If you're thinking about moving in with someone, getting engaged, getting married, or making a long-term commitment, please save yourselves some heartache and dive into these questions. Please! When folks come to me for help with their relationship concerns, we often realize that if some of these topics had been explored earlier on, some of the struggle could have been avoided.
I recommend you approach these questions more as discussion topics rather than aiming to just get an answer. See what more you can learn about each other by asking follow-ups and related questions in each category. The goal is to know yourselves better, to find common ground and to seek solutions when there is not common ground.
How much time do we want to spend with each other day-to-day and weekends? What does free-time look like?
How social are you and how social do you expect me to be? With your friends? With your family? With your work?
What are your hobbies and interests and how much time do you spend on them? What kind of support would you like with these?
How do we share household responsibilities - who does what and what are our expectations in these areas? Do you/we plan to have pets?
Where do you want to live? What style of home do you want? What would make you move? How often would we move?
Are you more of a saver or a spender? How do you view money and spending?
How are we going to manage finances as a family? Who will take care of paying the bills?
How will you pay for individual and shared items?
What debt or financial commitments do you have? What are your financial goals? What is your credit history and score?
If we showed our background reports to each other, what would we find?
Emotions and connection
What do you need and how do you like to be supported when you are upset? What is the best way for me to communicate when/if I’m upset with you?
What does loving each other mean to you? What makes you feel loved?
What does respecting each other mean to you? What makes you feel respected?
Can I trust you with my feelings? How do I know?
Will you be there for me when times get tough? How do I know?
Relationships and commitment
What is your relationship history?
What do you consider cheating?
Do you believe in divorce?
What are your deal breakers in a relationship?
Would you consider getting professional relationship help if we needed it?
Do you want kids? How many and when? How do you feel about adoption or fertility treatments if we're unable to conceive naturally?
How should we raise kids? How do you feel about hiring childcare? Education preferences? What do you want daily life to look like as parents?
Do you have children already? What are your relationships like with them? What would you like my relationship to be like with them?
What does your daily life look like with work? How does work impact your mood and stress?
What are your boundaries around the requirements of your job? What do you consider balance between work and life?
Do you have any current medical concerns or significant medical history?
How would you like to be supported with health-related things?
How do you feel about drugs and alcohol? What are your limits for yourself and your preferred limits for me in this area?
Politics and Religion
Do we need to be in one accord in these areas?
What do we need from each other in these areas to feel supported?
How are we going to handle the parents, especially when they’re older?
Can we handle traveling together? What are your travel quirks and needs?
How will we handle big change (job, health, goals, finances)?
Where do you see yourself in 20 years? 30 years?
There are no right or wrong answers to these questions. The important goal is to have the conversations so that you truly know the person you are committing to and what compromises might be needed.
If the idea of having these crucial conversations already feels too hard or too vulnerable, it might help to involve a therapist or clergy member to walk you through them. Struggling through the conversations now is far better than struggling through the relationship woes later!
Doctors Julie and John Gottman, of the Gottman Institute, have conducted over 40 years of research into what helps relationships to thrive and survive. And also what keeps them from withering. They have published several relationship books and one that's especially helpful at the pre-commitment stage of a relationship is Eight Dates: Essential Conversations for a Lifetime of Love. This book offers tools for having 8 life-changing conversations on crucial relationship topics: trust, conflict, sex, money, family, adventure, spirituality, and dreams.
The Gottmans also have a free Love Maps mobile app that is quite robust and you can see my blog post walking you through the content areas in it here.
Some additional books for further reading:
The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by John Gottman & Nan Silver
Mating in Captivity: Unlocking Erotic Intelligence by Esther Perel
Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love by Sue Johnson
Getting the Love You Want: A Guide for Couples by Harville Hendrix & Helen LaKelly Hunt
Keeping the Love You Find by Harville Hendrix
Note that the above book links are affiliate links and if you make a purchase I may receive a small commission.