They say it takes a village to raise a child. That may be the case, but it takes a lot of solid, stable marriages to create a village.

- Diane Sollee,

Advice for Newlyweds

Questions you should ask before marriage

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  1. How much should you know about your spouse-to-be before you get married?

    Enough that you don’t have this feeling of “Gee, will s/he be upset if I ask about that?” Some people spend more time researching a new car purchase than they do learning about their future spouse. If you don’t know their dating and sexual history, – you haven’t asked enough questions and is indicative of how deep your intimacy really is. How they treated their previous partners is how they’ll treat you unless they made a conscious decision to behave differently. I’d want to know about that. I’d also want to know how they got along with their parents and siblings because that is where they learned their relationship skills – or didn’t. Either way, I’m impacted.


  3. What kinds of questions and inquiries are essential before you get married?

    If I had one, and only one question to ask it would be this: What was your contribution to making your past relationships go sour? If they are vague, press for more information. If they remain vague – run! I want to know if my partner can be accountable for their mistakes and grow from them. If their stock answer is about how bad their partner is, they haven’t looked at their part and are likely to repeat the same mistakes in marriage. So you’re looking for something like “He bullied me but I tolerated it. Now I ask for what I need, and can tolerate being rejected.” Then you need to look for evidence that they can actually do that.


  5. Are there any “deal-breakers” or differences that would be too hard for a newlywed to overcome?

    Definitely. Disrespect will tank a marriage. I wouldn’t commit to anyone with whom I hadn’t had several disagreements prior to marriage. I want to know if they can handle conflict in a timely and respectful way, with reactions that are appropriate to the situation. Some of that is part of growing within a marriage. But disrespect such as verbal and physical abuse will completely undermine trust and prevent intimacy. If you cannot trust your partner, you won’t be able to be honest, which both creates and sustains lasting love. Also, excessive spending, substance abuse, a pattern of infidelity and lying are major STOP signs that necessitate resolution before marriage, and dumping should remain an option! Marriage is a disagreement machine. You will have conflict. But there’s a big difference between inviting drama into your life (e.g. substance abuse) and arguing over how high to hang the painting over the couch. One annoys, the other destroys.


  7. Any other advice for newlyweds on having a happy and healthy marriage?

    Don’t ever marry for potential. If you can accept your partner as is, you’ll be thrilled if he gets even better in marriage and not disappointed if she doesn’t “grow out of it.” And really get to know your partner before marrying. The first three to six months, (until about two years) of a new relationship are powered by “love hormones” which prevent you from seeing your partner’s faults accurately. They are there to encourage procreation. So instead of seeing her as “laid back,” a balm to your “type A” temperment, you later discover she’s lazy and often unemployed! Let enough time lapse that you can know your partner when you are not in this “altered state of consciousness.”


Parts of this interview were published in “The Newlywed Game,” Page 4, Austin Monthly, February 2008. Click here to read the article.

Judith Sloan-Price, LCSW

Judith Sloan-Price, Austin LCSW
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