Premarital counseling is always a good idea—whether you think you need it or not—since it's an easy way to see if you and your partner are on the same page about a variety of different topics. That's why some officiants and religious venues won't even allow you to tie the knot without at least a handful of these sessions first. Sitting down and digging into the tough topics might sound a little scary, but discussing common points of contention will only make your marriage stronger in the long run. And when you're running around trying to book venues and find a caterer, having a regular session to slow down and talk about the important issues you might have skimmed over while dating is crucial for your future.
Whether mandated or not, there are tons of reasons why you should think about scheduling a few sessions with a therapist, your officiant, or religious leader in the months before your wedding. To help you get the ball rolling, we're outlining seven topics that you and your partner should discuss. See where you both stand on everything from how many kids you want—or don't want!—to your careers.
Getting married means settling down, but do you both have the same idea of what that means? "Couples may not have lived together before, so this area can cover a lot of ground," says Dr. Paulette Sherman, psychologist, director of My Dating and Relationship School and author of Dating from the Inside Out. "You can discuss whether you want to live in the city or the suburbs, have a house or an apartment, and whether you ever want to change states or continents." But that's just the big picture, and it's always good to look at the day-to-day, too. "On a smaller scale, you can discuss domestic responsibilities and expectations regarding chores, especially if you're both working," Sherman says. "Will you get help or split chores? What do you have in mind when you picture your lifestyle and amenities together? Can you create a shared vision of daily life?"
You may want to wait a few years before starting your family, but it's crucial to make sure your partner agrees. "Children are a big responsibility and it should never be assumed that both partners want them. It can be very stressful to later discover that one person really wants kids and the other isn't sure," Sherman says. "That needs to be discussed, as well as the number of kids, discipline styles, expectations about the amount of parental involvement, and how you expect to raise your kids—especially when it comes to activities, school, and values."
Since you're getting married, you'll need to have your finances in order. And that means no secrets about your spending habits. "It's important to discuss salaries, debt, whether you're each spenders or savers, and how you'll handle finances," Sherman says. "Will you pay off each other's loans together? Join your funds? Will you have both separate and joint accounts? Will one person handle the money or will they handle it together? They're all important questions to ask."
Doing the whole 9-to-5 thing might just be second nature for you and your partner right now, but it's a good idea to think about how your careers might impact your marriage down the line. "Your careers can affect many life areas," Sherman says. "If only one person is the breadwinner or is working, then this needs to be discussed to ensure no power dynamic is in play. For example, will the other person ask for money? And if they stay home, will they feel as valued in the marriage for their contribution? And if both people work, will both careers take equal precedent with time off, promotions, and travel? You need to work everything out so you both feel supported."
Extended Family and Supports
When you marry your partner, you marry their family—so make sure you're both in the same place about just how much your families are going to be involved in your marriage. "As a married couple, you both become the architects of your family. This means your respective parents can give advice about parenting, holidays, religion, and education, but you'll ultimately decide together. This will help avoid many arguments," Sherman says.
If you follow different religions—or different views on religion—finding a balance can be tricky. Just make sure you discuss your plans ahead of time so no one feels hurt or disappointed down the line. "Holidays and customs should be discussed, including expectations about spiritual lifestyle and religious education for the kids," Sherman says. "You should also discuss how to present these choices to the extended families so everyone is on the same page."
Communicating sounds easy enough, but when times get tense, it's nice to have a method to talk through things instead of fighting them out. "You can discuss how you'll handle disagreements and compromising," Sherman. "Figure out what works and what doesn't when it comes to communication in your marriage. For example, stonewalling and criticism are predictive of divorce, whereas managing to stay calm and being solution-oriented during conflict is common in happy marriages."