No one wants to be surprised to find that their new spouse has a serious drinking problem or is a complete slob. There are certain fundamental issues that need to be resolved before two people enter into a marriage.
Until you've lived with someone for a while or been in a long relationship, it's hard to know almost everything about them. Open the lines of communication and have a series of heart-to-heart talks about the things that matter most.
How important is your fiance's religion to him? It's important to be on the same religious page as the person you plan to spend the rest of your life with. If one of you is religious but the other isn't, conflict will likely arise regarding the wedding. Later on, once you have kids, the question of raising them in a church or temple will cause conflict if you have different ideas about religion.
Is your fiance a slob? Does he drink too much? Is gambling his weakness? Find out whether your fiance has any bad habits that you won't be able to live with. Discuss them openly and come to a consensus regarding the habit. But be careful: even if he promises to change, don't count on his word for it. Make sure the change has been made before tying the knot, or you may find yourself married to his bad habits for the long haul.
Does he want children? People rarely change their minds about this issue, so don't marry him if he wants eight kids and you have no desire for even one. Similarly, even if you both want children, do you agree on how to raise them? If one of you believes in spanking and the other is completely against any form of corporal punishment, can you come to an agreement for a compromise? The time to consider religion, discipline and parenting philosophies is before you marry him and begin having children.
Is your fiance healthy? If you're a nonsmoking exercise machine and he's a chain-smoking couch potato, you will likely have some conflict in your marriage. Likewise, what can you expect in the long run? Does he have a long family history of cancer or heart disease? Does he take preventative measures to avoid the same fate? Health issues should not preclude you from marrying the man you love, but knowing ahead of time what you can expect will save a lot of worrying later on, and will help you help him live a long, healthy life.
How does your fiance handle his finances? If he's saddled with debt, it will become your debt too, once you're married. If he's thrifty to the point of being cheap, and you like to spend money on luxurious items, you can bet there will be conflict in the marriage. You and your fiance will need to talk this through thoroughly and come to a compromise to keep the peace. If one of you is an excellent saver, perhaps the other can give you a certain percentage of his or her paycheck to put away each month. If one of you is a prolific spender, work out a budget for spending and stick to it. If you're both terrible with money, make an appointment to see a financial planner before you tie the knot.
Skeletons in the Closet
Does your fiance have a secret life? Find out as much as you can from him about his history. If he has an ex-wife and two kids living in another state, you need to know about this now, not later. His skeletons may not change the way you feel about him, and most of them shouldn't, but keeping important secrets from each other is a certain death knell for your marriage, which must be based on honesty and respect in order to work.
How important are his personal interests, and do they match yours, at least a little? If he's an avid hunter, you will likely be alone a lot during hunting season. Are you okay with that? If he's a sports fanatic and you can't name even one major league team, be prepared to plan events around his sports-watching schedule. It's not necessary--in fact, it's not healthy--to have the exact same interests, but knowing ahead of time what he's fanatical about will help you cope with any obsessions once you're married.
What is his relationship like with his family? His conflicts will become your conflicts. Likewise, if he's still very attached to his mother, expect some difficult years ahead as you struggle to be the number one woman in his life. How he handles his relationships will clue you in to how he will handle his relationship with you and with your children. Pay attention and watch for any red flags, such as petty grudges and disrespectful behavior toward his family.
Does your fiance have road rage? Is he way too complacent about things he should be concerned about? Having similar temperaments is ideal for marriage. If one of you handles stress by shutting down and the other gets frustrated and upset, you will have rough times ahead of you. Pay attention to his attitude and how he handles himself in difficult situations. Keep in mind that changing his temperament will be virtually impossible, and what you see is what you will get in marriage.
Look around your fiance's personal space. Is his baseball cap collection the focal point of his living room? Is he willing to have his bad taste relegated to a secret room in the basement? Discuss ahead of time how your house will look once you are married. If you can't abide the wagon wheel coffee table, tell him so. If he's unwilling to part with it, you may need to learn to love it, or expect some serious arguments over furniture and decor.