Sit down and discuss these seven topics before you both say 'I do.'
Being in love is a wonderful feeling, but staying in love is a wonderful skill. Every couple needs to develop the ability to talk about everything. You may think you know your spouse-to-be, there may be many things you folks have not discussed before marriage. Do it now so you can create that rewarding relationship!
Here are the top seven topics you should discuss before tying the knot:
1. Money: How will you both handle money? Who will pay bills, save, plan for spending and allocate fun money? Will you follow a budget? Is it often a good idea? How much should be saved? If one of us makes more does that mean he/she gets to control more of the money? Will you have a common "pot" or divided accounts? What is a necessity and what is a luxury (going out to eat, seeing a movie, cable, vacations, Starbucks, etc.)? How are debts or assets brought into the marriage and then viewed? Money is a big topic couples gloss over and then regret, and it is one of the top reasons couples give for getting divorced!
2. Kids: Do you both want kids at some point? Do we both agree on when, how many, and how we'll take care of them? What will be your parenting style? Are you able to work as a team and agree to present a united front? What should you do if that isn't happening? How will children be disciplined? Kids are a blessing, but definitely a stress-inducer for relationships—plan accordingly.
3. Career: How will work be negotiated? Will both of you work? How many hours a week? Will it be okay for one of you not to work and under what circumstances? If one of you were to be offered a career opportunity in a location far from the other's family, are you prepared to move? How do your levels of ambition match or differ? Are you okay with them being different? If they match, does it cause competition and how do you handle that in the long term? Work is usually a big part of your life (taking up a third of a day) so it is important you both understand how it plays out in your future lives together.
4. Free Time: What do you enjoy doing together and apart? How have you developed "play" and free time? What are the expectations about how you'll spend free time once married? How much time will you each have together, alone or with your own friends? Do you respect each other's friends? How will you divide chores? How much free time will be devoted to chores? What does each of you dread or like to do as chores? What chores are important to each of you? After work, your free time and chores impact your relationship time greatly. It is important to have a balance in both. Keep
5. Sex and Intimacy: Are your sexual needs compatible? Do either of you need more, less or different things? Can you talk about it clearly so you can negotiate any future change? What can you do to help each other talk about it? Is your partner affectionate to the degree that you expect? How does each of you like to show intimacy and caring? What does each of you need to feel loved and cared for? What are your comfort levels on public displays of affection?
6. In-Laws: Are there any major family of origin issues? How good is each potential spouse at setting limits with family and/or are either of you bothered by this issue? What place does family of origin play in your life as a couple? How about when you have kids? How often do you visit or socialize with family? If we have out-of-town relatives, will we ask them to visit us for extended periods? How often? How will you handle holidays with families? How much involvement do or will family members or parents have in decision making? Will you function as a couple first, or part of a larger family who has great influence? Remember, the family comes along when you get married and a healthy couple moves their relationship bubble.
7. Other Important Concerns: Do you have problems in your relationship you need to deal with before your wedding? Is there violence, drugs/alcohol, mental health illness, personal issues, or past things that might affect the relationship, including past marriages, kids or alimony? Are you each happy with the other’s approach to health? Does one have habits or tendencies that concern the other (smoking, excessive dieting or poor diet)? Are there issues from dating that could affect the marriage like trust, unfaithfulness or difficulties handling conflict well? Is it is important to be faithful to one another? Choosing not to talk about these things doesn't make them go away—they will return.
As you read this list you may know some of the answers, but take a few moments to verify your understanding and clarify your partner's. If you don't know the answers, sit down and talk about the topic. These discussions may take some time, but it is time well invested in your future rewarding relationship.
Lastly, don't talk about these topics only once. Remember, you'll be discussing these things for the rest of your lives together. It is okay for the answers to change, and if you keep talking you'll be able to keep up gracefully with the changes.
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