There is no guidebook to marriage, and it would probably be a lot easier if there was. But you still want to know the person you are marrying and make sure you understand them, as best you can, as this is the person you are wanting to spend the rest of your life with. You learn things as your relationship continues to grow and that does not stop once you get married. Although, there are a few main important topics that you should discuss before tying the knot. While this list is not exhaustive to only these items, these are important in making sure you and your partner are aware and on the same page about some key things that can come into play in our everyday lives.
Family / Kids
Family and kids are extremely important topics to discuss when talking with your partner about your future together. Ideally this is something you are on the same page about, but ask these questions to yourself and to your partner to see what page you both are exactly on. What are your partner’s views on having kids? Is this something they are completely set on or something they see as a possibility for themselves, but are not sure if their mind will change? It may be okay if you or your partner do change your mind, as long as you both communicate about it. How important is family to both of you? What is your relationship like with your family, and what’s your partners like with theirs? Do their views line up with yours and if not, is this something you are willing to compromise on? Having these conversations at an appropriate time can make sure you both can have the futures that you want and minimize future conflict.
Money and finances play a big role in our everyday lives, so it’s important to make sure you and your partner are at least able to talk about these things and hopefully have similar viewpoints and values on them. What are your partner’s views on money and finances? How is your communication about money with your partner? Are they open and willing to communicate about finances; is it something they grew up talking about or is it something that was more of a taboo subject? What does money “mean” to each of you? Is your partner financially responsible in a way that you aligns with your ways? What are each of your views on saving, retirement, investments, etc.? What financial goals do each of you have? Do these views align with your own, and if not, is this something you are willing to compromise on? It’s important to discuss and make goals together with your partner so that you can work towards those financial goals as a team.
Romance can be a broad term, but it’s important to know how each of you like to receive love and appreciation, so you both feel satisfied in all aspects of the relationship. It’s important to have this conversation early on in the relationship, but especially when having a conversation about spending your futures together. How are each of your views on intimacy and sex? How do you view romance outside of intimacy? Do you feel your needs are being heard and met currently in the relationship? Are you comfortable discussing and being honest about sexual issues and affection with your partner? Do you view yourself as an affectionate person? Do you view your partner as one? What does “romance,” “sex,” “affectionate,” “intimacy” mean to each of you? Do your views align with your partners, and if not, is this something you are willing to compromise on? It’s important to be honest with your partner about what you like, what you dislike, what you need and want when it comes to sex and intimacy in general. Being able to communicate about it is important in making sure you both are feeling happy, satisfied, and respected.
Spiritual / Values
This may not be an important topic for some people, and it may be extremely important for others, as with all of these topics. It’s important to understand where your partner lies on this issue, how it could impact your relationship, and how/if you want to incorporate it into your lives in the future. How important is religion to you, to your partner? What do you define as “religion” or “spirituality?” Are you more spiritual or religious, and does it matter to you or your partner? How do you want to incorporate these things into your lives, or do you not want to at all? What values do each of you have? Which values do you want to instill in your family and/or future family? Do your partner's values align with yours, and if not, is this something you are willing to compromise on? When discussing religion/spirituality, be open, honest, and respectful of your partner’s views and your own, so that you and your partner can know the expectations early on when discussing your futures together.
Communication is a very vague term, but essentially incorporates how one deals with conflict, discussing everyday things, one's feelings, all of it. It’s important to understand how you and your partner communicate and how the ways you both do individually impacts your relationship together. Identify how each of you communicate. Do you feel you communicate in a clear, direct way? Are you more passive in your communication? Aggressive? Or do you feel you’re assertive in communicating? Do you feel you are able to communicate when you need help or support? Do you struggle with communicating when conflict occurs? Do you shut down or do you escalate? How does your partner communicate and are there any issues that either of you have with your current communication? If so, what are they and do you feel you are able to work through them together? As long as you both feel you are able to and willing to work through any communication issues that occur, then you are both on the same page when it comes to overall communication, despite having grown up learning different communication styles. Having a discussion about conflict resolution and communication in general can help to continue to minimize future issues.
These are just a few important topics to have a conversation about with your partner when talking about your future and spending the rest of your lives together. While these things can be worked on and discussed while married, why not start talking about them early on in your relationship? Even if you don’t always agree on the same things, as long as you are able to communicate about them and understand your partner’s point of view, it will only create a stronger relationship and foundation for your futures together.
Emily Blair, ALMFT