Predicting The Future Of Your Relationship

Stephen Hussey

I was intrigued recently to read this New York Times article on the “13 Questions To Ask Before Getting Married”.

The idea is that we should be willing to have more of the difficult discussions with our partner long before we ever decide to marry them. Too many people allow these problems to arise after they’ve already made a lifelong commitment.

In the words of Robert Scuka, as quoted in the article, “If you don’t deal with an issue before marriage, you deal with it while you’re married”.

The questions themselves cover everything from “Would you change our kids’ diapers?” to “How would we celebrate religious holidays?”, and “What’s the most you’d be willing to spend on a car?”

Kids, religion, money – basically, all the big stuff then.

One would hope these discussions come up naturally in the course of a relationship, but it seems a lot of us find it awkward to approach such topics, presumably for fear that they may reveal fundamental differences that we have to work through with our partner. It can be scary to discover that the one we love wants different things: Maybe they’re more dependent than we are and can’t stand time apart, or they’re less interested in sex, or they have no interest in travelling around the world with us in 10 years time.

But ignorance of these differences is not bliss. It’s a massive bout of pain waiting to happen later down the line. 

Finding Your “Marriage Deal breakers”

Reading the article, I found myself most surprised by the fact that I had a few deal breakers I didn’t really think about.

Whilst I’m flexible on certain matters (e.g. how much my partner and I share our money, whether or not I like my spouse’s parents), I felt much more rigid on others. For example, Question 7 – “Can You Deal With My Doing Things Without You?”, made me recognize just how much I crave a level of independence within any relationship, and Question 6 – “What’s The Most You’d Be Willing To Spend On A Car, A Couch, Shoes?” made me realize that I probably wouldn’t work well at all with a materialistic woman, given my general lack of interest in Ferraris and high-end home furniture (though if you’re offering…)

Then there were the other obvious topics, like Sex and Family. e.g. “Question 9 – How Important Is Sex To You?” (crucial for future compatibility), or “Question 2 – Will We Have Children?” (probably pretty important to be on the same page here).

The point of the article isn’t to dictate what your personal standards should be. Rather, it’s saying: you must communicate them.

For instance, Question 10 – “How far should we take flirting with other people? Is watching pornography O.K.?” is one for which I imagine every couple has it’s own set of rules (or lack of them). No-one is right either way, it’s whatever works for both people. But the lesson is to make sure you know what works for your partner before it’s too late.

So here are my discussion questions:

• What would you add/subtract to the list? (I was personally surprised the question “Where do you see us living together?” didn’t come up, which I would class as pretty important.)

• What are your top 3 dealbreakers from the list in the article?

Let me know in the comments below!

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40 Replies to “Predicting The Future Of Your Relationship”

  • There are, in retrospect, several questions my ex husband should have asked me ” are you happy to uproot our family so I can follow my career?” would have been a great one.
    But, in all seriousness, when you’re young and in love you think you can overcome all difficulties. So I suspect I’d never have asked them back then if I’d read the article.
    However, future partner beware!!

    1. Hmm…yea, being able to share career goals I think is a massive factor in relationships. I think this article was powerful for showing how we can actually discuss these things well before we get into marriage – hopefully young people wouldn’t make so many bad impulsive relationship choices then!

      That said, I think small relationships when you’re young are an excellent test of the qualities that matter to you, even if they don’t work out in the long-run.

  • Add to the list:
    Do our views on health/fitness/nutrition match/are they similar enough?
    Are you curious and adventurous enough to partake in your partner’s interests?
    Big one – Do you share the same views on knowledge and education?

    I wouldn’t remove any questions. I wish I had done this.

    Deal breakers: Important to like each other’s parents, match in terms of views on sex, I like doing stuff by myself too, and similar views on religion is important. That’s 4.

    It seems weird to have some of these questions before getting engaged, but maybe after “I love you”

    1. I like all of these, especially the education and health ones! Usually though I guess it’s easier to just observe and notice your partner’s views on both of those by how they live their life, so I’m not sure they need so much conversation as you simply paying attention to what they value in their everyday life.

      You’re right, maybe after saying “I love you” when you’ve settled into a relationship is a good time to bring some of these up. Though frankly I’ve talked about some of them on a first or second date before (as long as you approach it casually it doesn’t seem weird).

      Thanks for the comment!


      1. I actually asked the independence question on a first date a couple of days ago! This very important to me as I do want to have a life of my own. I agree with Steve in that you can ask these questions at any point just as long as you keep it casual.

        Great topic Steve!

  • Hello Steve,

    This is a great article to put some thought into. I really like the question about what they think our life will look like in 10 years, and about how a person loves. In my last long-term relationship, we were both physical touch, and valuable time when it came to love languages. If you do not express love in the same way as your partner, I think it is a good think to know at the beginning of a relationship. Also, if your partner adds enough detail, you can probably just ask the last question, and have some of the others answered. It is a nice transition question into some of the more detailed things you are curious about.

    I would probably add… how do you feel about equal rights? What are your thoughts on drug use? And what are you passionate about, and how do you see yourself integrating those things into your life? I feels like these things are important to know, because you are going to be encouraging, and living with, your partner’s passions. These would all come in handy in terms of conversations about child rearing… so important.

    There are many questions… but that article does a nice job at narrowing it down to 13 solid areas of discussion.

    Hope you are well!



    1. Hey Arianna,

      I totally agree that the question, “Where do you see us in 10 years?” can lead to a lot of great discussions about these iddues.

      Interesting thoughts on adding in the political views (on equal rights)…I’m always worried to get into politics with a woman I’m dating since it can be a source of real conflict (that ultimately probably doesn’t make much difference for how you relate to one another – unless one of you is racist or sexist or something, though i class those as moral values). Drugs and health are definitely a big one, I don’t think I could marry someone who smokes or takes drugs.

      1. I brought up the piece about equal rights for many reasons. I am passionate about working with the LGBTQ community, and if my partner is not open-minded in that area, I could see it being a source of tension. I think the underlying value is treating people with respect, whether you agree with them or not. It also comes up in other ways! Gender, race, sexual orientation, etc. If you are dating a person, and have made it to the point of considering marriage, I think it is an important conversation to have.

        I agree on the last bit. I draw a hard line on the drug/smoking piece. Even if it is a person I truly care about.


  • Hi Steve,
    Great to have a blog post from you, always lots to think about.
    I agree with you that where you both see yourselves living is pretty important. I grew up on the outskirts of our second largest city and I love city living and all it has to offer. I assumed we all have the same outlook on where we live, it’s not the case and can be very frustrating. I have also lived in a country where ex-pats didn’t exist and would like to be living there now. Not everyone is open to living in this way. Off the beaten track, having to immerse yourself in the language and culture.
    I think it’s very complex and all the questions could be ticked and you would still have problems. The sex question fascinates me as when we are with someone we are absolutely mad about the need to be intimate never goes away. Sex itself might wain in terms of quantity or passion, but what happens if you were to lose a limb or have cancer or be ill. The very ability to be intimate and close would be more important for a marriage. As we are talking marriage not a shorter relationship. Which leads me onto the most important question of all for me. It is totally amazing but I don’t think the majority of people get married for life or long term, rather it’s something they do in the moment. Which sounds mad but when you are young beautiful and fit do you necessarily look at your partner and imagine them old. Which leads to another thing not mentioned. People age at very different rates in many ways and this is going to manifest in all areas of life as the marriage goes on. But this is an unknown in many lives and cannot be ticked off on a list.
    I agree on the materialist issue you mention regarding objects and I think the most important element here is whether it’s important to you both in choosing and buying these together. And style, if you have it, your partner doesn’t, it will drive you mad!!
    Kathryn xx

  • My top deal breakers from the list 1) if he did have parents that throw plates or yell and he did the same. I am not the type of person to scream, slam doors or throw childish tantrums and I if he punched a wall I would see my face as the wall.
    2) My faith is super important and he would have to be a Christian. Going to church on the holidays to me isn’t as important as your faith being the foundation for your ethical decisions in life. But deal breaker if it didn’t affect any of his life decisions or if he was another faith 3) toss up between someone out there flirting with the world and out there spending unnecessarily. I understand buying something expensive that you get once a year like a gadget but I have had the same couch for 20 years, I don’t buy things unless they are broken. My dad spends everything on toys and then has nothing and so I would see my dad’s bad habits and run for the hills. And if he was out flirting with women intentionally or all into porn I would feel like “well why am I here then?” haha Yeah deal breaker too.

    I think I would add to this list can you fight/argue well. If a couple can work through things they will last. If they cannot argue and come to resolutions they won’t.(or I have been told)

    I would hope that these sorts of things would get answered along the way as you have meaningful conversations. If not I think premarital counseling really works. It usually comes in the form of workbooks that have the hard questions you ask each other. Or someone facilitating it. In fact premarital counseling is what kept me from making a wrong decision and marrying someone I had no business marrying. When you start to get super honest and they start telling the entire world all of your secrets you know you couldn’t trust them for life. I think if you marry someone you should never tell people your arguments, never share their shortcomings and protect them. Unless you are doing so together on purpose for like marriage counseling or something like that.
    The circle of trust should not be broken. haha

  • This feels so good! What a useful and insightful conversation.

    I feel great about questions and fun discussions during the process of getting to know someone (hopefully, the couple also fosters an environment where meaningful connection continues during the span of their relationship too, because sometimes I feel like people who care about each other just aren’t talking or creatively communicating, and that can feel isolating and boring eventually.)

    So I love the topic of the article you mentioned, and also your take on it feels super, Steve! I feel happy about this topic and glad that we can all mention marriage objectively and cheerfully instead of acting like it’s automatically loaded or pressure inducing. Well done!

    I really feel like a lot of people spend more time choosing netflix movies than truly sussing out these kinds of things together openly, and I also have noticed that I have been teased for my own tendencies to care about details such as these occasionally.

    I feel baffled about why though, because if people approached startups as haphazardly as they do most relationships, we’d probably find that kind of irresponsibility much less endearing.

    Location of living and willingness to travel is MAJOR to me! I’m glad you pointed that out. What else do you think is missing?

    At some point I would ask, “How will you be treating me, (and WHY)?” (in a playful way), because it seems silly but I feel like it’s a basic foundational thing that way too commonly is seen by men as a short term pursuit instead of a lifelong mindset.

    Sure, you can gather some of this information by observation, but this is not an intention you want to be guessing or assuming. Life is too precious, and ruts are real things. I feel asking this can be a gift to the man too, definitely.

    I treat myself awesomely, and so as a woman, I want to be sure this relationship is an upgrade to what I am already experiencing in life, and something I can feel pleasure about and look forward to longterm. I want to make sure that he has plans to treat me better than I am treating myself currently, otherwise I feel that I am in the wrong place. :)

    As far as what else I would add to the list, it would feel motivating if these types of chats could also lead to decisions that establish a sense of safety and excitement about creating together in unity, instead of just being about inquiry or swaps about history.

    It feels sad to me to notice couples who engage in power struggles or gridlocks because to me, the point of joining together is increase. I feel that one of the best things about relationships isn’t even about “you” or “me”, but about what can be made (that is way better than what exists separately) by the integration of commitment and combination of things. In that situation, I feel the focus is on BECOMING, which is the coolest thing!

    Even if the couple finds themselves at a place of difference when they answer these questions initially, the reality is, that they can design their life to be fantastic, TOGETHER, in that moment, just by deciding to, and so maybe guiding these starter questions to that end, to conversations that emphasize team work and new possibilities together would feel wonderful.

    Like instead of just gauging where someone currently stands with their answer from, “Can you deal with w/my doing things without you?” …. I’d feel curious about their willingness to problem solve with me, and about the meaning behind their “yes”, “no”, or “maybe”.

    Freedom is one of my top values personally, so I would probably say something like, “I feel best experiencing life as an adventure, and I have noticed that regular moments of reflection alone and pockets of time away from each other can really feel fresh and grounding for me, and actually increase my desire for our amazing intimacy. It feels rewarding to me when we each have interesting things to bring to our relationship, and one of the ways I’ve discovered to do that consistently is to have the space to explore our passions independently as we need, and come back together in special ways. What are some fun rituals that we can support each other with, to make sure that we both have the quality time together we crave, and plenty of time solo too, so our life stays fulfilling and exciting? What do you think?”

    or something


    I actually just wrote my own non-negotiables for a marriage-headed relationship, for the first time ever this February, and I posted it on Facebook. (Which may be corny, but it feels helpful to me.)

    I focused on five main areas that I feel are essential for any man who longs to co-create a beautiful life with me.

    Thanks for posting this article!
    Have a terrific day!

  • This was a very important topic to cover! A lot of young people go into marriage without discussing the key things, and it can lead to disastrous situations when both people aren’t on an equal page. Communication is a key fundamental of a successful marriage, and the relationship during each stage. People will tell or show some of the key things without there needing to be an inquisition. Having an open mind, similar career goals and beliefs are typically the key components. Even still, there are some of us that are out-of-the box thinkers, with adventurous mindsets when it comes to exploring life and our partners intimately, so that is important to factor in. There are certain men, even with the same beliefs, that may be adverse to some of the great ways to spend time together – that needs to be considered. Also, spending time apart from time to time is refreshing to be able to bring that energy and awesomeness back into the relationship. A relationship is something that both people build together, and marriage is a commitment to continue building. The best thing to do is make sure the foundation is solid and building up is what matters!

    Thanks for this reading!

  • I think the question about WHEN to have these conversations is huge. I have no problem asking these questions, as I’d much rather talk about that than the weather or what I ate for lunch. When is too soon to ask?

    And when you DO ask – what if the answers conflict with what you want?

    If you are early on in the dating phase do you cut ties before you develop more attachment, or give it time hoping you’ll be able to compromise the more you care about each other?

  • I think for sure, don’t marry someone if you don’t have answers to these questions. They’re pretty basic. In fact, I can’t imagine most of them not coming up naturally as you’re getting to know someone.

    The only one that stood out to me was #10. How far we will take flirting? This stood out because for the past month a guy and I were talking day and night practically every day. He sends me messages night and day, calls me, texts me, asks me to meet him. This went on daily for a month – our talking to each other. At the end of which he says, umm, I should probably tell you that I’m courting someone with the intention of marriage right now. (Basically he has a girlfriend/fiancé.)


    We’re no longer talking.

    But I understand he and his girlfriend are having this conversation – maybe a bit too late. For them.

  • I think a lot of these questions have answers when you first initially date, even thought it can change because circumstances can change, however, to me a deal breaker can be politics; The 3 deal breakers are #4 Religion, #5 Debts and #13 10 yrs from now….

  • Hello Stephen,

    Great post, nicely written! It is true that, while having strong feelings of love towards someone, it is also essential to take under consideration some other factors, such as money issues, what kind of lifestyle you want to follow, etc. Another question I would add to the list is “What do you believe the role of a wife/husband is? Knowing what is expected of you (by your partner) is very important.

    I don’t think there is such a thing as the right time to ask. I wouldn’t do it at the early stages of a relationship, but as things move forward and you get to know each other, I would ask his opinion (about how he imagines himself, not necessarily the two of us) given any chance.

    Knowing the answers to above questions is crucial, however irritations are inevitable in relationships. Its just not possible to find another human being, whose every quirk, habit and preference aligns perfectly with yours. I read, in an article, that you don’t really live with your partner in your home. You live with your partner in your head. Sometimes an annoyance in a relationship is really a two-way street. Partners focus on what they aren’t getting, rather than what they are giving. No matter how frustrating a partners behavior is, your interpretation of it, is of great importance. What matters, is the meaning you attach to it. I remember someone asking a friend of mine “How can you sleep when your husband snores so loudly? How can you stand it?” She simply answered “When I hear his snoring, I know he is alive and well”. We must try to remember that sometimes “snoring” isn’t the problem, it is the meaning you give to it!

  • Interesting. I like how you put it.

    Would you do a topic about “taking a break” vs “breaking up”? That can be so confusing for anyone.

    And a topic on “I don’t know if I love you, or not” / “I want to do what I want. I want to be free”.

    I want to know what kind of thing to say and do if ever that kind of situation happens.

  • Hi Stephen,
    I wanted to share a book that talks about this topic, yet the author asks 100 questions, The Hard Questions by Susan Piver ( There is one questions I would ask a guy that is important to me. “Do you see yourself growing really old?” Without asking this question, I get a lot of guys telling me they want to die young (sixties or seventies). This does not line up with my healthy life plan of growing old with someone.

    Thanks for writing another blog. Have missed reading them every Sunday with Matt’s video.

  • I think discussing the development of a savings culture between the two of you is very important and should have been included in the list. My top 3 breakers are Religion, Money, and In-laws in that order of importance. And I think the best time to have this conversation is when you know you both love each other and are committed to making the relationship work, when you feel comfortable together and know the relationship is going somewhere.

  • I’ve not yet read the article or list of topics…I’m apprehensive as I don’t want to have these questions floating about in my brain and then feel like I have to ask them.

    Although…I generally lack a filter…I am never surprised or offended by any question and just expect others to be the same…but deal breakers? Hmm…some people make allowances even when it comes to deal breakers…which turn out then not to be deal breakers until the break up…which leads to…I should have known but I wanted it to work out!

    I think a deal breaker for me would be small mindedness, judging others based on himself as opposed the theirselves and a love of sweetcorn, yeuch!

    I guess differing political views (as in opposites), and wanting biological children would actually be THE deal breakers…and sweetcorn, yeuch!

  • Hi Stephen,

    Nice find on the article.

    For the most part, these are good questions, but in my experience the answer will always change in the fullness of time – even opinions on politics which is predicated on an alignment between your interests and that of the election promises being made.

    We grew up drinking from different trees of knowledge and, consequently, hold our own unique an aggregated set of beliefs that cause us to elicit a standpoint by which we feel justified.

    If I had to make a call on deal breakers, it would be this … the capacity of a partner to constantly revisit and redefine their values … to look at a topic and/or situations with humility, and accept that the knowledge bank upon which they form opinions may well be limited…. to seek with curiosity to understand a differing view, and use that knowledge to expand and create a greater definition of something within themselves.

    My reason for this deal breaker is I grew up with a [dis]ability. The onus has always been on me to seek to understand another person’s point of view and use that knowledge moving forward to create harmonious outcomes. Now, I’m older however, this onus is not so much an object of knowledge as it is a cause of wonder – wondering about values, and for that matter virtues, together with unity and harmony of each of those things (e.g. education, knowledge, wisdom, humility, compassion, empathy etc).
    Which brings me to questions missing off the list for me:

    1. How would you react if you found your partner has a [dis]ability? Would that [dis]ability discourage you from having children? How would you rationalise the new found knowledge of such [dis]ability?

    2. Do our values and qualities align? If not, does the constitution exist for values to be challenged.. to bolster each other to be the best we can be at any one point in time?

    3. Are we going to sleep each night with a kiss that says ‘I can’t wait until I wake up in the morning and look at you with the same feeling I got when I first laid eyes on you’? (yes, I’m big on chemistry, and I do like it when I can have a conversation with someone without saying anything at all – ha!)

    Qualities, values and chemistry are big ones. There are a lot of things I just don’t care about (e.g. my partner’s ex, his parents, whether he’s going to change a brown leaker, how much furniture costs, etc) because they have relatively no bearing on how I feel about the other person in the relationship. A majority of the questions asked were external influences to which a boundary can be set and/or common ground reached.

    As for timing? I’m a fan of the age old adage “there’s no time like the present”. If it’s front of mind, ask the question – if you stand in the storm and the wind isn’t blowing in the right direction, adjust your sails.

    At the end of the day, as long as the answer is right, does it really matter how wrong or difficult the question is?

  • Great article and excellent questions. As I get older and more in tune with what I want in a relationship and a partner (thanks “keep the guy!”) I can really see how important all these questions are.

    The hardest thing I had to do recently, was break up with someone because they don’t want (more) kids than they already had from a previous relationship. My heart is still mending from knowing we felt so strongly about each other, our goals, communication, values, our chemistry and yet it didn’t work. It seemed so much aligned except for that. And THAT is a big issue. Neither of us see ourselves changing our stance on wanting babies. I’m proud of myself for being able to walk away to get what I want, I just wish it could have been with him. … So now what? Do the butterflies I felt come back for someone else?

  • My 3 deal breakers want), drugs – no go. I dont care if some states are legalizing it and moral or ethical standards.

  • After going through all of the questions on that list, I feel that most of them can be observed while dating. For instance the question on how much a person is willing to spend on something. This can be seen by how they live and dress. The question I posed to my recent ex was “Are you still in contact with your ex-girlfriends and ex-wife?” Unless they have children together or there is some serious reason to still be in contact with them, I can’t be in a long term relationship with him if they do. Honesty about money is very important too.

  • I married a guy that I discussed these and many more things before we tied a knot. In marriage,nothing of the things he said were true. Maybe he wanted to because certain way,maybe he thought that we can agree on anything later on… Anyhow,divorced after eight years of marriage. It hurt not because of losing love. I’ve realized he never really loved me. But he did crash my dreams.that was painful.

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