Piyu and Yash were family friends, and while theirs was an arranged marriage, they knew each other well and were both happy with the alliance. However, problems set in soon after their marriage. Piyu, who was doing her residency in medicine and juggling hospital hours and studies, did not find time to be the ideal homemaker that Yash expected her to be. Yash, on the other hand, was upset that Piyu did not offer to deposit her salary in a joint account. Yash found Piyu aggressive in bed, and Piyu felt Yash had inhibitions about having sex, one of them being that they both bathe after the act. Within six months of marriage, Yash was miserable, Piyu was traumatised, and they decided to part ways.
Marriages don’t come with a warranty card but one way to increase the probability of a happy and successful one, is to discuss important issues before tying the knot. So gentlemen, before you pop the question to your beloved, and ladies, before you say “Yes”, there are a few pre-marital questions you should ask each other.
Pre-marital questions to ask your partner
How important is your family to you?
In India, it is said that “You don’t marry a man, you marry his family.” While this mindset is slowly changing, it is important to be clear about the extent of involvement family members will have in your marriage. Will you be living nuclear, with parents, or in a big joint family? If you are planning to live with the family, discuss space and boundary issues — what role parents (or in-laws) will play in your everyday life and will they have a say in decisions that you make as a couple. Women today wish to take responsibility of their ageing parents, so ask if your partner is on the same page as you about that.
What about children?
It is no longer okay to assume that when you get married, kids will definitely be on the cards. People have different priorities and want different things in life. So be honest and share your views about starting a family. Do you both want children? How many? Does either of you want to adopt kids? How long do you want to wait before starting a family? And what about childcare? While you may not discuss finer details, you need to share your general views to avoid rude shocks later.
Raising children is a complicated journey, and we can never predict 100 per cent what kind of parents we will be. Yet, talking about parenting values, discipline approaches and your expectations from yourself and your partner as a parent will help you immensely as a couple, and later, as parents.
What are your career goals?
How do you view your work? Is working just a source of income or is it a passion? Is success important to your identity? These are vital questions to ask. Again, career progression evolves over time, and you may want different things out of your career at a later point in time, but talking about these issues helps to know the core values of your partner and those (usually) do not change with time.
What about name change?
Your name is your identity, and today, many women prefer to retain their maiden surname (and name) rather than taking on a new identity post marriage. If your partner wants to keep her maiden name and surname, is that a problem with you? Talk to each other about this. Ask with the intention of listening and understanding your partner’s point of view!
What is your take on god, spirituality and religion?
Ask your partner: do you believe in God? This can become a very important in the later years. This is especially so if one person is a strong believer and the other isn’t. That is why you would do well to air your beliefs about God and divinity, talk about your relationship with God and how much time and effort you invest in your spiritual development. Spirituality and belief in God may not have anything to do with following organised religion. So ask about that too. One of you may be heavily into idol worship and rituals, while the other may be deeply spiritual but may not believe in visiting places of worship or lighting lamps. If this bothers you, it is best to talk about it before you tie the knot, so that you can take an informed decision. If you both belong to different religions, these questions become even more pertinent. There are important things to be discussed, pertaining to conversions, faith to be followed at home and what religion would you want your children to follow.
Who will manage the finances?
Nothing can seem more unromantic than discussions about finances. Yet, financial transparency is a major contributor toward building trust and stability in the marriage. How will you contribute toward household expenses? Will you continue to have independent bank accounts, or will you share joint accounts? What about investments? Whose name will they be on? What about life insurance? Discuss these matters.
What is your approach toward money?
Some of us are keen savers and believing in saving for a rainy day even if it means sacrificing some comforts today. Others believe in living life to the fullest, spending on things that may not be necessities, but give us joy. Some of us operate from an “abundance” framework, and believe in spending freely. Some of us come from a “scarcity” framework and are always afraid of falling short of money at some point in the future. This is not to say that partners cannot come from differing backgrounds, but knowing this at the outset will help you benchmark your expectations from your spouse with respect to spending. Some ways to know about spending habits and preferences is by asking about:
- Holidays and Travel
- Impulse Shopping V/s Planned Shopping
- Thoughts on savings and investments
Friendships after marriage
The young generation today believes in “Work Hard, Party Harder”. This applies to men and women equally. Yet, no matter which century we live in, marriage brings in responsibilities with it — again both for men and women. So friendships may take a backseat. This is something to discuss. You may feel quite resentful if you see your partner still socialising but you being unable to do so due to work and/or household responsibilities. If friendships, going out and socialising is important to you, talk about it, and figure out how you will make it work for both of you.
Whose responsibility is cooking, cleaning, and household chores?
During courtship, this may seem like a frivolous issue to discuss, but ask folks who are married and you will know that it is anything but. Not all women are ready to assume the role of the caretakers and not all men are happy to give them a hand. So keep your preconceived notions aside and ask your partner what are her/his views on this.
What about sexual compatibility?
Ah, this could be a tricky one. If you have been sexually active as a couple before marriage, you probably know what your sexual preferences are. But if you believe in waiting till you get married, how do you talk about sex? If you know each other well, you might find it easier to have a conversation about any sexual fantasies, any sexual experiences you may have had with other partners, any expectations or beliefs you have around sex. This may be an awkward conversation, especially if you don’t know each other very well. However, it will be worthwhile to bite the bullet and have this conversation. Many marriages crumble because of sexual incompatibility, lack of chemistry, or even having very different attitudes toward sex.
What are your non-negotiables?
Last but the most important question to ask is this — what are you not willing to compromise on and where is there no scope for adjustment? We all have certain things in life that we hold absolutely sacrosanct and would not be willing to negotiate on. Identifying these is crucial. If you clash on the non-negotiables, then you need to figure out how to take the relationship forward, or ask yourself if it’s better to part ways.
Some examples of non-negotiable clashes could be:
- For Rohan, living separately from his parents was is a big no. Being the only son and especially after his parents had struggled hard to give him a good life while growing up, he wanted to give it back to them and live with them. But for Richa, her personal space and privacy were supreme so she could not agree to stay with her in-laws.
- Prachi is an ambitious career woman who believes in being financially independent. She also does not like the idea of merging finances. Abhay, on the other hand, expects that after marriage, they are going to be one entity and there should be no mine or yours, but ours, and that includes money.
These could be potentially choppy waters, and navigating through them at the outset will result in a smooth sailing for life. Asking these pre-marital questions during your courtship could give you a peep into what your married life will be like. So without wasting any more time, get going with these discussions.
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