Many marital difficulties can be minimized if couples have the following conversations with each other. When you have an understanding of where your partner stands on these key issues, your relationship can be much more peaceful and enjoyable. These conversations can be initiated by asking the following questions.
1. What does marriage mean to us?
First ask yourself, “What do I want out of a marriage?” Write down the answer to that question. Make a list of what you think you want out of a marriage. Then the two of you can get together and share what you’ve written. Discuss each point so the other understands what you mean. After that discussion, take your two lists and combine them. This will be your joint definition of what marriage means to you as a couple. With this clearly in mind you now have a goal to jointly work toward.
2. What are our sexual expectations?
Talk about what sexual intimacy means to you. This is a time when you can openly tell your mate what you need and desire sexually. Do not be surprised if your needs and desires differ from your spouse’s. The important thing is to understand what each other’s expectations are when it comes to making love. Discuss that there may be times when you’re not in the mood, or times when you could be in the mood if there is an element of patience and gentleness. Being aware of each other’s needs and responding in a caring way is what matters. Sexual intimacy is a vitally important part of a happy marriage.
3. What is our division of labor?
Many couples jump into marriage completely unaware of what is expected in the labor department. Talk about who cooks the meals — will this duty be shared? Discuss how you work together on household chores, such as washing the dishes, emptying the garbage, making the bed, cleaning the bathroom, mowing the lawn, doing the gardening, etc. Don’t expect one person to do it all. Talk about it and decide who does what. Keep it fair, or bad feelings can arise. Nobody wants to be stuck with these duties infinitely.
4. How do we handle our finances?
Finances can be a big problem if you don’t sit down and decide …
Who earns the money
Who pays the bills
How much we save out of each paycheck
How much is allocated for each to spend on personal items
What credit cards we use and what is our limit in charging (we suggest no more than you can pay off each time the bill arrives)
What debts you will incur
Couples who curb their spending and buy only what their budgets comfortably allow are much happier than those who get swallowed up in debt. The only way to avoid that is to make a financial plan together and stick to it. Include in your plan to always have some money for date nights and special fun occasions. Be careful with your money, but enjoy it, too, without going into debt.
5. How will we raise our children?
Most couples have discussed whether they want children, and how many, before they marry. That’s a crucial conversation to have. And it can change after you’re married, which means it’s time for the conversation again. Discuss where children will fit in your marriage. Even though you would both give your life for your child, still you must keep each other’s needs as a priority. Children with parents who attend to each other’s needs have happier more well-balanced lives. Discuss your methods of disciplining, and the expectations you have for your children, i.e., education, developing talents, chores, earning money, etc. Both parents need to play an important role in children’s lives. It’s not just the mother’s or the father’s duty — it’s both.
6. What role will religion play in our marriage?
Being of the same religious faith helps marriage run smoother. However, everyone practices their faith their own way. Whether you are of the same faith or different, it’s time for that important conversation where you decide what role religion will play in your marriage. Things like, “Will we actively attend and participate at church or synagogue as a family?”; “Will we pray together?”; “Will we support and respect each other’s beliefs?”; and “Will we raise our children to believe in God and say their prayers?” When these decisions are made together — and the earlier the better — then greater happiness and harmony at home will be the result. For enlightenment on this subject you may enjoy seeing the movie The Cokeville Miracle.
7. Where do the in-laws fit?
When you marry your spouse, you also marry his or her family. And that can be a very good thing as long as you have laid a foundation regarding the place of your in-laws in your marriage. Your spouse’s needs must come before the needs of your parents. That doesn’t mean you don’t love and care for them; it just means there is an order regarding where they fit. It’s a good idea to talk about the boundaries that need to be set regarding your parents and in-laws. These boundaries need to represent the feelings of both the husband and the wife. Parents need to let their married children have their own life without continual interference. When parents understand where they fit then harmony will abound.
It’s never too early or too late for couples to have these conversations. Find a quiet, private, inviting place and begin. You’ll enjoy it and your marriage will be better for it.