You may think it goes without saying that there’s more to marriage than your wedding day. Yet many couples fail to dig deep and address the most important issues they will face as a married couple. Before you get knee-deep into wedding planning, take the time to have these possibly difficult yet necessary discussions.
Here are the things you should talk about before getting married.
Where you will live
When you envision your future, do your dreams and expectations line up? Will you rent or buy? Downtown condo or country home? Are you willing to relocate if necessary for work or other circumstances? Does either of you need your own private space for an office, man-cave, or whatever? Discuss your needs, expectations, preferences and aversions.
Money is one of the biggest risk factors for relationships, so think and talk about every possible aspect: bank accounts and credit cards (joint and/or separate?), budgeting, saving, spending habits, credit ratings, the debt you already have, right down to who will make sure the bills get paid. Will you go 50/50 or in proportion with your earnings? How will you get through hard times, if they happen? What about charitable donations or family obligations? Do you think you need a pre-nup? Marital money is such an important issue that it might be a good idea to consult a professional, or at least read a book or two on the subject.
This is, of course, central to an intimate relationship. The ability to talk about it now and in the future is paramount. You should discuss your expectations about your sex life, as well as how satisfied you are now. What do you enjoy? What would you like to try? What will you do if (when!) your needs and desires are not in sync with your partner’s? You must foster the trust and sensitivity required to talk openly about what can be such a “touchy” subject.
Your married name
After the wedding what name will you take? Do you want to take your husband or wife-to-be’s last name, keep your own, hyphenate your name or come up with something completely different? Changing your name is a big decision and will involve some legal paperwork. You should also discuss the implications of your choice if you plan to have children.
This could be a deal-breaker, but don’t avoid the conversation for that reason! Getting married won’t solve a disagreement about whether to have children. Do you both want to be parents? If so, how big a family do you want? What if you can’t have children of your own, for some reason? Would you be willing to adopt or spend a lot of money on medical treatments? Do you have similar philosophies about parenting, including discipline, choices around education and religion, etc.? What about the career/family balance?
What role will religion play in your relationship, if any? Will you practice different faiths, and if so, how will you accommodate them both? How will you raise your children, and what will you do if they choose something different?
It may seem odd to talk about communication, but this is another thing that can make or break your marriage. The complications of married life aren’t going to make it any easier. Discuss what works and what doesn’t, and develop strategies for getting over the bumpy patches when they come up. Pre-marital classes or counselling could be helpful in developing good communication skills. In the future, if you reach an impasse, will you both be willing to seek professional help?