We’re not talking here about the kinds of questions everyone should ask each other before deciding to get married — things that could be actual deal-breakers, like, Do you want kids? And, Are you a member of the Republican party? No, these ten questions are things you should ask each other in order to have a more harmonious, fulfilling marriage together. The answers to these questions shouldn’t be deal-breakers — but knowing the answers to these questions should help make you a better spouse.
We don’t expect you to do exactly as your partner would like after asking and answering these questions — after all, their preferences might be completely unreasonable! (Ahem, porn, ahem.) But it is helpful, at least, to know what their preferences are, so you can be sensitive to them.
(Oh, and: All this advice could also refer to people are deciding simply to co-habitate ’til death do them part. For the purposes of this article, “marriage” is simply short-hand for “forever love.”)
1. Where do you draw the line between intimacy and T.M.I.?
Are you okay with me peeing in front of you? Should I close the door before pooping? What about hair removal? Should I knock if the bathroom door is closed? Do we have an open-fart policy? Would you prefer I didn’t read your email and text messages? Etc.
a. What are your feelings on masturbation?
I will probably want to masturbate at some point during our marriage. Possibly fairly often. Where and how would you prefer I did this? And are you okay knowing that I do this, or would you prefer a don’t-ask-don’t-approach to self-love?
b. What’s your position on porn/erotica?
Will we be watching/reading it together? Can or should we watch/read it alone? Do you have any restrictions on the kind you’d prefer I consumed (or how often, or where, etc)? Do you think restrictions are reasonable to begin with? Would you like me to always let you know when I’m going to enjoy it? Or would you prefer that I never discuss porn with you and pretend it doesn’t exist?
3. How much or little can we let ourselves go?
FYI, it’s much easier to discuss this topic before either of you adds on fifty pounds. Does your partner expect to be found attractive through thick and thin…waistlines? You may always love your partner, no matter how they look — that’s easy to promise. But attraction is a different beast. Sure, there are some things people can’t control (disease-repeated weight gain, genetic hair loss, etc.), but we all have a certain amount of control over the way we look. Do you expect your partner to take pains to fight the aging process, or do you expect that with age (and marriage) comes some amount of inevitable, understandable, and therefore forgivable deterioration? Where along this spectrum do you two lie, and if it’s worlds apart, can you meet somewhere in the middle?
4. Will we air our dirty laundry?
Do you mind if I tell my friends when we have a fight? Do you mind if I tell them when we have really good sex? What about if we have really bad sex? Can I talk about your crazy family?
5. Do you want me to tell you if you’re having a bad hair (etc.) day?
Yes, it is a spousal responsibility to let each other know if one of you has a piece of toilet paper stuck to their shoe, spinach in their teeth, or their fly down. But what about the other stuff in life? Do you want me to be honest when you try on an outfit for me? Do you want me to honest when you ask if your hair is thinning? Do you want me to tell you if you’re being too loud at a party? Do you want me to tell you if that anecdote you’ve been bringing out at every single social gathering is really not that funny? Etc.
6. How do you feel about ladies’/guys’ nights out?
How often will we be seeing our friends without each other? Are there any activities you would be bummed about if I did them without you? (And, related: Which TV shows can I go ahead and watch some episodes of without you while you’re gone?)
7. How do you feel about my exes?
Are we staying in touch with our exes? Just Facebook? Just email? Phone? What about in-person get-togethers? Groups only, or is one-on-one acceptable? Day-time meetings only, or are late-night drinks get-togethers kosher? Etc.
8. Will we talk about our fantasies?
Can we tell each other when we find someone else attractive? Can we share sexual fantasies? Do you expect me to share all my fantasies? What if I don’t want to share any of them? Is there anything you will never want to do in bed? Is there anything you’ve always wanted to do in bed?
9. How do you feel about adultery?
Of course we’re promising to never cheat or lie or kiss or sleep with someone else. But let’s face it: some people cheat. You may be 100% sure you’ll never cheat on your partner, and vice versa, but still — it’s good to talk about this stuff anyway. Do you believe that lifelong monogamy is realistic for humans? Is cheating immediate grounds for divorce? If it’s just a drunken one-night stand with a complete stranger, would you rather not know, if I promise never to do it again? Okay, probably not, but what if it’s just a drunken kiss and nothing more? Do you mind if I text-flirt with someone, so long as we never do anything? What about e-flirting with complete strangers? Could an open relationship ever be even a remote possibility?
10. Do either of us have minimum amounts of sex we expect?
Rarely are two people’s libidos perfectly matched. But someone who requires sex every other day may have a hard time living happily ever after with someone who could take or leave it once every other month. How much sex do we expect? Are there certain acts each of us feels we need to be satisfied? (Oral sex, for example.) And when we hit a rut — and we will hit a rut — will we just ignore it and assume our sex life will bounce back eventually, that it will come and go in waves over the years? Or do we think that a rut is the beginning of the end? And if so, should we pick a codeword to say to each other when it’s reached that point? Will we consider sex manuals? Sex therapy? Couples therapy? Opening our relationship? Divorce? Or will a rut not be that big a deal to us, considering all the other things we’ve got going on in our lives?