9 Conversations To Have Before Marriage
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Can We Talk?1 of 10
By Natasha Burton
While many fairy tales portray the wedding day as the end of a couple's romantic journey, getting married is really just the beginning. Before getting engaged, you likely had a number of conversations—about general life goals, family, religion, and so on—that led you to take this next step. But because you'll be making decisions for two from "I do" on, be sure to talk about these deeper, more specific topics before the big day.
Defining Moments2 of 10
It's safe to say that most people equate marriage with commitment, but it's essential that you both define and share exactly what commitment means to you, advises psychotherapist Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D., author of Love Styles: How to Celebrate Your Differences. "Whether you know it or not, you and your partner are continuously defining your relationship," she says. "If you don't know what your relationship means to each of you, you risk repeating past mistakes, getting stuck in uncomfortable roles, or fighting about what a healthy relationship is."
In-Law Laws3 of 10
You're not marrying only your spouse, you're becoming part of each other's families. Set expectations regarding how often you'll see your folks, if you're OK with "drop in" visits, and where your families will stay when they're in town, suggests Sharon Gilchrest O'Neill, author of A Short Guide to a Happy Marriage. Also discuss how involved you expect family to be in your relationship, says Allison Pescosolido, founder of DivorceDetox.com. "I had one client whose ex constantly consulted her parents and sisters about everything, even about the couple's most personal matters," she says.
Great Celebrations4 of 10
The holidays are another topic many couples forget to hash out before the big day, O'Neill says. Ask each other: "Do you see spending holidays with both families? Do we rotate or set our own patterns? How do we celebrate family birthdays? A card in the mail or a gathering?" Then, discuss personal celebratory rituals you want to continue within your family of two. "The ways we celebrate holidays can lead to tremendous let-downs if they aren't discussed in advance," says Monique Honaman, author of The High Road Has Less Traffic: Honest Advice on the Path Through Love and Divorce.
Between the Sheets5 of 10
"Talk about sex early," says marriage and family therapist Dr. Sheri Meyers, author of Chatting or Cheating: How to Detect Infidelity, Rebuild Love and Affair-Proof Your Relationship. "Sexual imbalances, differences in desire and experimentation, and arousal are bound to crop up." Talking about sex can feel anything but sexy but it will pay off in the bedroom. Meyers suggests considering how much sexual contact you both want (and what happens on those "off" days), what makes you feel connected and intimate and what you each need to feel desired.
Parental Advisory6 of 10
You and your partner have likely already talked about whether you want kids, but you may not have delved deeply into how you will act as parents. "Find out what type of parent your future spouse wants to be," Pescosolido says. "I've seen many women who thought their husband would change his habits once children came into the picture and were disappointed that no change occurred." Discuss who will be the disciplinarian, who will get up to change the diapers, and how you each expect your lives (and social schedules) to change—or not—when you start a family.
Work It Out7 of 10
Another aspect of having children is of course determining who will stay home with the kids (or if you'll opt for outside help or child care). But in general, you'll also want to discuss whose career is the priority, or if they're both on the same plane, says dating expert and coach Scott Carroll. This means talking about whether or not you would move for a better opportunity, if either of you should continue your education to improve your career prospects, and how you can prepare for scenarios like the sudden loss of a job.
Money Talks8 of 10
Even if you've been living together and sharing bills pre-marriage, getting hitched means you're financially bound in the eyes on the law. Take a tip from Meyers and discuss the big issues, including whether or not you'll create a joint bank account, how you'll pay for big purchases (like a first home, holidays, etc.), and how much you're both planning on saving versus spending.
Health Matters9 of 10
"Sometimes couples do not discuss or disclose their health histories, both physical and mental," Meyers says, explaining that it's common for people to avoid tough topics pre-marriage for fear of rocking the boat. Discuss any conditions that run in your families (like cancer or Alzheimer's), and whether or not you may need to be tested for genetic diseases before having children. Also touch on end-of-life and emergency care, Carroll advises, like who will be your medical power of attorney.
Name Game10 of 10
One of the biggest pre-marital decisions women need to make is if they plan to change their names. (Even if you plan to keep your given name, plenty of people will still ask you what you've "decided.") "The number of newlyweds who get blindsided by the whole name-change business, be it the legal logistics or their spouse's opinions, is shocking," says Danielle Tate, CEO of MissNowMrs.com. "Discuss both of your feelings and ideas and decide what works well ahead of your great aunt's need to know your 'new' monogram for your shower."