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To say that getting married is a big commitment is a BIG understatement. My parents have been married 54 years and my husband and I are about to have our 23rd anniversary. There have been many many ups and many many downs. We have been blissfully “in love” and have been on the brink of divorce. But with God’s grace we are still together and have a wonderful relationship that I wouldn’t trade for the world or the invention of calorie free chocolate.
When you marry you are pledging the rest of your life to a partner, and that can be a very long time indeed. This is longer than any car you drive will ever last, longer than any career you might have, and longer than just about anything that can happen in life. So why not prepare at least a little ahead of time? What might not feel like an issue now can later in life become a defining disagreement that, if you’re not careful, can ruin a relationship.
Here are some (but not all) of the conversations you need to be having before you make that big commitment.
If and when you want to get married
Believe it or not, it’s important to make sure that your partner actually wants to marry you. The moment of a proposal can feel like enough pressure that some might say “yes” without really thinking about it. Or some men feel pressured into proposing just so they can keep up the comfort of being in a relationship but don’t really want a lifelong commitment. Take the time to talk about when you both want to get married and what you both want from the marriage. If they feel like things are moving a little hastily, that might mean there are other issues to address first before you start planning the wedding.
How you’re going to manage your money
One of the most important things to agree on in a marriage is money (and the other is religion). You need to decide upfront when and how you and your spouse will discuss a budget after you are married. Write out your plan before you even start the wedding preparations. Will you talk a specific day each week about paying bills? Will you have a budget binder? There are a lot of different ways to look after your money as a family. For instance, you might decide to keep finances split and to contribute to any mortgages, bills, and fees proportionally based on who earns what. You might rely on one income, and have to agree on how it is managed together. You may have a joint fund for all household items, but let one another enjoy your discretionary spending without having to check up on one another. It is important, however, to agree on which setup you’re going to work with before you actually do it.
What to do about debt
Before you get married, you need to have a frank talk about one aspect of your finances in particular: we’re talking about who owes what. Each member of the partnership needs to be honest in stating what their full existing debt is. Before you get married, you should consider a plan for paying it off. Are you willing to help or ask a partner for help? Does the debt reflect a stance on finances that would suggest that someone else should hold the purse strings?
Boundaries In Marriage
One of the best books I’ve ever read about marriage is Boundaries In Marriage. Before even getting close to saying, “I do.” You and your future spouse need to discuss what is ok and not ok in the relationship. This includes friendships with the opposite sex, purchasing big or small ticket items, boundaries for in-laws, expectation on how time is spent, who will clean what in the home, and more.
Are you having children?
This can be a sensitive subject but it should be addressed. Do both of you want children? Are there any issues that might get in the way of that? If neither of you wants children, are you going to take any steps to ensure that such as a vasectomy? It is essential to encourage openness and honesty, here. Bargaining when it comes to the prospect of parenthood can feel like one partner is feeling coerced into a lifestyle they do not want, which will invariably cause problems when the issue actually arises.
How will you raise them?
Obviously, if you and your partner are decided on not having any children, then there isn’t as much of a need to bring this topic up. However, otherwise, you should talk about what parenting style you might take on together. Do you see yourself as more of an instinctual parent who is naturally a good caregiver? Or are you going to be diving into books to get the answers that you need? What kind of child do you want to raise and how are you going to encourage them in that direction?
Career and education
Think about where you want to be in ten years. Are you continuing with your education? Are you planning to move on with your career? Ask your partner to think about the same. It may be the case that one of you is willing to take on a more domestic role, letting the other lead the way in terms of becoming a bread-winner, whether that means staying at home or simply letting the career take a backseat. If you have vastly different plans, there may need to be some talks of compromise to have.
Where are you going to live?
From the question mentioned above, another becomes a necessity. You need to think about whether you are willing to relocate, need to move for your work at some point, and how far you are willing to move. A move that might seem like a “compromise” can end up putting you so far away from things that matter to you, such as friends, family, and the workplace that it’s wholly disappointing. Isolation within a marriage can become a serious issue, so when you think about where you want to live, think about where you currently spend most of your time, and how much moving would disrupt that.
What kind of home are you going to make?
It’s not just the “where” that matters, but what kind of home you choose to live in is equally as important. What percentage of the family income are you willing to sacrifice for where you live? (Dave Ramsey suggests to spend no more than 25% of your take home pay.) Are you going to need to rent together before you buy? Does one of you already have a home and is it suited to both of your plans? Consider your wants and needs for a home, thinking about what it needs to do, whether it has to accommodate a growing family, and whether you prefer something like a detached property or a city apartment.
Hopefully, if you have already gotten this far, then there should be no question that you both love and want one another. But if you haven’t already talked about any discrepancies, it is high time to learn one another’s “love language.” Sex can be a part of it, but so can gifts, doing little favours, being verbally affectionate, and all manner of other things. Be sure to read up on the basic love languages (what you perceive to be the best way to feel or give love). You don’t have to share the same love language, but you need to be assured that your partner loves you and shows it, and vice versa.
BONUS TIP – Where will you spend holidays?
Even after 23 years of marriage this is still a sore spot in our home. You need to discuss this before being married. And not just discuss this regarding while it’s just you two but also talk about the future if you are planning to have kids and where holidays and birthday time will be spent. It could help in the future to aleiviate tension.
These critical topics to discuss before marriage can be what makes or breaks a relationship. It’s better to get them settled and agreed upon now so you can know you and your partner are a match. If you are planning on getting married, be sure to check out my top 7 favorite marriage books here.
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