Do you remember the time we were school kids sitting in the classroom and listening intently to what our teacher was saying? Then if we didn’t understand a part of the lesson for that day, we’d muster the courage to raise our hands, feeling nervous that the rest of the class might burst out laughing at the stupidity of our question.
We asked anyway. That or we’d get a failing mark. Asking the teacher a question and risking our classmates mocking us afterward was a much better alternative than explaining awkwardly to mom and dad why we got such a low grade.
“I thought you liked Math” our father would ask, his eyes piercing ours.
Then as you finish school and have your diploma, and start dating, your boyfriend pops the question. But you too have questions of your own. Except this time you can’t ask your teacher anymore, so you confide in your best friend.
“But I thought you loved Mark.” That’s the counter-question you get when you question the wisdom of tying the knot. “You make a handsome couple”, some would say, why the doubts now?
Just as we were taught in school to ask the teacher a question every time a problem puzzled us, we also learned that marriage requires some top-heavy self-interrogation. Love will have to take a back seat when the time of reckoning comes. A couple can’t live on love alone. Much of the passion and excitement are bound to sizzle at first, making you blind to the faults of the other, but committing your life to someone requires touch questioning, tougher than a courtroom drama.
Questions to Ask Before Marriage – How Many?
Some say 7, others prefer 10, still others, more strict and more thorough, say 20.
What’s important is not to nail down the magic number. It doesn’t mean that just because you asked 20 questions and got 20 answers, you’ve got your future all mapped out. Actually, what’s more important is that you ask, period. Not “how many” but more like, “did you ask?”
So did you ask? Are you satisfied with the answers? No? Ask again. Keep asking until you’re convinced that the answers can serve as more than adequate clues of whether or not the marriage will be one of bliss or one of dread. Of course you don’t need to ask your partner directly (although certain questions do need to be asked of them), these are questions you ask yourself, and keeping a mental tab of signs that provide hard core evidence of the answers.
We’ll give you an example: “how often does he snore and will his snoring bother me?” You are aware that severe snoring is a disorder and couples have been known to file for a divorce because one’s snoring caused the other to be an incurable insomniac. You may laugh and say why should a trivial thing like snoring get in the way when you love a person?
Trust us on this one. Severe snoring is serious. If you’re beginning to lose sleep over it, think how a lack of sleep can affect your personality and your performance at work, and your relationships with your friends and family.
There are cures for snoring. If your partner refuses to have the problem rectified, think what your bedroom will be like. It’s supposed to be a refuge from the day’s stresses, but if sleeping with your spouse feels like you’re in the jungles of Kenya, this turns into a $64 question, doesn’t it?
Here’s another example: what are my future spouse’s spending habits like? This one you don’t discuss directly, but you can get as many signs as possible through careful observation. You can observe, in a subtle manner, the following:
- Does my future spouse have a savings account and a smart financial planning scheme? Or does my future spouse squander all monthly earnings without saving 5% or 10%?
- Does my partner have a retirement fund? Alright, we admit, if you’re in your 20s and early 30s, a retirement fund is the farthest thing from your mind. But if in your mid-30s you still have not set up an RRSP (Canada) or IRA (US), think how miserable your golden years will be. Are you just going to sit and wait until the government pension check arrives or will you have extra resources that you can tap to enjoy the little pleasures of retirement?
- Don’t take the financial angle too lightly. Our father used to say one thing that stuck in our mind like glue. He said, “your self-confidence will not come from your good looks or your skills or your personality. Self-confidence comes from having money in the bank.” While we disregarded all the other advice dished out by father, that was one lesson we filed in our memory.
- “Can’t take him/her anywhere” – do I feel embarrassed when I introduce my future spouse to my friends? Are my future spouse’s people skills acceptable and do I feel pride when I introduce him/her?
Short of hiring a detective, there is absolutely nothing wrong if you play detective yourself by subtle observation and taking mental notes. You need to give your future spouse a screentest, otherwise the movie that will unfold in the coming years – your life – will be rated B. You want a marriage that’s the tops – an A+!
Questions to Ask Before Marriage – According to the BBC and Oprah…
The British Broadcasting Corporation somehow settled for seven key questions. These go from trust and respect, similarity in expectations, sharing things in common, agreement on major issues (children, education, lifestyle), conflict management (this is a a good one, although we’re hoping no conflict will arise because you’ve been briefed and de-briefed), views on infidelity and commitment, and any hidden agendas. The BBC writer says you need not agree on everything, but make sure that these topics have been discussed to your mutual satisfaction.
Now let’s go to Oprah Winfrey. She demands that 20 questions be asked. Why so stringent, you ask? We’d have to agree with her that the more the better. Be safe or be sorry, that’s what it boils down to. Mind you, you’re not trying to decide if you’re going to the social dance or buying that necklace in the shop window, you’re deciding on whether or not you’d be prepared to give a lifetime of commitment to your loved one.
The sentimental folks will probably chime in and say, “it’s better to have loved and lost than not to have loved at all.” Our position is that you ultimately live with your choices. Love is a wonderful feeling, and the cynics will say, “for the first three years”, but after that how wonderful will it be?
We won’t enumerate all 20 questions here. We’ll pick out those we think are crucial questions to ask before marriage:
- A. Money – what are our financial goals and what timeframe do we give ourselves to achieve them? Should we file separate tax reports and hold separate accounts. What is each spouse’s percentage of contribution?
- For those women who will let their husbands take care of the finances, please, please wake up and smell the coffee!
- B. Work – are we workaholics and if we are serious about our careers, should we postpone children? When the children come, should we find telecommuting jobs?
- C. Children – how many do we want? Should they be sent to school or should they be home-schooled? What’s our policy on babysitters?
- D. Friends – how often should we socialize? Should we be active members of the community? Should we contribute to community life?
- E. Spiritual Life – should we give each other the freedom to practice our own religion? Should our children have the same religion?
You’ll also need to discuss arrangements with in-laws, annual vacations and a joint emergency fund.