A lot of people think being in love and having a wedding is all it takes to build a marriage. And while those things certainly play a large role, there’s a lot more that needs to be discussed than professing your feelings for each other and deciding whether to hire a DJ or a band to play at your wedding. If you want to give your marriage a strong chance at lasting ’til death do you part, here are some issues you and your partner need to talk about before walking down the aisle.
Your debt profile
Personally, I’d feel betrayed and consider it grounds for leaving the marriage if I discovered that my partner has a lot of debt that they didn’t tell me about. It might be an embarrassing topic to talk about but it can save you plenty of disappointment and broken trust in the future. If either of you is in debt, confirm the exact amount and discuss how you plan to repay it.
Where you’re going to live
Do you plan to put your roots down somewhere or would you prefer to keep changing locations from time to time? If you currently love where you live, would you consider moving and for what reasons — to be closer to family, for a job offer, or to be in a better school district? Do you want to live in the city, the suburbs, or a farm? Is your dream home a cabin, fancy condo, or a house on the lake?
All your big and little secrets
Do you have a child somewhere? Are you on the run from something? Do you have a criminal record? Have you been married before? Is there some genetic ailment that runs in your family? Are you living with a disability or terminal disease? Did you previously date one of your partner’s friends? It’s important to air your dirty laundry before you get married so you can both go into the marriage knowing what you’ve signed up for. It’ll also help you avoid any unfortunate surprises in the future.
You and your partner need to talk about any dealbreakers you might have or lines you don’t want crossed. Don’t just assume they won’t do things you’re not comfortable with. Discuss your different habits and natures and try to strike a compromise. Do you prefer a clean house? Is it okay for your partner to go through your phone? There may be something you don’t consider cheating, but your partner will view as a betrayal of their trust.
Your career trajectories
Work is a huge part of our lives, so you can’t afford to neglect talking about it. How committed are you and your partner to your careers? How will your personal lives be affected the further you advance in your careers? What kind of sacrifices would you have to make to get to where you want to be? Will you have to work long hours or travel a lot? Do you plan to go back to school to further your career? If you have kids, are either of you willing to quit your job and be a stay-at-home parent for a bit?
How your families factor into your lives
Family can be a source of disagreement and stress. The earlier you tackle how you’re going to deal with them, the better for you. Talk about how your family will factor into your future decisions. At whose house will you be spending the holidays? Will you continue your current family traditions or start new ones? When your parents get older, how will you care for them? Will they come to live with you or go to a home?
The role religion plays in your life
I’m not a religious person, so getting married to someone who is really devout with their faith might be an issue. If you belong to different religions, how will you raise your kids? Even if you both share the same faith, you might go about it differently. Talking about how you’re going to navigate this will prevent it from driving a wedge in your relationship later on.
Your current and future sex life
If one of you is really interested in sex and one is just humoring the other until the marriage is finalized so they can bring down the frequency to a level they’re comfortable with, then unhappiness, dissatisfaction, and resentment lie ahead. You both need to have a conversation about your ideal sex life looks like. Are you going to be satisfied with sleeping with just one person for the rest of your life? If not, what do you think about opening your marriage? What other techniques are you willing to explore to keep the spark alive?
Whether or not to have children
Don’t forget to discuss whether you both want children. And if you do, how many? How will you raise them — with strict rules or plenty of freedom? What kinds of punishment will be acceptable? When do you plan to start trying? If you can’t conceive naturally, are you open to fertility treatments, egg/sperm donation, surrogacy, or adoption?
How will you handle finances?
Marriage usually means sharing things bills and finances, so you need to discuss how you’ll deal with money. Will you have separate or joint bank accounts or both? What are your spending habits and are there areas where both of you might need to compromise? How will you share bills — equally or by percentage? Are you willing to sign a prenup?
Division of house chores.
You don’t want to get married and discover your partner expects you to handle all or most of the labor around the house. You need to get in front of that by having a conversation about how you’ll split domestic work before tying the knot. Negotiate, barter, and beg if you have to so you’re not stuck doing chores you hate. Try to arrive at a compromise that causes the least displeasure for both of you.
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