Getting engaged is an extremely happy time for any couple. The act of showing off the ring (and for millennials posting hundreds of pictures of the ring to various social media accounts) fills a bride-to-be with an amazing sense of excitement and joy for the upcoming nuptials.
What often gets forgotten in all the excitement of a wedding is, what happens after the ceremony; after all of the gifts have been open, the guests have left and you are sitting in a home with your new partner. This moment should be marked as the beginning of a long and fulfilling relationship, but unless you lived with your spouse before you were married, you may find yourself wondering just who you are married to.
Since our office drafts prenuptial agreements as part of our practice, we have met with many engaged couples beaming with excitement over their upcoming commitment. What we have noticed is that while many of them have discussed financial issues (that is why they are getting a prenuptial agreement after all) most have never talked about other very important topics to make sure they have similar views and opinions.
This blog provides a list of questions that should be considered by couples before they decide to get married. The list is not exhaustive and you must remember that people change over time and so do their opinions and answers to these questions. Nevertheless, it is a good starting point. Also, don’t limit yourself to this list. If there are questions you have, there is no time like the present to sit down and discuss them. In no particular order, here are some of the important questions you should be asking your future spouse.
- Children: not just how many, but education and religion and basic child rearing philosophies?
- What religion do you want to raise your children, if any, and how much will it impact you raising them?
- School: private, public, home? Do you feel you need to live in a specific area or school district?
- Will the children be vaccinated or take other medications?
- Discipline: time outs, spankings, grounding ?
- How do you want to spend holidays? Also, if one of you does not wish to attend holidays with the other’s family, will your spouse go without you? Will he/she stand up for you to his/her family when you do not attend?
- Chores: Who will do what? Then the follow up, what is your perception on cleanliness?
- Where to live (neighborhood, city, or even state)
- Size of the house? Cost of the home?
- Who does what about the house cleaning and de-cluttering (the home fills up fast, trust me)
- Religion (which one, level of involvement)
- Which primary language we teach the kids (does not apply in all countries)
- How will you handle money? Single account, split accounts, completely separate? How will you handle the situation where one person is working if you use the separate finance system?
- Are your spending habits compatible?
- How will you save for retirement? How long do both of you want to work? Will one of you stop working when the children are born?
- What do you want to do when you retire? Travel? Move?
- Any time-consuming or expensive hobbies? etc.
- Are there any concerns about addiction? Family history of addiction?
- Any family history of genetic abnormalities or health problems? (This is especially important if you plan to have children)
- When problems arise in your marriage, are you both capable of being open and/or going to marriage counseling?
- Political affiliations. Have some very open discussions about politics in general. You need to know how important these things are to both of you.
- Dining: How often will you cook? How often will you significant other cook? How often will you eat out?
- Accidental pregnancy, what do we do?
- Fired/laid off from job, what do we do?
- Financial crunch (car problems, medical bills, leaking water pipes, etc.), what do we do?
- Our parents are getting old, what do we do?
Before you have this discussion, ask yourself these questions so you know what your answers are before you ever discuss it with your fiancé. That way you do not shape your answers to conform to their response. Also, make a list of your deal breakers.
Don’t ignore the red flags, which in my opinion become harder and harder to see the closer you get to the wedding. Once you announce your engagement, your mindset turns more to the excitement of the wedding, and you tend to turn a blind eye to any warning signs that it might not work out. And the thought of canceling the wedding can be enough to make anyone convince themselves that they can make it work. But trust me; divorce is harder than calling off a wedding.
You should not get married if you feel that you would be unhappy if things stay like they are now for the rest of your life. People change, they mature and they grow. Rarely however do people fundamentally change the way they look at the world. Often these opinions and perceptions are ingrained deep in their subconscious.
If there are differences of opinions that are important but seem workable, you may want to go meet with a couple’s counselor to discuss the differences together. This will provide an outside perspective from a professional uniquely qualified to express an opinion.
Weddings are an exciting time for any couple. Just make sure that, in addition to preparing for the wedding, you prepare to be married, because the marriage usually lasts longer than the wedding. Except for these couples. (http://www.popsugar.com/celebrity/Shortest-Celebrity-Marriages-36996052#photo-36996052)
Feel free to contact us if you are considering a divorce from your spouse, a legal separation, or have questions regarding the process. Nancy J. Bickford is the only Certified Family Law Specialist (CFLS) in San Diego County who is also a licensed Certified Public Accountant (CPA) with a Master of Business Administration (MBA). Don’t settle for less when determining your rights. Call 858-793-8884 in Del Mar, Carmel Valley, North County or San Diego.