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Whether you’re engaged or just talking about getting hitched, it’s important to have a few crucial conversations with your partner before taking the plunge. Tammy Laber and Karen Hirscheimer, both seasoned couples therapists, give a rundown of the big-picture issues you might want to discuss.
1. Are we right for each other?
“It’s very important to make sure that couples are marrying their partner as they are, not who they want them to be or who they hope that they become,” says Toronto couples therapist Karen Hirscheimer. Ask, are we right for each other? Do we really understand each other? Be sure you’re ready to make the commitment and that it’s the right decision for both of you.
2. What are our communication styles?
Difficulty communicating is a common challenge for couples. “If you can tend to those issues early, you’re less likely to encounter problems after you’re married,” says Hirscheimer. When having tough discussions, she recommends first listening with attentiveness, then confirming what your partner has said. Avoid using hurtful or disrespectful language. Keep in mind that your partner might approach problem-solving differently than you do.
3. What makes us each feel valued?
“If you don’t understand what makes your partner feel loved, then you’re in trouble,” says Hirscheimer. Not all people express love or feel loved the same way. Certain positive words, quality time spent together, gifts and sex are all things that may contribute to your partner feeling appreciated. “You should learn what the other person wants,” says marriage counsellor Tammy Laber “because how will you give them what they need to feel loved if you don’t know what it is?” Sex, in particular, is a complicated area. Before you get married, talk about how often you like to have sex, what sex means for each of you, how important it is and what your sexual needs are (whether they involve intercourse or other forms of intimacy).
4. Are we ready to get married?
So you’re in love and maybe even planning a wedding, but you still need to be ready for the commitment. “It’s important to make sure that both people discuss what they’re giving up, in terms of their single habits,” says Hirscheimer. Potential deal-breakers such as staying out late without checking in, inappropriately flirting or texting with other people, drinking excessively or watching pornography are all topics worthy of discussion.
5. What is our financial situation?
Have a frank discussion about your finances. Talk about what each of you makes, what you might earn in the future and who will take time off if you have kids. Other key points to bring up:
• Outstanding debt and repayment plans
• Budgeting styles
• Having joint or separate accounts
• Financial plan for potential unemployment or disability
• Splitting expenses
• Future inheritances
6. Will we have children?
Discuss whether or not you want to have kids—before you start planning the wedding. Laber suggests considering what would happen if you tried to have kids and couldn’t. Would you adopt? Try fertility treatments? Let it go? If you’re on the same page, you may save yourselves a lot of heartbreak down the road.