Questions To Ask Potential Suitors

DSC_0195I was asked a few times to share some of the questions we ask potential suitors, so I’m going to share some of them. We haven’t had a set list, and what we ask one suitor will not be what we ask the next one, because things that matter to one daughter don’t matter to another. We don’t necessarily sit down and have a grilling session, although I am not sure The Mop Top felt that way. Most of the time when somebody has asked to court one of our daughters, we have already known that young man fairly well, sometimes for years, once since the ‘kids’ were really little kids. So some questions that seem obvious we don’t ask because we already know the answers, although I’ve tried to include those in here as well.

Usually, we don’t begin with questions, we begin with a basic explanation of just how strange and out of the mainstream we are, and a general explanation of how we view the courtship process and our expectations.  WE also explain that our daughters do not view relationships as easily disposable.  What this means in practice, we explain, is that more than likely, the relationship will end only because something will have to be terribly, horribly wrong (like, we learn he’s a Bluebeard), or the young man chooses to end it.  And what that means, I stress, is, “What you are really asking me for is permission to possibly break my daughter’s heart.  So while we are not asking you to commit to putting a ring on her finger, we are asking that you only continue with this if you are really, very, very serious about it.  Because we do not want you to break our daughter’s heart.”  I am not smiling when I say this.  At all.  My husband has gone so far as to be cleaning his gun when he has this talk. It’s not a threat, it’s an encouragement to think very, very seriously about this step.

And since I am typing this off the top of my head, there may be important questions we ask that I’m forgetting right now. So, in no particular order…..

How long have you been a Christian; how did you become a Christian; Why did you become a Christian?
Tell us about your relationship with the Lord.
How often do you study your Bible? Pray? Go to church?

The above questions are deal-breaker questions- nonbelievers need not apply to court, although one has, and my husband offered to study with him. He had, I think, one such study and then told us he didn’t like the idea of God telling him what to do, so we parted company).

What’s your relationship with your parents like? Tell us about your family growing up?

What’s the last book you read?  What’s your favorite book?
DSC_0201Would you approve of you? IOW, if you were the dad, and somebody exactly like you came around asking to hang around your daughter, what would you say, and why? My husband says, “You’re asking me to raise my grandchildren. Do you have any idea how important that is to me? How do you intend to bring them up?”
Have you ever had a girlfriend before? If yes, how did that go?
What do you like about our daughter? Why? When did you first know you liked her?
What are your views on physical boundaries before marriage? How do you intend to make sure you honor those boundaries?

(My husband likes to trickily approach this in such a fashion as to get the young man to be the first to come up with the boundaries and rules my husband wants, so the young man thinks they were all his own idea, and he’s good that way. I am not. I think it takes a certain personality to manage it).
What are your views on debt, how much debt do you have, how seriously do you intend to practice those views on debt, would you take a Dave Ramsey class?
What are your views on birth control?  Family size?

(anyone who is okay with hormonal birth control or any form that causes the abortion of an already fertilized egg- that is a deal breaker unless they study the issue and change their minds). So far, for the three married or actively courting, birth control itself is a deal breaker. If it was not a deal-breaker for our daughter, we would feel that we had failed at some point and would likely have other more pressing issues than quizzing a potential suiter.

How should a husband treat his wife?

There are deal breaker answers to this question, however, nobody is really going to answer this question with the deal-breaker answers.  So another question is ‘how does your dad treat your mother?,’ but still, a wily would-be abuser isn’t going to tell the truth.  These questions are not a fail-safe.  There probably are no fail-safes. You just have to pray hard and do the best you can, whatever that is.

What are your vices? Your strong points? Your weak points?

My husband usually asks an open ended question or two or three about scripture- mainly the point is to get a feel for how the young man approaches Bible study and how comfortable he is with discussions of this sort, more than for the specific answer.  Recently he asked a young man:

Jesus said that unless we become as children we can never enter the kingdom of heaven. What did he mean? What do you think of children?

The discussion that followed ranged all over the New Testament and included showing the love of Christ to others, being humble, loving the church, being sincere, and loving our enemies.  It was mutually edifying.

radical one mudpie at a timeWhat are your views on wives working outside the home; daycare; homeschooling; vaccinations; outside the mainstream medical care; homebirth; hospitality….

Hospitality was a deal-breaker question for the HG. I think it was more negotiable with the other two.

We usually ask about the headcovering because our girls wear one and they don’t want to be made to quit (I say usually, because sometimes the girl has already made her views on this quite clear so it wasn’t necessary).  I know that it seems obvious that if you *chose* a girl who wears a headcovering, you should not expect to change that, but it’s not always obvious, and we know other couples where that’s the direction things went. 

Rank the following in order of priority:

you, God, your spouse, your family, your parents, your job, your kids, the church, your favorite sport or other hobby.

Acceptable causes for divorce?

I sent the following list to one of the courting girls after a young man had already been approved, saying:

It’s not like any of these questions won’t be answered sooner or later anyway, or if you don’t resolve all of them the relationship will fail. They can be addressed after marriage. It’s just that they might be useful things to discuss and make for productive, relationship building conversations now and later- and some of them are just for fun. Feel free to add your own questions, it’s fine by me if you want to forward this to your young man or just discuss it between yourselves. I don’t even know what you would say about all of these questions, so, again, most of these are not ‘deal breakers,’ though a handful of them might be ones you should resolve now if you have strong differences about them.

In no significant order:

politics in general- who have you voted for, what’s your party, what do you think are the most significant political issues, how freaked out would this young man be to know that some of your family members are Libertarian and do not like either party? Should this be kept a secret from his family?=)

Healthcare in general: How do you both feel about various alternative health care practices- acupuncture, muscle testing, homeopathics,

FYG learning to walk

herbal remedies, chiropractic, organic food, vaccines, going to the dr (how often, what prompts a dr visit) home birth vs hospital birth, what if you have insurance for the one you like, but not the other? What health issues do you have?

parenting issues: What constitutes spoiling a child? Family bed or separate crib in another room or something in between? Cry it out vs holding the baby? Attachment parenting? Spanking? when, with what, for what, how? What ages? What other methods of discipline? Have you read any parenting books? Discuss them if you have. Breastfeeding vs formula? How strongly do you feel about this? When, if ever, would formula be an option? how long is too long? Baby buckets? Bedtimes? Routine? Schedules? Introducing solids? Cloth vs disposable? Family Bible studies? When, how, how regularly? Is Mom or Dad responsible for…..?

vintage mom with 2 boys foodFood: What kind of meals do you expect? 3 a day? snacks? What do you usually eat for breakfast?  How often do you think you should be eating out? What kinds of foods have you eaten? What foods are you unwilling to try? Crunchy or Creamy peanut butter? Whole Wheat or White? Main beverage? What’s the weirdest thing you’ve eaten? What are your go-to comfort foods when you are feeling a little sick or depressed? Grocery shopping together or is it one person’s responsibility?

Money: who is ‘in charge?’ Who budgets? Do you budget? Can one person make large purchases without discussing them with the other first? What is a large purchase? Credit cards or cash? What does the Bible say about debt? What does the Bible say about money? Where does most of your money go now? What’s an appropriate standard for the contribution? What do you give now and why? Must everything be new, or are thrift stores okay? What MUST be brand-new, rather than second hand? Have you read anything you realy liked or found helpful on this topic? share. Read The Tightwad Gazette books together, or at least the essays.

Home: what is your ideal for home and family? Hospitality? What does submission mean? What does being the head of the home mean? Who is responsible for which areas of the home, house, family? What tasks do you assume are ‘his’ jobs and what tasks are ‘hers?’ What chore do you hate the most? What chore do you most like to do, or have done? What do you consider a clean house? How necessary is a made bed/clean sink/ clean floor/ empty laundry basket/ empty trashcan, etc. Who takes out the trash? How often should various chores be done?

More ‘getting to know you’ stuff: What’s your personality type? What are your love languages? what do you expect/want most from the other person? What do you think you can bring to the relationship? What stresses you the most (in general) and how do you respond to stress? What makes you angry? how do you react when you are angry? What makes you sad? how do you react when you are sad? What are your ‘triggers or pet peeves’?

Extended family: What responsibilities do you believe you have toward your parents and or grandparents after marriage? How close are you to your siblings and how often do you expect to see them? If you had to choose guardians for your children, who would you choose? What are some of your family traditions?  How do you expect to handle holidays and get togethers?

Are there any areas where you might be outside ‘typical’ mainstream practices for your family or from your church?

Are you a morning person or a night owl?

Pets? (this issue is a deal breaker for several girls, but the required answer is different- one is firmly anti-pet, and two are just as firmly pro-pet)


Once a young man is ‘approved,’ there are projects we suggest- not necessarily all of these, but they are listed in order of priority:

book and candlePick a book of the Bible to study together each week (it may not be the Song of Solomon. Otherwise, it’s up to the couple)

Commit to daily Bible reading *now,* and hold each other accountable for it.

pray together, and pray for each other, and if you weren’t already doing this before the Parental Units suggested it, then ask yourselves why.

diligently keep track of your daily and weekly spending, right down to the penny. Go over this together and discuss- what does your spending reveal about your priorities? About what you think are wants and what you think are needs? Does your actual spending reflect what you think are your priorities and your views on wants vs needs? Does it reflect self-control?

is there anything you’re thinking you’ll really need to work on once you get married? Are you sure it’s not something you should work on now?

Choose some tasks/project to do together. For instance:

*a service project (weed somebody’s garden; go to a nursing home together; clean your sister’s house; wash somebody’s windows; serve a meal at a homeless shelter; volunteer to organize the donations at a crisis pregnancy center; ask the deacons if they can suggest something you could both do together; take an older lady from church out on a picnic, see if the NICU allows volunteers to hold babies, assist somebody who is moving,….)

*Learn a new skill together- Home Depot, I think, sometimes offers free or inexpensive classes together. Take a CPR class together.  Take one of the free weekend classes Hobby Lobby and Michaels sometimes offer. Learn to make something via instructables online, learn to change the oil in a car, or work on a new language skill together (sign language>>>=D) or ask somebody at church who has a skill you’re interested in to teach you both.

*One of you teach the other something- the guitar, piano, finger spelling, a new song, how to do something on the computer, a game, how to make something in the kitchen, change a tire, whatever.

*Choose a book to read together and discuss.

Is there anything you’re thinking you’ll really need to work on once you get married? Are you sure it’s not something you should work on now?


There are other questions you and/or your young people might consider here (not all of them will apply, and it’s not the end of the world if you don’t get the ‘right’ answers on most of them.  My husband and I married even though I wanted six kids and he only wanted two, and while that was a little foolhardy, it turned out alright in the end.

You can also read this for other ideas and things to address.  Put down that coke, first.  I thought it was hilarious, with more than a touch of truth.

Something else we tell our kids and their interested young men is that all marriages are somewhat cross-cultural.  I learned this from a friend who was in a cross cultural marriage.  She said it was actually easier to deal with than people told her it would be, because she and her husband *knew* they were from totally different cultures, so they were aware and watching for those things. But, she said in her observation, people who assumed they were marrying into the same culture because they were both from the same country had their own issues and potholes along the way, only they were surprised by them, because they did not recognize that even in America, families have their own distinct sub-cultures, and when you marry, you’re combining them.

Now, my friend’s husband had moved to the states from his own country years before he met his wife.  He had already adapted to his new country.   If you are pursuing a cross cultural relationship where one of you will be leaving your home country to join the other in his country, there are even more issues to deal with, of course, and they will be challenging.  Not insurmountable, but challenging.

Here’s another good list of questions to ask- it’s geared toward recognizably cross cultural marriages, but it has some really neat ideas that would be useful for any couple.

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