Choosing the Right One: 16 Questions to ask yourself before you marry
By David Sunshine
Have You Discussed What’s Important?
In this section we will make sure that you and your partner have dis-cussed all the topics that couples considering marriage need to talk about.
Question #5: If you intend to have children together, have you dis-cussed who will be taking care of them, how early in the marriage to start the family, and whether you want them to have a religious up-bringing?
Question #6: Have you spoken about whether the two of you have enough money to rent an apartment and pay for household expenses?
Question #7: Have you put into words the hopes and expectations you have about your personal life and career? Have you discussed the type of relationship you envision for the future? Are your separate goals and expectations compatible?
Here are the expectations three people discussed with their partners before their engagement.
Danny’s job requires him to go overseas every few months for weeks at a time. He told Cindy about this before proposing to her.
Every two weeks, Debbie visits her elderly mother, who lives two hours away by car. She explained to Joe that it was a lonely ride for her, and expressed a desire for him to come along at least every second trip she makes.
Sammy has a teenage son from a previous marriage who visits him weekly. He told Linda about these visits before asking her to marry him so she would know what to expect. Sammy also asked her to cook one meal for his son during each visit.
Steven had a few expectations for his personal and married life, and he made sure to discuss them with Lisa be-fore proposing. He said that he wanted to quit his job in a few years and start his own business, and that he’d like her to do all the cooking and laundry after they were mar-ried.
Question #8: Are there written commitments you would like from your partner before the marriage? Is your partner willing to make these commitments?
Nowadays couples sometimes have agreements drawn up before the marriage to protect one of the parties. Here’s an example:
Bruce was a successful lawyer who owned his own condominium. He had been dating Jackie for a long time and was ready to propose to her, but one issue was holding him back—his fear that if their marriage didn’t work out, he’d lose half his apartment. Bruce decided to be up-front with Jackie and tell her what was on his mind. He waited for the right moment and then gently explained that he loved her very much and the only reason he hadn’t proposed to her was because he feared losing half his apartment should their marriage be dissolved. Jackie re-sponded that with divorce so common nowadays his feel-ings were understandable, and that she would be willing to give him a written statement forfeiting any claim to his residence should their marriage last fewer than three years. She added that she loved him and for a long time had been hoping he would ask her to marry him. When Bruce heard her words he was moved to tears and proposed on the spot.
Aside from property, other forms of assets such as stocks and capital can also be protected by written agreement. There are also special prenuptial agreements that address ritual issues critical to religiously observant Jews.
Have the agreement drawn up by a lawyer and signed by two witnesses. If you’d like to read more about this topic, an excellent book on the subject is Prenups for Lovers: A Romantic Guide to Prenuptial Agreements (Villard Books, 2001).