It might seem strange to think about how to save your marriage before it starts, but now is absolutely the best time to safeguard your union.
You save your marriage by talking. But not just about anything.
You need to have deeply honest and thoughtful conversations about all the things that can tear a marriage apart.
Communicating like this is different from the easy flow of conversation where you seem to know exactly what your partner is thinking. Instead, it is about building the habits of connecting when the topics are tough. This includes listening carefully to what your beloved has to say, effectively communicating your views, and working together in resolving issues.
These habits are what strong marriages are built on: the commitment and determination to work through problems together – no matter what challenges you end up facing during your marriage.
A great way to continue learning to communicate well with each other and safeguard your union is to honestly share the thoughts and expectations you each have about the 10 most common causes of marital discord.
Each of the major categories of marital problems is listed below along with a few questions to discuss. These are just the jumping off point for your conversations. Allow yourselves to fully explore each of these topics and work through any conflicting opinions or expectations that may arise.
Will you each be financially self-sufficient? Will you pool your finances? What type of lifestyle do you expect to have together? What debt do you each currently have? How much debt are you comfortable carrying as a couple? How will you make decisions about big purchases?
What do you each enjoy about sex? How often do you want to have sex? What do you hope to experience through sex? Is it OK to flirt with others? What do you think about masturbation? Is it OK to watch porn? What do you think about sexual exclusivity? What happens if sex drives change?
Where do you see yourself in 10 years? What happens if your personal goals diverge over time? Where do you see your relationship in 10 years? Is divorce an option?
4. General expectations
How do you expect your spouse to change over time? What happens if they do not change? How do you expect your spouse to remain the same over time? What happens if they do change? What do you think a wife’s role is? What do you think a husband’s role is? How will you divide the day-to-day responsibilities of housework, yard work, and parenting? What are your expectations about maintaining personal appearance? What are your expectations about having alone time?
Do you want children? If you do, when do you want them? If you want children, to what lengths are you willing to go to have them – adoption, IVF, surrogate, etc.? What happens if one of you change your mind about whether you want children? What birth control will you use once you are finished having children? How will becoming parents change your marriage?
How do/did your families deal with conflict? How do you each deal with stress and conflict? How do you deal with stress and conflict as a couple? What skills need to be improved or learned either individually or collectively?
7. Health habits
What are your individual relationships with drugs, alcohol, gambling, and food? What are your personal health habits (sleep, exercise, relaxation, nutrition, healthcare, etc.)? What are your expectations about your beloved’s health habits?
8. Extended family
How will you manage relationships with the in-laws, step-children, and exes? When will you create a united front with your spouse instead of the extended family? Under what conditions will you stand with your extended family instead of your spouse?
9. Expression of love
How do you know you are loved? How do you express love for your spouse? What will you do if you are not feeling loved? (A great reference to learn more about this topic is Gary Chapman’s The 5 Love Languages.) You may want to make this a link to your google affiliates account.
10. Religious/spiritual beliefs
What are your religious/spiritual beliefs? Do you respect the religious/spiritual beliefs of your beloved? Which holidays will you celebrate? How will you celebrate them? How will you share each of your religious/spiritual beliefs with your children? What if religious/spiritual beliefs change?
As you discuss these topics together, it is normal to discover some topics you immediately see eye-to-eye on. It is also normal to discover other topics that you do not.
It is through exploring these mismatches and truly coming to firm agreements that you learn how to save your marriage before it starts.
Yet, don’t fall into the trap of believing you must do all the work of exploring the mismatches on your own. A couples counselor can help you have the tough discussions now so that you can have the successful marriage you both want.
Talking about everything that could tear your marriage apart with the person you want to spend the rest of your life with is the one sure way to build the habit of meaningful communication. And that is the best foundation to build your marriage on.