5 Things To Discuss Before Getting Married
An issue we frequently see as therapists is that clients may feel stuck in a marriage where there are vastly different values on both ends. Of course, it is valuable to have different perspectives on things but for the most part, you want to ensure that someone you marry and potentially have children with, shares the same values as you. It may be “cute” to find yourselves debating on things, or laughing at how adamant you both are on opposing views. However, the reality is that once you are contractually and/or spiritually bound by marriage and children, the issue of values can further widen the gap between spouses.
People sometimes do what we call “sliding” into relationships, which means that you are sliding through relationship transitions without intentionality. In other words, rather than discussing the really tough topics, and determining whether to proceed with the relationship or not, people may continue with the relationship despite having issues of compatibility. Some people may fear being alone, or may feel that they have invested so much into a relationship, that they don’t want to confront the differences that may end the relationship.
As you can imagine, it is much harder to figure these things out once married, and even more so once you have children.
So here are 5 important topics that really should be discussed before getting married, and WAY before having children.
- Religion and Spirituality
This is a difficult topic for almost anybody to bring up when there are differing views. Although it is wise to avoid this topic among friends and acquaintances, it is essential to discuss this with romantic partners we see a future with. You do not necessarily have to share the exact same beliefs, or be of the same religion. However, you do have to have congruency in your expectations regarding religion and spirituality. For example, if you have a husband who is Catholic and a wife who is Jewish, this may not be a big deal if both partners are not active in their religious communities or if this is not the main part of their identities. However, if you do have hidden expectations for your partner to eventually see things your way, or for your children to follow your customs, then it is a recipe for conflict. Religion and spirituality, as difficult a topic as it can be, absolutely needs to be addressed when it comes to marriage, child rearing, and long-term customs.
If we lived in an ideal world, politics would not be a dealbreaker. However, with the current polarization of politics in the U.S., it is important to know what type of media and rhetoric you and your partner will be influenced by. Some people still go on to have a respectful and healthy marriage with differing politics, but they may have to have assertive talks about boundaries. This may also require continuous communication about boundaries as current events change the political landscape.
The way we choose to spend and invest our money can look very different from person to person. Although it is expected to have some differences in how we handle finances, we also want to have open, honest conversations about our financial history and future plans. As finances change throughout the course of a marriage, we also want to be able to talk things through calmly in order to find the best solutions.
- Family Dynamics
We get it. Navigating family dynamics can be tricky. But when we find someone we want to marry, we have to be aware that they come as part of a package deal. It is healthy to be able to recognize the strengths and weaknesses of our own family system. In acknowledging these strengths and weaknesses, we can better prepare our partner for how to navigate out of sticky situations. There is no perfect family, but if you or your partner cannot acknowledge this, then you are setting up an impossible standard. Resentment can often build up when boundaries are not placed to protect the marriage as well as the relationship with family members.
When you first have children, you realize that all the parenting books in the world can’t prepare you for your own process of becoming a parent. Although parenting is a topic that will continue to evolve as your children grow, it is certainly helpful when both spouses share similar values when it comes to child rearing. Parents need to show consistency and follow through in order to be a united front as parents. If children feel the inconsistency, they may feel less secure, and may also notice a dynamic where parents are showing contempt for each other’s parenting styles. Parenting is fluid and evolving, but having the basics covered in terms of what values you want to raise them with, is key.
There are a myriad of other topics that are important to talk about before marriage, but making sure you have the big topics covered can make the transition towards marriage much easier.