12 Must Have Conversations Before You Make Your Vows
(Dr. Walkup, is a licensed marriage and family therapist for over forty years and has been married for about the same amount of time.)
Have you ever wondered what you need to talk about before you get married? As a marriage counselor for 40 years, I have selected these as the most important topics along with questions for you to explore before you say, “I do.”
Meaning of Your Marriage Commitment
Describe what commitment means to you as you make plans to walk down the aisle. Of all of the persons in your life that you have met and could have married, why are you choosing your partner? What attracted you to your partner initially and what do you believe your partner will help you become
Your Life Long Goals
What do you hope to achieve in the near future and the distant future in terms of your career? How do you plan to care for your community alone or separately? Do you hope to leave a legacy after you die?
Your Mutual Expectations
What do you expect of a marital partner in terms of emotional support during exciting times, depressed times, periods of illness and job loss? Is it important that you set aside one night just to be together alone to catch up with each other and have fun? Are you both clear how much alone time the other needs? How much time does your partner need to spend with friends separately and together? Agree on how much time is appropriate to give to work. How will you deal with times when one or both of you has reached a midlife career point and you need to change some aspects about your life?
Your Living Arrangements
What kind of home will you feel comfortable in at the various stages of your life. How do you determine if a new career path or job is reason enough to move? Will you need to be close to your parents either now or as they get older?
Will you have children and if so how many?
When do you plan to start a family? What kinds of philosophies did your parents have about child raising and do you agree or disagree? How does each of you intend to shape your children’s values? What kinds of punishment are appropriate or not appropriate?
How will you deal with your money?
Brainstorm about your image of joint checking account or single accounts. Have a time for full disclosure about all past debt. Identify what savings your future plans will need. Who will pay for different expenses? Who will pay the bills? What amount of available money does each of you need to have to feel comfortable?
Parents and In-laws
Anticipate how much time each of you will want to spend with your parents. Do you expect the other to be present? What do you expect of your partner when the parents are frustrated with the other?
How will you balance the home responsibilities?
Share what you love to do around the house and what you hate and find a balance. Find ways to deal with the preferences for messy versus neat.
Do you agree on issues around erotic moments together?
Talk openly about your expectations about frequency and types of sexual intimacy you desire. What is off limits? Explore what you expect when the other is not “in the mood.”
How will you resolve heated conflicts?
Reflect on how each of your parents resolved conflict. Promise to grant the other a ceasefire, if you are slipping into the “you always and you never” battle. Pick a time when your heartbeat settles down so that you can hear each other and look for win-wins.
Explore with each other how you find meaning and purpose in life and what supports that. If you enjoy a spiritual community, will you expect your partner to attend or the children?
Agreement about extramarital relationships
Couples thrive when they maintain an exclusive bond. Explore what an outside relationship would mean to you. Covenant not to talk with someone who is not safe about your relationship with your partner since this opens the door to intimacy with someone else. Agree to seek relationship counseling if either of you begin to feel distant, or your conflicts keep you from enjoying each other.
Dr. Walkup, is a licensed marriage and family therapist for over forty years and has been married for about the same amount of time. This article has been excerpted from his website at dr-jim.com, which includes many other articles on making relationships work. He has offices in NYC and White Plains. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org. You can reach him at 914 548 8645.