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Marriage Prep 101

From the burning questions you should ask each other before you walk down the aisle, to the jitters and cold feet, here’s a crash course in building a marriage that can last a lifetime.
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WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Dan T. and his bride-to-be have a wedding to plan, with hundreds of decisions that need to be made leading up to the big day. More important than the floral centerpieces and the DJ’s playlist, however, they also have big decisions to make about the marriage: How many kids will they have? Will they both work? How will they come to terms on the differences in their religious beliefs?

“We want to dig through the big issues,” says Dan, from Albany, N.Y. “We know where we each stand on some of the them, and while we don’t agree 100% on everything, we still know that our relationship is built on something solid.”

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Dan and his betrothed are making all the right moves, with a focus on building a marriage that will last by working through some of life’s big-ticket items. But all couples aren’t as pragmatic, and intentionally or not, they ignore the writing on the wall, leading to a bad case of wedding fever that turns from the jitters into cold feet and then a nasty bout of the marriage blues.

How do you make a marriage that will last until death do you part? From the jitters to cold feet, to the burning questions you should ask each other and come to terms on before you walk down the aisle, experts give WebMD a crash course in building a marriage that will last a lifetime.

Life’s Big Questions

“The personal ads where they say, ‘I like to take long walks on the beach,’ those things are minor,” says Louanne Cole Weston, PhD, a marriage and family therapist. “It’s life philosophies that matter in a marriage.”

What’s on the checklist of life a couple should talk through before the wedding bells start to toll? Here are your pre-wedding topics for discussion:

  • Kids. “When it comes to kids, it’s more than do you want them or not?” says Susan Piver, author of the New York Times best seller, Hard Questions: 100 Essential Questions to Ask Before You Say “I Do.” “You need to ask how many kids you each want. When in your life will you have them? How will you raise them? You can be 100% different on everything else on this list, but if you’re off on kids, that’s when things get difficult.”
  • Money. “Don’t wait until you are standing at the altar to tell each other how much money you do or don’t have,” says Piver. “Money is the issue that is hardest to talk about, and it’s the one that seems to create the most conflict as a relationship progresses. Ask each other things like how much, but also are you going to create one account, keep separate accounts, how will you save, and how will you spend?”
  • Religion. “Even if two people were brought up in the same spiritual tradition, there are still questions to ask,” says Piver. “Which holidays are we going to celebrate? Where will we celebrate them, and how? It’s important to know what is important to the other person and what is non-negotiable.”
  • Sex. “Make sure your sexuality is copacetic,” says Weston, who specializes in sex therapy. “Be specific with each other and discuss what you can and cannot tolerate, and be clear on what your bottom-line expectations are around sex.”
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