Ah, yes. Being in love . . . getting engaged . . . getting married . . .
The exhilaration. The excitement. It’s the most wonderful feeling in the world. You’re walking on clouds.
You dream of your life together. Your wedding, the house, the swimming pool, the children running around.
It makes you smile. It brings tears to your eyes.
Come down from that cloud for a moment and back to earth. There are a few things you both need to talk about – now - before you take those vows. I
7 Topics You Need to Talk About Before You Get Married
It’s all too easy to overlook some very important things when your view is distorted by those rose-colored glasses. The fact is, though, that your life will not magically come together and work out. It takes a lot of hard work to have a successful marriage. Making sure you're on the same page on some important topics is the first step.
Money can be a complicated topic, but there must be no secrets. Put it all on the table, in detail: debts, credit history, shared assets, savings, expenses, etc. If you both have debts, talk about your plans for handling them.
Discuss whether you should combine your finances or maintain separate accounts.
Talk about your personal philosophies about money. Are you both savers? Are you both spenders? Or is one of you a saver and the other a spender? When the bills are paid, how will you decide how to use discretionary funds that are left over.
Talk about your expectations in regard to career plans. What are your short-time and long-term goals? Will one of you need to provide support for the other to go to school? Will you be a two-career family, or will one of you be the provider and the other a homemaker? What will your roles be? How will you share the chores of household management and childcare?
Are your careers compatible in terms of spending sufficient time together? When couples find themselves passing each other on the highway or one coming home as the other is leaving, marital satisfaction can plummet quickly.
Also, consider your big goals, such as how your career will impact where you’ll live and what sort of home you’ll have. And discuss your dreams, too, like possibly living in another country or owning a business.
Thoughts about having children may change as your relationship and careers develop, but you should still know how your partner feels about this topic. You should talk about your expectations now.
Don't just make the assumption that your partner wants children as much as you do.
How many children do you want, if any? When? How should they be raised and disciplined? And what you will do if one of you turns out to be infertile?
If you come from different cultural or family backgrounds, you may have different values and belief systems. Often, when your beliefs align, your value systems align, but not always. Don't take anything for granted.
You need to talk about how these things will impact your family, especially the role they may play in raising your children. Do have the same religious beliefs? Is one of you devout and the other agnostic? If so, what will you teach your children about spirituality?
You should also discuss your ideas and expectations about sex, how you feel about monogamy, and what you define as infidelity.
The most important thing here is that you both recognize and agree that your relationship takes priority over your family of origin. Talk frankly about how involved you want them to be in your lives and consider how much they want to be involved.
Discuss whether it’s okay for one of you to visit parents without the other always having to come along.
6. Health Issues
Don’t skip discussions about existing medical conditions – physical or mental. You need to understand each other’s backgrounds and experiences. Discuss any genetic illnesses and risks they pose to your children.
Disclose any previous mental health problems, including trauma and substance abuse.
If your vows include "in sickness and in health," what does that mean to you?
7. Conflict Management
Disagreements are part of life. You need to talk about how you will handle them. Discuss each others’ conflict management styles and decide which behaviors are acceptable and what is absolutely off-limits.
A discussion about how conflict was managed in your families of origin will give you a good idea of what you can expect from your partner when disagreements arise.
Above all, don't ignore red flags. if something is bothering you about your partner now, don't make the naive mistake that it will change or go away after you're married.
It may feel daunting to delve into these heavy or delicate topics, so how can you start talking about them? You can start with a broad discussion of each. Then, ask more questions to get to specifics. Make time to sit down and have several thorough conversations. One won’t be enough!
And if you get stuck, seek help from an experienced marriage counselor to learn how other couples successfully navigate their way through these important discussions.
Pre-marital counseling now can keep you out of marriage counseling down the road!