Marriage is an exciting time, but it's important to remember that you're not just pledging your love forever, you're also entering a legal agreement between two people. So before you jump into wedding planning, it's time to hash out all the difficult things people don't like to talk about.
These conversations are not easy, but they're absolutely necessary. Sit down while both of you are relaxed and talk about these issues so you can move forward into your marriage with full confidence.
1. Dealing With Money.
Now is the time to disclose all your debts and assets — the good, the bad, and the ugly. It's a fact: most Americans have debt, whether it be from student loans, cars, houses, or an emergency. It shouldn't necessarily be a dealbreaker — but your partner will want to know what they're getting into if you have a habit of buying handbags instead of paying rent. Explain how you accrued the debt and what you're doing to pay it off, and ask your partner to do the same. You might both agree not to get married until your debt is paid off or set up a more aggressive payment plan.
If your partner got into debt completely separate from you before you got married, you are not responsible for that debt. But after you marry, you will be responsible for any new debt if you live in a property state, even if your partner got a loan without your knowledge.
Discuss now how your finances will be split up. If you have a joint bank account, who will be responsible for keeping tabs on it? How much will you contribute? What will be shared and joint expenses be?
Also discuss your views about money, including talking about what's important to you to spend money on? Dining out? Vacations? Retirement?
Finally, set up a budget plan you can both agree on. You may want to set this up after you discuss all your other goals, such as home buying.
2. Planning Where To Live.
When you're thinking about getting married, you are probably also thinking about what you want in the future. If you're planning to buy a home and have children, is it feasible to do that where you are now or do you want to move to be closer to the family? Or perhaps one of you has a career ambition that only happens in a certain city. Will the other person be willing to move?
Now's the time to talk about relocation. Consider a town that has recreation that you both like, whether you can handle, professional opportunities, and a good quality of life.
3. Dreaming Of A Home.
What does your dream home look like to you? Is it a sprawling ranch-style house with a big yard in the suburbs, a remote farmhouse, an apartment in the city? How many bedrooms and square feet do you want — and how feasible is it? Talk about what kind of home you'd eventually like to move into. You can also use this time to discuss your decorating choices and how you might compromise on those.
4. Settling Conflict.
One very important and often neglected thing to look at is how you and your partner argue. Often people carry confrontational patterns that they learned from childhood into their grown-up relationships. Do you get superheated and descend into name-calling? Do you find a simple disagreement about how to load the dishwasher escalate into a recitation of every annoyance you can remember?
If you think your disagreements tend to get out of control, figure out how to fix this problem now instead of three kids and a mortgage from now. Learning how to fight fair can be a difficult skill but is definitely doable. Plus, if you have kids, you'll be setting a good example for them.
5. Having Kids.
Speaking of children, decide now whether you'll have them. Some people assume that everyone wants to be a parent, while others like the freedom of not having children. No matter which way you feel, you should settle it now.
If you both want children, talk about your different upbringings and what kind of parents you'd like to be. Some things to touch on:
How you'll discipline. Agree on this well before a child comes into the picture. If one parent expects the other to always do the disciplining, that parent will soon become tired of it.
Whether someone wants to stay home, and how long that will last.
What kind of education you want. Do you want your kids to go to a private school? If so, are you thinking of a religious school? Or are you more in favor of a public school? This conversation may be part of the "where should we live" portion of the discussion; you might want to move into an area with good schools before you even get pregnant.
6. Spending Family Time.
Talk about what kind of time commitments you expect as a family. If one partner is very independent and has a lot of hobbies, they may be expecting things to continue that way, while you may be expecting them to spend every free moment with you. The marriage needs to have a good balance of how time is spent, but each person may have a different expectation of that balance.
This is also a great time to discuss your extended family. Where will you spend the holidays? Will you switch off between your families? Or do you want to establish new traditions on your own?
Remember to listen and keep an open mind as you have these conversations. A lot of these issues are about unspoken expectations, so once you get them out into the open, you can have an honest discussion about them. Afterward, your bond will only be stronger as you move forward into the future.