Before we start, no, I'm not married. However, I've heard of/ read about so many couples having issues nowadays that could've easily been prevented by discussion prior to marriage. While a broken light bulb doesn't necessitate a new house, sometimes the problem may be more than a light bulb.
Therefore, I reached out to married couples and did some research to compile a list of issues to talk about, questions to ask, and things to consider before you get married to someone; no matter how much you love them, and how awkward these may seem, it seems that there are common issues married couples face. By discussing these beforehand, issues like those may be avoided entirely! Or if not, at least a couple will know that they're coming and may have planned how to handle them in advance. Some of these may be small, while others may be bigger; it all really depends on the couple!
This should seem obvious, but perhaps I'd better say it just in case- none of these issues are just black and white. What I've listed below should really be a starting point for you to have an important conversation that will hopefully provide clarity, not points to make final verdicts on.
1) Your partner's values:
Everyone grows up with a set of values, and these may differ from person to person. Your values need not necessarily be the same, but it does help to consider those that your partner thinks are important. Do they value struggle as much as you do? Are they as family-oriented? Do you respect each others' values? These and other such questions should be thought about.
2) Do they respect your thinking and your work?:
Does your partner recognise you as a person independent of them, and respect your thinking and the work you do? A marriage may be the union of two people, but at the end of the day, they are two different people.
3) How open minded are they?:
I think this one speaks for itself, doesn't it? What are your partner's views on gender equality? Are they racist? Homophobic? Intolerant of other faiths?
4) Pet peeves:
This seems silly, but do you have any habits that drive your partner crazy, and vice versa? Knowing these is key to avoiding (or at least minimising) them! Sometimes just knowing these ahead of time can help you both decide what to do to work around them.
After marriage, both partners will (most probably) be living in the same home, and maintaining a home requires doing chores. Who will do which? Will it be equally balanced? Does one of you absolutely hate doing chores and procrastinates them as much as possible? What standards do you have about how well you like things done, and how can you compromise on these?
6) How they handle fights:
Married couples fight, and these fights are different from those of a couple that does not live together. However, people have different ways of reacting to tense situations. Some avoid them until the last minute possible, some shout at the top of their voice, some argue calmly and rationally. How does each of you handle anger? Is it easy for both of you to say sorry? Or does stubbornness kick in? It's important to realise that communication becomes even more vital in such a situation, and knowing HOW your partner communicates in tense situations can be very helpful.
Yes, no, how many? Do you want to have biological children? Adopt? How will you raise them? Who will discipline them? What faith will they be raised in? What middle name and surname will they have? Maybe one of you wants kids, the other does not. This is a pretty big deal, and needs to be talked about before such a long commitment. Imagine how awkward it would be if you turn to your spouse one day and tell them you're thinking of names for your future offspring, and they casually mention that they don't plan on having any...
8) The living conditions each of you are used to:
The neatness of your home, the light conditions you prefer, your favourite kind of mattress (this one is more important than you'd realise!), your TV habits, how you use your space, when you eat, WHAT you eat, whether or not to have a TV in the bedroom are just some of the issues to consider when living with another person. Obviously, some compromises will have to be made on each side, and each partner will have to decide what they can compromise on and what they can definitely not give up on.
9) Do you love them just as they are? Or hope they will change after marriage?:
Sometimes, people hope that certain habits of their partners will magically change after marriage. Unfortunately, this doesn't always happen. Ask yourself whether you'd be happy spending the rest of your life with your partner as they are.
10) Do they have a mind of their own and challenge you? Or agree with everything that you do? Are they comfortable with having different likes and dislikes from you?:
As mentioned before, a marriage is a union of two different people. Some people prefer partners who challenge them, while others may prefer partners who always agree with them. Recommended reading: I loved Social Intelligence by Daniel Goleman. It's an interesting book that can help you get to know the people around you even better.
Money is an awkward topic, even with family. However, it's vital to discuss. What is your financial situation and that of your spouse? Can you both sustain the lifestyle you hope to maintain? Are any of you in debt? How do you plan to cover that? What are your saving habits? How do you budget? What financial commitments (like supporting family) do you already have?
12) Will you have time to spend by yourself and with your friends/family without your partner?:
Marriage is a big deal, but it shouldn't involve giving up the relationships you had previously, with your family, your friends (of any gender), and yourself. Studies done show that when two people only focus on each other and their relationship, their other relationships suffer; and their overall happiness declines (I forget which studies these were, but I recently covered them in a class and could look them up for you if need be).
13) Religion and faith:
What faith do you believe in, and is it important that your partner also follow the same? If not, how different are you willing to let your faiths be?
14) Family obligations:
You will still have obligations to your family, be they financial, time-wise or otherwise. How does your partner feel about these (and vice versa)? Similarly, as a couple, to what extent are you willing to let your families be a part of your relationship?
Will you change your surname to theirs, or vice versa? Will both of you keep your own? Will both of you take one partner's middle name and the other's surname? These are important issues, and it's important now more than ever to realise that in a 'traditional marriage,' it isn't fair to expect the woman to do all the changing.
16) Career aspirations and ambition:
What career aspirations do you have, and does your partner support these? If one partner gets a fantastic job offer in a different place, will the other partner be willing to give up their job and move?
17) What do you do in your free time?:
How do you and your partner intend to spend your free time together?
18) Where will you live?:
Will you buy a house together, or move into one of your homes? Will you live with your parents or your partner's? If this is a long distance engagement, who will do the moving once time comes to do so?
19) How does your partner display affection?:
You may have heard of the 5 love languages
(words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time and physical touch). You and your partner may prioritise these differently, so it's important to recognise how your partner displays affection and what's important to them (and vice versa of course). At times, you may feel frustrated, and that your partner isn't loving you as much as you'd hope. Realising that the way someone displays affection is different from yours can go a long way!
20) Sense of humour and optimism/pessimism:
How does your partner interact with the world, and how does this match up with you?
Of course, this list is by no means comprehensive. However, hopefully it can serve as a starting point! Have any suggestions that can be added to this list? Leave a comment on this post!
Jan 2016 add on:
If you haven't already, I think that you should definitely read Social Intelligence by Daniel Goleman and Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg. These books discuss issues that may well arise in relationships, and I've found them extremely helpful!