April 9, 2012
Congratulations and mazel tov on your upcoming marriage! It is a wonderful, joyous, exciting and stressful time. Much of the decisions involved in a wedding revolve around the ceremony, but InterFaithways has compiled a list of things that couples might want to discuss about their life after the wedding day before they get married.
Discussions can help you learn more about your partner and yield a stronger and more intimate relationship. Even the answer, "I don't know. I never thought about it," is communicating and builds a framework not only for your relationship but your life together. Some may approach this discussion with trepidation, but others may find it fun and exciting to make plans! We believe that if you are ready to get married, you should be ready to have these discussions.
Best relationship tip ever: Be honest — with your partner and yourself! The last thing you want to do is pretend to like what your partner likes and then, three years later, you are done pretending and you really can't stand going to the movies, or eating sushi, or traveling, or watching sports! The truth always comes out eventually. Agree to disagree &mdsah; but don't be afraid to ask for what you want. Compromise is what marriage is all about, but you also shouldn't lose your identity either. You don't have to have all of the answers now but you should ask the questions. It might be helpful to have this discussion with an objective third party. This process will definitely strengthen your relationship.
If you have been together for a long time, you may think the discussion is not needed because you are sure you know how your partner feels about these issues. Try answering the questions the way you believe your partner would. And then compare answers. You may be in for some surprises. Probably best to know now rather than later that some of your assumptions are not entirely on target!
Here are the questions and topics for discussion:
1) Where are we going to live? This discussion addresses location, but also about what type of faith community appeals to you. Do you envision apartment living, suburban, rural? East Coast, West Coast, abroad? New construction, old construction? Who's handy around the house? Do we want to be near family? Do we want to be really, really far away from family? Be prepared for how your answers may impact other areas of your life. If one of you really wants the expensive piece of real estate, you may find that your loving and devoted spouse feels pressure to bring home more rent/mortgage money and you suddenly find yourself married to a workaholic who is never home.
2) Money habits. Do you like to spend? Do you like to save? Do you like to give to charity? Are you having separate bank accounts? How many accounts? Who will pay the bills? Would you ever want to invest in anything? Do you know what your credit rating is? These questions are really worth exploring. You may not have answers yet, but just gauging what your future spouse is thinking is really informative. The great thing is that if you discuss it before you are married, you will grow together and your attitudes can form together.
3) Religion. Most couples discuss aspects of this topic before they are married, sometimes prompted by visiting each other's family for holidays. Many couples have discussed whether they believe in religion. What cultural aspects do you plan on incorporating? And any rituals? Then if you plan on having kids, expectations from families might become an issue. Do you plan on having religious education for your children? Do you plan on attending services together as a family? Will there be a bris (ritual circumcision), naming, baptism or all of these? Will there be a confirmation or bar/bat mitzvah? What holidays do you want to celebrate with the kids? How involved will the kids be with organized religion? And yes, you might want to talk about death &mdsah; do you prefer cremation or burial? If burial, where should you be buried? If cremated, what would you like for your ashes? And how do you envision religion playing a role if something unexpected happens in your life, such as illness or a major change of course?
4) Careers and Education. Do you want to seek more education? Does your partner? Should you take out loans? Should the kids go to public, parochial or private school? Should they go to college? Who should pay for college? What would my perfect job be? Do you want to retire early? Do you never want to retire? The attitudes here can be very constructive in learning about expectations from work and one's work life. Again, attitudes can change but making sure you understand each other's starting point is an important foundation for your relationship.
5) Family Roles. Who should take out the garbage? Discuss what your parents did and what you did or did not like about how you grew up. Who likes to grocery shop? Who likes to shop? Who likes to shop too much? Who really wants to clean this big house anyway? Who likes to cook? If you plan to have children, what type of parent would you like to be? How would you want to divide parenting responsibilities?
6) Conflict Resolution. How do you resolve disagreements? Do you avoid conflict? Are you passionate about any particular topics? Do you need to be alone before you discuss a disagreement? How did your family argue? Do you find that arguing when you are tired is detrimental to the relationship? You may find that how you and your partner handle disagreements will evolve as your relationship grows. It is very constructive to discuss the "hows" of conflict resolution in an abstract moment rather than during a disagreement.
Will having these discussions prior to your wedding ceremony guarantee a happy marriage? Of course not. However, it is healthy to discuss these things during your wedding planning (and not only to take some of the focus off of the ceremony). Realize that you and your partner may change and evolve as time passes. Happiness is a journey, not a destination! Marriage is a series of compromises that leads to a rich and multi-faceted, fulfilling life together.