Whether you’re thinking of moving in or tying the knot, there are some things you’ve got to get clear before that big day if you want a long, successful relationship. In my almost four decades of working with couples, I’m amazed at how many questions aren’t asked or worked out before they move in together or get married. If you don’t deal with your problems before you make that next step, you’re going to be dealing with it later. You’ve got to get clear on your expectations first and move in or tie the knot second so here are the 10 questions to ask before getting married or moving in together.
So Why Don’t We Talk About This Stuff First?
In short, I think it’s because you’re afraid of the answer. You want so badly to be with this person and have them be the one that you overlook issues that have been percolating for a while. Or you think that once you’ve moved in together or gotten married, these issues will resolve themselves. Both ways are kidding yourself.
The 10 Questions to Ask Before Getting Married or Moving in Together
Question #1: If this is the best this relationship will ever be, is it enough?
I see a lot of people move in or get married because of the potential of a relationship instead of the reality of a relationship. If this is the best your partner will ever be, are they still who you want to commit long-term to? Yes, we all hope for growth but, if nothing ever changed, is this still the decision you’d want to make?
Question #2: What’s your stance on porn in your relationship?
Porn is something you’ve got to talk about first. I can’t tell you how many couples come into my office with this as the main issue. Most importantly, you’ve got to be honest. If your partner says, “No porn” and you think, “Well, it’s not hurting anyone, so I’ll still watch occasionally” that’s a lie and not the way to be before taking this next step together. You’re going to get caught at some point and it’s going to be an issue eventually. Be honest now and work it out now.
Question #3: What will happen when (not if) one of us doesn’t want to have sex as much?
Sex lives change over the course of a relationship, especially after the shine of the first three years is gone. You’ve got to have the conversation about how you’ll talk about sex, what the expectations are and how you’ll reconcile issues around sex before your sex life starts to wane.
Question #4: Why do you want to get married or move in together?
This is a biggie. Why do you want to take this next step? Why does your partner? If it’s out of convenience, that’s not a good reason. If it’s out of expectation, that’s not a good reason. Get really (really) clear on what’s motivating you to take this next step. If it’s any reason that’s from fear, not love, then I’d want you to think again.
Question #5: How do you deal with change in your relationship?
Relationships never, ever go as planned. Maybe you’ve both decided that after having a baby you’ll go back to work. But, once you’re home with this baby, you change your mind. How will you handle this change in agreement? What if one of your parents gets sick and you want them to move in but your partner doesn’t? There is all manner of unforeseen and unplanned events that will happen. How do you each handle change and the unexpected?
Question #6: How do we want to handle money together as a couple?
Do we want separate bank accounts or combined? How do you want to save and spend? What are your values when it comes to spending or saving? Is it your debt or our debt that you’re bringing into the relationship? What if one makes more or one doesn’t earn at all outside the home? How much is OK to spend on a car, a watch, a home?
Question #7: What’s our rule around arguments?
Before you move in with your partner or get married, you should already be clear on this (I hope) but, in case you’re not, you’ve got to agree to a common/shared way you handle conflict. Ground rules like no name calling or violence might seem obvious but should be stated out loud. What if one of you avoids and one likes to engage? Whose preference wins out? How will you negotiate these differences of interacting? These are key questions to ask before getting married or moving in together.
Question #8: What are we doing about having kids?
This isn’t simply agreeing if you want kids or not. It also includes questions like:
- How many kids do we want?
- When do we want to have kids?
- Will we put our kids in day care, have a nanny or will our parents babysit?
- What birth control methods are we using before and after having kids?
- Will we raise our kids with a particular religion?
- What kind of parent do you want to be? How do we discipline?
- What if we can’t have kids?
- How will kids fit into our life?
- How will the division of labor be affected once we have a kid?
These are all questions to ask before getting married.
Question #9: What’s private or your own life?
Couples have lots of different expectations as to what “privacy” means for them. What’s private and what’s not? Do I have to tell you when I masturbate? What my fantasies are? What about what I discuss with my best friend or therapist? Do I have time that I don’t need to account for? Does my partner? Am I allowed to have secrets from my past that I don’t share (abuse as a kid, past abortion, past relationships, etc.)?
Question #10: When do you feel the most loved by me/safe with me?
It’s important to know what you do or say that makes your partner feel most loved, cherished and respected. When is your partner most comfortable sharing their feelings with you or what creates a space where they don’t feel safe with you?
Resources for Healthy Relationships