We often hear that you should never discuss money or religion in conversation. It is too personal and feelings can easily become hurt. When you and your partner are planning to get married, however, these are just a few of the difficult conversations you absolutely must have. Couples often dismiss or avoid discussing important topics, only to have them appear within their marriage in ways that can erode positivity and invite conflict, anger, and resentment. The conversations we avoid with our loved one are often the most important ones to have. Here are 7 conversations that every couple should have before getting married.
- Money. Don’t just discuss money in the abstract, but rather sit down as a couple with both of your bank statements, bills, and even meet with a financial planner. Discuss how you will make financial decisions: plan your joint expenses, discuss saving and investments, how much each partner will contribute, and who is responsible for setting up bill payments. Fully disclose debts, credit cards, and spending habits to one another.
- Household Responsibilities. You should not assume that once you get married, you will both automatically know who does what around the house. Are you planning on a roughly equal division of household labor, or will one person work outside the home and the other stay home and take on more responsibility of the house? Do not let your needs or expectations go unsaid. Talk about it, and come to an agreement that you both can live with.
- Careers. Couples should talk explicitly about their hopes, dreams, and visions for their careers. Discuss how much time you plan to spend at work versus at home and how to prioritize your relationship and still succeed in your career.
- Children. Talk to one another about where you each stand and come to an agreement about your shared vision for the future of your family. Do you want to have kids? Or do you expect to not have children? What would you do if you experienced fertility problems? Being fully open about your wants, needs, and fantasies in this area of your lives ensures that you are not surprised or disappointed later on.
- Beliefs and Values. Couples should discuss how they will live a life together and balance any differences in major values or beliefs. For example, inter-faith couples should plan to share or even blend religious traditions. Find a way to disagree respectfully and build a life together that honors both people’s beliefs and values.
- Managing Conflict. Do you and your partner know how to behave with one another in a healthy and productive way when conflict arises? Does one of you shut down while the other one goes into problem-solving mode? Getting your communication pattern on track before you get married is a wise decision, because it will allow you to face whatever issues arise in your hopefully long life together. Seek couples therapy if you struggle to communicate effectively – it can help!
- In-laws. Couples should discuss how they want to relate to their in-laws. Find a way to balance differences in your needs and try to understand why your partner wants parental involvement or distance. Find a way to become a team with the same goals for how to deal with in-laws and parents, and then stick to your plans.