1."So many things: How they want to be talked to and shown love and appreciation, how to handle conflict, boundaries such as space needed, time needed outside of the relationship, and what is considered cheating."
"Also: if children are wanted and how they will be raised and disciplined, how money or debt will be handled, and overall general everyday expectations like who will cook, clean, etc."
2."As a mental health skill builder, drawing from my own experiences, I believe it's crucial for couples to engage in open discussions about their core values and beliefs — particularly in the realm of politics and society — before marrying. While differing opinions are natural and can foster constructive dialog, addressing them upfront is essential."
"These discussions not only promote mutual understanding and the potential for productive compromises but also serve as a preventative measure against potential arguments and relationship strains that may emerge over time."
3."Expectations, shared goals, wants and needs for space, time alone time together, supporting one another, how to mold lives together being independent enough while also not living a life alone. Letting go of the past, including learned behaviors from your family of origin, as well as unhealthy coping patterns."
"There are many things, which sound like a lot, however, once they are resolved and agreed upon, you do not have to keep going back to them. As therapists, we know the greatest predictor of marital success, happiness, and fulfillment is simply kindness towards one another. Love the one you’re with — no one is perfect — and do not expect your spouse to be either."
4."My father was a social worker, and when we kids were getting married, he asked us to take a marriage test with our future spouses. The test was to measure our attitudes on things like how we handle money, how we would parent and whether we wanted kids, among other things. The test was surprisingly accurate, at least for my husband and me. We agreed on nearly everything except how we handle money, so we agreed when we married, we'd have three bank accounts: a joint account for household expenses and separate accounts for personal expenses."
"That way, I wouldn't have to justify why I was buying yet more books, and he wouldn't need to explain why he bought the super-deluxe version of the software he wanted."
5."I work in oncology, and relationships are greatly impacted when someone gets a diagnosis of cancer. Cancer, and illness in general, is more common as we age. Find out how they feel about doctors, medicine, hospitals, medical procedures, recuperating from an illness, being a caregiver, death, and dying."
"So, you won’t be surprised if you get diagnosed with an illness and your loved one who is afraid of hospitals or doctors or needles, won’t come to you with appointments or struggles to cope with your illness."
—42, New Jersey
6."I'm a marriage and family therapist. While there are SO many questions that need to be asked, one that comes to mind is not how the bills will be paid (as in whose money will pay the bills), but WHO will pay the bills. Who will set up auto-pay, who will get on the app on the due date and make the payment, and who will ensure due dates are not overlooked so we don't incur late fees?"
—46, New Orleans
7."Attachment styles and communication should be discussed. When conflict arises, patterns of behavior arise, and you need to know the root cause of where it started. Family culture needs to be a conversation as well."
8."Become acquainted with your style of communication in conflict. Are you someone who wants to talk things out NOW (a pursuer), or are you someone who shuts down and needs space to process things? (A distancer). Another version of this concept is called 'demand/withdraw' where one partner gets more insistent or even demanding of communication (because they’re anxious to resolve) and the other feels attacked or criticized, so they withdraw. Both dynamics end up getting people stuck in a neverending loop because they are each triggering the other person’s response over and over again."
"I try to help couples recognize this dance and teach them to label how they’re feeling and then communicate it to their partner in a more productive way."
9."Hands down, parenting. And not just the basics like what religion will they be, or do you believe in spanking or not. Talk in-depth about how each of you were raised, identify any blind spots your parents had, and how you might do things differently. Educate yourselves on different parenting styles and find one you both want to practice. Identify your own traumas and triggers, and talk about expectations you have both of yourself, and your partner."
"A lot of times women, end up taking on the bulk of childcare duties and are resentful of their husbands just continuing to live their normal lives. Be sure you’re talking about things to the last detail. Talk to a therapist if you want support in facilitating these discussions. Signed, an LMFT."
10."[Boundaries.] Allowing families/friends to get too involved in the relationship. Remember the saying, 'Too many cooks spoil the broth?' Yeah, exactly this."
11."Compromise. Refusal or inability to compromise is a ginormous red flag — one that, I believe, is empirically validated. Compromise is a significant predictor of satisfaction in relationships, and it plays an important role in the long-term success of marriages and relationships in general."
12."A lot of people don't think of this: actually talking about sex, not just having it. Do you enjoy the sex you have? Would you like to have more of it? Less? Would you like to se it change? Do you or the other person have any weird kinks? Just have the talk. Different sexual wavelengths can be difficult to reconcile."
13."[When it comes to handling arguments,] one of the bigger factors in a successful marriage are couples responding to 'repair attempts' during arguments/conflict. Rescue attempts are often little jokes or olive branches to help overcome issues and arguments."
14."Talk. About. Money. If you're marrying someone with a terrible credit score, you should know how and why they ended up with it, lest you find yourself in their shoes very quickly. A credit score can cost thousands and take YEARS to rebuild. Know if they have any tax liens or liability. Are they paying child support and do they have any kind of garnishment? Who is going to be responsible for managing the finances? How many credit cards does the other person have and what are their balances? I've seen money kill a lot of marriages."
15."'What happens if this all falls apart?' This is the question no one wants to talk about because you're in love, and you're planning to be together forever and never have any major life problems. But that's why it's the best time to make contingency plans. It now means that the decisions you make and foundations you put down for handling problems are based in love and respect versus the more negative feelings that you have when a separation happens or a major illness occurs."
"It's the kindest and most loving thing you can do for partner or for yourself."
Therapists, what are some other topics or questions couples should discuss before marriage? Let us know in the comments below.
Note: Some responses have been edited for length and/or clarity.