There is nothing more beautiful than marriage..uniting the sacred love between two people. Most of us believe if we truly love each other nothing else really matters, and that you can get through anything together.
But experience tells us this is wrong. Unfortunately, most couples are not given the guidance and knowledge about the important things that ought to be discussed BEFORE deciding to get married.
The good news is that it is never too late to have these conversations and try to figure these things out.
Failure to do so often results in arguing and even failed marriages.
Take the time to sit down with your partner and talk about these important 10 things:
It is hard to talk about money. This is definitely a topic that people go to all sorts of means to avoid talking about. But how can you merge two individual’s financials into one without talking about it?
You need to know what are each others debts and assets. You will want to decide if you keep finances mostly separate or if you share one bank account and credit cards. How much are you each comfortable spending and/or saving?
What is it okay or not okay to spend money on? Who will pay the bills? Is one of you more frugal than the other? Will you dine out in pricey restaurants and take fancy vacations? Save for retirement?
You can see already what a complex issue this is. That is precisely why it needs to be discussed.
When you’re a newlywed, it’s hard to imagine that there will ever be a time when sex and intimacy are actually a problem. Right now, you are both on the same page, and there is no lack of intimacy.
But fast forward into busy lives of careers and kids, housework and exhaustion, and you’ve got a whole different scenario on your hands. One partner might be overwhelmed and exhausted and the other wants more sex and intimacy than their partner can give.
The passion and chemistry you once had changes into a different stage of the relationship, and carving out the time and desire for sex becomes a challenge.
Resentment can build, and lack of intimacy can contribute to infidelity. If you don’t want that happen, then you must talk about sex. Talk about your needs and desires, your feelings of closeness of distance, even what you like and want in the bedroom.
Couples that communicate about sex enjoy more satisfying relationships.
There is much to discuss when it comes to children. Most importantly, you will need to decide if and when you plan to have children. How many children do you want? Often, one partner wants just one or two kids, but the other wants a bigger family. Sometimes, one partner doesn’t want kids at all.
You’d be amazed how often this issue comes with couples in my office. Discuss this ahead of time!
How will you raise your children? Bottles of breast fed? Nannies? Who will do the bulk of the parenting? Will one of you stay home or will you both work and the children go to daycare? How will you divide the responsibilities?
Public school or private school? What about religion? Where will you raise them? In a big city, or do you plan to move somewhere else? All of these things must be discussed.
It is important to communicate about career paths and plans in a marriage. Will both of you continue to work full time even if you have children? Does one of you put in significantly more hours than the other? What about traveling for work, leaving the partner alone with the children? How will these decisions impact your family financially? If one partner makes more money than the other, how will you handle that in the marriage?
Again, these things impact entire families and so need to be communicated about. Of course, things don’t always go as planned, and you must be able to communicate in an ongoing way, but many things about career goals and plans must be discussed as early as possible.
Too often, couples have different ideas of how careers will evolve in their family, and one partner feels blindsided because they had a different plan and this was never discussed.
Even if you marry someone with the same religious background as you, what role will religion play in your family? Will you go to church or synagogue every week, or just on special holidays, or not at all? Will religion and prayer be part of your daily lives inside the home? Will your children go to religious school or participate in religious ceremonies?
This is even more complicated if you are of two different backgrounds. Which religion, if any, will you raise children? Do you plan to expose them to both? How will you do that, and how will you answer tough questions as they get older?
Talk about this and figure it out. The wait and see approach does not work.
DIVISION OF LABOR
While it may seem obvious to you, based on your own values and beliefs, not everyone sees eye to eye on this one. Will you follow more traditional male/female roles within the marriage? Are you more progressive and feel that the labor should be equally divided?
How do your career choices affect the division of labor? If you’re both working full time, does Mom still take care of the kids and cook and clean? If Mom stays home, does Dad help at all? Again, these are the types of difficult conversations you need to have.
Sometimes, partners have such diabolically opposite views of how this should look, and they never took the time to talk about it before it became a problem.
What will be your rules and boundaries be about in-laws and other visitors? Can they come and spend as much time as wanted? Can they stay indefinitely? Is there a certain amount of time you feel is appropriate, but then more than that makes you uncomfortable?
This can be complicated even more if you don’t like your in-laws, or if you think your partner has an unhealthy relationship with his or her own parents. Personally, when I was first married, we had a 3 day rule. Nobody was allowed to stay with us in our home more than 3 days, regardless of who it was.
I was hesitant, but in reality, it proved to work very well and saved us from a lot of potential conflict with each other and our families. Talk about it and figure out what works for you.
You have a lot of options when it comes to school. Public school, private school, online school, home school. You can live in a big city with overcrowded schools or choose to live elsewhere for better schools or less crowded schools.
What matters most to you? Don’t wait to discuss this until you child is 5 years old or you will have a problem on your hands! Talk about your ideas long before you even have children.
WHERE TO LIVE
Do you want to move somewhere for a certain school? Do you want to live in a big city or a smaller town? Do you plan to own a home or rent? Big house or smaller house or apartment?
This one really does frequently become an argument. I remember wanting to buy a small starter house, while my husband wanted to continue to rent. Make sure you’re on the same page with your plans moving forward.
Forcing someone to do something they’re not comfortable with only harbors resentment.
How often will you take vacations? Where will you go on vacations? Will you bring the children? Who will babysit if you don’t? How long will you go away for? How much money will you spend on vacations? What if one likes fancy hotels and one likes to go camping? Will you relax on a beach somewhere, or do more adventurous things? Maybe some of both?
Talk about it, and figure out what works for you. By all means, don’t fight about vacations…that sort of ruins it. The whole idea is to rest, relax, and reconnect, so make sure you’ve discussed this before it’s time to plan.
Which one of these has been a challenge in your marriage? And how have you overcome it? Share below!
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Lori Freson is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Southern California. She has been working in the mental health field since 1997, and has been a licensed therapist since 2002. Lori currently works in her own thriving private practice in Encino and Sherman Oaks, where she serves the San Fernando Valley and Los Angeles areas. Contact Lori at lorifresontherapy.com or call/text 818-514-LMFT