12 Questions to Ask Before You Get Married

Marriage is an expression of love and commitment but also a legal and financial partnership. It’s important to understand what you are delving into—romantically, legally, and financially—before signing your marriage license.

Although every marriage has ups and downs, and not every scenario can be planned for, having honest discussions about your expectations for marriage can only benefit you. These 12 questions might be tough to answer, but they’re conversations worth having.

  1. What are your thoughts on children and parenting? The children conversation isn’t just about whether or not you want them. You also need to know how many you want, what parenting style you’ll use, what circumstances need to be in place before you start a family, and whether one parent will prioritize work while the other prioritizes childcare. It’s also important to talk about adoption, abortion, IVF, and other family planning tools you would or would not be willing to use.
  2. What are your thoughts on religion? Like the children conversation, the religion conversation needs to cover more than “Are you religious?” What if you decide to start or stop going to church? Do you want your children raised in a particular religion? Which religious traditions are important to you? If your daily spiritual habits and values are mismatched, it could lead to a disconnection between you and your spouse.
  3. How will we divide household tasks? Household maintenance is a common trigger for arguments and bitterness between spouses. Does your standard of cleanliness and organization match your partner’s? What tasks will each person be responsible for? Will you hire someone to clean or cook? No matter what the answer is, if you and your spouse have clear expectations, it will significantly reduce the potential for resentment.
  4. Are you willing to sign a prenup? Even if you can’t imagine breaking up now, you never know what will happen in the future. A prenup can be useful if you or your soon-to-be spouse have significant assets or income, but some people are totally opposed to them. Hearing your partner’s answer is a good way to gauge their thoughts on finances and divorce, and it might make you think twice about combining your assets with theirs.
  5. How will we handle finances? Financial disagreements and resentments will put you on the fast track to divorce. It is essential to determine whether you will combine finances, how much each person is expected to contribute to household costs, and how each person views saving, investing, and spending. Will you lend money to family members? How much debt are you comfortable with? These are just a few of the financial questions you should have answers to.
  6. What debts and assets are you bringing into the marriage? Before marriage, make sure you disclose all financial accounts and have an honest conversation about your spending habits. Remember that from a legal standpoint, any assets or property you and your spouse have before getting married are considered separate property. Most assets acquired during the marriage become marital property, which is subject to equitable distribution upon divorce.
  7. Where do you want to live? If your partner hopes to move to their childhood home in rural Idaho and your dream is to buy a brownstone in Brooklyn, you’re eventually going to reach a crossroads in your marriage. Where you live is the largest influence on your life. Would you go back to your hometown to care for aging parents? Would you move anywhere in the world for a dream job? What type of environment do you thrive in? It’s best to talk about it now and ensure you and your partner are largely on the same page.
  8. Would you go to couples counseling? Perhaps the best indicator of a successful marriage is how well you work with your partner when times are tough. When your relationship is failing, when you experience death and loss, or when one of you struggles with physical or mental health, is your partner willing to make an effort to communicate and strengthen your marriage? If they show resistance now, they likely won’t be willing to put in the work when it really matters.
  9. Do you have any secrets you haven’t told me? Everyone has varying degrees of dirty laundry, so don’t assume you know everything about your partner. Whether it’s a past pregnancy, credit card debt, or a predilection for gambling, you and your partner should lay it all out on the table well before the wedding. Give each other a chance to be honest without holding it over your partner’s head for the rest of your lives together.
  10. What would cause you to end the marriage? For some people, divorce is not an option. For others, cheating, lying, or anger issues would mean immediate separation. Where do you and your partner stand? If you know where the boundaries and expectations are before you get married, you’ll know when you’re veering toward marriage trouble and need a course correction.
  11. What does monogamy mean to you? This question seems so obvious that few couples think to ask it, but knowing the answer is crucial. Does your partner only consider it cheating if there is physical contact? Do they have a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy?” Do you want to be in a monogamous marriage at all? Your partner’s answer may surprise you.
  12. What do you want in your marriage? This is the ultimate question for spouses-to-be. What do you envision in a marriage, and is the other person capable of meeting those expectations? This is a conversation that must be repeated, but it is important to get a baseline before the wedding. Without clear communication about this, resentment will creep into your relationship.


Karen Rosenthal

Karen B. Rosenthal is a partner at matrimonial litigation firm Bikel Rosenthal & Schanfield LLP, where she brings 30 years of matrimonial law experience to bear in matters involving high-net-worth equitable distribution, contentious custody battles, and other high-stakes disputes. Certified as an Attorney for the Child and a frequent speaker on topics related to children going through high-conflict divorce, she has been recognized as a leading New York lawyer by Super Lawyers, Best Lawyers, and New York magazine.

To connect with Karen: 212.682.6222 | Online

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