As a marriage therapist, I see a lot of couples, a lot of heartbreak, and a lot of sadness. Then—eventually—that turns into a lot of happiness and smiles. I see them thinking, “yes, we are going to make it.” Those are the moments that I hang on to.
Although many of the couples I work with are married, I see some partners for premarital counseling.
They come to me to ensure that they’re on the same page before they walk down the aisle and that those pesky problems don’t become bigger issues that wreak havoc on their marriage.
I’ve found that there are significant long-term benefits for couples who take the time to engage in these necessary conversations before they get married, rather than waiting (like MANY do) until they are married.
Here, I break down the eight conversations you’ve got to have with your partner if you’re thinking about getting hitched.
Talking about money can be a step towards preventing financial infidelity. The things you should be discussing include: How do you view money? Are you a spender or a saver? If you have disposable income, how do you spend it? Do you think you should have separate or joint accounts or both? Does one of you make more money than the other? If so, how will you share the expenses? What about big purchases? Do you have a budget? How will the costs of the home be paid? What about going out? Who takes on that expense? Do you get a bonus at work? What will you do with that money?
Yep. We HAVE to talk about sex. Sex is an integral and healthy component of a relationship. It’s the barometer of the relationship. Dig into the subject by asking these questions: Did you talk about sex in your household growing up? Was it taboo? Does religion play a part in your sexual life? What does sex mean to you? How often do you like to have sex? Do you have expectations about sex? Do you both feel comfortable and safe talking about your needs with each other? Why or why not?
It’s also good to ask your partner how they feel when you talk about your sexual needs. Is he or she offended? Does he or she feel threatened?
3. Extended family
What are the differences in your family of origin? Do your families get along? How significant are the differences? How similar are they? For example, do you come from a family of yellers? Was it hard to express yourself? Did people talk over you? (This often goes to communication styles.) When it comes to family traditions, do you have any? Will there be a conflict between the traditions—especially around holiday time?
Do you have similar or different values in regards to honesty, integrity, family, work, religion, and lifestyle? Are you on the same page? If there are differences, assess how difficult they are to resolve and if there’s room for compromise.
What are the similarities versus the differences your in lifestyle? Are you active while your partner is a couch potato? Discuss how your view your downtime.
When it comes to your use of social media, what are the boundaries? Talk about how you like to spend your time away from work and what your expectations for alone time are.
6. Communication styles
John Gottman, Ph.D., founder of the Gottman institute for marriage, believes that the tendency of men to withdraw and women to pursue is wired into our physiology and reflects a basic gender difference. He notes that this pattern is extremely common and is a major contributor to marital breakdown.
Plus, problems with communication are the number one complaint expressed by the couples I see.
To avoid issues down the line, talk to your partner about whether you’re a distancer or a pursuer. Do you lean in towards conflict (this is not about being confrontative—big difference) or go running for the hills and avoid conflict.
7. Work/life balance
Use these prompts to find out if your views on work and home life are in line: How important is your work to you? Are you able to balance both work and home demands? How do you do it? Do you worry that once married, this will change? Does your partner understand/support your work — especially if it’s overly demanding on your time? Does that worry you? Do you have your own friends and interests outside of the relationship?
Do you want children? How many? What are your parenting styles? Are they similar? How will you reconcile the differences in how you were raised and how you wish to parent if this exists?
Do you plan to parent how your parents raised you? What would having a family look like? Who will stay home? Will you both need to work? What about time away from the children?
What are your thoughts about how you will go about nurturing the relationship once children arrive on the scene?
Are you ready to walk down the aisle but still feel that you have unresolved issues? Do these questions make you ponder your relationship and whether or not you are making the right decision? Answering yes to any of those questions might indicate that premarital counseling should be considered.
By Kristin Davin