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Eight conversations every couple should have before marriage

There’s a lot to get in order before your wedding. While you’re picking out dresses, don’t overlook these important conversations to ensure a successful marriage after the big day.

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Prince William and Kate Middleton

Prince William and Kate Middleton (Photo by Keystone Press)

With less than five months before I become a Mrs., the pressure of what’s about to change is mounting. I decided it might serve me well to ensure my partner and I have had all the necessary conversations before our big day. And though, there’s bound to be topics we’ve missed specific to each couple, here are a few expert-recommended conversations that will make the journey a little easier — and the honeymoon phase a little longer!

1. What do you like in bed?
Marital therapist and author of The 10 Conversations You Must Have Before You Get Married (And How to Have Them), Dr. Guy Grenier says sex, finance, and division of labour are the top three things couples fight about, so they’re the first on our discussion list.

When it comes to the all-important issue of sex Dr. Grenier says, “Being afraid or uncomfortable about sex has the potential to create problems within your long-term, intimate relationship.” So talk about your likes and dislikes (as tough and awkward as it may feel), but above all know what you’re getting into. Sex and the City’s Samantha Jones hit the nail on the head when she said, “Honey, before you buy the car you take it for a test drive!” This is the most important test drive you’ll ever take! If you don’t speak up, you risk missing out.

2. Who will do what chores?
Though it’s no longer expected that women run the house alone, the reality is the household burden often still falls mostly on the woman. A Swedish study from 2012 found that “feelings of inequality or an unequal share of domestic work are social risk factors for mental ill health.”

Make sure you decide on an equitable split of the chores (or at least an agreement you’re both happy with) so that you don’t feel resentful when your other half is relaxing on the couch and you’re scrubbing those pots and pans.

3. How will money be spent and shared?
I know that my fiance and I approach money in a similar way because we’ve talked about spending habits, previous debts and savings plans for the future. “Do you have debt, are you afraid of debt, are you a saver or a spender?” asks Dr. Grenier, “It’s important to discuss financial issues.”

Early conversations will help you avoid nasty surprises after the big day. Money is one of the biggest causes of marital strife so this is one topic you must ensure you’re transparent about. Click here for more ways to talk about money with your spouse.

4. What it was like to be a child in your family?
You may think your past is behind you, but psychologists argue that isn’t the case. “We know that your childhood is going to impact your patterns of interaction with your partner,” says Dr. Harville Hendrix, co-author of Making Marriage Simple. Whether it’s the good, bad or the weird, your childhood will have set you up with expectations you may not even know you have. Discussing what your upbringings were like will prevent you and your partner from being blindsided by the other person’s untold expectations.

“You need to figure out what kind of family culture you’re going to create for yourselves,” says Dr. Grenier. Things like where you’ll holiday and if you’ll have pets are a part of that.

5. Starting a family
“You should also discuss whether you really want kids, or if you just want them because you think you should,” says Dr. Grenier. You’ll have a lot of choices to make before your children are independent. Deciding together, and presenting a united front, will make parenting easier and family life smoother. There are always going to be topics you can’t prepare for, but knowing you agree on the same principles is a great start.

Becoming a stay-at-home parent is also something to consider. “The one-career family isn’t the norm anymore,” he says. Therefore the careers of both partners have to be considered — and respected.

6. How involved will your in-laws
 be?
Whether you decide to have kids or remain a twosome, there will be other family members to contend with. If you’re fortunate enough to have an extended family who gets along, then count your lucky stars. If your relationships are a little rockier, you and your partner may need to discuss how some situations, and some people, are going to be handled.

“Sometimes young couples need to assert themselves to establish that they’re creating a new, adult unit within the extended family and occasionally there is push-back or resistance to accepting that this new adult couple need be afforded the autonomy and respect other adults in the family enjoy.”

Establish your own traditions and put boundaries in place.

7. What does your dream home look like? And where?
“Location issues can be complicated by a number of very important issues like job availability, ambition, dual-careers and cost,” says Dr. Grenier. “All of the bigger issues that arise in creating a healthy relationship are often best managed when the larger issue is broken down into its smaller component parts, and each of these is tackled one at a time.” Whether you want a humble abode in a nice neighbourhood, or a palatial palace in a smaller town, where you’ll live is a decision with many factors to consider.

8. What is your idea of a dream marriage?
“It doesn’t matter that your answers will be different,” says Dr. Hendrix, “What that means is that you can bring your two visions together and grow a marriage that works for both of you.” Start your discussion by asking, “If this marriage was just right what would we both be feeling, what would we be doing, what would we be thinking?” and finish with a happy and healthy marriage.

What’s one crucial topic you’re happy you talked about before getting married or co-habitating with your partner?