So you love her, and you’re starting to see a future. How do you make absolutely sure she would make the right partner?
Here are some questions you should ask her before you pop the question.
What would you do if you won N50,000,000 in the lottery?
You must find out her financial priorities.
One of the biggest problems couples have is money and, specifically, differences in styles of spending and attitudes about their budget. You’ll learn how she views money, saving, and long-term investing.
Will all of it go toward cars and trips, or most toward retirement? It’s not essential that you share the same investment strategies. What’s important is to use the conversation to prompt a discussion about financial behavior: how you pay bills, invest the year-end bonus, or decide on major purchases. If your attitudes don’t mesh, now’s the time to get the issues on the table and build a consensus.
What’s your favorite holiday? How does your family spend it?
It’s important to learn about her family roots.
Where you spend the holidays can be a huge political issue. The underlying issue is whose family comes first, and that stands for who has the power in the relationship.
Do you believe in God?
This helps you find out how compatible your faiths and religious rituals are.
In a study of 120 married couples, those who shared religious holiday rituals reported more marital satisfaction than the pairs who practiced holiday rituals separately.
It’s not necessarily the religion itself that’s key—though the particular religion you practice can certainly be a huge issue with her family—it’s all the things that go with it. When you engage in celebrations and rituals, there’s usually a lot of planning involved, something to look forward to that’s meaningful to discuss.
What’s your dream job? Where would you most like to live?
You need to know her goals, and how far she’s willing to go to reach them.
Just asking shows support for her career, an important factor. Those who felt they had more support had greater satisfaction than those who felt unsupported.
It’s also a good time to find out how far she’s willing to move away from her family. It’s a very under-appreciated area of stress—where are you going to live, whose family are you going to live near—yours or hers?.
What was your dad’s work schedule like?
You need to find out whether she’s already lived with a man who had the same work ethic and schedule as yours.
Maybe her dad worked a 7-to-3 shift every day of his life, came home and played with the kids until they went to bed, and never worked weekends. Maybe he owned a business and set his own hours so he was always home for dinner.
But your job—or your future job—may require late meetings, 60-hour workweeks, and business trips. And that can put stress on a relationship.
“Working until 9, 10, sometimes later, night after night, is a constant source of stress with my wife,” a friend of mine in publishing told me. “She still doesn’t understand that this is the nature of the business at deadline time. It’s not the life she was used to.”
Interests and Dreams
How do you envision your life in 5 years?
This will help you find out whether she wants to be a career girl or a stay-at-home mom or a mom with a career.
You should know whether she expects to live in a big house or an apartment in the city. More and more research shows that the “opposites attract” notion is a myth. Successful couples usually have more similar priorities than not.
A couple has to have similar goals and a long-term plan, worked out together, to reach these goals. And, even more important, a similar tolerance for risk and sacrifice. If you don’t share the same values, they’ll be a constant source of conflict in terms of how you spend your time and money.
What do you think of spanking as punishment?
You need to hear her thoughts on disciplining kids.
We assume you’ve worked out whether you both want children, and maybe even how many. (You have done this, right?) But how you’ll discipline them is a topic that’s often overlooked. Bring it up the next time you see an stubborn, unruly child at a restaurant. Ask her how she’d handle it and how she was disciplined as a child.
Either we tend to follow the way we were raised, or, if something was objectionable about the way we were raised, we do the opposite. Different parenting styles can cause the most strain on a marriage because they can be a daily, even hourly, source of conflict.
What do your parents like to drink?
It’s important to know if there’s a history of alcoholism in her family.
Health problems like depression and alcoholism have a strong genetic component. If her mother had depression or her father was a chronic alcoholic, there’s a good chance it could creep up and become a problem.”
It’s not a relationship killer, but talking about hereditary health risks early will make it easier to discuss the same conflicts should they pop up in your relationship.
Your Potential In-Laws
How have your parents reacted to your previous boyfriends?
You should find out whether they’ll think the current boyfriend is good enough for their little princess (and whether they’ll pay big bucks for the wedding).
If her parents don’t approve, there’s a potential problem,. Not that that’s necessarily a deal breaker. Who are you marrying, her or them?
What’s more important is to learn something about your girlfriend by how she responds. Is she the kind of girl who wants to please Mommy and Daddy? Or is she secure enough with herself to make her own life decisions?
What was your relationship with your father like?
This helps you find out her attitude toward men.
Especially toward the one who mattered most (before you). If her father was distant and cold, she may seek male approval. If her father was abusive or a cheat, she may have trouble trusting men.
If there’s any unfinished business in her relationship with her father, it could manifest itself in your relationship. When people get into serious relationships, they tend to look to their mate to give them everything they need. Couples get into trouble when they don’t look closely at these tendencies early on.
You also should consider her relationship with her mother, which could have the very same implications. If she can’t pee without calling her mother to tell her all the details, that’s not going to change after you walk down the aisle.