“Happily ever after is not a fairy tale. It’s a choice.” – Fawn Weaver
A happy marriage involves a lot of adjustments and compromises. The change in your relationship status will reflect on how you see each other as a couple, and also have a significant effect on your personal and social lives. There are many things that are bound to change. Some of these will be evident from the minute you are engaged, while others become obvious over time. As with any other relationship, expectations change, obligations increase and with all this, the scope for arguments also increases. Soon after the honeymoon phase wears off, many couples start battling challenges.
Nevertheless, no relationship is hassle-free. While most factors will fall into place over time, discussing the potential problem areas in a relationship before you tie the knot will help you avoid quarrels to a great extent, in the future.
Let us take a look at the most important things (in no specific order) that couples should discuss with each other, and reach a consensus on, before they agree to spend their lifetime together.
We do not suggest that you sit down and discuss all this in one go. Instead, take your time to talk about it, but make sure everything is sorted out.
1.Finances and bills
How do you intend to settle your bills, once you are married? What is your household budget? Will you pool all your income together, or will you retain individual bank accounts and split the expenses? If so, who pays what? How much personal spending is too much? Discuss how you will handle emergencies, gift giving and daily spending, and there will be fewer nasty surprises in the future.
Making a plan and sticking to it, is a lot easier if you are currently living together, and already have sorted things out to a great extent. Nevertheless, this should be a definite point to discuss, as a surprisingly large number of marriages are affected by money problems. If either of the partners comes into the marriage with an outstanding debt, you should discuss how this will be handled. The same goes for a partner who has an asset, how will this be treated?
Both you and your partner should be aware of where the other is on the career ladder, and what your job aspirations are. Discuss what your careers will be like five years from now. Will you be taking on a more demanding role, and if so, what will that involve for your spouse? Do you see yourself quitting work to finish studies? If so, how long will that take, and when do you plan to do it? Will your career require you to travel extensively or relocate to a new destination in the future, and is your spouse fine with this?
While you are at this, also discuss options for worst-case scenarios, say one of you couldn’t work. How will you handle such a situation? This will prepare you in advance for giving due importance to both your career aspirations in the coming years.
3.Your dreams and biggest wishes
If your current career is just a stepping stone till you put aside enough money to start your own business or pursue an artistic venture, make sure your partner knows about it. Whether you will be without an income for a short while in the future, or you need support while you try to break into a new career, your partner will be better equipped to assist you, if he/she is in the know and agreeable to it. This is very important, especially if your future plans involve drastic changes to your current situation.
It is not just about your job, but you should share your ideas for your personal goals too. Do you wish to move abroad and settle down in the future? If so, it wouldn’t be fun when you put this idea across to your partner post-marriage, and he/she is shocked by the very idea. It may be too early to think of settling down, but you should still discuss where you would prefer to buy a house and live long-term. Although all this may change in due course, you should both be open to the current expectations, or it can be a huge source of worry.
Once you are married, it is no longer “me”, but “we.” You cannot just assume that everything you’ve done with the rest of your family, will continue to be the same in future. Your partner’s family will also enter into the equation, and radical changes are to be expected. Remember that your partner may not be as excited as you are, about spending every Sunday at your parents’ place, just as you may not be if it were the reverse.
Have reasonable expectations, and your fiancé will respect your requests and appreciate your personal space better. Rather than argue about where to spend next Christmas, it will be better if you discuss this upfront. How about family vacations? Will this be a continuing practice, or will you consider each event only if it works for you at the time? You can always change your plans down the line, but setting the expectations right will prepare you better for the near future.
There are couples who decide they want to start a family right away, those that want to put off having children for years, and some that don’t want children at all. The important thing is that you realize your partner may not share your idea. So, be sure to discuss this before you commit. Just because he loves playing with kids, it doesn’t mean he will want some of his own, or that he is ready to bear the responsibilities of a child soon after marriage.
So, don’t put off the discussion regarding having children, till after you are married. It would also be a good idea if you can decide how long you should wait before having your first child, so you can plan your life ahead accordingly. Discuss how long you would try naturally before considering medical help and what methods you are prepared to consider if there is an issue.
Arguments are part of a healthy relationship, but there shouldn’t be anything that constantly results in disagreement and either of you refuse to relent. Whether it is having his friends over all the time, either of you volunteering the other for a job the person despises, or your excessive shopping, make sure you both know where either of you have draw the line. If you take a look at the many wedding forums, you will quickly notice that many spouses constantly struggle with handling a certain habit or action of their partner. Most of the time, this puts a strain on the relationship and is a constant cause for worry. The problem usually is that these couples didn’t discuss their boundaries before they got married, or despite doing this, their partner doesn’t honor their interests.
Marriage is all about compromises and adjustments, but it should be in a direction that promotes a healthy relationship. Whether it involves family or friends, you should both realize that your partner too has a say in it, just as you do in their case, once you are married. So, you may have to rethink the way you handled things in the past. If some aspect leaves one of the partners constantly miserable, it is unfair and means that the other person should be more accommodating. Ensure that both partners know what drives the other nuts, and the two of you work on a solution to it. This will save your sanity in the future.
The past may be gone, but cannot always be forgotten. Honesty is crucial to building trust in a marriage, and you should share all the relevant details of your past with your partner. If there is some event in the past that will have significant bearing in your future, your fiancé should know of it. Make sure that your partner knows your family history, your past relationships and how they have shaped you, your sorrows and also achievements.
It is not just the negative, but the positives too that you should share with each other. Remember that discussing the past allows you to understand each other better, and build intimacy. Nothing shatters a relationship so much as when a partner comes of know of something significant in your past, which they believe you should have told them prior to marriage.
8.Faith and beliefs
If either of you are religious, and expect your partner to participate in religious celebrations or events, make sure your partner knows. One’s family background needn’t be an indication of how they conform to a particular faith. So, don’t assume your partner is religious just because his parents are. On the contrary, if your partner is dedicated to his faith, while you don’t plan to be involved in it, it will be best if you convey this to him and avoid a rift in the future.
If you plan to have children, you should also discuss how you will bring them up, if both of you don’t share the same beliefs.
9.Division of household responsibilities
Gone are the days when the woman ruled the roost, and the man provided for the family. Now, the boundaries have blurred so much, that both are equal partners with equally demanding roles at home and at work. Unless you already have a list of who does what, you should discuss this before you tie the knot.
Don’t expect to divide the task list into two, but make sure that both of you do your reasonable share. If there is something like cooking or laundry that you hate doing, don’t just delegate this responsibility to your fiancé. Instead, inform them and work on a solution. These things are best sorted out at the beginning of the relationship, as it can otherwise trigger arguments, when one partner feels they are handling the lion’s share of the responsibilities at home.
Neither of you can forego of your personal relationships, just because you get married. You have your friends, and he has his. You are lucky if you mostly have common friends, and don’t mind sharing all your time together. However, this isn’t always the case. There could be times when he wants to chill out with his friends, or you want to go on a shopping expedition with yours.
Don’t let your marriage stand in the way of your having fun. Make an arrangement with each other to continue doing what you love, without the other stepping in the way. Spending time alone, without your spouse, will give you some space to yourself. It will also make the transition from “me” to “us” easier. Try to be respectful of when the other is spending time away from you, by not planning any couple activities or family events that disrupt this routine. So, the next time you are invited home for a family dinner on Sunday, ask your partner before accepting the invitation, if that is when he will be having his band practice with his mates.
It is of course, possible that your individual situation will involve more factors. For example, this list on the Huffington Post, prioritizes a discussion on how important IKEA is in your life. It may sound irrelevant (even funny) to many. But as they say, at least some marriages are greatly affected by something as trivial as spending too much time at a home improvement store. So, expand your list, to suit your personal situation.
Relationship counselor and author, Leslie Vernick says, “ A healthy relationship is one where both people in the relationship give and both receive. There is a safe and open exchange of ideas, feelings and thoughts and all perspectives are considered and valued. There is also the freedom to respectfully challenge, confront and strengthen one another.”
Let this guide you as you enjoy your engagement and begin your marriage on the right note. For more wedding tips and advice, keep visiting us at Best for Bride.