In a Catholic Update published by Saint Anthony Messenger Press, Janet Duccilli Daniel presents Ten Things You Should Discuss Before Marriage. We thought it might be valuable to look again at these topics in light of what you expected when you were preparing for marriage and the reality of how you are living them now. Our expectation is that this will lead to open and frank discuss and strengthen your marriage. The expectation is not to change the other person but to learn about each other so that you can grow to love each other more with each passing day and year.
1. Marriage – who, what and why.
Why did you each want to get married? What did you expect marriage to be? How is your marriage like and different from what you expected? Remember that you made a permanent commitment to each other so take some time to tell each other why you still want to be married to them today. Perhaps make a commitment to review this from time to time.
2. What kind of person are you?
As you were approaching marriage, what kind of person did you think you were? What kind of person was your spouse, in your eyes? Have those perceptions changed? In what ways? Having this discussion can help you to be aware of the anticipation and the reality. Every relationship has to grow and develop over time in order to survive for a lifetime. What did you see as each of your best qualities when you were engaged? Now? What about your spouse is most annoying to you? You may be surprised by the benefits to your marriage of having an open discussion about this.
3. Who’s going to do the dishes?
Who does what chore around the house doesn’t matter as long as there is discussion and mutual agreement. This is one area that often results in tension and arguments when expectations aren’t stated. Sometimes one of the couple thinks they do an unfair amount of jobs around the house while the other has leisure time. One person might be better at doing some things than the other but some chores might be done together and others done by whoever has the most time or interest. Perhaps revisit monthly or seasonally who does what jobs.
4. What is your relationship to your families?
What was your relationship to your families during your engagement? Did you expect that to continue after you were married? How has it worked out? Did you and your spouse have different expectations? Do your families have different expectations? You will probably benefit by approaching this with openness and a sense of humor. You each grew up in different families with different ways of interacting, celebrating holidays, etc. Often your new family’s customs can strike you as strange while your spouse finds them to be quite normal.
5. How well will you communicate?
Marriage needs open and honest communication as one part of its foundation. Without the ability to share feelings, needs and desires intimacy is difficult to achieve. What do you like about the communication skills you have developed since you were married? Do you see places where you might have to change the way you communicate. This area of communication includes how you make decisions and how you resolve differences. Can you identify for each other how you perceive discussions are made? Does one of you make all the decisions in one area? Are you comfortable with that or does the other merely go along with it to keep what looks like peace in your relationship? Since married couples are two different people, differences, conflict and tensions will likely appear as you live together. Do you have a way of eliminating the tension by actually facing and discussing the issue that is causing the tension? Communication more than just about any area requires mutual respect and trust.
6. How dependent or independent should you be?
As you approached marriage, did you expect to do everything together or to continue to have rather independent areas in your lives? How has that worked out? Did you find that your expectations were different from those of your spouse? Perhaps more importantly, do you feel supported as you grow as an individual? Do you support your spouse? Marriages can grow when each partner rejoices in the successes of the other and supports them in the down times
7. How should money be handled?
Studies show that handling money is often the most difficult area in a marriage. Are you both satisfied with the way money is acquired, managed and spent? If you cannot both say yes then perhaps discussion and change might be necessary. It might require a comprehensive review of you entire financial situation. This area is broader than who pays the bills. Both persons should be actively involved in exactly how much money you have and how you use your money to support the lifestyle you can afford. Do you have a plan for the future? What amount of your income do you allot for charity?
8. What about the sexual expression of love?
What were your expectations for your sexual relationship as you approached marriage? Did you talk about it? In what ways have your expectations been met or not met? Do you talk about them now? It is important to be gentle and not accusatory in this discussion. As tense as this discussion can be, when you get through it with love, you are likely to find humor in it and your sexual activity will be more fun and more fulfilling.
9. What about children?
What role do children play in your marriage? Can you openly discuss all the things that go with having a family? These might include having children, how many, ways to parent children, distinguishing between wants and needs for children, recognizing that no one is ever the perfect parent and no one has the perfect child, and the overall effect that children have on your relationship? Children are a wonderful gift but they can be a source of great tension whether it is emotionally, financially or spiritually.
10. How will you deal with spiritual aspects of marriage?
How did you approach your spiritual lives during your engagement? Did you expect to attend church together regularly? Did you pray together? What did you expect to do after you were married? How would you assess your couple approach to religion and spirituality now? What are your expectations for the spiritual and religious development of your children? Couples often come into marriage with very different religious and spiritual backgrounds – different practices learned from family and often different religions. How can you share your spiritual lives while respecting your differences?
We hope revisiting these topics will be a good experience for you. We have discussed most of these topics in greater depth in our book and in previous posts. You might find them helpful in your discussions. Please leave a comment below.
Our book: Forever and a Day: An Invitation to Create a Marriage that Lasts a Lifetime is available on Amazon.com.