Before Caleb and I were married in May of 2019, we went through extensive pre-marital counseling to assist us in discerning whether God willed us to be wed. (Also because it was required!)
In the Catholic Church, a couple does not partake in the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony with that popular secular ‘wisdom’ in the back of their heads: “there is always divorce if the marriage ‘fails.’”
Couples should discern their call to marriage together and with trusted advisors (i.e. priests, counselors, and spiritual directors). Forever is a long time. You’re going to want this person to be your best friend.
If you are unsure where to start, this is the first in two posts in which I have compiled questions that you need to ask/discuss with your partner before you walk down the aisle!
In this post I specifically discuss 5 spiritual and 5 household questions.
Note: If your boyfriend/girlfriend is not open to discussing these topics or seems defensive, this is a major red flag. Communication in marriage is not just a cliche old people tell you about–it is (in my recent experience) the hardest part of the beginning of a marriage.
Be sure to take your partner’s personality type into consideration when suggesting that these important questions be discussed, but don’t make excuses for them if they are treating this communication as useless.
Some Spiritual Questions to ask your boyfriend/girlfriend:
If you and your partner are not on the same page spiritually, it will (93.9% of the time) be very difficult to communicate about everything else.
Strong spirituality (unless you both have no feelings/belief in the supernatural or preternatural) defines your morals, ethics, parenting strategies, relationship roles, and so much more.
1. To what extent does faith play a role in your life? (Is that extent compatible to mine?)
Without spiritual clarity in your household, there will often be conflict and hurt feelings. If you are a devout Catholic, yet your partner is not sure if there is a God, the peace God offers to you will not translate as seamlessly to your spouse or visa versa.
As a spouse, this could contribute to feelings of insufficiency and stress.
Another common issue is assuming your partner will take on a greater faith once married. If strength of faith is something that is important to you and they have told you that they will change or get better…be careful! Don’t marry somebody that has spiritual practices (or lack thereof) that make you uncomfortable.
Ensure that your partner’s thoughts, words, and deeds in their daily life reflect what they profess spiritually. You do not want to marry somebody who lies to you or themselves about their beliefs.
If somebody is not mature enough to genuinely share where they are at in their spiritual beliefs, they probably aren’t ready to be married.
2. Are there any teachings that we disagree on?
There probably will be. After a year of marriage, Caleb and I are still getting into debates. (Usually over tradition not doctrine.)
If there are disagreements, go ahead and name them, then discuss. The spiritual life is the most intimate part of the human experience. Without discussing controversial or difficult topics before marriage, you are setting yourself up for some uncomfortable conversations later on!
Knowing about key disagreements before you are married assures that you have all of the information necessary to enter freely into an understanding relationship. Freedom is a key part of the validity of the Sacrament of Marriage.
3. Who is the ultimate authority in our life?
For Catholics, there is no question about this. God and the Tradition of the Church (which clarifies the Bible the divinely inspired Word of God) are the authorities.
If one partner is unwilling to submit to God’s will, it can complicate matters (especially financial and sexual). Discuss common pitfalls such as one or both partners devoting themselves to work, making money, or material pleasures instead of their spouse and the Lord.
In a Catholic marriage, the priorities should go:
- God & your spiritual life.
- Your spouse.
- EVERYTHING ELSE. (Kids, then work, then family/friends.)
4. What faith will we raise our kids in?
If you and your partner have different faiths, this is an incredibly important discussion to have. For most faiths, this is a matter of eternal importance.
Without a clear answer to this question, your children will be left to fend for themselves in an increasingly damaged, secularized society.
If both partners are Catholic (or share the same faith), the answer is simple! Make sure that you and your partner use all the time saved [on debating what religion to raise your children in] on discussing how fervent you wish to be. (Spoiler: the answer is: very.)
- How often will you take your crying children to Mass (I say always; if you are distracted on Sunday by educating your squirmy children about the Mass, you can always attend daily Mass for a more reflective time! More on that on Kendra’s blog: Catholic All Year. Why I Would Like to Fill All Cry Rooms With Cement)
As Dr. Taylor Marshall says: “If your Mass ain’t crying, it’s dying.” I don’t have kids yet, but check back with me in a couple years. I’m pretty confident we’ll be bringing our babies to the pews.
- Will they attend a public school or a Catholic school?
- What electronics, TV shows, and music will you permit them to absorb?
The above bullet points aren’t make-or-breakers in my opinion. If you don’t already have kids, hopefully, by God’s grace, the husband of the marriage will make a prudential decision with the wife’s input.
5. What do you believe about the spirituality versus legality of marriage?
For Caleb and I, divorce is not an option. Marriage is a permanent promise between you, your partner, and God. In this day and age, it is legal and socially acceptable to separate civilly from your spouse.
As Catholics (except in relatively rare extenuating circumstances), divorce is not allowed or, if filed legally, legitimate.
Other faiths believe that a legal action will dissolve the spiritual covenant the couple has promised with God. Make sure you and your partner are on the same page about this as you would not want to marry somebody who decides to leave you when the going gets tough.
Some Household-related questions to ask:
What are you and your partner’s expectations for your future home? Considering these houses will contain the environment in which you live and grow with your family, it’s important that the establishment of this house allows for each partner to feel at home, protected, and loved.
1. Who will take care of the finances?
Oftentimes, spouses will share the responsibility of budgeting, spending, and earning an income. If there is one party who would prefer to handle the specifics, there needs to be open communication about bank accounts, what each person is spending money on, and creating a budget that both parties agree on.
Before Caleb and I got married, I used Venmo. He doesn’t like Venmo (for various legitimate reasons), so he asked me to delete my account. Even though Venmo was so dang convenient, I got rid of it out of respect for Caleb’s vocation as husband and his authority in our household.
Over time, I began to agree with him about Venmo, and was happy I listened to him!
2. Who will clean the house and make meals?
If both spouses have full-time jobs (which I do not recommend in this post over at Catholic Late Night), it will be up to both parties to maintain a clean and pleasant living environment. Making food can be split by days or designated to one person. This segues into the next question…
3. Will one partner stay at home?
If there are young children to take care of, many women opt to stay at home with them, educating and raising them in person all day long. It would follow that if one party is the sole source of income, then, that the other party should contribute by maintaining the home and caring for the kiddos!
Considering humans are not robots and they need to relax and rest, deciding how to split this work (even if you are not sure where either of you will be working) is a crucial discussion to have before marriage.
Many people in our feministic culture assume that all women want to contribute to a family by earning another income. Consider the state of public schools/private Catholic schools and whether you believe they will nurture your children in a healthy way. This could be a potentially touchy subject (for either party), but be sure you do not assume what your partner will say…
If you have never discussed a topic with your partner, never assume you know how they will answer…I assume you know what they say about assuming (if not, I assumed incorrectly, proving my point, and you may feel free to Google it).
4. Where will we live?
Another common assumption is that your partner will agree with you about where you wish to live. Keep in mind the importance of proximity to family, work opportunities, and affordability.
For Caleb and me, this decision was relatively simple! We will be traveling wherever the Marine Corps sends us for the next eight years. (Currently, that’s meant Virginia and soon Florida!)
5. Will we have pets? What kind? How many? When?
This was a surprisingly controversial topic for my husband and I.
I love animals. We both discussed our dream of owning a ranch one day. In my perfect ranch picture, I have goats, horses, sheep, pigs, chickens, and tons of indoor/outdoor cats and dogs. I wanted to start my tribe of animals with getting a dog as soon as possible, but Caleb had other ideas.
Think about where you will be living. Ask your partner if they have any aversion to certain breeds of animal or (if you are not already aware) any allergies. Another important point of contention comes from indoor versus outdoor animals.
Discuss what you want the role of animals in your relationship. Are they simply there for protection or for a job (like a ranch dog), or are they present for companionship?
Again, pleeeeease don’t assume you know what your boyfriend/girlfriend will say. This was one of the worst, most random arguments Caleb and I have had since the start of our marriage.
That’s the First 10 Questions to Ask Your Girlfriend/Boyfriend Before Getting Married!
Ponder these 10 questions with your partner over a reasonable period of time. It is not always the end of the world when you disagree…unless it is. Don’t allow yourself to vacillate on foundational beliefs you hold to appease your partner.
If you cannot marry somebody who does not hold the same belief as you, that is okay!
Talk about it. Make prudential decisions. Feel free to ask any questions you have below, through my contact page, on Instagram, or on YouTube!
Click here for Part 2 of my questions to ask before marriage!