When it comes to deciding whether the person you’re seeing romantically is truly the one for you in the long-run, having conversations about life goals and values is critical, even if it means (figuratively) duking it out with your partner. The truth may hurt, but it’s arguably better to iron out any differences or even part ways before getting hitched, rather than having to handle a messy divorce with all its legal complications.
What are some of the most important things that you should discuss before getting hitched? Here’s a short list of essentials that you might want to take note of:
1. Understanding your partner’s “love language”
Discussing how your partner chooses to communicate their affections with them is a good way to understand whether they are more romantic or less affectionate with the method in which they are most comfortable expressing their love. We often hear about how married couples end up being at loggerheads because one partner feels less loved, even if this may simply be a case of a divergence of love languages and ability to understand why the other person is less open and affectionate.
Eleanor Yoo, a counsellor with a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy, echoes this with her advice: “Love languages, or differences in them, will start to emerge in your dating relationship. But they become more apparent once the ‘honeymoon’ period is over. It's best to be honest about your love languages prior to getting engaged. It's also good to practice giving love to your partner in their preferred love language.”
2. Scheduling alone time
When you have a partner, it can be difficult trying to schedule alone time for yourself, especially if you’re around each other 24/7. However, finding some quiet time to check in with yourself and engage in hobbies that you love as an individual is crucial to maintaining a healthy relationship. According to Yoo, “You should also consider discussing the level of autonomy each of you wants in the relationship… It’s definitely something to discuss – how much autonomy and independence does each partner expect after marriage.”
Continuing to maintain your identity and grow as an individual is more important than you may think, especially because your entire being should not revolve around a single relationship. Remember to spend some time with your friends and family, or just take a step back and have a glass of wine – always stay invested in your relationship with yourself!
3. Delegating work
Settling the kind of roles and responsibilities that each person in the relationship will handle after getting married is not the most exciting conversation, but it’s something that needs to be discussed. By creating structure and designating roles, you and your partner will be able to handle the menial tasks of everyday and domestic life more smoothly.
Some things you can discuss include the who holds the responsibility of paying for the bills, or the possibility of drawing up a roster of who is going to do the sweeping and cleaning every day. As stressed by clinical psychologist Carla Gabris, “Designate, designate, designate – or else you run the risk of finger-pointing.” And we all know what goes down when the mistakes and accusations are made!
4. Talking about religion
A person’s religion often comprises a large part of their identity. Because of this, discussing about your religious views with your partner is critical in understanding the other party’s belief system, and trying to reconcile any differences in worldview.
Having this discussion in relation to the upbringing of your children is a slightly deeper conversation that needs to be held to prevent large disagreements in the future, where it becomes too late to compromise. Sometimes, when both parties are unwilling to reach middle ground or meet halfway, then it might be best to part ways and spare further heartache, especially since religion tends to be a rather sensitive and grave topic.
5. Deciding on whether you want to have kids
There are many couples who end up calling it quits because of the differences in stance on whether they want to have children. Sometimes, this happens not because they don’t spend time discussing about this topic before tying the knot, but because their views evolve over the years as they, too, change as people.
So how can you prevent this issue from straining your relationship? Aside from holding a discussion on whether or not you want to have children and how many mini-mess you want to raise, it may also be helpful to talk about what you will do as a couple should either of you change your mind about having children. In fact, discussing options such as adoption or surrogacy in the event that you face fertility problems can also do you and your partner some good as you plan for a future together.
Pre-wedding fights are always a scary prospect and would seem like something that you would like to avoid completely, but engaging in important discussions with your partner can actually strengthen your relationship and bring it to a healthier and happier place. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to find a clear-cut solution to your problems before you get married; in fact, marriage is all about the journey, which means that as long as the two of you continue working towards finding a compromise, your relationship will continue to grow and prosper. However, when all else fails, sometimes a little laughter can save the day – being able to laugh at your own flaws and find humour in certain situations is a skill that will make you both a happier person and better partner.