If I had a dollar for every time I heard someone say, "If I knew that about him (or her) before we got married, I wouldn't have been so quick to go ahead with the wedding," or something to that effect, I wouldn't necessarily be rich, but you probably get the point.
There are a lot of reasons why we intentionally choose not to ask questions of our prospective life-partner that we would like to have answers to, including fear of being perceived as being intrusive, or pushy, or disrespectful, or demanding, or inappropriate or just too much.
And yet, engaging in the dialogue that can ensue from these questions can be the very thing that we need to do in order to support the health and vitality of our relationship and to minimize the likelihood of being "broadsided" by some very unsettling revelations further down the road.
Contrary to popular belief, what you don't know can hurt you, and seeking to diminish the scope of what we don't know can help us to avoid, anticipate, or prepare for predictable challenges that could show up further down the road. While it is by no means always easy of comfortable to introduce sensitive issues or highly personal concerns, in doing so we are revealing a lot about ourselves, including our willingness to go out on the edge with our questions and concerns. We are also implicitly stating that we are willing to answer them ourselves and letting our partner know that we value honesty, self-disclosure, and openness in a relationship.
Of course, timing is everything and we do not recommend you applying this questionnaire on a first date. It is meant to be implemented at the time at which a long-term committed partnership is being contemplated for any of the questions that haven't already been answered. There are no "correct" or "incorrect" answers to these questions. They are intended to promote a dialogue that can help both you and your partner to answer the question, "How good a fit are we really, and can we manage to find ways to bridge the gaps that may be present in our relationship?
Feel free to modify this list or add questions of your own!
How did your partner and people in your partner's family deal with differences between each other?
Differences inevitably show up in relationships, whether they are relationships between spouses, between parents and children, co-workers, friends, roommates, or neighbors. We all learn by observation and tend to be inclined to replay the patterns that were practiced in our family of origin. Examples include avoidance, denial, manipulation, confrontation, reconciliatory, intimidation, threatening, submission, authoritarian, accommodation, and domination. Patterns are not set in stone and can be modified but most of do have a predisposition to play them out until we expand our repertoire of responses.
If you have children, how will childcare responsibilities be fulfilled?
How is your partner's current relationship with her parents? If they are not living, how was it before they died?
If your partner has siblings, what is the nature of their current relationship with each other?
Does she consider herself a 'spender' or a "saver"?
Does he believe in giving (and receiving) unsolicited opinions or advice?
When it comes to dealing with differences or conflict, does he consider himself on the "avoidant" end of the spectrum or the "volatile" end, or in the middle?
What is the best way to support your partner when they are feeling stressed out or upset?
How does she feel about the distribution of housework responsibilities?
How would she characterize the nature of her parents' relationship?
How does he feel about having friendships with people of the opposite sex?
Do they have a life purpose, and if so what do they see it as being?
What is it about you that makes them want to spend their life with you?
Is there anything about you that they are concerned might be a problem for them in the future?
Are there any subjects that are "off-limits" to discuss and if so, what are they?
If your partner has had previous committed partnerships what is the current nature of their relationship?
How significant a part of their life does religion play?
If you have children what religious tradition(s) will they be raised in?
How will financial resources and obligations, personal and joint, be handled?
If either of you have a parent who is in need of care how would want it to be handled?
How important do you consider sex to be for a fulfilling life and relationship?
How willing would your partner be to seek professional help if you hit a bump in the road that you were unable to get through?
What are your partner's thoughts and views on pornography?
How does you partner most enjoy having love shown to them?
Do you have any "deal-breakers" and if so what are they?
What is your picture of where we will be in our lives and in our relationship in 2030?
This by no means a complete list, but it is a good starter kit.
Feel free to ask questions of your own and
Linda and Charlie Bloom are excited to announce the release of their third book, Happily Ever After . . . and 39 Other Myths about Love: Breaking Through to the Relationship of Your Dreams.