Ask Team Practical: Questions Before (or After) You Wed

Remember, last month, when I asked you guys to help me brainstorm a Team Practical approved list of questions to ask before you get married? Well! A edited version of that list is going into the APW Book, but I wasn’t going to make you wait till next year to read the list! So today, Alyssa is here, with her Ask Team Practical round up. I know a lot of you are looking for (but not finding) secular pre-marital counseling. And while I still think you should do pre-martial counseling if at all possible, discussing these questions is a good start (and will do in a pinch). And now, Alyssa, who can make anything hilarious. (See: Kind Of A Mess.)

Today, we’re going to mix it up. Instead of answering questions, we’re going to talk about questions in general, and pre-marital questions specifically.

So anyone who fears change, go grab some hot cocoa and have a lie-down. It will be okay.

A Practical Wedding is all for pre-marital counseling. However, if the thought of discussing your relationship with a stranger makes you want to pass out or vomit, then no.  For the sake of yourself, your partner and your shoes, you probably shouldn’t get counseling. What makes any kind counseling work is the willingness on the part of both people to listen and engage – if you don’t feel comfortable doing either one, then you’re wasting time and possibly money. And – so you don’t think I’m all hat and no cattle – I felt like that too.  I knew pre-marital counseling would help, but we were running out of time and my snugglebunny and I were already SO madly in love and doing wonderful, there really wasn’t a NEED for it, was there? So I tossed the thought aside and commenced with the craft-making and being DIY-crazyface. And now 18 months later, I feel the need to go back in time and whack me upside the head with my glue gun.  Because we’ve faced issues – not major, but large enough – that I know we would have been discussing in pre-marital counseling. They would not have been solved, but at the very least touched upon which would have put us a step further in the process.

So, fellow nay-sayers, (which is totally okay, APW is a no shame zone,) if we can’t convince you to go to pre-marital counseling, how about you read through our favorite APW-reader approved “Things to Discuss Before Marriage” questions and then you can go from there? They are way beyond the typical lists because, well,  APW readers are way more than typical. These questions are guidelines to spark conversation and most definitely should not be done all at once in one giant soul-baring session.  Unless that’s you AND your partner’s thing. I personally would probably end up in a corner sucking my thumb.

And they are not just pre-marital questions. These things that are a good idea to talk about before or after your marriage. Sometime soon. Preferably before the situation comes up and suddenly one of you is standing in the kitchen hollering, “What do you MEAN, ‘Two kids is one too many’?!?” (It happens.)

The Basics

How do we split up chores?

Or, if you’re not living together, What are we going to do with all of our stuff?

What routines do you have that I might not know about? Do I want to know about them or LA-LA-LA I’M COVERING MY EARS NOW, THANKS!

What hobbies do we have that will affect the other?

When you talk about ‘family,’ who do you think of?

What kind of lifestyle do we want to live? (And YE-ah, you have to talk about money here)

What will we do for fun?

Do we have a partnership mission statement?

How we will handle holidays?

How will we handle communication? How can we improve our current communication?

What is the best part of your parents’ marriage? What is the worst?

Medical/End of Life Issues

Do you have or do you want a living will/DNR request/etc.?

How do you feel about organ donation?

Do you have religious beliefs that will affect medical decisions?

What medical concerns do you have or do you think will come up in the future? (i.e. genetic or hereditary issues.)

How will we handle pregnancy/childbirth/infertility?

I’m not even going to pretend to be funny on this. You both will soon be in charge of the other person if they are incapacitated or will require long-term care. It’s horrible, it’s upsetting and you’ll probably cry, but TALK ABOUT IT. And make sure your family knows that your partner knows what you want. There are way too many stories of partners fighting families in these decisions for you to even think about not discussing end of life procedures.

And when we say health, we’re not talking about just accidents, old age-related illnesses, or even something catastrophic. Discuss your general health and well-being as well, and get comfortable talking about it with each other. I have osteoarthritis in my jaw that causes major TMJ-related problems and requires surgery and care that is not covered by our insurance. This issue quickly went from MY headaches to OUR big giant freakin’ problem. But it was my husband that went, “You know, your head hurts ALL THE TIME. Maybe you should do something about that.” Partners tend to be the ones who discover lumps or point out changes in behavior that signal medical issues. Start getting comfortable discussing these things with each other, so you partner feels okay to say things like, “You know, your period has been going on a really long time these past few months.”

Also, if you plan on having children, you need to discuss how you’ll handle your health during that time. It’s your body but their child also, and you need to find a good middle ground on health and pregnancy.

Even if you don’t plan on having children, still talk about how you’d handle a pregnancy. No, seriously, STILL TALK ABOUT IT. If you have sex, you need to have a plan to handle having children unless your body no longer contains the parts that make babies.  And I mean, ‘no longer contains,’ as in they were removed or never there, not ‘the doctor says I can’t have them.’ Doctors can be wrong, which can be wonderful or heartbreaking. Talk about it.


What role does religion take in your life and the life of your extended family?

What role will religion take in OUR life?

What role do you wish it did or didn’t have?

How might we raise children in our chosen religion(s)?

Also, Meg’s note here: Talk about this into the ground, even if you think you know what your partner thinks, or you’re not religious. You don’t want your partner to announce, “No more Christmas trees now that you’re pregnant, since we’re raising the kids Jewish,” And you to be all, “What the F*CK?” (True story, though not mine, thank God.) Or to ask your partner to pray for your dying mother only to have them volunteer “Oh! I don’t believe in prayer,” leaving you to wonder what exactly they were doing in church all those years. Faith is never simple, and it may be that those of us with overt interfaith conflicts and active religious practices, have a jump on the rest of y’all because we’re forced to discuss this stuff ad-nauseum. So join us. It’s kind of… fun… if yell-y. Now back to Alyssa.


Where do you see your career going?

If you had the chance, what would you REALLY like to do? (Or, “I would love to one day, _____. What do you think about that?”)

If I lost my job today, what do you think we would do?

What if we had the opportunity to quit our jobs?  What would we do?

Do you think we could ever go into business together?

Career talk doesn’t have to be completely prosaic. Discuss the fun stuff. Dream a little. It may open up opportunities that you didn’t know you had. Partners are great for helping you dream big.

Child Rearing

How do you feel about __________?

You already know you need to talk about kids; if you’re having them, how many and what happens if one of you doesn’t want them anymore?  But what about the actual process of raising them?  There are SO many ways to talk about children and child rearing.  If that feels overwhelming, bring it up by using others as examples.  Like, “Today I saw a little kid who swore and his mom popped him in his mouth. What would you have done?” Or, “My parents never went to PTA meetings. How involved do you think you’ll be?” Or “Lord Jesus, I saw another picture of Suri Cruise walking around in heels and drinking Starbucks. What do you think about that?” Parenting is not set in stone, but discussing your intentions can be enlightening and ward off future parent vs. parent discussions.

And I’m going to get yelled at for including it in this section, but talk about stuff like this about pets also. Let’s just say you should talk about the care for and raising of pretty much anything living in your household. Your “mangy dog” might be your partner’s “widdle ickle fluffer-buns”.


Where would you like to live?

How close would you like to stay to family?

Is there any place you would NOT like to live or any location deal-breakers for you?

How do you feel about travel?

Where do you see us growing old together?

Some people are very attached to their location or their hometown. Some people are very attached to not being within driving distance of their mother-in-laws. Discuss what “home” actually means to the two of you.


What happens if we don’t have any?

What if we suddenly get a lot of it?

How do we deal with family and their money crises?

How much debt do we have? What is worth going into debt for?

Who pays for what? How do we handle our paychecks?

What about our extra money? How do we spend that?

Have we started planning for retirement?

Ugh, money talks, very few people enjoy them. DO IT ANYWAY. Hiding from money discussions, like any other discussion, is bad-news-bears and only makes them worse. Except in this worse case it’s not an “affects your relationship”—worse, it’s a “I can’t pay my damn bills and have no emergency fund”—worse. Talk about it and reward yourself with booze. Or candy. Or sex. Or all three, if it was especially painful.


Okay, seriously, how often are we gonna do it?

Is there anything you won’t do?

How do you feel about alternative lifestyles?

What would you like that we haven’t done/discussed?

How do you want to grow sexually?

You’re at your most vulnerable during sex and leaving your wants and your needs up to chance leaves you open for embarrassment at the least, humiliation and heartache at the worst. Also, you and your partner are both bringing experience from previous relationships to the table. I’m not saying go into detail about previous experiences, but know that something that you have in your bag of tricks may be a no-no or a complete turn-off for the other person. You can find out in bed or you can find out over a glass of wine. Your choice.

Couples/Friends/Social Interaction

How much space do you need?

How do we greet each other after work/when waking up or when saying goodbye or goodnight?

How often do we hang out with friends?

What do we agree that we keep private about our marriage? What boundaries do we need to set?

Honestly, _____ gets on my damn nerves.  Let’s deal with that for a sec.

There’s a tendency to want to cocoon with your honey and be two against the world for the rest of your life, when you’re newlywed and blissful. And then after a couple of months of that, someone is going to need some space and to talk to someone who didn’t use their toothbrush on “accident” again this morning. Figure out together how you do this. Keep in mind that your social tendencies wax and wane throughout your life, and not at the same time. How are you going to handle it when she wants to go out and you just want to watch Project Runway? Think about me time, our time, and friend time, then discuss.

The Hard Stuff

What is your biggest fear about being married?

How do you feel about divorce?

If we run into marital problems, how would we handle it?

Do you have any skeletons in your closet? (i.e. past trauma, previous relationships, family addictions, etc.)

What are you and your parents’ plan for their future care?

How do we deal with our ex’s in our lives? If this is a second marriage, How do we deal with your ex/our children/my new step-children?

How do you show love? What do I do that shows I love you?

How do we deal with extended family stress as a couple?

How do we reconcile any differences in culture?

What constitutes monogamy to us? Do we care about monogamy?

What are your ‘deal-breakers’ for our relationship?

It was pointed out that in order for a lot of these questions to be truly helpful, you should add a “Why?” at the end of them.  It’s not a challenge, but a chance for your partner and you to explain yourselves fully.  You’ll also get a chance to flesh out, reinforce and reconsider long held views. The fun part about discussing these things is you often find out things about yourself you never knew.  I found out during one of our discussions that not only was my husband okay and willing to stay home with our future children, but that I was not okay with that and thought I should be the one to stay home. I never thought I would be the conservative one when it came to child rearing, but when faced with a possibility, my southern roots started showing. It was odd and eye-opening and more than a little jarring. But those are the best kind of discussions, right?

Consider these questions just the beginning of a long conversation you’ll have for the rest of your life. You don’t need to be able to answer them all, but just bringing them (and any questions of your own) up is the entire point.

*If you would like to ask Team Practical a question please don’t be shy! You can email Alyssa a askteampractical [at] apracticalwedding [dot] com. If you would prefer to not be named, anonymous questions are also accepted. Though we prefer if you make up a totally ridiculous sign-off like conflicted and rageful but deeply in love in Detroit (CARBDILID, duh). Seriously though. You guys are not making up sign off names and WE ARE DISAPPOINTED.

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  • So glad you posted this. We actually did marriage preparation with our church before we got married, but it was so quick we didn’t get to many of these things. Can’t wait to discuss some of these topics with my husband.

    Some things have already come up naturally. I was actually surprised that we disagreed when it came to pet care, of all things. He was raised by a farm family essentially, where pets were given minimal medical care – no surgeries, etc. while I knew that if something happened to our dog that I would want to do all I could for him. We ended up compromising by getting pet insurance so that I could get the care I wanted but he didn’t have to pay too much to keep an animal.

    So, as important as end of life issues, sex and finances are important to discuss, I’m so glad you mentioned some of these smaller issues as well – they might be more of a talking point than the larger issues.

  • “What do we agree that we keep private about our marriage? What boundaries do we need to set?”

    YES, this. We quickly discovered that Mark is an exceedingly more private person than I am, and what we disclose to whom has been one of the stickiest ongoing conversations in our marriage. He would probably keep everything between us if he could, but for me being open with the people dearest to me is a way of showing love and trust (and also getting advice). So we compromise. Sometimes it makes girltalk less juicy, but it’s important that I remember to respect his boundaries on things that are also now “his business.”

    • I had this same learning curve – my husband is super private. I tell almost everything. He had to learn to be comfortable with some details of our lives being shared with trusted friends and I had to learn to keep quiet more often.

    • Hypothetical Sarah

      We have the opposite dynamic. I’m fairly private. The boy grew up with a stepmom who’s a therapist and he likes to talk to her when he’s working through something. She’s fantastic and I love her, but there are some things that I’d rather not be discussed with my future mother-in-law! He’s pretty good at abiding by my comfort level though.

      • meg

        I think part of this can be handled by discussing who it’s ok to talk to, and how much we have to relay back. I’ve talked about how David and I are of the “some secrets are super fine in marriage!” and one of the things we don’t always dish about is conversations with our friends. There are times when I just need to get things out, and bitch about parts of our relationship or family life, or whatever, with a friend who’s just going to keep nodding and buying me beers till I get it all out. If I don’t do this, it’s likely to explode all over David, which is so not helpful. So, I bitch with a trusted friend, and then don’t necessarily tell David what I bitched about. That’s slightly different than bitching to my mom (not that I don’t do that sometimes) because my mom is part of the family, and my friend is not.

        So I guess my point is, even when one partners private, if they don’t want a geyser of awful gaining steam inside you, they need to trust you to bitch privately to people you trust.

        • I do this at times. I have friends who don’t see my boyfriend frequently (or, really, ever — they’re school friends, and we are all at a commuter school). It gives me a venting location without worrying too much about what I say possibly making it back to him. They do the same with their husbands and venting. We all couch our stories with “and this stays between us, okay?” It’s worked out really well for us. When we do see each other’s SOs, rarely, we just make sure to keep conversation light and not too personal.

    • We talked a lot about the “windows and walls” analogy from Committed. After seeing my dad fall in love with and marry another woman after becoming close friends with her at work, outside friendships can be really scary for me. The windows and walls concept was a great way for us to start that conversation about boundaries in a way we could both understand.

  • Love the list. It’s great for before marriage and after. Hell, I’m using these questions on the next boyfriend cuz its never too early to find out where the other stands.

  • clampers

    Aw man this is so awesome. You guys are seriously so helpful.

  • anonymous

    There are a lot of questions here related to children, but not so many for those who have decided NOT to have children. Here are a few: HOW will you go about not having children (is he ready for a vasectomy? are you happy taking the pill until menopause?) And how will you deal with the well-meaning friends/family that aren’t ready to respect your decision (i.e. your loving mother/mother-in-law who was eagerly anticipating being grandma and whose only son/daughter just told her it isn’t going to happen)? Will you present a united front? How will you help each other through the emotional weariness that comes with constantly being told “you’ll change your mind”?

    • Very nice ideas. On a similar note, I’d add questions about opting to adopt for those who do not want biological children, but who want adopted children just as much. When will we start looking to adopt; do we prefer open or closed, etc.

    • I would also suggest talking about what to do if one partner changes their mind about children (either way). From my years of reading advice columns, this does appear to crop up a lot.

    • Lee G.

      Yup, definitely talk about that one, if you decide not to have children. And ESPECIALLY to your doctor. Unfortunately, it’s dangerous to take the pill until menopause. You won’t find that out unless you go to your doctor.

      My friend is not planning on having kids with her new husband. She’s been on the pill 7 years already. She was reading the little pamphlet that came with it one day and read you shouldn’t be on the pill for more than 8 years total. (I think it was something like that, don’t quote me.) She had been getting yearly check ups and her doctor didn’t say anything. When she brought it up, the doctor said “Oh! You’re not having kids?” Sometimes it’s assumed.

      Put your health as a priority and figure out what you need to do by bringing it up with your doctor. They may have made the wrong assumption. The pill is not a long term solution.

      • hmm whaaaat. 8 years total? guess I’ll be reading the fine print on my prescription when I get home. I’ve been on the pill for 7 and don’t plan to come off for another 2 at least. honestly hadn’t put too much thought into birth control after the baby making years..

        • Chantelle

          So I teach Breast Health Awareness and one thing most people don’t know ( I didn’t) is that being on the pill for more than 5 years consecutively slightly increases your risk for BC. Also lowers risks for other types of cancer, but it’s definitely something to be aware of.

      • Sometimes it’s assumed.

        I’d take that 1 step further and say most of the time. I don’t like to say “always” and “never” because it’s too extreme, but it’s closer to always than sometimes.

        A woman of childbearing age who doesn’t want children has a REALLY hard time finding a doctor to sterilize her. I had a colleague who had seven miscarriages over the course of a few years, and (because) every pregnancy was medically fragile for her, and she told her doctor she couldn’t take the emotional rollercoaster anymore and wanted to be sterilized. AND HE WOULDN’T DO IT.

        Hell, I had to search to find a doctor willing to give me a Mirena IUD.

        • Class of 1980

          Many people don’t know that just because you decide to get a tubal ligation, no doctor is obligated to provide it. Most doctors ask a lot of questions in order to decide IF they will do it.

          • anonymous

            I would love for someone to talk about why this is. Why can’t women make this decision? Why is it assumed that we WILL HAVE BABIES not matter our mental, emotional, physical health, choices, reasons, etc.?

      • Taking any birth control pill that contains estrogen will increase the risk of breast and endometrial cancer after 5 years.

  • Daly

    Thanks Alyssa! Helpful and hilarious as always

  • GREAT post! My fiance and I live is separate states, and while marriage counseling is a nice idea, it isn’t feasible before the wedding. I kept Googling lists of questions to ask before marriage to help us have some solid pre-marital discussions, but they all ended at the depth of “how many kids” and such.


    • One of my friends had a similar situation. What they did was pick one weekend to fly somewhere mutual. They basically spent the entire weekend hashing out differences and working through questions like this list. They actually developed a list together. I think it was 100 questions. They both added to the list with no judgment — as in, they might bring up the question over the phone to add to the list (so both folks were prepared) but knew not to discuss the question until the correct weekend. My friend said it made her so much happier and more at ease about the wedding, especially because they had some major religious issues to work through.

    • Emily Rae

      Obviously this is way after the fact here, but oh well. My partner and I are doing pre-marriage counseling with our officiant through Skype! It’s worked really well, technical issues aside.

  • so good. thanks APW team! coming up on our anniversary, we’re hoping to finally get around to the official “pre-marital” counseling, as kind of a 1st year check-up. still haven’t made any appointments though, this is a great reminder. we covered a lot of these topics on our own, using marriage books, but we still think it’s important to meet with a counselor – just because, if we can meet with someone when we think everything is awesome, maybe when/if things are the opposite of awesome, it’ll be easier to see someone for help. so. this is me saying this out loud so I really have to go follow through on it! excuse me while I go call the womens center where I THINK we can get affordable counseling. THANKS <3

    • LOVE this idea, a first year check up! Like Alyssa, I really regret not doing pre-marital counseling, and I think we could still use something like it. There are things we didn’t talk about before (that I didn’t even realize I NEEDED to talk about before) that I want to talk about now, but now that we’re married, talking about some of the big issues and hard stuff seems scarier. Like, why didn’t we talk about this before it was “too late”, when we both had a choice to decide whether we could live (or not) with the other person’s point of view? I don’t want hubs (or myself) to feel all trapped if we discover that we have really different ideas about some things. So I need a little help getting past the fear of asking the big questions, and a mediator to lead us helpfully through the conversation, if it goes awry. Also, love this list. As I’m reading through it I’m going, talked about that, that, that, oohh, need to talk about THAT… This is great. Thanks, guys :-)

      • yeah, I know what you mean about it almost being scarier/weirder to bring things up after you’re already married. I can let you know what I find out about counseling at this womens center in DC. I THINK I heard about it from someone on here actually, maybe someone else can chime in. but they do family counseling for a kind of pay-as-you can rate, I think, which would be really good for us because what we can pay is not really what most professional counselors charge.

        • I’d love to hear how this goes for you – we considered going to some form of pre-marital counseling before getting married but eventually abandoned the idea because we couldn’t find anyone that seemed suitable to what we were looking for. I really just wanted a guided space to talk through these types of questions but most counseling I could find seemed to focus on serious problem solving in relationships (and the price reflected that).

        • McPants

          It might have been me that mentioned it; we did our premarital counseling at the Women’s Center of DC, and they’re on a sliding scale. It also depends on if you want to see a licensed therapist or an intern, the former obviously being more expensive. We saw an intern there who was wonderful (she has since left, or I’d rec her to you directly) and I have a friend who has seen several interns for individual therapy there and loves it. Hope it works out well for you!

  • Ruth

    This list is so helpful and all encompassing! We did pre-martial prep through the Catholic Church, and while many items on here were discussed, they weren’t discussed in such an applicable to real life way. Many, especially end of life-health related topics weren’t included at all.

    Thanks to APW for always encouraging me to think more and harder about the things I don’t always want to think about!

  • Kate

    A friend passed away last week after a long fight with cancer, which was the last push I needed to sit down with my fiance and fill out health care directives. Now that it’s done, I feel so. much. better. It’s a comfort to know that should I ever have to make those kind of decisions, I have his wishes there in his own handwriting. I downloaded the form from our state bar association’s website, and it didn’t take long to fill out at all. So, health care directives. Highly recommended, and a good way to check off a lot of those medical questions!

    • Thank you- this comment made me go away for a few minutes and google how these issues are handled in Quebec, so my husband and I can take care of this in the near future. Now I can read up on it and stop putting it all off….

  • Thanks for this. We did pre-marital classes through a Catholic Church in another country. I have to say, it wasn’t really very helpful. It was concerned more about how we were going to raise our children in the faith than any other issue, including whether or not we were even going to have children.
    I second the idea of going back over these issues after the bliss of newlywed-ness disappears. What you think you will do and want may be different than what you end up doing and wanting. As we have said, life changes and perhaps your opinions with it. For example, I was adamant that I would not be a housewife and we would have to find a way to deal with that when it came to chores and possibly kids. I am now a housewife. Once I got over the title, I realized that I actually really enjoy it. Who Knew? But now it means that we have to re-discuss how we will handle finances, etc.
    I appreciate the privacy disscusion. We didn’t have this and from time to time it can be an issue for both of us. Hubby doesn’t want me to talk about him while blogging, I wish he wouldn’t tell his mom every time I have a sniffle (which then means I am woken by her well-meaning phone calls about my health) or our exact movements for the week. If you can’t find anything to talk about, say good-bye and hangup! Calls to NZ aren’t cheap! I digress.

    • Tara

      Have you considered a VOIP phone? I use Vonage and I pay about $30/month for unlimited calls to landlines in the US, Canada, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, etc. (and cell phones in some countries). If your husband calls his mom a lot that might be helpful! At least then that would help with the cost of the calls. If you don’t live in Canada or the US or the UK, they probably have something similar in your country.

      My parents don’t live in the same country as me, so this has been amazing to be able to call my mom whenever I want and not think about how much it costs me. Plus, I use it for my local, in-country calls when I’m at home too.

  • This is great. We did pre-marrital counseling but it only scratched the surface. We took a test and then compared answers. That was about all. I was definitely let down.

    I think we’ll take this list of questions and start to slowly work through them. Some are very important and things we have only briefly touched upon.

    • See, we did all of the talking before-hand and are trying to use our pre-marital counseling as the test, but she just sits there and says “you guys are great…now come back next week.” It’s free so not a big deal, but I wish it was a little more hard core.

      • Ours only was concerned that we’d talked about certain issues, not whether or not we’d reached any kind of decision about them. I was really hoping the third person would be the one to push us to reach some kind of decision.

        • I was being really “WE NEED TO HAVE DECISIONS” about a lot of stuff (not the least of which was my last name) and then realized one day that I needed to calm down about it. As long as we were okay about the really big stuff, and have in place a communication matrix that works really well I’m okay.

          (Also, in a weird way, knowing that divorce is there makes me less rabid about hammering things out in the next four months. Not that it’s my easy answer or my go-to, but I know that if something went terribly, irreparably wrong, we aren’t bound to each other forever–>in a Sandlot voice.)

          Our ‘assignment’ with the counselor for next week is to talk about our goals, and I’m going to make myself bring up my expectation that she push us hard in some areas, and have her tell me whether that’s legit or not.

  • Erin with an E

    Somehow this article appeared on my phone’s blog reader yesterday (or maybe I can see into the future…) and I was so excited to get started I made my fiance curl up with my tiny phone to go through questions. Now that it is available in laptop size and we can properly enjoy Alyssa’s hilarity, I am looking forward to go over more questions, especially the difficult ones with a Glass of Wine! I agree that it’s important to add the “why?” to the end of the questions, especially if one of you is more direct, to-the-point answerer and the other is more a consider-all-possible-options responder. That way you both talk more about how your feelings and life experience led to your position, instead of getting caught up in different answering styles. I have a hard time bringing stuff up sometimes (oh, that kinda bothered me, but it’s not a big deal so whatever) so this is a great way to just practice talking about stuff and figure out what creates a useful discussion and what shuts down communication. Thanks, and a toast to all of you going over these questions with your special person tonight!

  • Chantelle

    This is awesome! And perfect timing since school is winding down. The Boy is a student in a demanding program and we tend to put issues on the back burner since his mental energy is taken up with school. So far it’s been me feeling like I’ve been working through “marriage thoughts” and needing to be able to have him ready to delve in…so I may be attacking this with rather too much enthusiasm. Must remember that not everyone finds talking about all this stuff super fun, it’s the unquenchable planner in me (…who has now taken this list and added to it ending up with a list that is about 8 pages long) I’m thinking we tackle at least one question a day on our morning commute in to work. *rubs hands together in glee*

    Counselling will definitely be something we do before we get married, although finding something that works with our schedules and budget has been a challenge so far. It’s going to be lovely to hopefully attend a session with an idea of what the BIG issues that we need a mediator’s input are and really get the most of each session hopefully.

    Thanks APW!

  • Abby C.

    Actually, what surprises me is how many of these questions have already come up in general discussion in our relationship. That seems to me a good thing – we might be ahead of the game!

    I do still want to do premarital counseling, though, and we’re looking for somebody local. Still got a year’s worth of time to find somebody, so I’m not super rushed.

  • Nix

    Another superbly written article. Go Alyssa!

    To be serious, this is a great and helpful article not just for wedded/soon to be wedded couples, but for couples in seriously commited relationships. My boyfriend and I have lived together for a year and a half (and do plan to eventually tie the knot) and we’ve discussed a lot of these things and it really does help!

  • Kate

    I may have suggested this before, but for a secular counseling option, check out They use a method called Prepare/Enrich where you both take a computer assessment that keeps track of your feelings about communication, money etc, then it compares the two of you to see which areas you need to do more talking about and you go over those with a counselor. Since it’s somewhat regimented, even a religious counselor might be able to do it with you in a secular way (we easily found a secular counselor through the site, but then we’re in Chicago.) I recommend the method highly, and no, I don’t work for them or anything : )

    • Kate

      Different Kate here, but that is exactly the program I did too! And I think an additional bonus to doing the program with a secular counselor is that you establish a relationship with that professional, should you need it down the line. I think in the future if I ever want to nudge my fella to go in for a couple’s session or two, it will be much less of a big deal to just say “Remember Rebecca? Let’s talk about this with her,” as opposed to, “OMG we need a MARRIAGE COUNSELOR.”

      • meg

        I think this is an excellent, and un-sung reason to do pre-marital counseling.

  • suzanna

    This is fantastic! Thanks for putting it together, Alyssa and Meg.

    I wanna know who’d yell at you for talking about pets? Being a pet owner can be really emotional and really expensive–both great reasons to talk before something happens. And it can possibly be a preview into parenting styles. For us, it’s brought up the whole “good cop, bad cop” dynamic that I sooooo want to avoid with children.

    • Chantelle

      Absolutely to the pets being a trial run for parenting styles…it’s bringing up lots of good things to discuss :)

  • Rachel

    I am so glad that you posted this AND I am so glad that it is going to be in the book. ALL of the questions are relevant and I agree, they are good to discuss before and after marriage. I consider us lucky that we have both gone through long relationships and knew that we had to be forth coming when entering our relationship. I had no problem laying out on the table what I wanted, questions I had, etc. Yet, regardless of our “good” discussions (best ones are over frozen yogurt or cocktails) I still plan on revisiting them after we are married.

  • The draft of this mysteriously showed up in my reader on Wednesday and I was super excited to read this. But also terribly confused because it wasn’t Friday (although with every day during Spring Break being just like the other, I could’ve easily had the date wrong). I love this list. It’s wonderful. So many good topics to cover. And I love that you said they are things that need to come up not just once, but several times as your lives change.

  • Thanks for this great list! Most of these are things that we’d talked about anyway before we got married…but we’re talkers, and over-analyzers, and worriers by nature. But I think we can definitely use this is a little bit of a mental check-in list to keep in mind as time goes on. We’ve only been married a few months, so not many of the answers are likely to have changed, but I know that some of them will change as we grow together and our life circumstances change. (Like hopefully someday one of us will earn more money and then we can figure out what we want to do with it in real life and not just hypothetical future land!)

  • I am going to tell you something embarrassing about my husband but he doesn’t read this! Ha ha, jokes on him! (Heee! He won’t be mad, I swear.)

    We took a survey before we got married where we answered a bajillion questions. And one of the questions was about what kind of environment/climate you want to live in, and Geoff’s answer was an extremely long and detailed Magic The Gathering card joke. I mean, it was long, and in-depth, and only funny if you have a deep understanding of the way the game works. Bless him.

    Can I just throw this out there: I know that these things are helpful to do, but doing this kind of work cannot possibly forestall all confusions/misunderstandings/bad assumptions/surprises. I think some of us may hope that it will. Including myself–I certainly did. It was a way of channeling some of that pre-wedding fear of the unknown territory lying ahead of me into a project that felt productive and solid and real. But really, life will bring surprises. You and your partner may grow in unexpected ways. In fact, you probably will and that’s a good thing!

    So talk about things, absolutely. Chat about all kinds of contingencies. Get into the mucky stuff. But at the end of the day, none of us are fortune tellers. And humans have an infinite ability to surprise me, and there is no reason to think that my husband (or myself!) should be an exception to that rule.

    • One thing that I think about lists like this and going through questions like this is that it gets you in the habit of talking. Developing communication skills by dealing with these questions will help when things that you couldn’t have imagined come up.

      • Yeah, true. I definitely still believe these are worthwhile things to do.

    • msditz

      I have to say, I totally agree. I am to be married in July and we are starting our pre-marital counseling next month, so I cannot say I am an expert on the whole thing. But as I was reading the list I found myself thinking, “Wow I don’t know if I even could answer that for myself.” Especially the stuff on careers and money and where we will live an all of that. The Mister and I are still fairly young and figuring things out. But I do know that when we first met we were still in college and the farthest down the road I could think was, “What am I going to wear to the 80’s theme party on Saturday?”
      The point is, we have been figuring it out TOGETHER for a long time. We have taken trains across the country thinking we could do one thing, and taken a car in the other direction thinking another (literally). The reason it has worked out well so far is we feel comfortable talking to each other.
      Things change. Talk it through.

  • This is a great post. I always try to remember that these conversations won’t necessarily reach an “answer” and that the same issues might rear their ugly heads again. Hopefully though, by having tough conversations, the issues get easeir to deal with. My husband and I have learned what topics are hard to deal with for the other person. For me, it’s money. Money talks don’t stress my husband at all, but for me it’s like kryptonite. While I still hate hate hate talking about moeny, we’ve learned how to have money talks in a way that doesn’t make me want to cry (usually)….

  • Our marriage prep course was emphatically not about counselling and letting someone else into our discussion, it was done in a group of couples in the home of an older married couple.

    We watched a series of 5 DVDs by Nicky and Sila (rhymes with ‘killer’) Lee of Holy Trinity Brompton church in London. They had pauses for discussion of things with your partner, and ONLY your partner.

    All of the questions listed were covered in the guided discussions and we came away feeling like we were close beforehand and closer after.

  • Jillian

    Oh God I can’t stop laughing at
    “Honestly, _____ gets on my damn nerves. Let’s deal with that for a sec.”

    It was all : Serious Question, Serious Question, Serious, Question then BAM! hilarity.

    But in all seriousness… fantastic list of things to think about.

  • Alyssa, you are the awesome.

    The end.

    We have had these talks already between books and other people’s situations. The interesting part for me comes that we change, our perspective changes, and it is SO important to keep talking about things and not assume that since you knew where your partner stood four years ago he’s still there.

    • ABSOLUTELY. Four years ago we were pretty uber-Catholic. Now? Not as much. Those ongoing talks are much of what have kept us connected despite the changes.

  • Jessie

    Truly the best post in a long time. Thank you for this.

  • Other Katelyn

    The religion stuff is so tough, and so important. Huge cosign to Meg’s addendum! I’m almost glad it’s so obviously tough for us, because it’s forcing us to talk it through–and I mean really Talk It Through, and to find our way to a place where we both feel respected, honored, and understood. It’s strengthening our relationship to have the conversation.

  • This is a great list of questions! Thanks all :D
    I’ve wanted to do pre-marital counselling, specifically the Catholic one (being Catholic and hearing my twice-married father recommend it), but my beloved isn’t keen on either Catholicism or talking about us to a stranger.
    So, my question is – how exactly do I start the conversation that leads to answering some/all of these awesome questions? My beloved is one of those Libra-type people who needs a lot time to come to any kind of decision, and even then, when I’ve tentatively broached some of these topics before he’s freaked out and said “we’ll deal with that if it turns up, I don’t want to make a decision now”…. any ideas?

  • Amber

    I kinda wish we hadn’t done premarital counseling, the counselor wasn’t helpful and talked at us more than letting us talk. I couldn’t find anything that wasn’t religious-based, which, as atheists, was pretty annoying. We had already talked about most of the things listed, and we certainly didn’t cover much during our sessions.

  • Kate K

    I once read an article featuring couples who had been married for a long time (like longer than I’ve been alive long) from the Washington Post. One husband said that every year, they have a “State of the Union” where they talk about the good things and things to improve in their relationship. (So DC, huh??) That really struck me as a wonderful way to be committed to having a dialogue. So, just like the “check ups” people talked about before — be committed to it! You owe it to yourself, your spouse, and your family. Go ahead and clap for yourselves for half an hour when finished and toast as appropriate :)

  • Umm… I’m totally printing these questions out and having a session with James. Lots of these things we’ve discussed, but some we haven’t. I’m interested to continue our constantly ongoing discussion. :) Thanks! :)

  • I know the time for adding questions is probably over, but my intended and I had a great one today: what happens if our child has a learning disability? He feels that if the learning disability was minor, he would rather not utilize the special education services of the school, and would rather utilize my degree in education and his personal experience to teach the child to cope with the disability without modifications from the school. Definitely a great discussion and worth having.

  • Roxy

    This is amazing. Thank you so much. I’m one of those nay-sayers who thinks we’ll be fine without the pre-marital counseling, but I do know that every little bit helps. Luckily my intended is a sharer. We’ve got 7 months to dig into these questions and I know it will be lovely and painful and fantastic all at the same time. Really looking forward to learning even more about my partner.

  • ANI

    oops. APW went all everyone-is-hetero-andhavingthekindofsexthatpotentiallyresultsinpregnancy-of-course-duh on me. I think that’s first for this site. I will let it go.

    still love you Meg and ‘Lyssa. VERY good post, which I am going to my intend to get engaged to human read.

  • I love this post! It makes me excited and terrified to one day have this talk. Most of these things we’ve already discussed, but not everything. Sighhhh.

  • so, i just want to second thinking about “What if we suddenly get a lot of [money]?”

    because it seems like such a dumb thing to discuss, because “duh, that would be awesome! end of story.” but, um, money is more complicated than that. and, um, it’s weird to say, but my girlfriend inheriting a chunk of money has been one of the more difficult thinks we’ve ever dealt with. i’m sure that depends on your individual forms of crazy, but for me it’s been a major issue – especially since we didn’t have trouble with basically any of the other questions up there (not that some weren’t *hard* – but that’s different).

  • sara

    “And now 18 months later, I feel the need to go back in time and whack me upside the head with my glue gun.”

    ha. I laughed out loud at this. and I totally relate. and I thank you so much for this post. and I am pleased that 8 months later we have been having these important conversations, and while we have many of them to go, it’s knowing the method to the madness and the real life worth of learning from each other like this is the reason for keeping on (ideally, with some wine)!

    so, thanks. you are great!

  • Amandover

    Just wanted to say thanks again for this.
    We’re 11 days from the wedding, and still working through these because they’re the best questions we’ve found. It feels good to have the groundwork laid.

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  • newlyengagedmel

    This post warmed my heart because, without even planning to, me and my lover have openly discussed most of these. Many I was a bit surprised some couple haven’t discussed before getting engaged, but then I guess not everyone waits 7 years like we do. Oops!.
    In case,it is reassuring that we know the most important things about eachother and openly discuss them. Will put the rest of my questions on my to-do list. Thanks APW for reassuring just at the time I started finding all this wedding malarkey a bit over-whelming!

  • Gurjender singh

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  • plouf

    Those questions are great but like all the other lists I have seen, they seem to be aimed at newish/youngish couples, especially those who have not lived together. My special someone and I have already answered all of those and we are not getting married anytime soon. I was wondering if they were lists or advice aimed for couples like us.

  • I find this article a big help for me. Great post all about weddings.

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