You’ve been talking about marriage, and maybe one of you even proposed. Now it’s time to talk about the things that will affect your relationship in the long run. Here are the conversations you should have.
You might think that you and your soon to be partner-in-wedded-bliss have the rest of your married lives to get to know everything about each other, but there are important things you should know before heading down that road.
Money issues are one of the common things that drive people apart, so it’s important to make sure you’re on the same page before signing that marriage certificate.
Joint or Separate Accounting?
Are you both going to work? Are you splitting bills evenly? Who’s buying the groceries?
While many couples pool their incomes and split expenses down the middle, that’s not the only way to go. Some couples set up a shared account for household expenses, but separate accounts for themselves. There’s really no wrong way to do things; what’s important is that you figure out what you’re both comfortable with ahead of time.
There are situations where you’ll both have individual bills you pay as well, so will you be responsible for your own cell phone payments and credit card payments? And what about fun money? You also want to make sure you discuss how you want to go about making personal purchases. Will both of you need to agree on larger purchases, or is it OK to spend your own income on whatever you want?
Whatever your decisions, the important thing is that you both sit down and figure out your financial goals as a couple. Think about how you’ll manage spending on everyday household purchases, how you’ll handle emergencies, and how you’ll invest your money.
How Will You Handle Preexisting Debt?
The debts you bring into your marriage are also something important to discuss. Understanding each other’s debts are important not just because you don’t want to be surprised by your spouse’s thousands of dollars in credit card debt, but also because some debts will now be your responsibility too, even if your name isn’t on the paperwork.
Debts don’t have to spell the end of a relationship. You can work together to deal with debt, but try to do it before you say “I do.”
You’ll also want to know ahead of time who is going to be in charge of paying the bills. In some relationships, one person takes care of bill paying; in others, both partners work together to keep finances on track.
Do you both want children? Does one of you already have children? If one person wants children and the other doesn’t, that can be a pretty big hurdle to overcome.
Are you willing to go ahead and become a parent when you’re really not excited about the prospect? Are you willing to not have children if it’s something you’ve always seen yourself doing? And if you do “settle,” are you going to hold a grudge against your spouse for not being able to live the life you thought you wanted? That grudge may ruin your marriage.
If one or both of you already have children, you’ll want to talk about that, too. Aside from the issues surrounding whether all the kids get along with each other and with both of you, you’ll also need to set up some boundaries for how to deal with things.
More than determining if kids are right for you both, you also want to think about each of your parenting styles. Is one of you stricter than the other? Do you agree on schooling? How about religion?
There are all kinds of things to talk about when it comes to raising children, so take your time and have those conversations early.
For many folks, pets are an integral part of the family dynamic. If you’re a pet owner, you want to live with someone that loves animals just as much as you—or at least someone that tolerates them and treats them well. If you both have pets, you need to determine if these animals get along with one another before housing them together.
You also want to consider children in the household, as well as allergies. If one of you is a cat lover, but the other is allergic to cats, can you find a way to work around the situation? If you have a dog and your future spouse’s child is afraid of dogs, can you come up with any ideas to make things work without giving your pooch up?
If you’re not already living together, you’ll want to talk about who is moving in with whom. You’ll also want to discuss what stuff is staying in the house and what things won’t fit your new life together.
If one of you rents and one of you owns a home, the decision of where to live may be easier. You may have a lease to finish out, but it would make more sense to live in the home that is owned. Maybe you want to buy a home together though, even if one of you is already a homeowner. If you’re both homeowners and can’t decide which house to move into, selling them and buying one together may be the best compromise.
Some people have good relationships with their parents and siblings; some people don’t talk to their immediate relatives at all. Discuss with your partner your relationship with your mom, dad, sisters, and brothers.
If you’re both close to your families, you may find that conflicts arrive when it comes to holidays. If one of you is estranged from your family and the other is close to theirs, feelings of jealousy or resentment may come along.
One thing that can help when it comes to in-laws is to get to know them before the wedding. Take some time to visit and befriend them, if your future spouse is close to his family. Take the time to understand why your partner is close to or distant from their family as well.
Few people really like household chores, but they still need to get done. How will you divvy up those chores? Who cooks? Who washes the dishes? Do you rotate the schedule? Figuring this stuff out ahead of time can save a lot of hassle down the road.
It’s also important to talk about what “clean” means to each of you. For some, it means a spic-and-span, ready-for-a-magazine-photo-shoot home. For others, it might be fine if things are a bit untidy, so long as there aren’t dirty dishes piling up everywhere.
Make sure you discuss each other’s concept of clean and make sure you’re both in agreement. Marrying a complete slob when you’re a neat freak can lead to a lot of stress unless you’re actually willing to go the extra mile cleaning up after them.
It’s said you don’t really get to know a person until you live with them. When it comes to personal space (or “alone time”), everyone is different. Some couples spend all their free time together; some don’t. And there’s nothing wrong with either way. What’s important is that you set up your expectations ahead of time.
Having dedicated physical space to do this certainly helps. Will you both have your own space to hang out at home, where you won’t be under foot? If one or both of you enjoy time alone, you need a space for this, or you’ll quickly get on each other’s nerves.
As important as that physical space is making sure that you both appreciate each other’s needs. If you need more alone time than your spouse, it’s important they understand you’re seeking something positive for yourself—not looking to get away from them.
You shouldn’t change who you are to find love and happiness. If any of these subjects pose conflicts in your relationship, take the time to think about how you rectify the issues. Getting rid of the dog or cat you’re attached to may be traumatic, and will be especially disappointing if your marriage doesn’t work out. Marrying someone who doesn’t like your child is not only going to hurt you, but it is also going to make a lasting impression on your child that may hurt them now and in the future.