Call it shyness or a desire to keep the romantic mystery alive, but not many couples ask difficult questions before getting married. Their idea: we will figure it out together. But relationship experts advise that getting the usual and the mundane, the practical and the straight out of the way, in the beginning, is a way to a stable marriage.
Marriage is already in a mix, there are new dynamics (commuter marriages, married but friends with ex), new expectations fed on a steady dose of rom-coms that talk about spouses as confidants and friends first. Most couples do talk, but do they ask the questions that will help in the smooth sailing of the nuptial knot?
As relationship expert Robert Scuka said in an interview with The New York Times: “If you don’t deal with an issue before marriage, you deal with it while you are married.”
Here are 10 questions that will help spark honest discussions…
Do we respect each other’s parents? Are we going to stay with them?
Parents (in-laws) is a big concern in India even if families are turning more nuclear, says marriage and family counsellor Dr Nisha Khanna. Iron out the concerns regarding in-laws as early as possible. Ask if you are staying with them, how much interference they will have in your life etc. Khanna says, “If a spouse is not willing to address the issue with the parents, it doesn’t hold good for long-term health of a relationship.” Also ask: What does my family do that annoys you? Be well prepared.
Is the ‘ex’ a factor?
According to a research by the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, having had many serious relationships can pose the risk of divorce and lower marital quality. The reason could be that people who have had serious breakups run a tendency to compare a current partner unfavourably with the past one. “These are issues of trust and must be discussed early on. Ask if they are friends with the ex, define relationships with friends of the opposite sex,” says psychiatrist Dr Anjali Chhabria. Life Coach Aditi Mirchandani says a good idea is to bring up friends of the opposite sex and see if the partner is comfortable with the notion.
What about ‘me’ time?
Autonomy in marriages is the new trend. Mirchandani says, “It’s good to figure out time alone vs time together right.” Many couples, going forward, want to keep certain areas of their life to themselves — hobbies, their friends or bathrooms. “Different ideas of privacy should be clarified,” she adds. This also includes girls’ night out or all boys’ trips — better to set these rules before getting into it.
Are we planning to have children, how many, and will you change diapers?
Don’t think it’s a given that marriage, and children are co-related. Many men and women are not interested in populating the earth. Couples should honestly discuss if they want children. How many do they want? At what point? Their ideas of parenting? Who will be the primary caregiver? Will any one of them be taking a break from their career to raise the child? Khanna says that this is also a good starting point to discuss household chore division.
How important is religion?
Especially pertinent for mixed marriages. Khanna says the issue becomes convoluted if the couple is staying with either set of in-laws. And the conflict deepens once children come in to the equation.
What are your spending habits?
Chhabria says it’s important to discuss finances right at the beginning. Ask how much would you be willing to spend on a car? It is a great indicator of financial caution or recklessness. Mirchandani adds, “With both partners working, it’s important to clear the air as to who will be contributing to what in the house.”
Also the question of a joint account — my money, your money, our investments and assets — must be answered clearly.
How do we resolve conflicts?
How differences are handled has a lot to say about a relationship’s success. Khanna says a good insight is to figure out how they resolved conflict in their respective homes – by discussing issues, fighting or shutting down. Chances are the same patterns will be mirrored here. You will be better prepared to handle the onslaught without feeling hurt or confused.
Will you cook? Can I be a practising non-vegetarian in your vegetarian home?
Khanna has noticed that many Indian men consider a wife who cooks as an asset. “It is a big question here,” she says. Just like you discussed household chores, cooking should also be discussed. Then, there are food preferences, especially, if you are a non-vegetarian married into a vegetarian family.
How will we nurture the relationship beyond the first click?
Being married means you will have to keep nurturing your relationship to keep the proverbial spark alive. It has to go beyond the mundane “I love you”. “How we will nurture our love and differences is what couples need to ask,” Mirchandani says. Choose from five love languages: affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service and physical touch.
How do you see us five years from now?
Mirchandani calls it the typical ‘interview’ question but one that can point towards the health of the marriage. “It helps to set relationship goals, understand each other’s psyche and figure out mutual expectations from the marriage,” she adds.