Eleanor Stanford, in her New York Times column on Love, suggests 13 questions to ask before getting married. It’s a powerful tool to open eyes and bring on important and hard conversations. After all, underlying issues don’t magically go away. They fester and wait until disappointment sets in. Better to confront the challenges before they confront you.

Sometimes we don’t want to hear the answers; we don’t want to rock the boat and resist letting go of our romantic dreams. We may feel awkward and respond with the words we believe the other person wants to hear. Find the courage and honesty to have these intimate discussions.

Here are some of the most crucial questions. Think about them. Add your own to the conversation. Use them as a springboard to discover truths that may have remained hidden.

1. Did your family throw plates, calmly discuss issues, or silently shut down when disagreements arose?

Why this is important:

Every couple will at some point disagree. What matters is how we deal with our differences. Communication and conflict resolution can make or break a relationship.

I have met too many couples who are stuck because they cannot imagine getting past the emotional dysfunction they’ve witnessed in their childhood. “My mother was a screamer, my grandmother was a screamer, and I come from a family of screamers. What can I do?”

You can react differently. You can discover that throwing plates, slamming doors, or retreating into an icy silence are not healthy ways to resolve issues.

Talk about how you each deal with differing views. What you have witnessed growing up. When your parents had conflict, how did they handle the situation? Is the person you’re dating reacting in a way that he or she thinks is normal but is, in fact, unhealthy and harmful?

2. Will we have children and if we do, will you change diapers?

Why this is important:

Don’t assume you agree on what you think are life’s big priorities. Have these discussions before you get married.

Don’t assume you agree on what you think are life’s big priorities.

If the two of you hope to be blessed with children, how do you view your roles as parents? What type of mother/father do you see yourself as? Are you a disciplinarian, authoritative, or the type to look away and let things go? How hands on do you see yourself? How would you try to mold your child’s character? What did your parents do when they were upset with you? Was there physical punishment or shame growing up? What would you do differently than your parents in your home?

3. How important is religion? How will we celebrate religious holidays, if at all?

Why this is important:

Traditions and values create the foundation of a home. Do you see eye to eye on them? What are you spiritual values that you want instill in your children? Do you feel the need to nourish your soul?

Talk about what being Jewish mean to you and how you envision your Jewish identity shaping your home. Many couples experience conflict when they can’t agree on attending religious services, celebrating Shabbat, or observing other practices like keeping kosher. Once children become part of the picture, the controversy only grows. Does your child attend synagogue when a parent stays home or goes to the beach instead?

4. Is my debt your debt? Would you be willing to bail me out?

Why this is important:

Financial strain frays a marriage. You should know how your partner views debt. You should also be aware of any student loans or major credit card debt that your potential partner is facing.

Talk about how you both see money and spending. Are you a saver or spender? Do you need luxuries? Would you rather spend on things or experiences? Do you have financial goals? If you were given extra cash what would you do with it?

Growing up, did you ever deal with financial uncertainty? How has your childhood shaped your views about spending?

Questions about bailing a partner out of their debt is also a major discussion that can reveal thoughts about extent of loyalty and the limits of relationships.

5. Can you deal with my doing things without you?

Why this is important:

We each have different ideas about privacy, friendship and personal space. Tensions rise when we have opposing views that collide. Some people are devastated when their partner wants to spend time with friends. There are those who will not give up their yearly ski trip with the guys or spa week with the girls. Would it bother you? Would you allow your partner to maintain time for hobbies and leisure activities that don’t involve you?

These five starter questions are only a beginning. Use the conversation as an opportunity to create a safe space to get to know the person you’re dating, without judgment. It would be a good idea for married couples to have these conversations. Love grows when we try to broaden our understanding of those we live with.

Photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez. Unsplash.com