Many couples spend countless hours planning their wedding day. However, a lot of those same couples don’t spend nearly as much time planning their marriage together. It is very important for couples to talk about their goals, values, and hopes and dreams prior to getting married to ensure that these will be compatible with their future spouse’s ambitions.
Sometimes during the dating phase of a relationship, subjects about future goals just don’t seem to come up often enough. A couple who has never purchased a house together, shared a checkbook, or raised children, might not take the opportunity to discuss their values about these things in a serious manner. Make the time to discuss important topics before you start talking about marriage and a wedding.
Make sure to discuss your thoughts about children. If you don’t want any children and your partner hopes to have six, that’s going to be a problem. This is one area you don’t want to compromise on. If you don’t want to have children, agreeing that you will just because your partner wants them, is not likely to lead to a satisfying and fulfilling life.
Also discuss your values about parenting in general. What sorts of consequences do you believe are good for children and which are off limits? For example, what are your beliefs about spanking? Obviously, until you have children you won’t know exactly how you will handle certain situations, but having a general idea of your values and your partners values are important in determining how compatible you are.
Discuss religion and your beliefs about spirituality. If you have different values and beliefs, discuss how you might deal with this. Would you attend separate worship services? Will you attend one another’s worship services? If you have children, how would they be impacted by your different beliefs?
Money is another important issue. Discuss your goals around money and finances. Perhaps your goal is to work hard while you are young and retire as early as possible even though it will require making a lot of sacrifice. But perhaps your partner wants to live life as much as possible, travel extensively, and live in the largest house you can possibly afford. Have an honest discussion about how important material possessions are for you and what role this will play in your life together. If you haven’t discussed your ideas on money, these issues can lead to conflict and in some cases, divorce.
Talk about what sort of lifestyle in general you hope to live in a few years down the road. If you dream about living in the city and your partner envisions living in a quiet farmhouse in the country, how would you resolve this? Discuss the geographic location you want to live in as well.
What are your values about extended family? Do you envision living close to relatives and getting together for family gatherings on a weekly basis? Or do you consider a monthly phone call home to be sufficient contact? What sort of contact do you envision with your future in-laws?
How important is education to you? If at some point, your partner wanted to return to school to continue his/her education, would you be supportive of that? Discuss your beliefs about the importance of education and how much of a role you envision it playing in your marriage.
Evaluate how important you think a career will be in your life as well as in your partner’s life. Do you expect to work long hours and will you be okay with that? Or would you prefer to work less and play more? How do you feel about your partner’s work and work schedule? If you are married to someone who is on-call or who has to work holidays or work a shift that is opposite of yours, this is likely to impact your life together.
If you and your partner are not compatible on some key issues, it is important to understand what this means for your relationship. You may be able to make some accommodations so that both of you can still feel you are living a happy, fulfilling lifestyle despite some minor differences. Some issues however, may be too big to be resolved. Despite having a strong love for one another and a commitment to the relationship, if you are incompatible, it may feel like you are trying to fit a square peg into a round hole, and over time, it might not work out.
Source: East Bay Couples Counseling