The decision to marry is one of the biggest decisions a person can make.
We fall in love, we enjoy spending time with our beloved and then we make the big move – we get engaged. Congratulations! Best Wishes! Mazel Tov! Now it’s time to dig into some important conversations.
Before getting married every couple should have open, honest conversations about some big topics. This is not a one-and-done conversation; rather this should be ongoing dialogue where you actively seek to learn more about your betrothed.
While we hope that these conversations are a source of connection and deepen that sense of “me too!” do not be discouraged if you don’t immediately agree. The most important aspect of a successful marriage is effective communication – so keep communicating. Keep listening to what your partner has to say, keep seeking to clearly communicate what is important to you.
Most couples have had conversation about the values they share before deciding to get engaged. But it is important that you take this to the next level and understand what expectations you both have for the life you will create together.
There are four major topics you need discuss BEFORE you get married. These topics are: Kids, Family, Monogamy and Money. Let’s look at each of these a little closer.
My guess is the topic has come up at some level, but it is helpful to understand specifics around building a family together. There are a lot of variables to consider, so here are some questions to ask each other:
- How important is it to you to have children?
- Would one or both of you prefer to not have children?
- How many kids would you like to have?
- How soon would you like to have kid(s)?
- How will you handle childcare – will one parent stay home full-time, daycare, nanny, au pair?
- Are you open to adopting?
- How would you handle difficulty conceiving, would you consider pursuing infertility treatment?
- What role do each of you expect the other to play in raising the children?
I know! It’s a lot to consider. But consider you must, as these are some pretty important decisions to make as a couple. Of course once you become parents there are endless decisions to be made but these are some high-level topics that you need to consider before getting hitched.
Now that you’ve got an idea of what the family you will (or perhaps will not) build together, let’s talk about the one you already have. Good or bad, you are not just marrying your fiancé; you are joining another family.
It is important that you get to know them and understand your partner’s relationship with them. It is also important that you discuss your expectations for spending time with extended family. Such as:
- How will you handle important holidays?
- How often will you visit or spend time with extended family?
- How much of your life will you share with them vs. what will be kept private?
- What role will grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins play in the life of your children?
- What are your expectations about caring for aging or ill parents or siblings?
We all have a unique connection with the family that we grew up in; nothing shapes us in a more significant way. It is critical that you all discuss this to understand each other fully and agree as a couple to the appropriate boundaries for your life together.
This seems like a no-brainer to many couples. It feels like monogamy goes with matrimony like peanut butter goes with jelly. However, there are some important aspects you want to spell out with each other. The more specific you are now in establishing agreements, the less possibility there will be for misunderstanding later.
- What are each partner’s assumptions about monogamy?
- What behaviors are included in the monogamy agreement?
- Are these assumptions null and void if the marriage is sexless?
- How would you handle seasons of sexlessness in the relationship?
- How will you manage boundaries with friends and co-workers of the opposite sex?
- What expectations do you have about interactions with others on Social Media?
As you can see there are some details that are important to communicate. You know what feels right for your value system and your relationship, be sure you communicate openly and be as specific as possible in determining your monogamy agreement.
Most folks have heard that money is a major source of conflict for married couples – and it is. That is because money has a lot of emotion tied to it. We have feelings about money; we have past experiences and expectations for our life and ourselves when it comes to money. Therefore, it is helpful to understand each other’s beliefs sooner rather than later.
- What is your philosophy of money – is it best saved for a rainy day or should it be spent to enjoy today?
- What does money represent to you – Status? Security? Power? Fun?
- What is your expectation that your financial status will be as a family?
- How will the day-to-day responsibilities of money be managed?
- How will you make decisions on spending? Will there be a certain threshold (dollar amount) that would require a discussion or joint decision?
Again, do not be alarmed if you don’t immediately see eye to eye on these topics. You are two different people with two different backgrounds; it is natural to have some difference of opinion.
If you are engaged and concerned about how to navigate any of these topics, do not hesitate to reach out for support. Premarital Counseling is proven to help couples create a strong foundation for marriage. In the long game of married life you will disagree on many things, it is how you manage these differences and work together to find a solution that makes all the difference.