"Love recognizes no barriers.  It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope." ~Maya Angelou

So, you've been dating your special guy for quite some time, and now the two of you are ready to discuss the next step in your relationship- marriage.  While hearing the word "marriage" will send many of us daydreaming of engagement rings, wedding dresses, and bridesmaids, there are some vital questions that you must discuss before becoming Mr. & Mrs.

1. Do you want children? How many? How will you raise them?
While so many think that children are a prominent part of being married, your partner may think otherwise. Choosing to start a family can be a drastic change to your relationship.  Your primary focus will be towards raising your little ones, and there will be less time to focus on you and your mate.  It's important to discuss if children are apart of your future together, when you should conceive, how many children and how you want to raise them.

2. What traits does he have that would make him a good husband/father?
I think it's safe to say that no one is 100% perfect but it's essential that your soon-to-be husband possess certain traits that scream he's marriage material and ready to take on the role of fatherhood.  While every woman is different, there are some universal qualities that you should look for. Create a list of the traits that are most important to you and see how many of them he owns.

3. What type of lifestyle do you want to have?
While you may be dreaming of living in the suburbs with a white picket fence, your 2.5 kids and fancy dinner parties, your partner may be thinking about a condo in the city, a bulldog named Max and traveling as much as possible.  Make sure that you approach this topic before you start house hunting!

4. Have there been times when you were annoyed with the way your partner behaved with other women?
If you have a problem with the way he interacts with other women, now is the time to sit him down and have a heart to heart conversation. He should never make you feel uncomfortable or give another woman the impression that she's the center of his attention.

5. How will you maintain your home? What are your chores?
This may seem like a simple and easy question, but many couples have argued and fought over this very topic. To avoid being irritated about a dishwasher full of dirty dishes, a basket full of unfolded laundry or an empty refrigerator because no one went to buy groceries, talk about sharing the household chores and what responsibilities should be assigned to whom.  Now either of you can clean the toilet or mop the kitchen floor but if you know his idea of folding laundry is balling it up and sticking it in the closet, tackle that chore yourself!

6. Would you feel comfortable sharing a joint banking accounting or do you prefer separate accounts?
Nothing can break a marriage apart faster than financial woes.  Whether you choose to merge your money together or keep it separate, there is no right or wrong choice.  This is not a one size fits all matter, and the decision should be made between you and your mate.  If the two of you are conflicted on what to do, a simple solution can be to have a joint account for the household (i.e., mortgage/rental payment, car notes, grocery and utility bills) and the rest of the money can remain in separate accounts.

7. What are all of your personal debts?
As I mentioned previously,  finances can play a significant role in the downfall of marriage.  Be open and honest about any debts and credit issues with your significant other before heading down the aisle.

8. Do you keep letters and other reminders from past relationships?
I understand that some things may mean something special to you but holding on to old keepsakes may not be the best thing for your relationship.  Not only can your guy feel unappreciated or disrespected, but it's also a constant reminder of your prior relationship.  It's as if your past boyfriend still has a piece of your heart. Let's turn the tables around, shall we?  Would you feel comfortable if your man had a shoe box full of love letters and romantic reminders of his last girlfriend?

9. Has either of you ever been mentally or physically abusive in past relationships?
This is such an important question.  Now if you ask an abusive person this question, they're not going to tell you the truth.  Instead, ask him his thoughts on domestic violence and women's rights.  Also, pay attention to how the two of you react to one another when you're angry.  If your reaction to any disagreement is a source of mental or physical abuse, you need to re-evaluate why you're in a relationship and commit to getting help.

10. What are your spiritual beliefs?
If the two of you share different spiritual views, this can create a massive conflict in your marriage, especially if there are children involved.  Marriage counseling is a great way to tackle this subject.

11. Do you enjoy being around each other's families?
Hosting family get-togethers and children's birthday parties can be one hell of an event if you hate being in the same room with his family.  Be proactive in building a bond with his family and creating a healthy relationship. Even if you don't care for a particular family member, it's vital to develop a respectful and calming environment to keep your marriage peaceful.

12. How will you schedule quality time between the two of you?
In a marriage, it can be so easy to get caught up in the daily roles of being a wife and mother.  Between your 9-5, the children's homework and figuring out what to cook for dinner every night, you may find yourself exhausted at the end of the day with no energy left for your husband.  Find ways to squeeze in daily quality time with your boo to keep the magic alive.  Share a bottle of wine and dessert while watching your favorite show, enjoy some rated R fun once the kiddies are sound asleep and schedule date nights often.

13. How will you maintain a social life outside of your marriage?
Hanging out with a group of friends and other married couples can be a healthy contribution to your marriage, but it's equally important that you have some quality time with your girls as well.  Have an all-girls trip once a year or monthly girlfriends only outing with your besties.

14. Do you share the same sexual appetite?
An enthusiastic sexual craving and lackluster appetite do not go hand in hand.  Sex is significant in maintaining a happy and healthy marriage.  Don't be afraid to discuss the expectations you have for one another.

15. Do either of you have an addiction problem that could be harmful to the marriage?
Harmful addictions wrecked havoc on any relationship and can lead to physical and mental abusive if not treated.  If either of you has a deadly habit, take the time to seek help before proceeding with any commitments to one another.
16. What is your definition of cheating?
Cheating is the most destructive thing that can tear a relationship apart.  The word "cheating" can mean different things to different people.  Don't be afraid to put your foot down on what behaviors you just won't tolerate.  If he has a problem with any of your rules, you may want to rethink if he's the one for you.

17. Are you able to communicate with each other under any circumstance about anything?
Open communication is what brings many couples together.  Make it a point to express your love and admiration for one another as well as any disappointments and hurt.  But remember, listening to each other is just as important as talking.  Make it a rule to speak freely and openly at all times.

Are you married or in a long-term relationship?  What are your tips for maintaining a happy and healthy relationship?  Post a comment below and let's keep the conversation going!

Photo credit: (We Heart It)