couples

The 8 important questions to ask your partner before you get married.

Fans of Stan's The Bold Typea comedy-drama about three women who work for a glossy magazine, will have likely muttered the same, frustrated phrase over the past few episodes: 

"Why didn't Sutton and Richard talk about kids before getting hitched?"

If you're currently muttering "Who? What?", here's the abridged version: newly married couple (pictured above); woman reveals she doesn't want to have children; man is devastated; they fight, then have a think; proves to be a deal-breaker for man; man leaves. 

It makes for riveting television, sure. But in real life, the consequences of such a huge divergence are anything but entertaining. 

So what are the important questions to ask a partner before getting married or committing to a long-term partnership? And what if the answers aren't what you want to hear?

"Now you don't want kids?" The turning point in Sutton and Richard's marriage. (Post continues below.)


Video via Stan..

Melissa Ferrari, a therapist with over 20 years’ experience in couples counselling and individual psychotherapy, told Mamamia that the reason to start a dialogue on big issues early on isn't just practical, it's physiological.

"In the 'loved up' stage in a relationship, attachment hormones run riot through our brain. Be aware that the powerful chemical agents creating that wonderful euphoric feeling will fade, and therefore it is important that you ask some important questions of each other as you consider a long-term, committed relationship," she said.

The questions she recommends asking include:

Why do we want to be together?

Is our relationship our first priority, or are we placing work, family or our own interests first?

As a couple, do we believe that we will always help and support each other when one of us is distressed?

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Do we really have each other’s backs: are we willing to protect each other both publicly and privately, or are we still at every-person-for-themselves stage?   

Have we talked about our future: do we want the same things, or are there differences that may cause problems down the track? 

How will we manage domestic chores? 

Will our finances be shared?

Do we want kids? And if so, who will stay home and who will work?

What if the answers aren't what you want to hear?

"Well, for some this can be serious, particularly if it is around something like whether to have children, where you will live, or how you deal with family and friends. These are the 'deal-breakers' that are a huge threat to relationships," Melissa said.

"If you do find what seems a 'deal-breaker' then do not walk away. Get some help to see if you can find a compromise. It may not always be there, but I see too many couples ending relationships too soon. So, if you love and care the person you are with, then you are likely in a relationship worth fighting for."

How should you handle that? 

"Committing to spend your life with someone is a very adult decision and, therefore, it is going to take some very adult questions. Developmentally we are mostly unprepared for the adult world as most of us have not experienced perfect parenting or caregiving," Melissa said.

How do you know when your relationship is over? Melissa Ferrari chats to Mamamia's separation podcast, The Split. 

"So, a wonderful way to grow with your partner is to fully understand this and to decide together that we are going to create our own adult frame of what our relationship will be. This is about freeing up time from dealing with bigger problems and leaving more room for connection and playfulness, so there is less stress within the relationship.

"If you are struggling to agree on how you will navigate or deal with areas of potential conflict, getting some the help from a therapist trained in couple therapy before you enter into a longer term commitment may be useful to help you identify issues that you could face on the road ahead."

What are the potential consequences of not asking these questions?

"If you don't have the same guiding principles or agreements on what's important to you both in your relationship, you may begin to feel like you are with the wrong person or that you are falling out of love," Melissa said.

"What is really happening, though, is a normal process of discovery. Once we have been with a partner for some time, our brain does this process of 'automating' your partner, telling you that you know them. So, we stop asking questions or being curious about each other. 

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"This is a natural process that can lead to some big problems, particularly with a feeling of feeling boredom or a lack of excitement with each other."

She added, "Being honest at the beginning, asking the really important questions and keeping the communication open as you move through life is the best way to avoid running into serious trouble."

For support and resources for navigating a difficult issue in your relationship, visit the Relationships Australia website or call on 1300 364 277. 

Feature Image: Stan.


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