In the words of novelist Peter De Vries, “the difficulty with marriage is that we fall in love with a personality, but must live with a character.”
That’s why it’s so important to get to know someone before taking the plunge and getting hitched. What many couples don’t realize, however, is that getting to know someone isn’t just about learning what their favorite TV shows are or how they like their steak.
Marriage is an active thing.
Once you’ve walked down the aisle, real life hits you fast and you’re actually living with the person and all their habits and outlooks.
Now, there are the usual topics that you should discuss: kids, finances, religion, career goals, and sex. But there are some other issues that often don’t come up, especially if you’re not living together. And you’d be surprised at how much those little things mean to you.
Here are some of the questions you should get out of the way if you’re thinking about putting a ring on it. And remember, honesty is the best policy.
1. Are you a morning person or a night owl?
Having differing sleep habits can seriously affect your relationship.
If one of you likes to sleep early, the other will have to come to terms with the fact that their night owl spouse may not join them until after they’re completely passed out. If only one of you likes to sleep in on the weekends, then the other person either has to learn to accept that and learn to tiptoe or you two will have to come to a compromise on when to wake up.
This definitely doesn’t have to be a deal breaker, and both people having the same preferences isn’t always a good thing either. While my partner and I won’t have issues with each other’s habit since we both prefer to party late into the night and hit the snooze button in the mornings, it can also easily screw us over. We’re going to have to make a concerted effort to make sure we’re both getting enough rest and getting to work on time.
Sleep is important to your mental and physical well-being, both of which will affect your happiness and your relationship. So make sure your partner is aware of your needs and willing to help you meet them.
2. What chores do you absolutely hate doing, and which do you not mind?
I’m a big believer in both partners contributing to helping around the house.
My fiancé and I have discussed this in detail. He can’t stand dusting, while I don’t mind it. Cleaning out the fridge makes me want to puke, whereas he’s got a stronger stomach.
We’ve also gotten really specific. He hates doing laundry, and I hate putting clothes away, so every week we’ll be dividing the task up.
So, sit down and discuss what you can’t stand doing around the house. If you hate vacuuming, maybe you can swap with your germaphobe partner and clean the bathrooms instead. Offer to take out the trash so that you can trade it in for watering the plants.
Nobody likes doing the dishes, but alternating days can make it bearable for everyone.
3. White meat or dark meat? Alternatively, flats or drums?
One of the two moments when I realized that my fiancé was the one was when I found out he prefers white meat to dark meat. No more fighting someone for the drumsticks!
But it’s alright if you do both like the same kind of meat—you can order just order more of that and skip the other! When we’re ordering wings and I’m not in the mood for drumsticks for some reason, making our order flats-only is totally doable.
4. What’s your love language?
Family therapist and pastor Dr. Gary Chapman wrote a critically-acclaimed booked called The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts, which describes five love languages, or ways that people demonstrate and understand emotional love.
I know that sounds super hokey and cheesy, but it’s an important thing to understand. These love languages, Dr. Chapman says, are Acts of Service, Physical Touch, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, and Words of Affirmation.
While most of us do use each of these languages to some degree, we tend to have a primary love language and a secondary love language that is the key to unlocking our affections.
I’m a writer and a poet, so my fiancé will write little notes every once in a while since I tend to respond to Words of Affirmation. Acts of Service is more his language, so filling out tedious forms for him or baking him brownies is the key to his heart.
And both of us need lots of Quality Time.
If you don’t have time to read Dr. Chapman’s full book, there’s an abridged version called The Heart of the 5 Love Languages that I highly recommend you look through so that you can discuss with your partner how you tend to express love and how you’d prefer it to be shown.
If you really can’t figure out what language you’re speaking yourself, there’s even a quiz you can take.
5. Do you prefer to go out a lot or are you more of a homebody?
Do both of you like to hang out with friends, go to events in your city, or discover new things to do? Or are you more of a Netflix, takeout, and PJs kind of couple? What about travel?
Are you both globe-trotters or are you okay with staying close to home?
If you both have differing social needs, you should discuss how you’re going to compromise so that both of you get what you want. My partner and I love checking out the latest museum exhibits and new events popping up all over the city. Traveling the world is our biggest dream, but we do still like to chill out at home with some HBO when things get hectic.
Some couples are okay with going their separate ways, but if your partner likes to go out while you prefer to stay at home, you may need to compromise and go with them for their sake.
6. What’s your dream date?
Knowing what is their idea of a fun time is important in understanding the kind of person you’re marrying. Not only that, but you should also know how you can help them wind down.
If you both love doing the same things, great! If not, that’s okay too— just make sure you’re okay with joining them or at least letting them go do it if they’re alright with you not tagging along.
7. Do you prefer to be in the driver’s seat or on the passenger side?
Having two people who prefer being in control can mean trouble— unless you learn to take turns. You don’t always have to be yin and yang on this one.
My partner and I both love being in the driver’s seat, but I also have a tendency to go with the flow. Unless I’m really in the mood to take the wheel, I usually let him take over. And I think that’s a pretty good metaphor for our attitudes within our relationship.
Just make sure, if you’re a woman in a heterosexual relationship, that your potential husband doesn’t prefer to take the wheel because he has weird the-man-should-always-drive issues or sexist (and incorrect) ideas about women and driving.
That’s never healthy.
8. Are you a dog person or a cat person?
The other moment I realized that I was going to marry my partner was when I first witnessed him pick up a family friend’s cat. Watching him mew at the fluffy, grumpy kitty melted my heart and I was already signing the papers in my mind.
Making sure your significant other is on board with your future pet adoption plans is important, but even if you don’t plan on having any pets, a person’s cat-or-dog preference says a lot about them. And if you do want to adopt, make sure you discuss any allergies that may prevent you from achieving those dreams.
(And whether they love you enough to take medication… not that you should emotionally blackmail them. Ahem.)
This applies to other pet preferences as well. Tarantula owners should be prepared that their potential pool of mates may be smaller than most.
9. Are you a spender or a saver?
Finances are the biggest point of contention in relationships. My fiancé and I are both Amazon junkies and love new clothes and toys, but we’re also both very conscious of our long-term goals and how we need to reach them.
Again, it’s okay to have differences on this; you just need to learn to identify them and how to handle them. In fact, if you’re a spender, it’s a good thing to have a partner who will keep you in check.
Otherwise, you should definitely take some financial planning courses together.
10. How much alone time do you need?
If you’re both Stage 5 Clingers like us, great!
If not, negotiate when and how much time you’d prefer to do things on your own. And if your partner needs more time to themselves than you do, know that it’s not about you. The more time you give them to do their own thing, the more they’ll be happy and willing to be around you.
There are far more than ten things you should be discussing with someone if you plan to tie the knot. In fact, pre-marital counseling is a great way to make sure you’re both on the same page if you can afford it.
But these questions are a good start on figuring out whether you can stand to live with this person. It’s especially important if you come from a family or culture where dating is discouraged.
No marriage is easy, but you want to make sure yours will be happy, loving, and sustainable.