Perhaps the thought of premarital counseling is on your wedding to-do list, or you’re still celebrating your engagement. Either way, there are a few touchy topics to talk about before marriage. Once you know the important conversations to have, you can figure out the best approach for having these talks with your future spouse. Whether you opt for the guidance of a premarital counselor, therapist, minister, or a seasoned married couple, it’s important to have open and honest conversations before walking down the aisle.
“Couples have to understand that simply being in love is not enough. They have to have some shared values and an understanding of what their individual emotional needs are. Needs not verbalized do not get met,” says Natalie Murray, LCMHC, and owner of Charlotte WellBeing Institute. Chloe Cook, licensed marriage and family therapist adds, “Before a couple decides to get married, they absolutely must discuss anything that is a deal breaker. One of the most important things to discuss, and consistently work on before getting married, is how each of you handle conflict, and improving how you handle it together.”
Zola has your back to make sure that you get the tough conversations out of the way so that you can focus on your impending marriage with your future spouse. Here are 10 topics that couples should talk about before getting married.
One of the most dreaded topics for couples is the money conversation. Finances and budgets are important to discuss before marriage, but also before moving in together (if that happens first), says Cook. She says that couples should discuss household financial responsibilities in order to create a living expenses budget based on your incomes. Figuring out financial goals should also be up for discussion.
“It is a good idea to revisit at set times during the year or when any lifestyle changes occur, such as moving, a new job, job loss, starting a family, and medical care,” explains Cook. Murray says asking questions about money history, such as what you were taught about money growing up, why you make money, and if you regularly give money to friends and family, are also important.
Deciding whether or not to have children can be one of those deal breaker topics. “It is not a good idea to decide to get married if one person wants children and the other does not. Hoping a partner will change their mind on such a life-changing topic is a potential set up for a huge letdown,” says Cook. Murray says that if children are in your future plans, it’s also important to find out each other’s parental role models and how you will achieve becoming parents, such as biologically, adoption, surrogacy, or fertility treatments.
Where do you see yourself as a couple? Is it moving around constantly or is it in a small quaint town, or a bustling big city? Make sure that you and your spouse are on board with the type of lifestyle you plan to live as a married couple. “Location of where to live can also be one of those deal breaker topics. Some prefer to live close to family, or a career may determine where the couple ends up living,” says Cook. She adds that the topic should be discussed even if it is a hypothetical question.
Do you want a cabin in Tennessee, or a beach house in Florida? Knowing whether you and your partner share similar long term goals will help confirm you are working towards the right thing. Murray says that it’s best to ask each other what the realistic price of that dream home is, how it fits into your budget, and what kind of home you want. If you plan to move around a lot for jobs, it’s also a time to discuss if renting is a better option in the long run. As long as you set a realistic expectation together, you’ll be one step closer to achieving a happy marriage.
For some couples, religion can be a tough conversation, especially if you practice a particular faith. “Some religions require that a partner convert before marriage, if both individuals do not practice the same religion,” says Cook. She adds that couples should discuss religious traditions, how they are practiced, and the depth of faith.
When discussing finances, you should also talk about how you will handle bank accounts. “Should we have joint bank accounts? This is the most common question when couples decide to get married. This decision should be based on your financial goals, debt, and budget discussions,” says Cook. Murray adds, figure out how often you will have the discussion about finances and how to structure all bank accounts. “Most couples end up choosing to keep individual accounts, while also creating a joint account to contribute to for household finances, vacations, and savings,” says Cook.
Putting all the numbers on the table in the beginning is crucial. “It is important to discuss debt, because it can impact a number of things, from your living options to household financial responsibilities/budget. Each partner should be upfront and honest about any debt that may impact short and long-term goals as a couple. A productive way to start the debt conversation is to first discuss any goals that involve finances, how you plan to accomplish the goal, and what are the barriers,” says Cook.
Murray adds that asking to see each other’s credit report, and exploring feelings about being in debt is another important aspect before discussing how the amount of debt will affect your goals individually and as a couple.
Discussing what happens in the bedroom can be a blush-worthy conversation, but it’s also an important one. Are you up to just being with one person for the rest of your life? If not, then now is the time to discuss an open marriage. “It is so important for a couple to feel safe, comfortable, and empathetic discussing sex,” says Cook. Both Cook and Murray say to be specific when this topic comes up.
They say that some important questions to ask include: What are your sexual needs and desires? What are your fantasies or new things you want to try? What does sex mean to you? What is your sexual history? However, if your partner says that this is an uncomfortable conversation, it’s a good idea to speak with a licensed professional to help move with the discussion.
A break from the everyday hustle and bustle can be just what the doctor ordered, but do you and your partner agree on the type of vacation that you would both enjoy? “Vacations are important, because they serve as time to relax, reconnect, and spend quality time with your partner/family away from the stress of everyday life,” says Cook. It’s important to discuss what types of vacations you like and don’t like, from camping to amusement parks. Also, if you or a significant other seem to be tied to work, you’ll need to talk about how to compromise and how long you can be away from the office.
Speaking of work, get to know each other’s career goals now, so that it doesn’t cause friction down the road. “The type of career your partner has or chooses to pursue plays a big role in the decisions that are made regarding where you live, current income, and income potential for the future,” says Cook.