discussions before marriage

7 things you and your partner should discuss before getting married

My husband and I married after dating for 11 years. We are high school sweethearts. Spent our reckless teenage years together (although I would say we were quite tame). We know a lot about each other. However, dating and marriage as similar as it seems are very different things. There are many things to discuss with your partner before getting married.

My husband and I may have spent a large chunk of our life together, but we still don’t always see eye to eye. Every couple will have their disagreements. It’s very important for couples who have chosen to spend their life together to discuss these 7 topics. No matter how difficult the topic might be. 

1. Finances

Money has always been one of those things that can cause a huge fight between partners. I’ve even read somewhere that it is the cause of many divorces. My husband, Tyler, being an accountant, we talked about finances a lot. Finances are the first thing you and your partner should discuss before getting married.

How you will handle finances as a couple is very important. Make sure you are on the same page. How will you arrange your finances as a couple? Are you bringing debt into your marriage? Finances is something you and your partner should discuss before getting married.

Money is a hot topic and can be a huge source of tension in a marriage. If not discussed openly and honestly it can cause a huge strain in your relationship. Trust is a major component when dealing with finances.

Now, Tyler worked full-time and went to school part-time while I went to school full-time and worked part-time. So, at the beginning of our marriage, there was a large difference in income as well as in our spending habits.

We had to make compromises. I had to make a lot of adjustments in my spending habits (as I was the spender in the relationship). We rarely fight about finances now because we talk about it daily. With each new situation that arises and changes to our marriage, we always discuss it. 

Discuss the following, before getting married:

a. Will you be combining your finances?

Tyler and I have combined finances. Our mortgage, credit cards, utilities and all other costs in our marriage come from this one account. This works for us, it helps that there is mutual trust and open communication about our spending, saving, and expenses.

It may seem excessive, but we tell each other about all our spending. Whether it’s when we’ve gone out for lunch or if we bought something (even small things). We both have a complete view of our finances.

Tyler is the primary person in charge of our money. He moves the money into our various accounts and pays all our bills. He communicates when he did this and how much money he has moved around.

This open communication is so important to establish in the first couple of years of marriage. It fosters honest communication. Both partners are aware of the financial situation. This helps prevent large fights in the future regarding where the money has gone. The only downside Tyler and I had regarding this arrangement is trying to buy gifts for each other without the other knowing.

Some of my friends in marriage have separate accounts. This makes sense for them. They have a combined account for their mortgage and utilities, etc. However, they also have separate bank accounts where their income comes in and each contributes to the joint account. If you decide to have separate accounts and this works for your family, there are some questions you should discuss.

How will you each contribute to your joint account? Will it be by percentage or dollar value? What if there is a discrepancy between your earnings and your partners?

There are many benefits and difficulties of having a joint or separate account. Figure out what will work best for the new family you’re building. Remember that you’re on the same team. When your spouse wins, you win too.

b. Do you have debt that you’re bringing into the marriage such as student loans, car payments or credit card debt? 

You should share with your partner, how much debt you have and what the interest rate is for the debt. You should discuss how to pay it down and how the debt will affect your other financial responsibilities.

Remember in a marriage, your combined debt will affect how much you can get in a loan or a mortgage rate. Remember both your incomes and debts are considered in the loan application.

A great finance blog if you want to check it out!

2. What are your plans for the future? 

Are you and your partner on the same page regarding children? What about travel? Do you want to rent or own? Where you want to live? It’s so important to ask these questions. It may seem like something many couples would talk about but you would be surprised how many couples are surprised by their spouse’s answers.

A. Career

My husband and I got married when we were 26 years old. I was just finishing up my graduate degree and wanting to apply for medical school. During our pre-marital counseling, our marriage mentors asked, how our marriage plans would work with me in medical school.

Tyler and I never really discussed it in detail. Medical school is 8 years minimum and 10 years if you specialize. After the in-class portion is complete, you do your residency. Residency can take place anywhere in Canada.

“Have you hashed out the details of possibly relocating?” She asked. “What would that mean for Tyler who has been building a career in Vancouver for the last 4 years?” She questioned. “What about children? Do you want children? Will you have them while you’re in medical school? Or wait until you’ve finished meaning you would be at least 37 years old when you have your first child.” 

Wow, my mind felt overloaded with all the things we had to consider. We never really thought were issues when he and I talked about medical school. We were mostly concerned with the financial aspect. 

My husband and I have mostly been on the same page about the future of our marriage. We discussed where we will live, we chose to buy our first home in the city we grew up in. We together discussed that as newlyweds that a condo would be ideal. It was something we could afford after considering our finances. We only stayed there for 2 years before we sold it and moved more east to a townhome. Life is dynamic and these kinds of discussions should be routine.

B. Travel

What about travel? I have always had a desire to travel and live abroad.

Tyler loves to travel too but did not see himself living abroad. I know some couples, where one loves to travel and the other not so much. She finds it a hassle, an expense and only likes to travel maybe once a year to a resort. Her partner does not like to travel this way. He loves to backpack and explore the city and experience the culture outside of resorts. He’s single now. They just couldn’t find a compromise, but he now travels all over the world and lives abroad working and exploring. It may seem small, but it can create tension in the marriage. It will affect how you, as a couple will organize your finances and the lifestyle that you strive for.

C. Children

It is important to discuss your future plans for after the wedding day. Are children apart of your plan? You should make sure it is also apart of your spouse's plan too. Make sure your plans for the future match. Discuss with your partner before getting married that plans for your partnership.

Something Tyler and I butt heads about were children. I didn’t want kids, but he did. We both discussed why we did or did not want kids and we had to make some hard decisions (we have a beautiful baby girl now, so I guess you can say that I came around. Check out my blog post on what I learned my first week as a mom) but not everyone will come around and you cannot force them to want or not want children.

Some people have always seen themselves are parents and others have always known children were not in the cards. It is important to hash this out in detail and come to some place of understanding. Not discussing this honestly and openly can lead to anger and bitterness towards your partner in the long run because you’ve lost something you always thought you would have, whether it’s children or a life without.

Make sure your plans coincide as a couple, make this something you and your partner discuss before getting married.

3. Daily Responsibilities

My husband and I talked about daily household responsibilities prior to getting married. I felt like it was important because we both had full-time commitments whether work or school and felt that having an equal share of the household responsibilities would help keep things sane. Domestic duties are another thing you and your partner should discuss before getting married.

Domestic duties are something you want to discuss with your partner. How will the household duties be divided and who will do what and when? Discuss with your partner the daily responsibilities of being together before getting married.

My husband and I have both never lived alone. We left home when we got married, which is not so common nowadays but we didn’t have much experience none-the-less. I enjoyed cooking so I took on this responsibility, Tyler and I take turns to load and unload the dishwasher, vacuuming and cleaning the house. Tyler clears the garbage weekly and cleans the bathrooms while I maintain the kitchen. I do the laundry and fold it and he sometimes put it away. To be honest, I do more than he does but he has other responsibilities. He pays all our bills and other financial matters to our household.

Speaking with your future spouse about who will do what helps keep things in check. Instead of assuming and getting upset with them for not doing something you expect them to do but never discussed they would do. Of course, these responsibilities change. Since getting pregnant Tyler and taken on a lot more, such as doing the dishes and vacuuming, laundry and other responsibilities on top of working full time, while I’m on medical leave due to my pregnancy. 

My main point is, it’s important to have a discussion regarding who is responsible for what but what is more important to realize is that you are a team. You are building a family and a home together.

Both of you will have hard and long days but being married means having a servant attitude. You will have to do things you may not want to do but also have grace for your spouse if they make a mistake or just can’t hold up their end of the agreement. Marriage is a team effort. 

4. Values and Beliefs

This is a big one. The values and beliefs of married partners should be aligned. It lays the foundation of all the important decisions that come your way. Some of the big obvious ones such as how you will raise your kids and handle family matters but I found having joined beliefs and values determines how you fight with your spouse, how you will treat your spouse and how you respond to shortcomings, mistakes and adjust to the difficulties that might arise in marriage. 

Tyler and I have luckily always had aligned values and beliefs. Our values are the foundation that keeps our marriage going when we are faced with hardships, difficulties, and worries of the future. When we fight, these values remind us that we are a team, we are partners in this walk called marriage. It reminds us to hold our tongue when we fight, to treat each other with grace and understanding when our tempers run high. Sometimes when our tempers get the best of us, these same values remind us to forgive and ask for forgiveness. 

The values and beliefs you share are so important. You should discuss them and make sure that you and your future spouse are on the same page about the values and beliefs that you want as the foundation of your marriage. This is something easily overlooked by couples however I feel that values and beliefs can make or break a marriage. How you handle situations, take on challenges and make major decisions in your marriage are based on your values and beliefs. Give your marriage a good start, make values and beliefs something you and your partner discuss before getting married.

5. Family Obligations

“Getting married isn’t just about you and your partner, but it is two families coming together.” – My mom

For a long time, I didn’t understand, as Tyler and I mature as a married couple, we are starting to understand the importance of family on both sides and making room for them in our marriage. After all, they are the grandmas and grandpas and uncles and aunts of our daughter.

Once you and your spouse are a family, you have to consider the in-laws too. Your family obligation is important as your marriage grow and your family grows. It is important for you and your partner to discuss this before getting married.

Something that I found was important was making time for both sides of the family. If both sides of your family can get together during Christmas, Thanksgiving and all the other family-oriented holidays that’s wonderful! My in-laws and my parents have different kinds of family traditions and it’s hard for us to do things together and that’s okay, but my husband and I try our best to spend time with each side of the family.

Balancing both sides of the family during the holidays is a tough act. Have the discussion and make the decision together.

If you don’t get along with your inlaws, don’t ask your spouse to choose. Come to a respectful agreement as to how much time is spent with each family, what holidays, on days will be spent with who. Discuss with your partner before getting married how your family time will be divided.

6. Sex

Some people assume that the honeymoon phase lasts forever but over time, sex can become something left on the back burner, especially with kids or heavy work schedules. In marriage, physical intimacy is important and it’s important to discuss sex. 

Don't think sex is going to be a given once you're married. It is another aspect of the relationship that required your effort. Make sure you and your partner talk about sex before getting married.

Sex might be more important to one partner than the other. If physical intimacy is something that one partner needs to feel love then that needs to be spoken honestly. I think it’s valid for couples to even discuss what expectations they have regarding sex going into marriage. Maybe to one partner, 1 time per week is more than enough but to the other 3 times per week is more than what they expected. Not speaking about sex and expectations of sex can cause strain in marriage but fostering open communication regarding physical intimacy helps in the long run when life just gets in the way. 

My husband and I didn’t really have discussions about sex and thought it would “come naturally” but when life got busy it definitely didn’t come naturally. Sometimes we butt heads, maybe one of us was in the mood but the other just didn’t have the energy due to the day we had, and this would cause arguments between us. 

I’ve even heard of couples having a sex calendar, where they plan some evenings each month where they prioritize physical intimacy and I think that is a great idea. Just as married couples sometimes need to set date nights and time alone together for romance and quality husband and wife time, sex is also an important part of being husband and wife.

I read an article about couples who “naked cuddle”. Where couples sleep naked to foster physical intimacy and opportunities for sex if it arose. When life becomes busy and married life in many cases can become routine but having opportunities to be physically intimate with your spouse shows them that they are desirable and even after many years of marriage that the spark that seemed to have died is still alive and well. 

Sex is an equal part of a healthy marriage as open communication, respect, and honesty. Discuss the role of physical intimacy in your relationship with your partner before getting married.

7. Boundaries

If you have not already set boundaries, make sure you establish them prior to your wedding. Discuss boundaries with your partner before getting married. It is a sign of respect for your spouse.

When my husband and I got married we made sure to discuss boundaries. What we are comfortable with regarding people and friends of the opposite gender. I know this sounds like very old school thinking but no matter how much you trust your spouse or they trust you, jealousy is an ugly emotion that likes to seep its way in when you least expect it, planting seeds of doubt and insecurity in the strongest of relationships. This is not a question of trusting your spouse or them trusting you but creating boundaries helps strengthen the partnership between you and your spouse. 

A friend of mine set for himself the boundary to never be alone with someone of the opposite gender. For example, driving friends’ home he would drive the females home first then the guys. He was never alone in the car with the opposite gender. It was his way of showing respect to his new fiancé. 

Physical boundaries are important but so are emotional ones. I’ve always had more guy friends than female friends and I made sure I set boundaries to confide in my few girlfriends if I needed to talk about my relationship. Even before them, I would speak openly and honestly to Tyler first about any problems that we were having. 

There are many things you and your partner should discuss before considering a life together. We all want our marriage to go the distance. We found these 7 things most impacted our relationship. It is something we discuss continuously as our marriage grows and changes. Remember to have honest and open communication about finances, your plans for the future, daily responsibilities between you and your spouse, your values and beliefs, family obligations, sex, and finally boundaries. Make the time to discuss these 7 things with your partner before you get married. Give your marriage a great start.

Marriage is the merging of two lives and communication is key. Here are 7 things that all couples should discuss before tying the knot.

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