Wedding season is well underway! Maybe you are in the throws of planning your own wedding, or maybe you are counting your blessings that you are not wedding planning as you sift through your friends' registries and wedding websites.
Maybe you are attending multiple weddings this summer and taking bets about which marriages will survive...
Certainly, we hope all of the weddings you attend this year will be joyous celebrations and we wish for everyone to find the lasting happiness they desire. However, it is widely known that a large percentage of marriages will end in divorce, despite everyone's best intentions. Dissolving a union that was meant to be forever is generally an emotionally painful and often financially draining process. Why not take preventative action?
All couples who are engaged or considering marriage need to have the tough conversations ASAP in order to minimize the chances of a split down the line. If you are making a lifelong commitment, no topic should be off the table. Have these conversations well before your wedding day! Better yet, if you are in a serious relationship and want to talk marriage but haven't yet, have the tough conversations to see if you and your partner are aligned in areas that will make your marriage a long and successful one.
If partners have a deeper level of understanding about each others' perspectives about important topics and if expectations, needs, and goals are communicated from the start - it can only be helpful. There may be topics that do not feel currently relevant, but they likely will be at some point, so why not get ahead of it early on? Of course, there are unforeseen circumstances and mindsets surely may shift over time. We aren't suggesting this will prevent divorce, but it can't hurt and very well may minimize the chances.
Review our Top 9 “Tough Topics” to discuss with your partner before tying the knot:
1 – FINANCES
Money is one of the most common sources of argument among couples, a large contributor to relationship stress, and a leading cause of divorce. Partners do not necessarily need to have similar earnings but should share common ground and understanding as far as perspective on finances and money management.
Discuss your financial goals and thoughts about how to reach them. Discuss your values associated with finances, your relationships to money, and your challenges in this area. How will you share costs? How will you manage money as a couple? Will you combine or keep finances separate? What are the priorities and expectations? How will you work together to reach your financial goals? Do either of you have prior obligations such as student loan debts or minor children from prior relationships that may mean child support obligations? Discuss how these things will impact your future plans. Have open and honest conversations early and develop a mutual understanding and plan.
2 – CHILDREN
Do we want to have them and how will we raise them? Couples should have a solid idea of where each other stand on the question of children, including whether to have children and how to parent them. It may seem obvious that couples will have hashed this out before getting married, but very often that is not the case and disagreements about this life-altering topic ultimately lead to divorce. It is vital that couples be open and honest about their thoughts on having children and discuss the tough topics from the onset. Discuss infertility treatments, should the need arise and given the intense strain struggling to get pregnant can put on a relationship. Discuss thoughts about adoption. Discuss goals for family size, understanding that sometimes this is out of our control.
How are you going to raise your children? Discuss parenting styles, how you will share parenting responsibilities, and thoughts about parental roles. Be sure to talk about values and beliefs, religious or otherwise, perspectives on discipline, education for children, and how these may factor into your thoughts about raising children.
3 – COMMUNICATION
Yes, we are suggesting you communicate about communication! Communication breakdown is often at the crux of relationship demise. Discuss your communication styles early on. Discuss your thoughts and beliefs about what constitute healthy communication. Be aware of what challenges may exist in this area between you and your partner and develop a plan for tackling these challenges. How will you work together to communicate effectively and problem-solve around life challenges that will come your way?
Arguments are undoubtedly ahead, many of them. Your ability to navigate inevitable arguments will strongly contribute to your chances for success as a couple. What is your argument style? Discuss conflict resolution and how early experiences may have impacted how your approach resolving conflict. How will you as a couple resolve disagreements in a constructive way? There is no doubt this is all easier said than done, but it can't hurt to have this discussion early.
4 – SEX
Open the dialogue about sexual desires and expectations. Create a precedent for open discussion about sex with your partner. How important is sex in your relationship? Early in a relationship, couples are often not anticipating challenges in this area, but it is a common area of contention later on and can breed resentment and conflict. Have these discussions early on in order to help determine your sexual compatibility with your partner, both now and in the long-term.
It is recommended that you and your partner have agreements about behavior related to flirting, pornography, and monogamy. Attitudes and behavior may change with time and conversations may be ongoing. Don't make assumptions that your definitions about these items are the same as the person your partner's. Have the tough talks. Discuss what boundary crossing looks like to you and what is and is not acceptable.
5 – VALUES & TRADITIONS
Have early, honest discussions about values, traditions, and rituals, including when there are religious differences. Discuss your core values and how these play into your approach to daily life as well as special events, holidays, etc. If you are planning to have children, discuss your thoughts around how you wish to instill values and traditions. How can religious or other differences be negotiated and what challenges may arise? It is important to understand how to blend your values and traditions in a way that is respectful and not infringing on each other.
How does your value system include the relationship with your own family, parents, etc.? How involved are each of you with your family and what challenges might there be around the blending of family and in-laws? This is important to discuss early on so you can develop a shared understanding about what to expect and how to integrate each other's families in way that is healthy for you both. If you are lucky you will get along swimmingly, but often the relationship with in-laws is quite challenging. This can be manageable if you and your partner are on the same page and can present a united front.
6 – ALONE TIME
We all need some level of personal space and alone time, or time with friends or family outside of the relationship. Each person's needs in this area may vary immensely, and it is important not to assume your partner's needs are the same as your own. Discuss this early on and be honest with each other. Discuss your needs and understand your partner's stated needs. Discussion and clarification of this from the onset can help to prevent feelings of resentment, rejection, or suffocation later on.
Discuss areas of life where you wish to maintain autonomy as well as expectations of privacy. Develop understandings about this early, in order to minimize tension later.
7 – STRESS
Life is stressful! If you are preparing to tackle the stressors of life as a couple, it is important to get on the same page about how that is going to work. Discuss with your partner how you manage stress and learn your partner's tools for coping with stress. Hopefully your coping skills will improve and evolve over time as you grow as a couple, but it is helpful to have a baseline understanding of each other's strengths and challenges in this area. Discuss how you can best support each other during inevitable stressful times. It is practically impossible to effectively communicate around this topic during heightened stress, so having this discussion early-on puts you a step ahead. Do you need space when you get stressed? Do you need a calming presence? Do you benefit from reassurance or do you prefer to be left alone?
8 – DEAL-BREAKERS
Discuss your hopes and dreams. Talk about your fears. Discuss your expectations in the marriage. Make clear your pet peeves. Discuss it all and be sure to discuss what you know to be your absolute deal breakers.
Everyone has different non-negotiables and it is vital that you hash these out with your partner before embarking on a lifelong commitment in order to increase the chances of your marriage going the distance. Your non-negotiables may be around infidelity, or career goals, or children, or travel, or where you live. They may be around honesty, trust, or communication. Whatever they are, discuss them now and put it all on the table.
9 – THE FUTURE
You are planning on being together forever, right? What do you imagine that "forever" looking like? Take the time to discuss your thoughts about the future and develop a mutual understanding of your life and relationship goals as well as your individual goals.
Where do you see yourself in 5, 10, or 25 years? We aren't suggesting you map out your whole life, but it is important to ensure your goals align as you look forward at spending your lives together. Discuss your separate and shared visions and find areas for compromise.
Many of these discussions should be ongoing and are likely to evolve over time. We also recognize that life is full of twists and turns and unanticipated variables. There is no way to guarantee your marriage is divorce-proof, but having these early tough talks can only help you to develop a greater depth of understanding of each other and just may increase your chances of marital success. Good luck!