8 Things to Discuss Before You Propose
Fools Rush In
It's no surprise that sometimes people rush into marriage without knowing enough about the person they are vowing to spend the rest of their lives with. When you're in love and can't wait for the "rest of your life" to start, it's easy not to see the other person's flaws or potential complications down the road.
So in addition to talking over these points in-depth with your partner, get yourself to some pre-marriage counseling--it'll do a world of good, and most places will give you a discount on your marriage license if you do enough hours.
Another important thing to remember is that people are complicated, and they change, so even if you discuss these things, your future spouse's preferences may change. So when discussing things now, and especially later, be kind, understanding, and patient. These things are difficult, and people are more sensitive than they would like to admit.
Sadly, and despite what you think about President Trump, his election has resulted in the end of many marriages and partnerships. This is because, while it is possible to have a happy marriage to someone whom you agree very little with politically, it is very hard to do.
This is because your politics says a lot about you--how you treat other people, how you view human nature, what you think of money, etc. Despite everyone's desire to do so, it really is difficult to separate what someone believes politically with who they are as a person. Yes, we should be open, understanding, and tolerant of each other--but when it comes to the person who you will spend every day of the rest of your life with, and who will help you raise, guide, and teach your children, you want to have more in common than different when it comes to politics.
Here are some questions to discuss with each other concerning politics:
- Are you ever open to changing your mind when it comes to what you believe?
- How important is voting and civic responsibility?
- What is the individual's responsibility towards the poor, and what is the best way to fulfill that responsibility?
- Will you have guns in the house?
- Taxes--necessary evil, or just evil?
- Pro-life or Pro-choice?
I'm sure there are many more, but these are some of the big ones that could really damage a marriage if you don't share a common foundation in these beliefs.
How Many Kids?
How many kids each person wants can very greatly, especially if one partner doesn't even want kids. This discussion can be made even more difficult by the expectation that this could change some day. The best thing you can do, in addition to discussing it, is be open to seeing children as gift you may unexpectedly receive.
Maybe one person wants 3-5 and the other wants 1-3. There is at least some commonality there to work with.
Is adoption ok?
What about medical procedures like In Vitro?
Is there anything in either person's past that may keep them from having kids?
How would you handle it if that was the case?
If you have a wide disparity between your two desires, this may be an issue which causes you to re-examine if you should marry each other.
Should a Married Woman with Children Work Outside the Home?
Works and Careers
For many people, their job or career is one of the most important things to their identity--what they do becomes who they are. For others, a job is a necessary evil one needs in order to provide food and shelter. Most people are probably in between, but we all have dreams.
Disagreement about things such as the role of work in the family, who should be the breadwinner, and if one person should stay home can be severe enough to break up a marriage, especially if one or both spouses are caught off guard.
- Is your career your life, what defines you gives you purpose?
- Or do you hate work and only do it because you have to?
- Do you want to make a lot of money?
- Or are you fine living on a little as long as you get a lot of family time?
- What is your dream job?
Children are the most important thing to their parents, and as such how they want to parent is extremely important. Not only does parenting style say a lot about a person, but it effects their children's well being for the rest of their lives. That people are so sensitive about their parenting shows how important this issue is. Of course parenting disagreements will happen, some of them major--but talking about and working through fundamental differences should help avoid any surprises that can break up a marriage.
Some things to consider:
- Is spanking ever ok?
- Can one parent over ride another?
- Does one parent assume more of the responsibility than the other?
- Do you want to be hands off or hovering?
- Is it ok to yell at your kids?
- Will you co-sleep or sleep-train?
Family and Holidays
My wife and I have been married almost four years now, and one of the things we still fight about every single year is how to celebrate the holidays. I'm kind of a hermit, so celebrating six Christmases every year gets a little draining, and can make the holidays un-enjoyable for me.
We've learned to compromise, and we always approach the topic with a lot of love and understanding for each others needs, but I its something I wish we would have talked more about before we were married.
- Do you want to alternate years you spend holidays with each other's family?
- Does one family value certain Holiday's over others?
- What family holiday traditions do you want to start with your family?
- How much should you spend on gifts every year?
Also important is talking about other family traditions and habits.
- Do you talk to your mother every week (or day)?
- How often do you travel to see your family and how long do you stay with them?
- How open or private should your spouse be with your family?
- Is there any really annoying habits your family raised you with that your partner should know before you tie the knot?
Again, there will always be surprises, and you will spend your entire life learning about your husband or wife. The idea is to foster a habit of communication and understanding while identifying any deal breakers before your put in a bad situation.
This is perhaps the biggest area of struggle for couples. I've found that in a relationship there tends to be one person who likes to spend money and one person who likes to save it (this is a generalization of course). Given the necessity of money, it's obvious how this can cause problems.
Another common problem is a disagreement between how much money should inform the decisions of the household. Often one person will not like money, be scared of it, or think its a "necessary evil". If both parties feel this way, it can lead to poor management and thus stress, or if the other person really feels money is important, they may feel unsupported by their spouse.
Above all, do NOT, hide money or spending from your spouse (even if they're bad with money). The best thing for a happy marriage is to learn how to manage money together, in a way that is a compromise. Do not have his money vs. her money, but only our money.
This can be a radical idea for some, but there is plenty of evidence showing it's a benefit to the relationship. If you can't trust someone with your money, can you trust them with your life, heart, and kids?
There's an almost ubiquitous joke that sex ends once two people get married. Regardless of your views on premarital sex, the point is that sex is part of a healthy marriage, and problems in the bedroom can end a marriage.
- How enjoyable does either partner find sex in general (or how interested are they in it if they are virgins)?
- Is there anything in your past that could prevent you from having a healthy sex life?
- How often does each partner expect to have sex?
- How should you talk about sexual problems?
- Perhaps most importantly, do either of you have any STD's?
How do you communicate about communication? This one is hard for most couples because it permeates every other topic--how you talk about the problem is just as important as the problem itself. Bad communication can prevent you from resolving any conflicts and can push your partner farther away.
Set some ground rules for arguments--popular ones are:
- No bringing up past mistakes/arguments/wrongs.
- No generalizing (You always/never do this).
- Never invalidate the other's feelings.
- No name calling.