This is part 1 of a series of blog posts that will outline topics that couples should discuss before marriage. During my time as a therapist, I have noted that the majority of couples that come for therapy argue about the following topics in one form or another. Having ongoing communication about these issues can be a wonderful way to get to know your partner while increasing the connection between you two.
Discussing these topics in detail was one of the best decisions my husband, Caarn, and I ever made when we were dating. We were both looking for serious relationships and did not want to rush into something if we could not agree on the basics. We were both looking to move forward with the right person and these questions ensured that we were on the same page. After only two 7 hour conversations we realized we had exhausted most of the topics couples fight about during their marriage. We discovered each other’s form of communication and quickly saw a compatibility that helped us to feel more connected than we had ever before. Let it be known that we did this only 2 months into talking (we hadn’t even really started dating yet!), so it is never too early to start these discussions!
WARNING! If you begin asking the questions in this list with your partner there will be at least a few times where you will disagree and maybe even argue. It’s okay and completely normal! You can’t expect to agree on everything. It is, however, important to work on the disagreements and come up with compromises where both partners are comfortable with the outcome. Some of these questions you will quickly agree on and move on from while others you will continue to communicate about. Also, it should be noted that not all of the questions we discussed were “serious” ones. This can be a fun experience. A chance to talk and learn!
Asking each other about your life goals, career plans and timelines for the following can be a great way to learn about your partner.
- What is your plan for caring for elderly parents?
- Will you pay for them to stay in a nursing home?
- Will they move in with you?
- What are your future career plans?
- Do you have 5 year and 10 year plans?
- Where do you see yourself living long term?
- Is traveling important to you? How often do you expect to travel? Where?
- Will you have to travel for work? How often? Will this change after marriage? After kids?
- When would you like to retire?
- Where would you like to retire to?
- Discuss finances for retirement
The discussion of children is often a point of contention between partners. From how to raise them to the financial obligations, the questions in this topic are far reaching.
- Do you want children?
- How many?
- Are you open to fertility treatments or adoption in case natural conception is not an option?
- How would you handle having a child with special needs?
- Discuss the parenting styles that your parents used and which ones you liked and disliked.
- Which parenting strategies would you like to adopt?
- What are the disciplining methods you plan to use?
- Will you raise them in a certain faith or religion?
- What values do you want to instill in your children?
- Who will stay home with the children when they are sick?
- What method(s) of childcare do you plan to use?
- Will a parent stay home with the children?
- What are your expectations for money spent on children’s clothing, toys, and other essentials?
- Do you want your children going to private school or public school?
Disagreements about finances are one of the biggest issues couples fight about. Most couples avoid this topic because it can seem inappropriate and is uncomfortable to bring up. However, being open about discussions related to money can help to prevent disagreements down the road and alleviate a lot of unnecessary stress.
- Are you a saver or a spender?
- Do you have any debt
- Ex. School loans, unpaid credit cards, etc?
- What is your credit score?
- How do you budget money?
- What kind of lifestyle do you wish to live?
- Will you both opt for joint accounts or separate?
- Who will pay the bills and do the taxes?
- Will you support elderly/retired parents?
- Have you started a retirement savings account?
- If not: do you plan to?
- Will you use a financial advisor?
Communication and Conflicts
Communication is the cornerstone of all relationships. How couples deal with conflicts and communicate during disagreements can be a huge testimony to the strength of their relationship.
- How did your parents communicate with one another? And what did you like/dislike about their communication style?
- How did your parents deal with conflicts in their relationship?
- How do you deal with conflicts?
- How do you react when your partner is upset with you?
- How are conflict situations typically diffused or ended?
- Ex: Laughter; apologizing; touching, etc?
Gender roles are the gendered behaviors and roles that individuals learn and are defined by culturally accepted practices.
- What roles did your parents play in the family?
- Who was the breadwinner?
- Who was the caretaker
- Were roles shared equally?
- How were household responsibilities divided up?
- Who took care of the children?
- Who cooked, cleaned, did the yard work and maintenance, etc?
- How do you two expect to divide household responsibilities?
- How will childcare be divided?
Before committing to a relationship it is important to engage in open communication with your partner about the future. This can be a great way to identify areas that need to be explored. While communication about these topics can be difficult the process can be made easier with the help of an experienced therapist in pre-marital counseling. These sessions can be used to further explore these issues and work on strengthening the relationship before marriage.
Continue To Part Two: 4 Discussions You Should Have Before Committing To Marriage