Do you love watching romantic comedies where the couple always lives happily ever after? We do too! But that’s not reality. In fact, we read through different sources from the past decade. All of the sources estimate that the divorce rate hovers between 40 and 50% in the United States.
Common cited reasons for divorce include money disagreements, infidelity or marrying too young. Another cause is getting married without being together long enough to really get to know each other. For example, the honeymoon phase in a relationship can last over a year, especially for couples who don’t see each other every day.
Couples who are together longer before an engagement typically have a better chance at lasting, though factors such as age, financial security and maturity also play a role. Brides.com stated that, “One study published by researchers at Emory University in Atlanta found that couples who’d been together at least three years before they got engaged were 39 percent less likely to get divorced than couples who got engaged within the first year of dating.” While this might not hold true when comparing a couple who have been together for five years vs ten years before an engagement, it’s critical to be together long enough to leave the honeymoon phase.
The truth is that every couple will have conflict. It’s critical to learn to communicate though the conflicts in order to make the relationship last. There are many conversations that couples should have before marriage, and if we’re being honest, before an engagement. This isn’t a comprehensive list of every conversation, but we feel our list sums up what you should already know about your significant other on the day you say, “I do.”
1. Where should we live? How could this change based on our career choices?
Deciding where to live after marriage is a big question, with multiple possibilities. First of all, the couple needs to decide on a city or town and then on what type of dwelling. Renting vs buying, apartment vs house, neighborhood, etc. After that is decided, talk about the possibility of moving, especially for a job opportunity. Would you move for your spouse’s job and if yes, are there limits to that? Say that you would move to Boston, but not NYC because it’s too overwhelming. It’s important to have these conversations early about location and comfort level.
2. How much debt do you have?
This should be one of the earlier conversations in a relationship, which is becoming more common because of student loans. Know exactly how much the person owes and if you got married, would you be on the hook for that money as well? Additionally, if one of you decides to take out loans after marriage, both of you are on the hook for it. Plan accordingly.
3. Do you want to raise children?
Children is another point of contention in a relationship. First of all, it’s deciding whether the couple wants to raise children. Then comes the question, how many? Followed by, are we making these children, adopting, surrogacy? And what happens if one part of the couple has health related issues, making it difficult to conceive, do you still want kids or not? There are so many factors that go into the children question, because if the answer is yes, you also deal with how to raise them (values, religion, etc.)
4. What is your love language?
This might not seem important at the beginning of a relationship, but it is, especially after becoming exclusive. Learning someone’s love language means that you are taking into account how they want to receive love from you and how to make them feel special. Vice versa, you want your significant other to care about you enough to know what you need. To learn more, read our blog post on love languages.
5. What is your communication style?
Communication style is something to discuss, but it’s also learned through trial and error. The success stories are those who learn from their mistakes. For example, let’s take a couple that we know. The wife is a T (thinking) in her Myers-Briggs, while the husband is an F (feeling). When she has a problem, she wants to discuss a logical solution and be done with it. When he has a problem, he usually doesn’t want help solving it, he just wants to feel heard. A way to overcome the differences is by simply asking, what do you need?
6. What are your goals in life?
This could be hard question, especially for younger couples. Think through where you are in life currently and what changes you’d like to see in the next 10, 20 or 30 years. Maybe you’re an engineer now, but one day plan to be a full-time writer. Make sure to disclose those dreams up front.
7. What are your political and religious views? Does it matter if there is a disagreement?
It’s no secret that we live in contentious times, so politics and religion are major discussion points in a relationship. Discuss views on politics and religion early and then draw your line in the sand. It’s okay to marry someone with different beliefs, but it’s also okay to want to marry someone with the same views as you. It’s something to determine about yourself before starting a new relationship. Say that you don’t mind someone being a different religion, as long as you have the same values when it comes to social issues, like being pro-choice.
8. Are you an introvert or an extrovert? How will this impact social functions?
Introverts and extroverts can definitely marry each other, as long as they discuss social functions. This topic is a bit easier to talk about and mostly focuses on how often the couple will go out together and is it okay to attend event without the other. Also, while attending events, is it okay to split up for a while, allowing the extrovert to speak to more people.
9. How do we handle outside factors in the relationship?
Outside factors usually highlight family involvement in the relationship, which can be difficult. Just read AITA on Reddit and one common topic with relationship problems is when men are complete mama’s boys. This is a red flag! You don’t always have to get along with each other’s families, but you do have to set boundaries.
10. How will we split the finances?
Liked we said, money is a major reason for divorce. Talk about salaries, cost of living, splitting up expenses and the idea of having join back accounts. No matter how small, it’s best to talk about expected purchases and how to spend the money. It’s also important to know how to compromise, especially if you prefer spending money on experiences and they tend to prefer material goods. Finance is something that has be dealt with before walking down the aisle.