5 Things You Absolutely Must Talk About Before Marriage

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couple having a talk about marriage
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It's important to talk about marriage before you actually get married and spend the rest of your life together.

Couples are often caught in difficult dilemmas because they never discussed their hopes and expectations before they promised to "love and hold" each other for the rest of their lives.

Sadly, only 44 percent of couples seek premarital counseling, and even if they do, the counseling is often focused on surface-level issues.

RELATED: When And How To Have 'The Talk' About Marriage

It's worth a couple's time and effort to spend time creating a greater awareness of each other's inner world.

Many couples lack awareness of unspoken expectations each one brings to the marriage.

Here are 5 areas you need to talk about before marriage.

1. Increase your level of self-awareness.

Being self-aware is noticing and being honest about the way you behave and relate to others. It also means to notice your own thought process and typical go-to feelings.

You can only change and work on what you become aware of. Taking an honest look at your own fears is key to address destructive patterns that may affect your relationship.

In fact, the greater self-awareness you have, the greater the possibility of a healthy and lasting marriage. With a healthy sense of self, you will have greater confidence to deal with past hurts and issues.

People who lack self-awareness tend to have relationship problems because they don't see how they come across or how their partner is affected.

They misinterpret or miss cues altogether. They may be overly suspicious, insecure, and blame others when things go wrong.

Having healthy self-worth requires self-awareness, which makes it possible to tolerate looking at your own shortcomings without sinking into shame or blame.

When you become aware of weak areas, you can work on them. None of us are perfect, but we can catch ourselves better and apologize when we make a mistake.

Deep bonding often happens when two partners share weaknesses with each other, apologize to each other, and support each other in further healing and growth.

2. Let go of expectations formed from your family of origin.

Growing up, there are certain presuppositions that are "mapped" into us. Our family of origin is normally the place where we learn to communicate and form patterns of relating.

We develop deeply held values and beliefs — and it's helpful to become aware of them and compare them with your partner's upbringing.

One purpose of discussing these differences is to face and resolve difficult events or patterns that have affected you, such as having had a judgmental or critical parent, resulting in a sense of never being good enough.

Many parents do the best they can, but it's vital to identify parental wounds so we can be aware of them and allow them to be healed.

Another advantage is that greater awareness opens the way to better relate to extended families on both sides. We can learn to overlook the jabs of a critical in-law or set appropriate boundaries on demanding family members.

Maybe the most important aspect is that you now have an opportunity to interrupt negative generational patterns and create a healthier environment for your own future family.

3. Clarify marriage deal-breakers.

No one wants ugly surprises. What are the "non-negotiables" for you and your partner? Let your partner know if you won't tolerate lying or keeping secrets.

Many spouses had no idea about addiction issues or compulsory behavior until years into the marriage.

Don't ignore "red flags," such as excessive spending or signs of substance abuse. Don't simply overlook destructive behavior that you really don't want around you or your children.

Again, the issue is to notice and become aware of what you consider deal-breakers.

How would you respond to cheating? Or excessive flirting? Are you aware of exactly how much debt your partner has? Do you feel heard and respected in the relationship, or are your opinions belittled or ignored?

Setting boundaries now can keep you from finding yourself in a difficult dilemma later.

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4. Learn how to handle disagreements.

When you both are calm, have the courage to look back on a recent fight and try to analyze what happened.

Did one of you shut down while the other kept going? What was acceptable in the disagreement and what was not?

Try to be honest about how you both may have reacted through anger, how you lacked awareness or neglected to share the hurt or fear hiding behind the outburst.

What's the story behind this reaction?

For example, if you experienced being abandoned by a parent, do you get anxious and angry when your partner seems to withdraw?

These situations can be turned into helpful self-discoveries, and from there you can work to improve yourself. As a couple, you become more aware of each other's sore points, and this can actually deepen your relationship.

5. Create a meaningful marriage culture.

Chances are, at this point, culture is taking shape and form in your relationship.

For example, how do you interact and treat each other in general? Are you kind and polite to each other? How do you address each other?

Take an honest look at your marriage. What do you like and dislike about the habits you have formed together? Do you acknowledge each other by verbal responses, even when you talk about daily, mundane things?

Studies show that a habit of positive responses to our spouses is crucial for the relationship to last.

Research also shows that marriages tend to blossom when spouses create a culture of daily expressed appreciation, admiration, and fondness.

Is this natural for you both? Why or why not? Even if your parents never exchanged affirmations, are you willing to change? How important is this to your partner?

Marriage is a serious business and works so much better when both partners have self-awareness and willingness to be honest with themselves.

Taking the time to ponder and discuss these points can in itself create a deeper connection between you, and it could save you much heartache in the years to come.

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Cecilie Croissant is a licensed professional counselor in private practice in Tulsa, Oklahoma who helps couples prepare for marriage and overcome obstacles in their relationship. She is a speaker at conferences around the world and was awarded an honorary doctorate in 2018 for her years of teaching and equipping leaders in over 30 nations.

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