If you are going to allow someone to get married to you, your finances, your children and your personal space, you’ll want to know as much as you can about them.
By reducing the unknowns, you reduce the risk of divorce (and any financial damage it may do). Asking smart (and sometimes tough questions) during courtship will allow you to make a reasoned decision about any prospective union — giving your new marriage the greatest chance for lifelong happiness together.
Of course, getting married is a personal choice and you’ll ultimately want to make the decision that is right for you. Having said that, here are the questions that I, as a divorce attorney, recommend couples ask each other before saying their “I dos”.
1. What’s Your Credit Score?
That three-digit number may not be the subject of your opening pick-up line, but before you spend too much time with a person, you will want to know how fiscally responsible they are.
And if he or she is not paying bills in a timely manner, you may want to consider the potential consequences of their bad credit score. Marriage won’t tie your credit scores directly together, but there are ways you can be indirectly affected by your loved one’s poor standing. (You can see how your credit score currently fares by viewing your free credit report summary each month on Credit.com.)
For instance, is your beloved’s credit score issue related to heavy debts you will have to weather together during your marriage? If they were to only pay minimum payments on their credit cards, would that debt be paid off in this lifetime? And while you’re on the subject of debt, find out whether he or she has co-signed on any loans because those debts can come back to bite you, too.
2. How Do You Manage Your Finances & How Will You Once We Are Married?
One of the complaints I hear often as a divorce attorney is that the other spouse’s finances were kept a total secret. While there is nothing inherently wrong with that, it is a problem if the other spouse does not want to remain in the dark, following a formal union.
A really frank discussion about who will pay the bills, how they will get paid and what access each of you will have to each other’s funds is critical to ensuring harmony on this topic. The dialogue around your finances should also include a plan for a savings and spending budget.
3. Do You Have (or Want) Children?
Children are a hot-button for some people. And as a family law attorney, I have heard it all on this issue. I had a client whose husband hid the fact that he had children from a previous marriage, until his new wife married him. I had a client whose spouse told her he wanted children, knowing she wanted them, and she found out 25 years into the marriage that he knew he was sterile before they got married. I have had clients whose spouses said they wanted children, but then changed their mind after they got married.
The decision to have (or not have) children is deeply personal and very emotional to people. If a spouse is robbed of their opportunity to have children when they wanted them, resentments against the other spouse can be intense and often insurmountable, causing the ultimate demise of the marriage.
You may also want to consider the issue of stepchildren. If one or both parties have children from a previous relationship, make sure to have open communications with the children and make plans for your future with them a critical consideration.
4. Have You Been Married Before? If So, What Led to the Divorce(s)?
While divorces are common today, you will still want to know your potential spouse’s history. For instance, answers like “I cheated on my spouse” or “he thought I was an alcoholic and tried to get me to go to rehab many times”, or “I was arrested and spent time in jail for domestic violence” may serve as big red flags.
5. How Will Close Family Members Handle a New Person in Your Life?
Anytime a couple has to endure the interference of a third party, it is a strain on the relationship. But if the spouse has parents, or children from a previous marriage, or others who are actively trying to put a wedge between the two of you, it may be more than a new marriage can handle.
6. What Are Your Private Sexual Preferences?
This may be an embarrassing topic for many, but many marriages end in divorce over this area. Make sure to discuss how often you want to be intimate, what you’re open to and listen to what your partner wants and their boundaries as well.
7. How Important Is Your Religion to You?
Religion can be a major area of divisiveness between couples. If one person is a religious zealot and the other is an atheist, the war of the Crusades could be revived right in your own home.
8. How Is Your Physical & Mental Health?
Many people don’t want to get into a situation where they are an instant nurse or caregiver, and they have the right to make that choice. Also, if your potential spouse has some sort of serious mental illness, you will want to know. Dealing with these issues without the right medication can be a lot to take on for people.
9. Do You Have Any Addictions?
I always say that there are three deadly sins of marriage – the Three As – Abuse, Addiction and Adultery. So if the person you are considering for marriage has an addiction problem, you better know that fact way ahead of time.
That isn’t to say you should categorically avoid people with addiction problems, but it’s important to know things like if they’ve admitted the problem, whether they’re committed to a specific program or recovery plan and how long they’ve been sober.
10. Have You Ever Been Arrested?
And if so, what for? What was the outcome? Again, their responses may unearth any red flags you should know about and help you make the right decision for you regarding a new marriage.
This story is an Op/Ed contribution to Credit.com and does not necessarily represent the views of the company or its partners.
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