A Must - Discussions to have with your partner before you say “I do"
"I do"—the two words that change everything forever for two people. For people on the outside looking in, especially those who have never been married before, those two words can seem simple. However, for the people who have said them, they know that there is work that has to be done before those words can be said, as well as very intense and emotional discussions to be had. For two people caught in the whirlwind of new love, important, serious, and difficult conversations can appear as a blocker to the beautiful feelings they’re experiencing, but not having those conversations before the “I do”’s are said could be the difference between a happy marriage and a disastrous one.
In this article I’ll be discussing the following topics:
✧ Values on home life, parenting, and money
✧ Ability to cope with the unexpected
✧ Stress management
✧ Upbringing, family relationships, and their effect on vulnerability
✧ Supporting your partner’s dreams
✧ Conversations around a potential break-up
Values on home life, parenting, and money
In a perfect world, you and your partner will have been raised similarly, and be from similar backgrounds. You’ll have matching values on things such as home life, parenting, money and religion. Except for a small percentage of people, this unfortunately is not the reality. The reality is that many people find that their values are at odds with their partner’s, and compromises must be made.
Important discussions about topics such as home life, parenting, and money include:
✧ How does your partner views discipline?
✧ Will you work or stay at home when you decide to start a family?
✧ What are you and your partner’s relationship with money?
✧ What kind of debt is your partner carrying, and do they expect you to help to pay it off? And vice versa.
✧ Who will be in charge of the chores, grocery shopping, etc., or will you divide them up between yourselves?
✧ Will you divide the parenting tasks, such as pick-up/drop-off of the children, discipline (or lack thereof), education, etc., or will one parent take the bulk of the work?
✧ What will you do if one or both partners should lose their job—how will you prepare for such emergencies?
Ability to cope with the unexpected
Accidents happen, disasters happen, and illnesses happen, among other unexpected events. How will you and your partner handle these events should they occur? It’s easy to avoid the subject, throwing faith into the air and hoping it will stick that unexpected situations will never occur. The reality is that these situations and events do happen, and those couples who planned ahead for them are usually better able to not only weather them, but come out on the other side stronger in their relationships.
Some topics to discuss around you and your partner’s ability to cope with the unexpected include:
✧ What will you do in case you, your partner, one of your children, or one of your parents gets seriously ill or injured, or if a family member develops a terminal illness? What are yours and your partner’s views on death, and how emotionally capable and resilient are you in order to cope with it?
✧ Are you willing to develop yourselves emotionally and vulnerably to be able to handle these kinds of situations?
✧ How far are you willing to go to address any psychological, emotional, or mental needs in order to become more resilient for when unexpected events happen?
Because these are hypothetical scenarios, should these events happen in real life you both may be caught off guard and react much differently than you expected or prepared for. However, because you took the time to discuss them and do your best to talk out how you think you might react, it’s more likely than not that you will get through them together due to the bond you created through having the discussions.
As much as we all wish it could just not exist, stress is a fact of life. It comes in all forms, from all directions, as regularly as the sun rises and sets, but also as randomly as a call from your long lost relative. How you deal with stress is key to how much or how little it actually affects your life, or how much damage it will cause in your relationship.
A discussion around how you and your partner deal with stress is probably one of the most important discussions you can have. There are so many factors around stress that it may seem impossible to have a productive discussion about it; however, unnecessary heated arguments, emotional outbursts, and breakups occur simply because you or your partner experienced a stretch of stress, but you didn’t know how to communicate about it.
Things you and your partner should talk about when it comes to stress are:
✧ How do you usually experience stress? Does it mostly come from work, school, or life? ✧ How do you normally deal with stress? Do you deal with it in unhealthy forms, such as overeating, overindulgence in alcohol, promiscuity, or drug abuse? Or does it take on healthy forms such as exercise; seeking support from family, friends, or a professional; or engaging in a hobby?
✧ How can you support each other when you or your partner is experiencing stress? Should you be there for them physically, mentally, and emotionally; or should you give them space? Is it stress-dependent?
✧ How well are you able to communicate when you’re experiencing stress so neither of you thinks that the other is being distant?
Experiences of stress don't have to be the reason your relationship dissolves. Open and honest discussion around stress is the key to harmony. Remember: what stresses you out likely won’t stress your partner out, and vice versa. It’s important to be empathetic to what your partner is going through, and not make it about you.
Upbringing and parental relationships
Many psychological studies have provided support for the notion that children who’ve had, and continue to have, healthy, supportive, secure, and attached relationships with their parents, are able to have healthy romantic relationships as adults. People who’ve had healthy relationships with their parents tend to be more secure in their romantic relationships, and able to handle conflict, stress, and other changes. They’re also able to create strong, healthy foundations on which their relationships are able to flourish and blossom into compassionate and companionate love later on in life.
Even if one or both of you did not experience this kind of secure relationship with your parents, it is still possible to build loving, healthy romantic relationships. It requires that both of you be completely onboard with addressing any issues, such as those related to trust, emotional needs, psychological needs, commitment, and fear, just to name a few.
Supporting your partner’s dreams and passions
Are you aware of your partner’s dreams and passions? If so, how do you support them? Knowing what your partner is passionate about is important in building a strong relationship. It’s a sign of trust and vulnerability for your partner to be able to tell you something that is so close to their soul. There are relationships where one of the partners belittles or makes fun of the other’s dreams, which can cause the relationship to strain.
Some questions you can ask yourself are:
✧ If your partner has an unconventional or unusual passion, will you be able to support them?
✧ If your partner has a passion or dream that you don’t agree with, how will you have a conversation around it without hurting them?
✧ If your partner does have a passion or dream that you don’t agree with, how can you support them without becoming involved?
✧ Will you be able to give your partner the support they need or want for the long-haul?
When it comes to romantic relationships, intimacy is an important topic, as healthy, romantic relationships and intimacy go hand-in-hand. Intimacy, however, goes beyond just sex; it is the ability for you and your partner to be vulnerable with each other, have difficult conversations with love as the foundation, and be able to share space and thoughts comfortably together.
As time goes on, intimacy can fade if both partners cease putting in the effort. In order to keep it alive, the two of you could have discussions about the following:
✧ What are some ways you can keep intimacy strong through time?
✧ When/if children come into the picture, how will you work together to make sure that you don’t let your sex life slip through the cracks of the daily grind?
✧ If intimacy does begin to wane, how will you work together to bring it alive again? Are you both ready and willing to renew intimacy, and recognize that it will look different as time goes on?
✧ If one of you commits infidelity due to the lack of intimacy, how will you recover?
Intimacy is so delicate, that one misstep and it can be difficult to recover. It’s important to have these discussions early and often so that you and your partner can handle and keep your intimacy alive throughout your relationship.
Religion and spirituality
Religion and spirituality, if practiced, are the two of the biggest influencers of a person’s values and morals. Even if two people from different religious and spiritual backgrounds come together, it is possible for them to have a harmonious relationship as long as they openly discuss their beliefs and how they will work together to respect them.
Religion and spirituality are especially important when it comes to raising children. In most families with different religious beliefs, the children take after the father’s religion. However, this need not be always the case, and is definitely something that should be discussed and not assumed.
Discussions about religion, spirituality, and your relationship could include topics such as:
✧ Which religious belief will the children be raised under?
✧ How will you handle conflicting practices or beliefs should they ever come up?
✧ What religion will the wedding be performed under, if not both?
Having a good understanding around religion and spirituality will help prevent issues in the future that could potentially lead to break-up, which is another topic of discussion.
Conversations around a potential break-up
As much as you and your partner would rather not have to have it, a discussion around what you would do if the relationship should end is one that must be had, especially if assets have been purchased between you two, and definitely if children have been brought into the picture.
Some things to think about and discuss could be:
✧ Break-up prevention: What actions or steps can you, as a couple, take ensure a break-up doesn’t happen?
✧ Will assets be purchased alone or split between you both?
✧ If assets are split between you both, who will keep what in the event of a break-up?
✧ If both parents are mentally and financially stable, how will custody be divided?
✧ How will relationships between mutual friends and family members work; is it okay if you both still interact with each other’s family and friends?
Saying “I do” can be one of the most surreal expressions of your life. Understanding where you and your partner stand on various topics is the difference between taking those two words lightly or making them the most important words you ever say. Whether you’re discussing parenting, intimacy, your relationship with your parents, or how you’ll handle illnesses and finances, the fact that you’re discussing them will make your relationship that much stronger in the end. You will be able to withstand the storms that come, and reap the benefits of a well-rounded, resilient relationship.