Like everything in life, change and evolution happens over time—and marriage isn’t exempted from that change.
Married couples face many challenges these days that previous generations never had to face. Just the recent developments in technology add a factor that influences relationships and marriage today. Because of these developments, couples deciding to get married need to have serious and in-depth conversations that couples in the past never had to consider.
These are important conversations to have before marriage, and they should never be overlooked. They can expose possible dealbreakers and determine a couple’s long-term compatibility.
5 Conversations to Have Before Marriage
Here are five conversations that couples need to have before getting married.
1. How Will We Face Challenges Together?
As mentioned above, couples today face challenges that couples in the past never had to consider. With these new challenges inevitably come conflict, and couples need to expect it.
Couples need to have a plan on how they are going to face and resolve conflict when it happens and not if it happens. This also means whom they are going to seek guidance from when they face an impasse.
Couples in the past often were involved in a community, whether it was a religious one or just a close family community that was able to guide newly married couples. This guidance or mentorship created a template for how couples were going to resolve conflicts that would arise in their marriage.
Many couples today lack that community structure and find themselves isolated trying to navigate an ever-changing world on their own.
Couples today need to have a conversation before getting married about what each other’s thoughts are about seeking guidance from a therapist, a religious leader, or other types of mentors when the going gets tough.
2. How Much Influence Should Family Have on Our Marriage?
According to the Pew Research Center, the family structure in the United States has been changing dramatically, with the blended family becoming the more predominant family structure in our society. With these added family members—whether through marriage or those that remain through divorce—complex family dynamics exist in our society today that were rare in the past.
Couples considering marriage need to have conversations about how to define family roles and where to set clear boundaries to minimize issues in the future. The marriage of a couple forms a new family that can challenge previously established family dynamics, which can put a strain on the newly formed couple and cause conflicts to arise.
It’s great that your partner may have a close relationship with their mother, spending every day talking to her, or that your partner has a close friendship with their ex-husband. However, these relationships will threaten the development of a new marriage and put a strain on resources, such as time and attention, needed for a healthy marriage.
Couples need to have conversations about these dynamic changes that will have to happen moving forward.
3. Do We Have a Common Vision of the Future?
According to the Institute for Divorce Financial Analysts, one of the leading causes of divorce is “incompatibility.”
Incompatibility can reference a lot of areas of marriage, including parenting, religion, political views, and financial or personal interests. Overall, it points to a very important conversation that couples need to have regarding whether they have a common vision of the future.
A common vision of the future not only includes their current view of these facets of their relationship but also includes the potential of what the couple would like to create together.
How would they like to spend their time together in the future? Where would they like to live? What would they like to experience together?
Couples who don’t grow together are destined to grow apart. So, besides talking about whether they see eye to eye on topics before getting married, couples should also talk about what they want their future to look like.
4. Will We Accept Each Other’s Influence?
A study done by John Gottman and Neil Jacobson identified an element in relationships that were necessary for success called “accepting influence.” The ability to accept your partner’s influence relates to respect for your partner, a willingness to be open to their thoughts and ideas, and a willingness to be flexible and compromise.
Couples who can accept each other’s influence have a greater propensity to stay together and create a stronger bond in their marriage.
Accepting influence does not mean that you have to give in to your partner and agree to everything they propose. It means that both of you are willing to find a middle ground and maintain respect for each other during the process.
Although this is an important conversation to have for couples before getting married, it often is apparent whether your partner is willing to meet you halfway right from the start or not. If a couple seems to struggle with power struggle issues from the beginning, this often isn’t a good sign of accepting influence and may be considered a red flag.
5. What Are Our Values Around Money and Intimacy?
It has been said that the top two topics that couples fight about are money and sex, and it has been our experience when working with couples that these topics act as a barometer as to the health of a marriage. In-depth conversations about these two topics are a must throughout a marriage, let alone before a couple gets married.
According to a study in the Family Relations Journal, financial disagreements between a couple can be a leading factor in divorce. With many couples today entering into marriage later in life or getting married a second or even third time, money becomes a very important issue that couples need to discuss.
With the age increasing when couples are considering marriage, many couples have already established a financial portfolio on their own and now face the challenge of merging their assets together.
Open communication and transparency are key when attempting to have this discussion since money can represent much more than just a dollar amount. Money can represent survival, fear, independence, power, control, failure, and success, depending on what financial background a person brings with them into a marriage.
If couples don’t have conversations about money at this depth, it can leave gaps in their relationship that will be difficult to navigate.
Just like money, sex and intimacy can represent much more than just a physical act, and what a person learns about sex during their development and in prior relationships is guaranteed to play out in their marriage.
Sex and intimacy can represent many different things in a marriage, including love, rejection, abandonment, judgment, acceptance, approval, attention, nurture, bonding, failure, inadequacy, and connection. This area of a couple’s relationship holds the greatest potential for healing or wounding, depending on how a couple approaches it.
Conversations about sex and intimacy, if not done correctly, can often bring about hurt feelings, defensiveness, and/or avoidance. It is not a surprise that a lack of sexual intimacy is one of the top reasons why couples divorce. Thus, it is an extremely important conversation that couples need to have before getting married.
Creating a successful marriage is much more difficult today than it has been generations ago. Couples have much more to consider and many more difficult conversations to have before getting married than couples did in the past.
With divorce costing tens of thousands of dollars, the negative impact that divorce has on children, and the emotional ramifications that couples could endure, it is even more important today for couples to do the preemptive work necessary to ensure a more successful marriage.
Having these five conversations can be a good start.
Featured photo credit: Yolanda Suen via unsplash.com
|||^||Mental Health Foundation: Relationships in the 21st century: the forgotten foundation of mental health and wellbeing|
|||^||Pew Research Center: 1. The American family today|
|||^||Institute for Divorce Financial Analyst: Survey: Certified Divorce Financial Analyst® (CDFA®) professionals Reveal the Leading Causes of Divorce|
|||^||The Gottman Institute: Accepting Influence: Find Ways to Say “Yes”|
|||^||JSTOR: Examining the Relationship Between Financial Issues and Divorce|
|||^||CNBC: I’ve counseled more than 500 couples—and this is the No. 1 money mistake that ruins relationships|
|||^||Healthline: Why You’re Having Less Sex with Your Partner — and How to Get Back Into It|
|||^||Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy: “I Had Not Seen Star Wars” and Other Motives for Divorce in Denmark|
|||^||Marriage: How Much Does a Divorce Cost?|