We’ve all heard the stories about couples who get swept up in the romance and get engaged too soon, only to find out that one of them doesn’t want kids, had a previous marriage or wants to live next door to their parents. Even for couples who date for years and think they know everything about each other, marriages can break down over seemingly minor differences, and close relationships take work to maintain over the course of a lifetime. It’s important to know how your partner will manage change, differences in opinion and conflict, and what might cause these speed bumps. If there’s something that is a dealbreaker between the two of you, it’s better to know about it before you offer them a diamond ring.
One of the most important things to talk about before you tie the knot is both of your expectations around your respective careers and how you will manage your finances as a couple. If you are already living together you’ve probably already had this conversation, but there might be an assumption that things will change once you get married. If you are planning on buying property together this will also be important.
Some questions you will need to ask include: will you split the finances evenly or will one person be shouldering the bulk of it? What would happen if one person quit or lost their job? Will you have one joint account, a combination of joint and individual accounts or will you just maintain your individual accounts? Do you have debt and will this become shared?
If you’ve been in a relationship for a while, you might already know about your partner’s spending habits and you might’ve even had conflicts about them. If one person saves almost every dollar they earn and the other spends extravagantly, it’s highly likely that this will cause some problems in a marriage. How will you manage this? What is the maximum amount that one person can spend without asking the other’s permission? Could this be a dealbreaker?
In terms of your career, one person might hold the opinion that their career would be prioritised if necessary, so you’ll need to know how that would be managed and whether or not it’s a dealbreaker. Is it possible that either of your careers could require a geographical move? How would you manage it if one person wanted to change careers or pursue further education?
One of the most obvious questions to ask each other before getting engaged is whether or not you want kids, and what sort of timeline you want them on. As much as this seems like a no brainer, you don’t want to end the conversation as soon as you’ve both confirmed that you’re on the same page about wanting 2 boys and a girl. There are a number of other details to discuss, including a rough idea of how you will raise them. For example, if one partner wants to raise their children in a certain religion and the other doesn’t, this would be a good thing to know before you start trying for children. Additionally, it’s important to discuss how you’ll manage infertility issues, and what both your opinions are on alternative conception methods, such as IVF.
Some other family related concerns that you’ll need to talk about include expectations around each person’s parents’ roles in your married life, as well as how you’ll spend the holidays.
If you’re already living together when you decide to get married, you’ve probably already established some routines and expectations around housework. However, if you’re already experiencing some issues related to traditional gender roles and who does the bulk of the housework, there is evidence to suggest that this will only get worse once you’re married, not better. You and your partner will most likely need to discuss some specific strategies to work on this before it starts to affect your marriage.
If you’re marrying someone and you haven’t lived with them before, you may need to have a comprehensive discussion about both of your living habits, because it’s highly likely that you’ll find some incompatibilities. For example, if one person likes to go to bed before 10pm every night and the other stays up until 4am, how will you work as a team to manage this situation? Both of you may have to make some compromises.
Living together may also change your expectations around sex and physical affection. Are your sex drives compatible and how would you react if there was a change? How much alone time do you each need and will one of you start to feel neglected sooner than the other?
Communication and Connection
When you’re dating someone, it might feel like you have great communication because your connection is solid, and there isn’t as much pressure on your relationship. If you’re going to get married, it’s important to gather an understanding of how each person will respond to conflict and disagreements, as well as how you will each react if you drift apart. If you start to lose closeness with each other, who will be the first to notice and react, and how will you remedy this? If one partner is very passive in your relationship, will this become an issue when things get more complicated and decisions need to be made?
It’s also a good idea to discuss both of your opinions about therapy, and when you would consider this as an option.