms. Campo and Mr. Johnson, who had known each other for six
      years and were raised in the same cultural and religious traditions,
      had obvious issues that they hadn't addressed. For instance, who
      would manage the money in their marriage?

      "She automatically thought, `You're in finance, you should do all
      that,' " said Mr. Johnson, a financial manager at Genentech, the
      biotechnology company in South San Francisco, Calif. He told her that
      the way she handled her own finances was impressive and that she
      should handle theirs. "For us, out of all the questions, we were 85
      percent the same," said Ms. Campo, who married Mr. Johnson in
      October. "But a lot of couples were 85 percent different."

      For too many couples, the spouses-to-be assume that they know each
      other and the ground rules for their marriages, experts say. And
      sometimes those heading to the altar dodge important questions
      because they don't want to rock the boat.

      A commitment to fidelity, for example, is a crucial issue, but one
      that is rarely addressed, said Robert Scuka, the executive director
      of the National Institute of Relationship Enhancement in Bethesda,
      Md. "It's important to make those implicit assumptions about fidelity
      explicit," he said. "Once the commitment to faithfulness is made
      explicit, it becomes more difficult psychologically to engage

      Seth Eisenberg leads classes for new instructors at an independent
      marriage-education organization based in Weston, Fla., called Pairs,
      which stands for Practical Application of Intimate Relationship
      Skills. He uncovered more basic questions. He recounted a recent
      class that his organization held in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. "A young
      man, a newlywed, thought his role was to be responsible for all the
      decision-making for the couple," Mr. Eisenberg said. "However, the
      couple had never discussed those issues, and his assumptions came as
      a surprise to her."

      Debt is another important issue. Gary N. Skoloff, a partner in
      Skoloff & Wolfe, a matrimonial law firm in Livingston, N.J., recalled
      one divorce case his firm handled. Only after the couple married did
      the husband learn that his new wife had $230,000 in college debt. And
      because she went on to become a legal aid lawyer, Mr. Skoloff
      said, "her ability to pay back the debt was nil."

      Although a husband or wife is not automatically liable for the
      spouse's debt, Mr. Skoloff noted that in a case like this one, "She
      could argue that he promised that he would help pay it when they got
      married, or that she was spending all her income after marriage on
      the family, rather than paying off the debt." Either of those
      scenarios can trigger a legal nightmare.

      It often helps to have a forum for those sensitive discussions. A
      wide range of premarital counseling options have cropped up to meet
      the need. Many couples seek counseling through their religious
      institutions, the best-known source being the Roman Catholic program
      called Pre-Cana.

      But it is difficult for any person or institution to prescribe a
      single set of questions that every couple should ask each other
      before marrying. Something of vital importance to one couple may be a
      nonissue to another.

      A good place to start would be for a couple to ask why they should
      not get married, suggests Corey Donaldson of Salt Lake City, the
      author of "Don't You Dare Get Married Until You Read This!" (Three
      Rivers Press, 2001). "It's the reasons that people should not get
      married that are going to cause trouble down the line," he said.

      Tony Hileman, the senior leader of the New York Society for Ethical
      Culture, said couples often fail to talk about religion — not whether
      they will go to a church, mosque or synagogue together, he said, but
      what role faith will play in a time of crisis. "If you have somebody
      who is even nominally religious in a traditional sense with someone
      who is an agnostic humanist, have they really discussed that?" he

      Asking these tough questions in a rat-a-tat fashion — about a
      potential life partner's sexual orientation, or medical history,
      including sexual or mental illness — is unlikely to nurture the

      Dr. Derek H. Suite, the chief executive of Full Circle Health, a
      counseling center in the Bronx, recommends a gentle "teachable
      moments" approach if asking those questions without benefit of a

      "Wait for your opportunities and share from your own background
      first," he suggested. "You might be in the car with somebody, and the
      person says, `I'm investing in a stock,' and you can say, `Oh, are
      you're into stocks? Do you have your own savings plan? I know I do,'
      and that should open up a dialogue. Timing is everything. If you go
      with a checklist, you're just going to turn that person off."

      Mr. Skoloff, the lawyer, also recommends lots of "hand holding" while
      making those inquiries — although it is difficult to imagine how
      intertwined fingers could take the edge off one question he
      suggested: if either the potential spouse or his or her family has a
      history of mental illness.

      Couples should remember that the responses to premarital questions,
      whether asked bluntly or gently, aren't necessarily going to cause
      doubt, acrimony or anxiety. "Ninety percent of the time the problems
      that come up are about a breakdown in communication," Mr. Eisenberg
      said. In the case of the newlyweds in Fort Lauderdale, he said, the
      wife didn't disagree with the decisions her husband was making, she
      just wanted to be part of the process.
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