Updated: Dec 14, 2020
The 5 Must Have Conversations to Have Before Marriage
You’ve seen those couples holding hands in the street, snuggling up at dinner parties and staring longingly into each other’s eyes, a decade or more into their marriage…
What’s their secret sauce? How are they still so close, loved up and #couplegoals?
I can tell you. They have created a safe space for each other where they feel free to express themselves without the fear of being judged or criticized. Feeling accepted by the one you love makes room for the best kind of closeness that you can ever experience.
I encourage to keep this in mind as you and your fiancé open yourselves to reaching deeper levels of intimacy and understanding while discussing the five subjects listed below. In my experience as a psychotherapist specialized in relationships, I can assure you that it is not ‘if’ these topics will arise in your marriage, but ‘when’ they will become relevant. Once you go over the list, some of you may find that addressing certain issues makes you feel uneasy, even anxious. It is understandable. To ease any tension, or concern, make your environment as calming and relaxing as can be. Perhaps you may want to start by choosing the least intimidating topic from the list and opening the dialogue during a walk by the beach, or while having coffee in your favorite café. Have some fun with it. Remember that by engaging in this important task, you two are setting yourselves up for a strong, healthy, and connected marriage.
Money can be a very personal and touchy subject. If you’d rather not talk about it, you are not alone. Many couples find discussing money to be incredibly uncomfortable. In my work as a clinician, I have found that couples feel more at ease talking about intimate aspects of their sex life than discussing money issues. Yes, money becomes the proverbial elephant in the room. Don’t let this happen to you. Money is a critical aspect of married life. Trust me here. Incorrect assumptions and conflicting views on how to handle finances can and will lead to conflict in the future.
My pro tip: make this talk, less daunting. Spend some time doing something you both find soothing and pleasant first. Go for a walk together, perhaps. Then, start by sharing your own childhood experiences with money. Were they positive or do you have painful memories regarding money? Let this be a starting point. Be there for each other as you share your stories without passing judgement. As you feel more comfortable discussing money, you can move into current issues.
How would you like to handle joint money? Do either of you have debt that you need to discuss? How do you like to budget? How are you going to handle large purchases? These are just some of the important questions to discuss when planning your financial future together.
2. Conflict Management
You might be under the false impression that discussing how you would like to handle conflict before there is conflict to be handled, is setting you and your partner up to create…. conflict! The fact of the matter, is that no matter how much you love each other and how many values you two may have in common, you are still two different people with distinctive thought patterns and behaviors and to expect to reach 100% agreement in 100% of the issues you will encounter along your path, is unrealistic.
Pro tip: Address how to manage the divergent views you may end up having now, rather than waiting for them to arise to try to figure out then, best course of action. How to do this? Depart from the acceptance that conflictual viewpoints will arise. Create a safe space in which both of you can partake in devising a plan that you both feel comfortable with. Create some ground rules of what is acceptable and what is not and put it into practice. Having a blueprint, gives you a head start into more efficient conflict management in the future.
We all love a good love story. We laugh, we cry, we are entertained. Take movies, for instance, a good love story line can make us reflect upon our own lives. While some stories may depict real life issues, we can’t forget that most stories in books, T.V. or movies, are the product of someone’s fertile imagination. The issue here is that for some, those great love stories, become the blueprint for a set of unrealistic expectations more rooted in fantasy than in real life.
Don’t get me wrong, your expectation of being loved and accepted by your partner in life is well placed. I am referring to idealistic beliefs that are humanly impossible to be fulfilled and have the great potential to lead to disappointments: Let me give you some examples:
Your partner will always know what you want and need
Your spouse is to meet all your needs.
Being married to the love of your life will heal all your wounds
You two will agree in all issues that matter to the both of you.
It is awful to experience emotional distance in marriage
Love does not require any work. Connection and thus love occur naturally.
If s/he loves you, s/he will do what you want.
Married life is real life involving two imperfect human being that profess love for each other and who choose to join their lives together. The sooner you have this important talk about expectations, the unrealistic and idealistic ones, the sooner you will focus on what matters: to keep the connection and the alliance alive. This can be achievable.
4. Extended Family/ In-laws
“When you marry someone, you are marrying their entire family” Kevin Jonas
While you are not literally marrying your fiancé’s parents, the importance that your future in-laws will have in your life can’t be denied. They raised him/her. That has something to do with the person your soon to be spouse is today. Having said that, keep in mind that they are imperfect people like you and me. Toxic in-laws or relatives may come your way. There are those whose interactions with you leave you feeling anxious, guilty, frustrated or in despair. In such cases, it is advisable to devise an action plan to deal effectively with them as to avoid giving them power to control your emotions.
Let’s take your mother-in-law, for instance. She may annoy you at times, while you won’t be able to change who she is, it is important to discuss with your partner any healthy boundaries that will need to be set.
Your partner may be aware that their mother annoys you from time to time, but they might not be aware about how much her comments hurt your feelings. Express your concerns instead of repressing how you feel for it is possible that your partner would much rather set these boundaries than watch your mental health deteriorate every time you are around their family.
Pro Tip: It is best that the communication be provided by the person with blood ties to the relative in question.
Having a mutual understanding of what you two believe to be truly important in a marriage is priority. Research on values indicates that these tend to predict your attitudes, preferences and behaviors. Understanding and openly sharing each other’s personal values can become a vehicle to enhance your alliance while uncovering for yourself and your partner what you consider good and worthy as you plan to share your life together.
Pro Tip: List out what you value most in a partnership and make sure your partner does the same. Rank it in order of importance. Be as specific as you can. Provide examples if needed. Can you get to a place where you see and understand the importance of each other’s values?
So here it is, my list of the five ‘must have’ conversations that every couple about to get married must consider having. They are meant to provide a starting point at connecting in a meaningful way.
To further explore this and other topics relating to building a strong foundation for a happy, healthy and rewarding marriage, peruse my premarital preparation courses.
Marriage is a lifelong journey. It is helpful to have a blueprint for hacking the love code.
Dr. Liliana Wolf, psychotherapist, former professor of psychology and international relationship expert, has been preparing couples for marriage at her Coral Gables office for over 20 years. She is an approved and certified provider of online premarital courses in all states extending incentives. Favored by couples about to be married, her courses have achieved a consistent 5-star rating, positioning her in the top 1% in sales of online courses by the Teachable platform worldwide. Ranked at the top 1% in the specialty of marriage and family nationwide by HealthGrades, Dr. Wolf is at the top of her game both as a clinician and professor.