Considering marriage? Ask your partner these questions first : Life Kit These conversation starters get at the heart of your values, including how you deal with conflict, your attitude toward gender roles and your relationship with money.

Want a marriage that lasts? 5 questions to ask your partner before getting hitched

Want a marriage that lasts? 5 questions to ask your partner before getting hitched

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Illustration of a couple sitting on the grass seen from above. One person is mowing the lawn and another is watching them from a distance. The lawn mower forms a loopy heart shape as the person mows the lawn.
Malte Mueller/Getty Images/fStop

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What does it take to be — and stay — married?

Carol Bruess has been working to answer that question for years. She's a professor of marriage and family communication and a marriage social scientist.

She likes to remind couples that marriage is a lifelong conversation. So you want a partner who's willing to be in that conversation with you, no matter how difficult it is or how it changes over time. Are they willing and ready to put in that work?

If you're thinking of getting hitched, Bruess offers five essential questions for you and your partner to talk through first — openly and honestly.

1. Is there anything that you (or I) are not willing to give up once we're married?

This question gets at your non-negotiables, and respecting what each of you needs in order to thrive. Identify your core needs and what's driving them, and make sure you and your partner are aligned on that being a part of your life.

2. Can you handle me doing things without you?

We all have simultaneous needs for connection and autonomy. These opposing needs both always exist — so find a balance with your partner. It's a red flag if they don't want you to have autonomy.

3. When conflict arose, did your family use the silent treatment, calmly discuss disagreements or slam doors?

Have this discussion before you're already in a fight. Our first lessons in conflict were from the family we grew up with – and that becomes our default mode for handling disagreements unless we intentionally work on changing it. Bruess says fighting is normal, and that the trajectory of your marriage is not predicted by how much conflict you have, but how you act and express yourselves in that conflict.

4. What is the most you'd be willing to spend on a lamp, a pair of shoes, or a pair of jeans?

Talk openly, early and often about what money means to each of you. Because most of the time money is not about the actual dollars and cents if you have enough to meet your basic needs — it's about the emotions behind it.

5. If we have children, are you willing to change diapers at 3 a.m. and miss an important meeting if our kid is sick?

Most couples go into marriage wanting to share tasks equally. But many heterosexual couples in particular discover that over time, with household chores and raising children, some of the more traditional gender roles sneak in. It's no surprise that research shows in the happiest marriages, partners share the mundane (or stinky) responsibilities of life equally. This question comes down to respecting your partner's time, talents and needs.


Our host is Marielle Segarra. The audio portion of this episode was produced by Mia Venkat and edited by Meghan Keane. The digital story was edited by Danielle Nett. Our visuals editor is Beck Harlan. We'd love to hear from you. Leave us a voicemail at 202-216-9823, or email us at LifeKit@npr.org.

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