Looking back, there is so much my husband and I didn’t know about marriage until we were married! I’m talking about things like how important it is to be on the same page with money, to feel heard by your spouse and much more. That’s why we think these seven questions are really helpful to talk about before getting engaged.
1. Do you feel heard by me, and do I feel heard by you?
Few things make a relationship as difficult as one spouse ignoring the other’s feelings, thoughts and concerns. You want to be with someone who really listens to you, someone who seriously cares about what you feel and think on any given issue. If you don’t feel heard or if you feel like your opinion isn’t important to your boyfriend, that’s something you need to talk about with him.
2. How do you spend your money?
It’s crucial to talk about finances before you get married. My husband likes to say that it’s a terrible idea to marry someone who’s a poor manager of their money—and I’d have to agree.
Now, we have to clarify: You can be a good manager of your money whether you’re rich or poor. This has nothing to do with how much you have; it’s about how you treat the things you do have.
Here are some questions to talk about. Ask them both of your boyfriend and of yourself!
- Does he have debt? If so, how much, and where did it come from? How recent is it? What kind of debt is it (credit cards, student loans, etc.)? Lots of people have debt, but you want to find out the story behind it. Did it come from spending more than he made for years of his life? If so, has he shown long-term positive change?
- When a brand-new, expensive item comes out, does he have to have it? What if it’s outside of his budget? When people always need to have the latest and greatest things, it’s usually a sign that they’re trying to fill a hole in their hearts with stuff—and that’s a sign of a deeper problem.
- What things are important to him financially? For example, how much does he want to keep in savings? What financial goals does he have (house, kids, mission work, etc.)? Does he tithe or give money away, and if so, where to?
God calls us to be wise stewards of what He gives us. And when one person (or both people) in a marriage are spending more than they have, or buying things the other considers unimportant, that can create a huge amount of stress in the relationship. So it’s important to talk about these things and make sure you’re both on the path to good money management.
If this is a struggle for you, you’re not alone! Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace course is a great place to start learning how to manage your money. You could even take the course together!
3. Do you have any addictions?
Specifically, talk about his relationships to pornography and alcohol. Are these things he struggles with, and if so, what has he done to get help?
Here are some signs to look for in his life (and in your own):
- Isolation vs. Accountability: If he thinks he can beat these struggles on his own, that’s a big warning sign. We need other people to help us. On the other hand, if he says, “I’ve struggled in the past, but I have accountability in my life now,” that’s a good sign.
- Honesty vs. Secrecy: If he’s very secretive about his habits with porn or alcohol, that’s typically a sign that those things still have power over him. But if he’s willing to talk with you openly about them, that’s often a sign that he is working through them.
- Present vs. Past: Find out how recently he’s struggled with these things and how frequently. Is this still a regular struggle for him or is this an occasional struggle? Is this an issue in his past or his present?
It’s human nature to struggle with addictions of all kinds—from porn to food to attention from the opposite sex. When our hearts are not filled by God and healthy relationships with other people, it’s very easy to worship (and then become addicted to) any number of other things.
But if he is deep into addiction (especially porn, alcohol or drugs), that’s going to have a huge effect on your relationship. That won’t just go away when you get married. It will affect every part of your marriage, from trust (which is the foundation of a good marriage) to his ability to give and receive love.
It’s so important for him to get the help he needs to heal—and you cannot be the person pushing him to get that help. He needs to decide he wants it for himself.
4. What are you looking for in a marriage?
My dad has this theory that everyone is looking for something specific out of a marriage; they just don’t always realize it until the expectation goes unmet.
My dad says some people are looking for a soulmate—a partner in romance. Some people are looking for a business partner—someone to share all of life with, but especially the big decisions. And some people are looking for a playmate—someone they can do fun things with.
Chances are, you and your boyfriend might be looking for different things. That’s okay and totally normal; it’s just helpful to be aware of your different expectations and talk about how you can help the other person feel loved and fulfilled within marriage.
5. Do you expect marriage to fix something in your life?
For a long time, I thought that once I got married, I’d never be lonely again. One day I was talking with a friend who was a couple years into a beautiful marriage, when she told me something very surprising. “Marriage doesn’t take away loneliness,” she said. “I still get lonely. That’s something I need to work through with Jesus.”
It’s also easy to think marriage will fix problems in the relationship. Maybe the couple is arguing a lot or struggling with jealousy or lust, and they think, “If we just got married, this would all get better.” But marriage doesn’t magically “fix” anything; instead, it brings heart issues to the surface.
Sometimes issues like loneliness or lust will disappear for a few months or even a couple of years in the excitement of a new marriage, but then they’ll resurface again. A change in circumstances can’t change our hearts. And these heart issues are things we’ll need to work through with God and trusted people, whether we’re married or single.
6. If we weren’t attracted to each other physically, would we still want to be together?
I do think it’s important to be attracted to your spouse. HOWEVER, as you get serious in a relationship, it’s important to make sure there’s a lot more to your relationship than just physical attraction.
So discuss this question: “What if we were no longer attracted to each other physically?” Many longtime married couples have said they went through seasons when they didn’t feel particularly attracted to each other.
During those seasons, you want to make sure that you really enjoy being with this person. Ask yourselves, “If there was no physical chemistry between us, is this still a person I’d want to spend the rest of my life with? Would we enjoy spending daily life together?”
7. What role does Jesus play in your life?
Hopefully you’ve already talked about your faith at this point in the relationship. But now it’s time to go a little deeper.
Who is Jesus to each of you? Is He someone you “visit” on Sundays or is He the centerpiece of your daily life? Is He someone you pray to in emergencies or is He someone you share every moment and decision with?
If Jesus is everything to you, that will impact every decision you make. It’ll impact how you spend your money, how you raise your children and where you spend your time. Every part of marriage will be affected by your answer to this question, so it’s crucial to make sure you and your boyfriend are on the same page.
All of these questions should be asked of your boyfriend—but also of you.
Make sure to talk honestly with your boyfriend, and see if these seven conversations bring up any “red flags” in the relationship. If they do, it’s important to begin working through those issues before moving forward to an engagement. It can be very helpful to talk through these questions and any red flags with an older, wiser couple that you trust.
It’s also extremely helpful to get input from people who know you well. Often people on the outside will see issues long before we can see them ourselves. Ask some people you trust how they think you guys are doing in these seven areas.
Now it’s your turn! What other important conversations would you add to this list? Which question stands out the most to you, and why?