DEAR ABBY: I read with interest your suggestions to "Young Lady Who Needs to Know in Memphis," who asked what important questions should be asked before marriage to ensure a happy union. You listed such subjects as monogamy, emotional and financial independence, child-rearing and discipline, compatible career goals, sex, religion and politics.
I agree with those recommendations, but I think someone should ask: Have you had previous sexual experience?
If the answer is no, this is important information. If the answer is yes, further discussion regarding safe sex, HIV testing, birth control, etc., should ensue, which may also prompt another important question: "Have YOU?" -- M.D. IN HILLSBOROUGH, CALIF.
DEAR DOCTOR: If the couple does not already know that information, I agree, that is another important question. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: As a pastor who regularly provides premarital counseling to couples who are considering marriage, I would like to say that the "questions" you ask each other are not so important. It's how you LISTEN to each other and the ways in which you communicate your opinions, philosophies and feelings for each other that are most important.
Most often it's not the subject that causes disagreements in marriages, although the issues are always blamed as the cause for the disagreements. Rather, it is the lack of ability to openly and honestly communicate about a variety of subjects, and the inability or unwillingness to really listen and hear each other that causes marital discord.
May God continue to bless your ministry, Abby. -- REV. ANN T. FEW, NEW HOLLAND, PA.
DEAR ANN: Thank you for your kind words. Readers, listen up! There is much wisdom in the reverend's letter.
DEAR ABBY: Having been through one divorce and, fortunately, a much happier second marriage, I would like to share some thoughts on another topic that should be addressed before marriage.
It is: How does he or she and his or her family spend each and every holiday and birthday? This is something that will affect you for the rest of your life. -- HAPPILY REMARRIED IN OREGON
DEAR REMARRIED: That's another good one.
DEAR ABBY: You omitted some important questions from your list. May I add a few?
Have you or anyone in your family suffered from mental illness? Borderline personality disorder? Addictions? Trouble with the law? And most important -- do you get along with his or her mother? -- BEEN THERE, DONE THAT IN SAN DIEGO
DEAR B.T., D.T. IN S.D.: I agree. Asking about skeletons in the closet would be wise. At that point, both parties should be prepared to "shake the family tree."
DEAR ABBY: I have been a family mediator for more than 20 years. The one topic I would rank near the top of the list of questions that should be discussed is financial compatibility.
Disagreements over financial matters rank as one of the most frequent causes of divorce. If more couples had a mutual understanding of how they plan to earn, save and spend money, it would go a long way in reducing the divorce rate. -- SHIRLEY P. SEYMOUR, ESQ., POTOMAC, MD.
DEAR SHIRLEY: Right. Mutual goals go a long way toward keeping a couple together.