Women have a special kind of courage. They decide they are ready for marriage and are sure they can handle it. Their parents did it and it looks like a cakewalk. They see the porcupine of marriage full of attitude with its quills upright and they laugh the light laugh. The woman coos and heads for the sweet cuddly porcupine. Six months down the line, she’s pulling out the barbs crossly and saying, WTF!

As an institution, marriage has too many triggers that can split it right down the middle. No one tells us about these triggers. Everyone either jokes or gushes. But if you have niggling worries about a marriage you are planning to embark on, what do you fear the most?

When I got married, my only worry, as with most of my peers at that time, was that my guy would cheat on me.

He never did (at least he didn’t get caught) but we were crumbling as a unit under the weight of different issues. Finances, Unacceptable Conduct, Kids (easy enough acronym to remember) are the real perils that jigger up a marriage. But let’s get the cheating out of the way first.

Dealing with cheating is simple. You have clear choices when you know your partner is cheating on you. You can leave or you can stay. If you are married and you leave through divorce, you will take your half-share of the combined assets.

Assets give you stability if they are sizeable, but they don’t give you closure because betrayal cannot be quantified in money terms. Neither can your personal investment of giving yourself to him, your time, your energy be measured. What did you get in return? Pain and betrayal? How do you put a hard currency figure to that?

If you stay, you can turn a blind eye and live in denial, or make him regret the day he strayed. But because I’m old, wise and I know my shit, I believe if anyone cheats once, they will do it again.

You have zeroed in on The One. Joy of joys, he has chosen you too. This surely is a union made in Heaven but don’t go picking out engagement rings as yet. Don’t go hunting for apartments or picking out names for your children, or your cat or your dog. It is time for The Compatibility Questionnaire.

You may both be interested in a live-in relationship, or you both may be interested in marriage. Either way, if it is a long-term commitment you are after, this questionnaire will help.

If I had this when I decided to marry, I would have known that “Things Will Sort Themselves Out” is not at all a good plan. It’s a pity I was not born old and wise. I knew shit then. Now I know shit. That’s a big difference.

If you have made your choice, be aware that both of you have certain priorities, certain fears, certain needs. Don’t ignore them or hope that they will sort themselves out. They do not.

It is the little things that stress a relationship, little things that underline shared work and shared responsibilities. They are little things you never think of discussing, but the thing is, they grow into big things and then bite you in the ass.

Sit down with your significant other and ask the questions listed here. It’s best for both of you to write your answers down, and then compare and discuss them. Unlike wedding vows, which are abstract and romantic and meant to add the ‘awww’ element to the ceremony, this compatibility questionnaire must be asked, answered and discussed, before you decide on your wedding venue.

I may be bragging here but my Compatibility Questionnaire provides the nuts and bolts of a strong domestic partnership. The points listed below pretty much cover everything in your life as a couple and a family.

You can add more that are peculiar to your situation – like if you belong to different religions, or have specific hereditary health issues. Go through them because sorting out these seemingly minor issues will give you the blueprint for your years ahead together.

A woman in her eighties recently pointed out that most men want to replace their mothers with a young, stronger wife, while women want to replace their fathers with a young, stronger husband.

The average woman wants to keep her job but needs hired help to cook and clean and wash and scrub. She wants the routine of grocery shopping to be shared. She wants electronic gadgets and a beautiful house. She needs her husband to help with the chores and housework if hired help is not affordable or absent. She wants her husband to listen, offer sympathy if required and celebrate her triumphs of the day. She wants to chat, eat, chat some more while watching television, go to bed, have a lot of foreplay, have sex, then cuddle and talk.

The average man wants someone to keep his house and his clothes clean and tidy. He wants her to greet him at the end of the day, fresh and smiling with a great meal and a sympathetic or admiring ear. He wants to watch television programmes of his choice, check his phone, have great sex, turn to the wall and sleep.

They have never discussed their priorities with each other in so many words. If they had, they might have had a rocking marriage, instead of one heading for the rocks.

Couples don’t give much thought to the domestic routine that will take over their life together, running a household and raising a family. Again, there are exceptions to this rule, but most couples, friends, family and people who had written in to my agony-aunt column have battled over these three issues – conduct of the couple, how money has to be spent and how the kids have to be raised. This questionnaire therefore deals with the three biggies: Finances, Unacceptable Conduct and Kids. (Again, you are welcome to such an easy acronym.)

Excerpted with permission from I’m Old, I’m Wise, and I Know my Shit: For the Woman Without a Plan, and for the Man Without a Clue, Bevinda Collaco, Amaryllis.