Here are the ten most important questions to ask your partner before you walk down the aisle according to Dr. Tammy Nelson, a Ph.D. Board Certified Sexologist, Licensed Relationship Therapist, author, and more.
What did you learn about love growing up?
We learn what it means to love as children. When we grow up we love our partner in the ways we learned to love, projecting our need for that specific type of love to be returned to us. Our partners may be trying as hard as they can to love us, but they are loving us in the ways they were loved, never knowing how they might be disappointing us.
A simple solution: there are four resources in a relationship – time, attention, affection, and sex. Ask yourself, which is the most important to you? They may be loving you in the best way they know how, but it might not be in the way you need. If you need time with your partner to feel loved, let them know.
What were the best and worst parts of your past relationships?
Your relationship history contains crucial information about what works for you and what doesn’t in your romantic relationships. Sharing these important factors with your partner gives them clues to what you need and what to avoid in the future.
Hint? Tell the story of your last relationship; what did you appreciate and what did you learn? What caused the demise of your past loves? How did you contribute to the end of the relationship? What do you want to do differently this time?
Who do I remind you of, your mother or your father? Or another caretaker?
We choose someone who has the positive and negative traits of our caretakers. We recreate our primary relationships to try and get the love we didn’t feel as children. Sometimes this works and sometimes it can cause frustration. When we have an awareness of our relationship patterns we can avoid the problems we might create unknowingly.
Talk to each other about what you longed for in your childhood that you didn’t get in order to understand what you may be looking for in this current relationship.
Are you a seeker or a nester?
Some of us are constantly looking for new experiences, adventures, and ways to wake up our brains with unique moments. Others are nesters, who like to stay home, who appreciate consistency, and tend to be good at homemaking, like making bread or planting a garden. Seekers and nesters tend to be attracted to each other.
Have a discussion about how each of you will affect the other. Which of you will need to go out more often, and which of you will prefer to stay home on the weekends? Who gets bored easily and who can entertain themselves?
What’s your favorite sexual fantasy?
Couples who have a good sex life stay together longer and report a more positive relationship. Sharing your fantasies is a great way to stay connected and improve the relationship, creating more excitement for the rest of your lives together.
Practice talking about sex. Tell each other something you appreciate about a time you have had sex in the past. You always get more of what you appreciate, and your partner will get a bonus – extra information about what turns you on.
Are you a top or a bottom?
One should not assume that just because one gender is traditionally more likely to initiate sex or be ‘on top’ that your partner prefers to be more dominant in bed. They may actually prefer to be more submissive during sex, wanting you to take a more active role in planning, initiating, and acting out scenarios during your sexual contact.
Talk to each other about your preferences. You may both like to switch back and forth between being dominant and submissive, or you may have a preference for one or the other. Play with both and see what feels best for each of you.
How do you feel about monogamy?
Have a conversation about what monogamy means. Open monogamy is an excellent way to define an agreement where you have a primary partner and a flexible agreement. It’s better to talk about what that might look like instead of assuming you each agree. Talking about how you define monogamy going forward means you discuss everything explicitly. Even if you each want a traditional marriage with closed monogamy, you should agree on what that looks like.
Talk about what ‘online monogamy’ looks like. Should you share your social media with people you are attracted to? Should you send pics to exes? Can you have friends online that you flirt with? The more open you are up front, the less risk of betrayal later on.
Conflict avoidant or maximizer?
Never arguing with your partner might sound positive, but it could be a sign of something unhealthy in a relationship – a need to avoid conflict. People who are conflict-avoidant will withdraw and create space around themselves because they don’t want to argue. They would rather ignore the problem or minimize it than risk having a fight. This could be interpreted by their partner as being ignored, or abandoned. The abandoned partner may maximize, getting louder and more intense, because they don’t feel heard. This sets up a pursue and withdraw dynamic that could last the rest of your lives together.
Identify which side you swing toward; are you a maximizer or a minimizer? Try to move toward what your partner needs from you. Can you come out of your avoidant place for a few moments and stay in it, to give your partner the confidence they need that you are there for them? If you are the pursuer, can you learn to self-soothe a little bit longer and give your partner some space?
What did you not get as a child that you wanted from your parents?
What we longed for as children we are likely to yearn for from our partner. We look to our partner to give us what we didn’t get growing up. If done well it can help us complete our growing up process. Or, we can pile too much responsibility, asking our partner to provide things that aren’t their responsibility.
Discuss any concerns you may have about your expectations of your partner. Do you long for them to make you feel important? Valued? Cherished? All these things are normal to want from a partner. But if you are taking out your anger or frustration on your partner when you are really angry at a parent, you might need some therapy to work through your stuff before you get married.
Where do you see us in our retirement years?
Now is the time to plan for the future. Are you both on the same page? There’s nothing more important to discuss than the shared vision of your future. Where do you see yourselves later as you age? Will you travel together or rock in chairs on the front porch?
Having a shared vision to work toward will help you plan the trajectory of your shared lives together, starting from the moment you plan your wedding day.
Does it matter if you agree on all of the answers to these ten questions? Not at all. What matters is that you take the time to talk about your thoughts, ideas, and dreams. Know that your answers will change over time, as you grow and change. Relationships develop as we do, so be curious about each other, and enjoy the ride.
Dr. Tammy Nelson
Ph.D. Board Certified Sexologist, Licensed Relationship Therapist, Author of ‘The New Monogamy’