Dating couples are usually on their best behaviour. But once you start thinking that “this could be the one”, you need to start spending time together just being yourselves. Every day. Your schedule’s too busy? But if you can’t find time for each other now, how’d you think things will be later?
Hanging out’s also about finding whether you’re really compatible. Away from the artificial politeness of formal dating.
You need to know what your partner’s like around the house. Whether they’re tidy in the bathroom. How they feel about your inability to get organised. Or your obsessive need for cleanliness.
You should also cook together. Regularly! Because cooking a meal together shows how you’ll work as a couple. It checks your communication skills, and your ability to co-operate, compromise, and try new stuff. Cleaning up your place together is another good test. Because the happiest couples do the housework together, and don’t have chore wars.
Travelling together is another good idea. It takes you out of your comfort zone, and you get to see how you both react when you’re stressed, or stuck in the middle of nowhere.
You need to see whether you can compromise over small things. Like one of you choosing the movie one night, and the other the next. Or being OK with each other’s favourite restaurant, without getting whiny or upset.
You should get to know each other’s families well – and all their dramas.
Start discussing your finances, because you must be on the same page financially before you marry. Discuss your expectations for your marriage. You want to make sure that you’re both facing in the same direction.
Decide what you both consider cheating. What about flirty texts? Or is it cheating only if it’s physical? You need an agreed definition that works for both of you.
Talk about having kids, because if you want children and your partner’s totally against, then that absolutely must be hashed out before the wedding. If one of you wants kids and one of you doesn’t, then your marriage will fail.
Don’t shy away from arguments, even major ones, because they also show how you both handle conflict. Does your partner stand their ground and search for solutions? Or runs for the hills every time things get tough. Fights also usually bring out the worst in people. And it’s better to know what that’s like before you tie the knot.
You also need to be sleeping together! That doesn’t necessarily mean sex, if it’s important to you to wait. Though many couples who do wait discover that they’re disastrously incompatible on their honeymoon. But it’s really important that you start sleeping next to each other every night. Because you need to know whether you’re compatible sleeping partners. Couples who sleep well together communicate better, and have a much closer relationship. And can you do literally anything in the bathroom in front of one another? That’s another powerful indicator of future happiness.