If you’ve reached the altar, we’d like to think you know your spouse-to-be pretty well. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of surprises waiting for you on the other side of holy matrimony. Relationship therapists agree that one of the best ways to head-off a split down the road is to have a series of pre-marriage conversations now in which you address several important topics. It doesn’t matter if you’re marrying someone who wore your letter jacket 15 years ago or someone you met on a blind date five months ago, here are the topics you need speak openly about well before tying the knot. And for more helping going the distance, here are the 10 Secrets for Keeping Your Wife Happy.
Major disagreements are simply inevitable. “How you express anger and other difficult emotions, how your parents expressed anger to each other and toward their kids, and how you react when someone is angry with you are all worth exploring,” says Carrie Krawiec, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist at Birmingham Maple Clinic and Executive Director of Michigan Association for Marriage and Family Therapy. Knowing these things about each other, which you’ve addressed routinely in pre-marriage conversations, allows you to fight fair and resolve conflicts before they snowball. And if you’re relationship isn’t faring well, be sure to read about How Smart Men Never Break Up.
“I wish couples would have pre-marriage conversations about what they would do if they couldn’t stop arguing or if they began to feel disconnected,” says Marni Feuerman, LCSW, LMFT, a therapist based in Boca Raton, FL. For some couples, this may mean agreeing on going to counseling if the relationship ever gets to a point where outside help is needed. For others, it might be a commitment to open, honest, and continuous discussion about problems that are occurring in the relationship. “I would want to know my partner is open to growth and change and is okay seeking outside help when necessary. I don’t think this gets discussed enough,” Feuerman adds. Remember: being honest is a big part of Making Your Marriage Last Forever.
Of course you’ve had the “kids” convo. Probably several times. But were they serious and detailed conversations about kiddos? You need to go into greater detail. Aida Vazin, MA, LMFT, a therapist who practices in Newport Beach, CA, recommends each partner sit down and make a list of what they expect the marriage to look like and then share them with each other. The list should definitely include whether or not you want children and will happen if getting pregnant proves to be too difficult. Infertility treatments, adoption, and surrogacy are all financial commitments, so having that discussion before marriage is a good way to prepare yourselves. And whether or not you’re trying to have children, check out The Yoga Moves That Will Transform Your Sex Life.
“Something that often gets glossed over beforehand that comes back later in the marriage is location,” notes Josh Jones, a Manhattan-based psychotherapist and Associate Director at The Village Institute for Psychotherapy. “Where we live is important. It’s where we wake up every day. If you love where you live and never want to leave, or think you’d move one day if the perfect job came along, it’s a good idea to make that known,” he says. After all, you both want to feel like you know what you’re in for.
People have different ideas of what cheating means and what it means to be monogamous. Feuerman says that sometimes, couples that neglect to have pre-marriage conversations that clearly delineate their views on this topic can encounter problems later on when the boundaries have not been clearly defined. And if you’re worried your wife is cheating on you, don’t miss the surefire signs.
It’s no secret that your sex life will change over time. Being open about this can lessen the blow when it happens. “In my practice, I’ve heard over and over again how couples started off the relationship with a lot of passion and frequent sexual activity, just to find it diminishing rapidly after marriage,” says Vazin. “I’ve heard equal amounts of complaints from both sexes that they feel sexually rejected and are longing for more passion and physical intimacy,” she adds. Again, the more upfront you are about it from the start, the less likely it is that you’ll have problems in this area later on. And if you’re looking to spice things up, here are the 13 Sexiest Things You Can Ever Say to a Woman.
Establish from the get-go how much autonomy you’d like to have in your relationship, advises Evie Shafner, a Licensed Family and Marriage Therapist practicing in California. “Holding onto yourselves as individuals who can stand on their own two feet, maintaining your own sense of being a good person, and having separate interests is what can lead to a much happier marriage.”
Sometimes, partners have a different visions of what togetherness means, which can be a source of strife. “For example, some partners feel hurt if the other partner wants to see friends separately, say on a Friday night, and end up feeling jealous or hurt. Discussing these scenarios in pre-marriage conversations, where one partner can give the other reassurance, can help to avoid defensive fights later.”
Things change. Period. Your life, relationship, career, health, and financial situation will be different in the future from how they is now, and it’s crucial to talk about that with your significant other before committing to one another for life. “I would say the most important thing to agree on is that you will experience change across your lifetime,” notes Krawiec. “Make a commitment to be open and flexible and generous and compassionate with one another as change is occurring.”
“It’s okay to get married when there is something major you disagree on,” says Jones. “But problems happen when you believe that disagreement will somehow magically go away.”
But here’s the difference between disagreements you can get through from ones that are deal breakers: “If it’s a major disagreement that you can currently live with, then it’s fine, but if you are secretly hoping it will resolve itself that becomes a problem.”
He points out that people tend to think that major differences in beliefs or preferences cause disconnection in relationships, but that’s not necessarily the case if both partners are okay with the the difference. “Connection is all about how we reconnect. So it’s not about how perfect the ‘connection’ in the relationship is, but rather how we find our way back after the connection is broken,” he says. Long story short, knowing where your ideas don’t line up and being okay with that can save you a lot of trouble in the future.
Call me Captain Obvious, but a frank discussion about core values is crucial. “Values regarding spending money, raising children, going out, staying home, careers, and extended family involvement are extremely important,” says Vazin. You don’t need to have exactly the same habits or even do all of these things in the same way, says Vazin, but there are certain principles you need to agree on. “If a couple has the same core values of respecting each other and keeping peace in the home, then they will be able to easily find common ground in the details that make up the marriage they are committing to.”
And while the religious specifics aren’t vital, “a belief system is required for everyone,” she notes. You should be clear on what your partner believes religiously and spiritually in pre-marriage conversations, and if it’s different from your own beliefs, you should accept it. Lastly, “finances are very key to talk about since it usually is a top reason that leads to divorce,” says Vazin. “Both parties should discuss spending habits, debt, savings and mutual financial goals.”
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