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Now that I’m married, I’m honestly surprised how many people get married without discussing really big decisions that affect their entire lives. Some of these come up naturally while dating, and others need a real sit-down conversation to discuss. Here are 11 things (or 10, depending on one answer) that you and your partner should discuss before marriage.
Money is a touchy subject for a lot of folks. What income is each person bringing to the marriage? what debts do they have? Similar to the money conversations you should have with any (future) children, there are also money conversations to have with your future spouse.
- Is there any debt? If so, are you going to share it?
- Who will handle most of the money decisions?
- How much money will you need each month for expenses?
- How big should your emergency fund be?
- What’s your budgeting methodology?
- When will you sit down to discuss your monthly budgets and financial goals?
- Will you join bank accounts or remain separate?
- What’s the dollar threshold where you should speak to each other before making a purchase?
- Are you going to invest in the stock market? If so, will you get a financial planner or do it yourself?
- What are your savings plans and goals? Do you want to retire early or go on a vacation every year?
This list is by no means exhaustive. However, it sets the stage for the kinds of things you need to talk about before marriage.
Ah, the “are you, aren’t you” question. My husband and I discussed children before marriage, and concluded “I guess?”. We’re both extremely lucky that after we got married we decided, separately and simultaneously, that we do not want children.
This is definitely a question every couple should discuss before marriage, and keep affirming after marriage as well.
Some people have children because they didn’t know they had the choice to not have children.
Some women are 100% cut out to be mothers, and they’re wonderful mothers. I know a woman with 6 children (5 boys, 1 girl). She sets and smashes mom goals like a boss. But that’s because she’s the type of woman who thrives with a brood of youngsters under her wings.
Other women, like me, are not cut out to be mothers.
The same goes for men—some men are just made to be fathers, and other men want nothing to do with it.
So which side of the fence do you live on?
If you do happen to want children, the next question is on how you’re going to rear that child. Will you follow the ridiculous practice nowadays of not “gendering” your child or letting the kid decide what gender they are?
Are you going to encourage that child’s obsessions or force her into activities you think she should do? (Like instrument lessons, soccer, and other after-school activities)?
Clearly, I have opinions on parenting even though I’m childfree.
Discussing with your partner what child-rearing methods you’ll proscribe to before marriage will smooth things down the road when situations arise that need an answer.
It’s always better if you and your partner see eye-to-eye on religion. For some people, this is a deal-breaker. And for some religions, the church officiant won’t perform the ceremony unless you’re of the same faith.
Will you go to church every Sunday? Bible study? Will you join small groups or volunteer at the church on the weekend? Will you raise your children (assuming you decided to have some) in the church, or will you “let them decide when they’re older”?
Undoubtedly, the question about religion is more important to discuss if you’ve decided on reproducing. When the parents disagree over how to approach religion with their children, the children suffer.
If you’ve read my piece on why childfree people should be taken seriously, you also know that I’m a conservative.
It’s my opinion that politics may be the most important discussion you have with your partner before marriage.
The political divide rests on a division of values and moral guidelines. No matter which side of the aisle you prefer, a relationship with someone on the opposite side has high potential for disagreement, fighting, anger, and strife.
As a conservative, I could never be in a romantic relationship with a liberal. It just wouldn’t work. Our values and principles would be so out of alignment that everyone’s feelings would get hurt, and quickly. (That’s not to say I have liberal friends. I do.)
I know there’s that saying that “opposites attract,” but true happiness and contentment comes when you enjoy doing the same things, believe the same things, and fight for the same things. Camaraderie is a powerful force, especially in politics.
So please, pick someone who believes the same things you do.
Expectations for Sex
Another important topic to discuss before marriage is expectations for sex. As humans, we’re sexual creatures, and the sex drive is one of the most basic human instincts. Some people have low sex drives, and others have high drives.
Do you and your partner have similar drives? Or are you mismatched? If you’re mismatched, how will you handle it?
The important thing to remember about sexual expectations is that you should never feel forced into it. You should jointly agree and frequently discuss how you feel about things, what you like and dislike, and how often each of you needs it.
Neither my husband nor I think that forcing the other person to sleep on the couch after a disagreement or argument is acceptable. We can choose to do so on our own, but I would never tell him he’s not welcome in the bed, and he’d never do the same to me.
I call this a ground rule. It’s just something neither of us consider doing to each other, like cheating or lying or abusing.
Think about the ground rules you want to have in your marriage, and discuss them with your partner.
Chores, repairs, dealing with landlords, neighbors, and other household duties—who does what?
It’s no longer mainstream for the wife to do all the childrearing and housework and the husband to bring home the paycheck. While this traditional setup still lives on, more and more households see both partners in careers, husbands staying at home with the kids, or stay-at-home-moms building online business empires to supplement or replace their husbands’ incomes.
It’s important to discuss this expectation before marriage. What if you come home from the honeymoon and realize your partner expects you to do all the laundry, cooking, cleaning, and have a full-time career?
Something doesn’t jive there.
Where You Gonna Live?
Will you stay in the wife’s home state, the husband’s home state, or choose somewhere else entirely to put down your roots?
My husband and I are from the same state, but we’re pretty similar in what we want out of our future home (state). We greatly enjoy the climate of the Pacific Northwest, we like outdoorsy stuff, and dislike big cities with lots of traffic.
We frequently discuss what features we want our future house and land to have.
This question might not come up before marriage, but it probably should. If you’re living separately now, whose apartment or home will you both occupy? Will you choose a new apartment or house to live in?
Where will you spend holidays? With his family, her family, or just you two on your own? Everyone has their own traditions and alternation for visiting family on holidays.
My family gathering is bigger and open to everyone, so oftentimes his parents join all of us at my parents’ house. His family is more far-flung than mine, so bringing everyone together under one roof beats having to alternate family gatherings every year.
Another option is to spend your first year’s worth of holidays on your own, figuring out your own traditions.
What locales do you want to visit? Do you disagree on climates? I love going to places like Hawaii, Florida, and the tropics, but my husband prefers colder climates like Iceland, Alaska, Norway, and Scotland.
Not to say I don’t like those places, too! I do. But I’m more willing to go to both ends of the temperature spectrum.
These are good conversations to have with your partner before you get married. After all, you’ll need to agree on where to spend the honeymoon!
Aside from where you go, do you also like to do the same things on vacation? Some people like golfing, others prefer to spend the entire day on the beach or in the water. Will you be happy wandering through museums or going on a tour through a new city?
Don’t forget that “staycations” are a thing, too!
This discussion is more geared towards younger couples coming out of college.
Are you both career-oriented? Discussing your dreams, goals, and desires for what your work future looks like is essential. Somehow, someone will need to have some kind of income, whether from a 9-5, trade job, entrepreneurial venture, investments, or inheritance.
In addition to talking about what you want to do, you should also have a plan for what you’ll do if that vision never comes to fruition.
It’s not the end of the world (or the end of the relationship) if you don’t discuss these things before marriage. However, it’s important to know where you stand on these so that you have a better idea of how to talk about it when the question arises—because they’ll all come up eventually.
My husband and I didn’t discuss all of this before we got married, but we talk about them now.
Are you thinking about getting married? If you’re already married, did you discuss any of these things before tying the knot? Let me know in the comments!