Getting married was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. My husband and I grow with each other, and he’s improved my life in many ways. While we were dating, there were times we had to have awkward conversations that I didn’t always want to have. When you’re smitten with someone and thinking only of romance, who wants to talk about personal finances? I certainly didn’t.
Those conversations were some of the most important ones we had before our wedding. Being willing to be vulnerable and tackle some difficult conversations while you’re dating is crucial to having a strong relationship after you’ve made vows, moved in together, merged assets, and had children.
Here are six important topics to discuss before getting married:
There’s a reason values are number one on this list. If you have different values, it will cause tension in your marriage. Values consist of a series of priorities and moral judgments, including religion, politics, and ethics. Being in general agreement about big issues is key to stability, reducing arguments, and raising children in agreement.
Two partners don’t need to be in exact agreement about all their values. However, values usually make or break facets of a relationship. People do end relationships over it. Knowing before you make commitments and legally bind yourself to someone if your values match enough to not cause serious divisions will spare you a lot of heartache.
Two people in a committed relationship don’t need to have the same goals in life, but they need to be compatible. If one person is a homebody afraid of flying while the other is a jetsetter with a bucket list of exotic destinations, they may be able to work that out. If the jetsetter tries to force the homebody to be just like them to reach their goals, that could be a problem.
Where goals tend to really complicate marriages are the big ones. Kids? Dream house? A career requires you to live in a specific location? If the two people have incompatible goals, it can lead to dissension. Being able to set goals together is also key. Marriage doesn’t work if you only want to set goals for yourself, but not mutual goals for you and your spouse.
Do you want kids? If yes, how many? If not, why?
These questions are really important to have with a spouse. Historically, one of the primary reasons to get married is to have a healthy environment to raise children.
Sometimes people don’t know if they want children, and that’s fair. Some people cannot have children biologically, which is okay. Understanding one another’s situation and stance helps two people start mapping out the life they want with all the cards on the table. Bringing kids into the world or adopting children is a wonderful thing, but it is an important responsibility and agreeing with one another is important.
Everyone needs to have boundaries. Each spouse should have some “me time,” the opportunity to pursue hobbies, and time with friends. Knowing how much of these things you both need will reduce bitterness 3-5 years into the marriage when one of you needs to exercise but the other wants to cuddle.
Another important place to draw boundaries is how often you will visit one another’s family, how often family and friends will be invited to your place, and how much personal information you are comfortable sharing with family and friends. While your friends and family are important, when you’re married, you are a unique unit, and you need to take care of that unit first under most circumstances. How you handle finances is another kind of boundary you both will have to set.
You should have already had a discussion about physical boundaries already. Check out our blog about that here.
Love languages are ways that people communicate and receive love and affection. Some people love to shower their spouse with gifts. Others appreciate a hug. Generally, there are five categories of love languages: affirmation, quality time, physical touch, acts of service, and receiving gifts. Knowing your own language helps you tell your future spouse how you feel loved. When they tell you theirs, they’re letting you know what they need in the relationship.
There are lots of books and quizzes about the love languages, so take some time with your potential future spouse to learn about how you communicate and receive love. If one needs affirming words, but the other needs the dishes done, now you know! Communicating this way will stop you both from feeling unloved in the marriage.
There are things your potential spouse deserves to know before they marry you. Previously married? Have an arrest on your record? Difficult relationship with your family? Being honest and open with your partner before getting married shows trust, builds trust, and allows your partner to make a fully informed decision.
Yes, it does mean risking your partner choosing to take a break, or maybe even break up with you. That is a risk worth taking with someone you want to spend the rest of your life. It is also better they hear it from you now than from someone else later. Everyone has stuff. Sharing those burdens can strengthen your relationship. Make sure you know your own baggage by checking our article about that subject.
There’s a reason these topics fall under the category of “hard conversations.” It can be uncomfortable to be open and vulnerable. Part of maturity and adult relationships is embracing the hard times, the difficult topics, and growing together through painful events. Have the big conversations before you get married, and enjoy more of your marriage knowing there are certain obstacles you’ve already overcome.