Tips on Relationships and Marriage

He popped the question. You have the ring. Wedding planning is in full swing. While you are picking out everything from bridesmaids’ dresses to flowers and centerpieces, don’t forget to sit down with your fiance and have some meaningful discussions about your life together after the wedding.

“Who’s going to do the dishes?”

It’s easier to talk now about how you are going to divide up household chores, rather than waiting until after you are married and are both refusing to do any housework because you are both afraid of getting stuck doing more than your fair share. Whose turn it is to do ____ (fill in the blank with your favorite chore) is a common argument among newlyweds. Rather than straining your relationship over something rather trivial, take the time to talk about it now. Does one of you absolutely hate doing the dishes, but really doesn’t mind doing laundry? Come up with a tentative plan now about how the chores will be divided up, and then revisit this plan regularly after marriage to discuss whether or not the plan is working, or if changes need to be made. Discuss who is going to do what, as well as what the expectations are for each chore – i.e. doing laundry involves washing, drying and putting the clean laundry away. This will help you both avoid misunderstandings in the future.

“Who’s going to take out the trash?”

Talking about household chores was probably a relatively easy discussion, while this one may be a little harder. By taking out the trash, I’m talking about letting go of past relationships, and other things that have happened before the two of you were together. Talk about any feelings (romantic or otherwise) that either of you may still hold for any old flames. Also talk openly about things that you may have done in the past that you regret – sex, drugs, alcohol, etc. Agree that once you are married, none of these past transgressions will be used unfairly in any arguments. This means that you cannot bring up anything that either of you may have done before marriage in a mean or hurtful way. What happened in the past needs to stay in the past. If you have both agreed that you want to be married, then you have both agreed to accept the other person for who they are now, regardless of anything they may have done before you were together.

“Who’s going to feed the cat?”

Are either one of you bringing any pets, children, or other dependents into this marriage? If so, now is the time to talk about how this affects both of you. Are both of you comfortable with any pets that are involved? Is the care and maintenance of these pets going to be a shared responsibility, or solely that of the original owner? What about children – what relationship is expected between child and step-parent? How are you both going to help the child handle this transition? The same goes for any other dependents that might be involved. Pets and children from before the two of you were together can create a “mine” and “yours” attitude between you rather than an “ours” attitude. In order to avoid this type of attitude from seeping into every facet of your new shared relationship, it is best to work out what the expectations are before you are married. This is also a good time to express your feelings about any future children you may, or may not want to have together. Make sure that you are on the same page when it comes to the number of children you want and how you expect to parent these children.

“Who’s going to buy the groceries?”

. . . And the shampoo, and the toothpaste, and the toys. . . Along with shopping comes the question of money. How are finances going to be handled in your relationship? Are you going to have a joint bank account, or separate ones? Is there going to be a “mine” and “yours” attitude about money, or will it be treated exclusively as “ours?” Have you discussed a budget, and how to stick to it? Does one of you have a better history of successfully managing money? What are your expectations when it comes to large purchases, such as appliances, or entertainment equipment – will you discuss these purchases or will one of you just go out and buy them without talking about it first? How much freedom will each of you retain for personal spending? How much is too much to spend without consulting each other first? Who is going to be responsible for making sure the bills are paid on time? What are your attitudes towards credit cards? What kind of debt does each of you bring into this marriage? Considering that money is one of the top reasons for divorce, this is an essential discussion to have before you are married.

“Who’s going to change the empty toilet paper roll?”

It is inevitable that you will discover that each of you has annoying little habits that will drive the other person crazy. You are probably already be aware of some of these habits, while others will not be apparent until after you have been married for some time. Now is the time to talk about the annoyances that you are already aware of, and to come up with a way to comfortably bring up future annoyances in conversation without sounding like you are nagging or nitpicking. Some of these habits can be changed, while others cannot or will not change. Figure out how to cope with the ones that will not change. Focus on the positive traits that your mate has, rather than dwelling on the negative ones that probably won’t change. If you find something before marriage that you know you will not be able to live with on a long term basis, then it is time for you to seriously reconsider going through with this wedding. Chances are that there are more habits that will not change than those that will, so if you hate it now, don’t expect that marriage will make it any better. Be realistic.

While there are plenty of other important things that you should talk about before the wedding, these are some of the most crucial. Hopefully talking about them now will help you avoid some pain in the future.