The idea of marriage often brings to mind the stuff of fantasies or numerous Pinterest boards. There’s a bride wearing the most beautiful white dress. The groom is at the altar adjusting the sleeves of his dapper three-piece suit. The bridesmaids with their little bouquets are looking on. And then there are your friends and family, crying tears of joy as you and your partner say your vows.
This isn’t a marriage. It’s a wedding. Marriage is a lot more than just pomp and fluff.
When you’re about to seal your union with the person you love, it’s easy to think that love will conquer all. You’ll just be a happy couple, living in the same house, going about your daily lives together and maybe raising kids in the future. But it’s never really that simple. There are still things you need to talk about with your future spouse in order to help your life together flow as smoothly as possible.
What you need to know before getting hitched
You may think you know everything about your partner, but there are a couple of things you need to work out before you even apply for a marriage license.
#1 What’s next? The honeymoon is over and you’ve arrived at your new home. You’re officially husband and wife. Now what? You need to talk about your priorities and what you intend to do now that you’ve tied the knot. There’s usually an adjustment phase after the marriage, where you get used to living in the same house, sleeping on the same bed and being called Mr. and Mrs. Something.
Afterwards, you’ll have to decide what the next order of business is. Will you be having kids? Is the missus going to be a stay at home mom? Will you work on your careers for a couple of years before thinking of kids? How will you split the expenses? That’s the type of thing you should talk about even before you start planning your wedding.
#2 Are you okay with each other’s quirks? Unless you’ve been living together for a while, there will be little habits that will come as a surprise to your future spouse. For instance, one of you might be a sleepwalker, a snorer, a person who stays on the john for hours or a person who likes to walk around the house naked.
It’s always a good idea to get your future spouse acquainted with these little quirks, so they won’t suddenly be surprised when you end up walking around the house in the middle of the night.
#3 Work-life balance. How do you both balance your work life with the rest of the things going on in your life? Since you’re a couple, you probably already know what your partner does for a living and vice versa. If your schedules match, great! If not, how can you make time for each other?
When it comes to your partner’s hobbies and other activities, it’s also a good idea to find out how this can affect you, once you’re married. Does he spend his Sundays playing golf or volunteering at a local soup kitchen? Would you be willing to accompany your future spouse to these activities or do you also have activities of your own that will keep you from feeling left out?
#4 What do we need to change to make this work? No couple is perfect. But that doesn’t mean you don’t need to change a thing once you’re married. For starters, you can try to improve the ways you handle conflicts. If you both end up in a scream-a-thon when a conflict arises, you can’t possibly carry over that behavior to your marriage!
Start with the little things like being more responsible with chores, remembering to do little things or being more open with communication. Relationships require constant tweaking and improvement, and none of that has to end once you’re married.
#5 What are your beliefs? I’ve seen successful marriages between two people who have vastly different beliefs. I’d like to think their marriage worked, because they found a way to not impose on each other’s beliefs. If you and your partner have different beliefs, you can either accept the difference or one of you would need to transfer onto the other side.
This isn’t just an issue about religion, but also about politics, childcare, the environment or even pets. You’re highly likely to not have the exact same beliefs, and that’s fine. What you do need to do is find a way around your differences.
#6 What it’s like to be in your spouse’s family. You’re not just marrying one person, you’re marrying into an entire family, and so is your future spouse. It’s best to get to know your future in-laws and their extended family right from the start.
One way to go about this is by going with your partner to family get-togethers. You may feel like an outsider at first, but you need to be a familiar fixture in these things for them to be able to fully welcome you. Who knows, you might end up having tons of fun with them!
#7 Relocation options. This is not only an issue for people in long distance relationships, but it can also be an issue for couples where one needs to move for work. From the start, you need to talk about the possibility of this happening, so it doesn’t catch you off guard, and so you can get ample time to prepare. Even when you’re not even talking about marriage yet, it’s still a good idea to ask your partner if they have any plans of moving to a different country or a different state.
#8 What are your finances like? You’re unlikely to want to be involved with someone who’s in debt, but when you’re already in love, it can be hard to let go. You have to be honest with each other when it comes to your financial capabilities, as you’ll be sharing that soon enough.
Have a thorough discussion about how much money your partner can make, how much he or she can save, how much debt he or she is in, and so forth. Even if it’s not good news, knowing that there’s a money issue already brings you a step closer to resolving it.
#9 Kids. Traditionally, the purpose of marriage is to have kids. This is still true for some couples today. However, there have been numerous couples who have gone through a divorce, because one partner wants kids while the other doesn’t. Start off the conversation by asking if your partner wants kids, and if so, when and how many do they want to have.
You can then talk about how you can prepare for raising kids and how you can handle your finances with your kids’ futures in mind. If your partner is firm in their stand to not have children, don’t think that a marriage will convince them otherwise.
#10 Crazy exes. Sure, you’re the one your partner will be marrying, but that doesn’t eliminate the possibility that some crazy ex won’t end up drunk and stuttering into your wedding venue. Though you don’t have to go into detail about some nut you once dated, you may still want to give your future spouse a proper warning.
#11 What kind of wedding you want to have. Men are generally less hands-on when it comes to these things, but they certainly have the right to pitch in an idea or two. Women, on the other hand, may already have been planning their dream wedding since they were twelve.