Welcome back to our feature “Guys Tell All” which is written by an anonymous panel of husbands. If you’ve got a question for our outspoken guys, just send it to firstname.lastname@example.org and it may be featured in an upcoming installment. Now on to this month’s question from a future fiancee:
Q: I’m not married yet, but I’m in a relationship that’s getting more serious. I know there are things I can’t imagine that we might fight about. As long-time married guys (I assume) what would you say are the top five questions I should ask a prospective husband before committing?
#1. Do you want to have kids?
Make sure you see eye to eye on this. Kids might not even be on your radar right now, but you still ought to discuss it. When only one side wants a child it can put an unbearable strain on the relationship and I’ve known couples to divorce on this issue alone. There are a million excuses to have kids or not have them but it’s prudent to make sure those excuses, pro or con, jive with your husband to be.
#2. How will our bills get paid?
I probably don’t need to mention how stressful finances can be. Got college loan bills? Both of you? Credit card bills? It doesn’t get less stressful when there are two of you. Does he have a plan for how you will live and plan for your future? What happens when the unexpected (see #1) happens? If you don’t control your money it will assuredly control you and rarely for the better.
#3. What do you expect of me?
Does he want you to be his mother or a working mother? Does it jive with what you want to do and how you see yourself? It’s wise to be honest about your expectations of each other. Everyone has different values and they can have profound ramifications. Being a housewife is fine, but, like anything, it’s only fine if that’s what you want too. Nothing builds resentment like someone feeling they’re forced to do things they don’t like.
#4. Where do think we’ll be in 10 years?
There’s a saying that goes something like: if you don’t have a plan go anywhere, you’ll end up somewhere you don’t want to be. Planning your future gives you a fighting chance of getting there. While it’s doubtful you’ll have a perfect crystal ball, striving for mutual goals strengthens relationships and gives you milestones to celebrate along the way. Waiting for life to happen to you can set your relationship adrift, often making you both wonder what you’re doing.
#5. Do you hate my parents?
The nagging mother in-law might be one of the biggest stereotypes of all time, but extended families are no laughing matter. Everyone has one obnoxious relative, but if he feels that way about all of them, odds are good there are a lot of things about you he doesn’t like, too. People can agree to disagree, but if Thanksgiving = war then maybe there are some deeper issues needing examination.
MAVERICK: Well, you say this guy is possibly “the one” so I assume you knowbasic stuff about him, that there are no conflicts on religion, that he has some sort of job you approve of and that he doesn’t clip his toenails in bed. Here are a few basic questions you can ask him and ask yourself to get an idea if you’re on the same page:
One pretty practical thing you need to know is if there are geographic issues with this guy. Is he tied to one place because of his family, or his career or his lifestyle? If you hope to live in different locales, simply to see the country, or to be adventurous, or to further your career or education it will be a huge stress factor if you marry somebody who wants/needs to stay put. The reverse is also true. If you are still attached to your family by an umbilical cord stretching no more than 200 miles and he intends to someday, in the next 20 years or so, move beyond that radius you need to take that under serious consideration.
You also need to know his money situation. Often this involves just opening your eyes. If you both have similar incomes, and you’re barely making it yourself, and for your courtship period he’s been footing most of the bills (be honest, has he?) chances are he’s in debt. Men assume you pay attention to this sort of thing. Most women don’t. Ask him about his money situation, and if he’s in hock, his plans for getting out of it. If the hole he’s dug is substantially deeper because of his relationship with you, and you bristle concerning pitching in and helping to fill it back in once you’re married, you don’t really love him or you’re a spoiled brat or both — move on for his sake and yours.
Ask him in detail about kids. At this point you should know if he’s open to the idea and how many. Folks do change their minds on this issue but you should have a working baseline of his feelings on children before you tie the knot. If you intend to stay home with the kids, make that clear and get his feelings on it and how you’ll make that happen, same thing if you intend to work outside the home full or part time. If you intend for him to stay home with the kids, you better kick that around too. Don’t be worried if he’s not really “kid friendly” when dealing with the little monsters right now. He’ll feel differently about his own when they arrive.
Ask him, in a worse case scenario, if he’d be willing to work two or even three jobs to keep a roof over your head and the heads of any children you might have. Watch his reaction. Does he say yes? Is he sincere? If you can’t read him by now he’s likely not really “the one.” His willingness to sacrifice for you and your future family is a good indication of his commitment to you. Now, ask yourself the same question. Would you do the same thing for him and your kids?
Really, I mean it. Would you work two or three crappy jobs you hate just to put food on the table and pay the light bill? If you won’t do the same for him, do yourselves a favor and walk — he shouldn’t be the only one willing to make extreme sacrifices.
See if he plans to substantially change after you get married. You are not asking will he continue to grow and mature and evolve as a human being and a man. Let’s hope he will. Instead, see if he intends to shift who he is, really change his core nature. Now, ask yourself if you want him to.
Women often claim to love key elements about the man they intend to marry that become huge stumbling blocks once they’ve said “I do.” Women love that he’s gregarious and has deep, close bonds with his friends — but they don’t expect him to spend any reasonable amount of time with his pals after he gets married. They love that he’s wild and free but expect him home 25 minutes after work once the vows are said, and he better sell that motorcycle ASAP. They love that he’s a bohemian free spirit with the soul of an artist and poet, but he better buckle down and get a real job so you can afford a mortgage and insurance. Bottom line, if you want him to grow up a bit, fine, but if you really want or need to “fix” him, well, you know the answer to that question, and if you don’t, well I sure hope the poor sap gets away.
JON: There are a myriad of questions you can ask your loved one. Taking time to get to know each other will only bring you closer.My wife and I bought a workbook that guided us through discussions on a wide variety of topics.
Now the internet provides a wide variety of lists of such questions or you can simply each write your own list. These can range from “where would you like to live and why?”, “if you wrote a book, what would it be about?”, or “what is the strangest thing you’ve done?” to much more serious topics.
Here are five topics my wife and I have visited multiple times:
- Money – How important is it to you and what does it represent? I see it as access to a good time my wife sees it as security.
- Children – Do you both want them? How many? When?Discipline? Education? Role of church?
- Relationship with In-Laws – How important is this to each of you?Will children change the equation? Where will holidays be spent?
- Fidelity – To me this includes more than just not cheating. You can only have one number one thing in your life.Is it work? Friends? Your spouse? A hobby?
- Intimacy – What makes you feel loved?How do you show love to others? What do you need/want?
Other topics could include chores/work around the home, how days off should be spent, diet and exercise, and religious beliefs.
Perhaps you and he could create a list of topics, rank them from most to least important and explain to each other why you put things where you did.
As you can see there are tons of questions you can ask and many ways to ask them. The important part is to begin to establish open and honest dialogue, regardless of the topic. This will be critical as your relationship moves forward.