When you're in love, and you still think your mate is perfect, it's hard to imagine a time down the road when you can ever be unhappy or disagree. You're so infatuated with one another and the ideas of marriage and family. Living happily ever after with three kids, a four bedroom home, a white picket fence and a labradoodle seems far more likely than getting into arguments over folding laundry and doing the dishes. Sadly I'm pretty certain that similar scenarios to the above stated will likely happen to anyone who ties the knot.
Marriage today is so vastly different, and yet the same, as it was one hundred years ago. At the heart of marriage it still has the same skeleton but just a new outfit. We live in an age of endless information and technology. Getting what we want, when we want it, is all our generation knows. We get our first "real" job at age 25 and move out of our parents house and buy a condo or a starter home a couple years later. We speak in terms of Facebook and Twitter. A large amount of our communication is centered around our smartphones and tablets. It's so important to remember that a key part of any working relationship is healthy communication that happens together, in person. Before you make this big decision about spending the rest of your lives together there are some key topics that you must sit down and hash out before you completely commit.
1. MONEY. Let's face it. One of the largest contributing factors to divorce is money. You need to discuss what type of people you are. Are you spenders or savers? Is your partner financially stable? Topics like credit and bankruptcy need to be laid out into the open. After you come home from the honeymoon and you're ready to buy a house you don't want to get the surprise that your partner has a credit score below 500 and you're doomed to rent for the rest of your lives. Again, being open and honest about this avoids huge misunderstandings and financial stress in those crucial early years of marriage.
2. FAITH. Faith is important because it shapes so much about who we are and why we live our lives the way that we do. It also usually determines how you handle finances, children and even behavior within your relationship. Are you the same faith? If you aren't the same faith are you able to co-habitate and co-parent and still get along? Is religion something you practice or are you ok if you are religious and your partner is not? This definitely needs to be broached so that whatever your personal situation is, you are creating and agreeing upon how you will handle faith within your relationship.
3. ROLES AND EXPECTATIONS. Have you sat down and discussed what your partner thinks a wife/husband should be? If not, stop what you are doing right now and immediately start this discussion. Dating is FAR different than being married. Often times after a couple crosses that line, one partner may change because they have specific ideas and definitions of what their role in the marriage is. As a wife you need to know if your husband is expecting you to do all of the cooking and cleaning. As a husband you need to know if your wife expects you to be the sole breadwinner or the one who picks up the dog poo and mows the lawn. Each couple has to find a happy and centered place within their roles. Setting clear expectations for one another, and also discussing where opinions may differ, helps everything go more smoothly. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure every couple has arguments about why their husband just can't put his socks in the hamper instead of on the floor next to it, or why their wife never does the dishes. This is a fact of life and will never change but if your expectations are clear ahead of time it only helps.
4. IN LAWS AND FRIENDS. (insert impending doom music here) This subject is tough. It can definitely be a deal breaker. For some reason when people get married, everyone around them tends to get in a little bit of a tizzy. Friends worry that they're losing you and can have trouble adjusting to coming second. Boy oh boy do you need to discuss this one, A LOT. It's all about boundaries and adjustment. How involved are your family and in-laws going to be in the matters of your marriage? What is the expectation of the amount of time you're going to spend with family? How open are you going to be with friends? Example: are you going to talk about arguments within your marriage with your friends or is that something you want to keep private. I'm not going to sugarcoat this subject. Navigating friends and family is extremely tough. It will likely take you a few years, if not forever, to really figure this out. The important part is that you discuss it and navigate it as an ongoing process both before and after you get married.
5. SEX. How often are you going to have it and what makes you happy? Nuff' said.
6. KIDS. How does each of you feel about having kids? Do you want them and how many? What do you feel your parenting style will be? This is especially important if one partner already has children. How are you going to adjust and combine families to make things work? Most people seem to be able to discuss this openly and it's all about compromise. Until you have kids you might not really know how you'll parent or how many you want but it's important to know what your partner desires and what kind of a parent they plan on being.
7. CAREER GOALS. Career is a huge factor in a relationship. Most of us spend at least 40 hours a week at work and so many people even have multiple jobs. Discussing career aspirations is a necessity because it determines a lot about how much time you plan on being home or if you're willing to hold off on having kids to get more established. I think most of our career ideas change throughout our lives. We might change our minds about how important or unimportant this is. Discussing your feelings about this helps set out clear expectations for each other as a couple.
Before my husband and I met at the altar, we met once a week at a marriage class. It opened our eyes to so many things about one another, and it solidified our choice to be together forever. Today there are so many resources out there for premarital coaching. You can find religious or non-religious options. We met with a few people before we decided on the program we chose. We felt like we found the right fit for us and it was an amazingly positive experience. I would encourage every couple to take this step before they get married.!