Getting engaged is one of the biggest milestones of your life – so it’s worth thinking carefully about it.
Is your relationship ready for it? Is this the right person for you? And are they on the same wavelength as you for the life you’re about to pave out with each other?
Yes, all these questions will be running around in your mind but don’t keep them to yourself, ask your partner, too.
Pre-engagement statistics have revealed that 30% of couples talked about getting engaged at least once a week (if not more frequently) beforehand so really there’s no reason to be shy about this stuff.
With 9/10 Americans (88%) citing love as the most important reason to get married, it’s clear to see that we may be romantics at heart, but ahead of making a lifelong commitment, it’s important to check if your romance – and companionship – will stand the test of time.
Take into account, however, that drilling them like a trivia game show may not be the best strategy.
Tell them something about yourself first so they feel comfortable
“Note that drilling someone with questions is a great way to make them feel cornered,” states Dr. Sheri Jacobson, founder of London counselling services Harley Therapy. “They might say things they don’t really mean as they are anxious, or even feel they have to lie to impress you. It’s a far better approach to share and tell them something about yourself first so they feel comfortable, then ask the question like “I am loving my job lately, the direction it is taking. How are you feeling about yours?”’
With this in mind, stay subtle and you won’t kill the moment when you want to propose (or when you’re about to be proposed to).
Will we have children?
Psychotherapist with clickfortherapy Kruti St Helen says it’s so important to discuss if you and your partner want to have children before committing to each other. “With this question, it’s important to not just say what you think you partner wants to hear. Not only is it important to talk about whether you want them but also at what point you do want them.”
It’s an issue that leads to a lot of relationship breakdown otherwise
Psychologist and relationship expert, Antonia Hall agrees: “Do you both want to start a family of your own? These are often dealbreaker key value points foundational in one’s life so make sure you’re aligned in your thinking and desires.”
Dr. Jacobson describes attitudes to family as probably one of the areas you really want to hash out in advance: “It’s an issue that leads to a lot of relationship breakdown otherwise. Do they want a family, how many children, what role does their family play in their life, how often do they agree to see in-laws or have family visit, how do they plan to raise their children, are they open to adoption etc?”
What were your past relationships like?
“It’s important to be honest and open about past relationships and for each individual to learn to accept that the other person had a life before the relationship,” according to St Helen.
The way we talk about people in our past says a lot about us
“Better than asking though is to observe how they speak about their exes without prompting,” says Dr. Jacobson.
“Are they positive about past experiences? Do they see them as a learning experience? Are they kind about their ex’s flaws? Or are they judgmental, angry or even mean? The way we talk about people in our past says a lot about us.”
How long have we been together?
The so-called “honeymoon phase” usually lasts about a year so it’s important to make sure your love can outlive this expiry date. And, the longer couples wait to make that first serious commitment, whether that’s cohabitation or marriage, the better their chances of marital success according to The Atlantic.
How important is religion?
“If two people are from different religious backgrounds then the spouses may experience conflict over religious traditions when they have children. Therefore, it is important to ask how to handle the children religious education etc beforehand,” says St Helen.
Do you have any debt?
“Discussing finances is crucial and many couples fail at this,” St Helen explains. “Disclosing debts is very important if there is discrepancy between your income. If it is not discussed, it will only cause hostility and resentment.”
How do they see the sharing of resources working?
Dr. Jacobson says going into detail about financial standing is important: “Money can be a source of so much conflict in relationships so being clear on how you like to use this important resource and how you see the sharing of this resource working in a marriage is a good conversation to have before getting engaged.
“How do they see the sharing of resources working? What sort of things do they want to save for? Do they share your views on investing and saving?”
Do we share the same personal values?
And yes, this can involve politics too.
“What matters in relationships is not if we have the same daily life or grilling someone with questions to see if you share habits. What truly matters is that you share the same personal values,” says Dr. Jacobson.
“Personal values are the things we hold as deeply important and which, whether we realise it not, affect the way we see everything, and all the decisions we make. Examples of values are charity or capitalism, adventure or stability, family or independence.”
How much privacy do we need?
You know how people say you start resembling your partner? Well, this may be because you’re joined at the hip – or share mutual friends and hobbies.
Couples may have different interpretations to privacy
It’s important to outline if this is the style of relationship you want from the get go to avoid any confusion later down the line.
“Many people hope to keep their autonomy in certain areas in their life when they get married,” says St Helen. “This means they are unwilling to share hobbies or friends – and this can lead to tension. Couples may have different interpretations to privacy and this is something that should be discussed beforehand.”
Do you like my family?
There’s a reason ‘monster-in-law’ got made into a film.
“Sometimes when your partner does not like their in-laws, it can become unmanageable,” reveals St. Helen. “It can affect long term relationships hugely, therefore it is important to discuss how the in-laws will affect your relationship.”
Hall reiterates that this is a sticking point saying how imperative it is that both people in a partnership are on the same page about family. “How important is family in your life, and how much time will extended family be a part of your shared lives?”
What is your expectation from sex?
No, we’re not saying you should write up a sex contract 50 Shades style but rather just have a grown-up conversation about each other’s libidos and how you see negotiating them in the future.
A healthy relationship will include discussion of what partners enjoy about sex
Although the myth that marriage kills sex is common, actually, “Couples are expected to remain sexually active,” states St. Helen.
“A healthy relationship will include discussion of what partners enjoy about sex as well as how often they expect to have it.”
Do we want the same from life?
“It’s really important that couples are on the same page about the things they most value in life,” states Hall. “If one of you is seeking stability and the other adventure, your lifestyles are not likely to align for long.”
Where do you see us 10 year from now?
“This discussion can give you an opportunity to raise the question of whether each partner will consider divorce if the relationship deteriorates or whether they expect marriages to be for life (come what may),” says St. Helen.
Do we have the same views on fidelity?
Clinic director and psychologist at The Chelsea Psychology Clinic, Dr. Elena Touroni says it’s so important to understand if you have the same beliefs on matters that may arise in your relationship.
What are their make-or-break issues? And do you share the same views on different aspects of life? Talking about the more awkward topics will help you deal with them in future (or will save you a whole lot of pain to come.)