by Rev. Jessica M. Sheldon
As you have been planning your handfasting, you have been browsing bridal magazines, and following the wedding to-do list month-by-month and week-by-week. After searching every store you have finally found dinner napkins matching the participants’ handkerchiefs. Your idea book is full of dreams including the flowers, the dress, the table settings. You have even started researching vows and have a fool-proof plan for your entrance into the ceremony circle. Congratulations! You are an excellent wedding planner, no doubt about it!
Now what? What comes next? Now you have your plans for your ceremony, plans for the party afterwards, plans for the getaway after that… then what happens? Sure, you’re ready for the wedding, but are you ready for the marriage?
I recommend discussing the following topics with eachother. Where there are differing opinions, come to some sort of agreement or compromise on them. You may wish to write down your answers and agreements; in fact, I highly recommend it.
It is a huge red flag in your relationship if you and your future spouse can not agree on whether to have children or not. While it may seem the answer is a simple yes or no for both of you, discussing the details of this answer will make your communication smoother in the future. If your answer is yes, then when? While some people are willing to wait ten months before getting pregnant, their spouses may have been thinking ten years… a not-so-small detail that can add stress to any relationship. Are there certain circumstances for adding children to your household? Whether your decision on children is yes or no, what would make you change your mind? What religious or moral upbringing would you use as a guide to raising your children?
The mechanics of how the two of you will handle your finances really isn’t the issue. Many couples in successful marriages have separate checking accounts and many couples in successful marriages have one account. The issue is whether or not the two of you can calmly and practically talk about money. If how your money is spent, or saved, or not spent is an issue before you get married, it will be an even bigger issue after your wedding.
There is no way of predicting the future when it comes to an individual’s sexual libido. What you can do is set a standard for communicating about it. Set time aside now to talk about sex in your current relationship and also possibilities in your future relationship. Address current or possible future issues relating to differences in sexual frequency, desire, preferences, fantasies, masturbation, pornography, and expectations. You will discover differences and hopefully some surprising similarities, both of which can bring you closer together or tear the two of you apart, depending on how you handle them. Be open and honest.
Family & Friends
There is a reason why you have chosen to live with eachother, to be domestic partners, to co-habitate as lovers. Set some rules about what is or is not acceptable time spent with family and friends. Your in-laws, family, and friends should not be allowed to interfere in your marriage relationship. Set boundaries with people when it comes to visits, phone calls, finances, children, etc. Decide together, which decisions should be made with consulting each other versus decisions made with consulting families and friends.
Of course you love your fiance, but are there some things you are not prepared to give up in the marriage? Are there some errors that are unforgivable? How and when will you resolve differences in your marriage? Are you willing to go to bed angry with each other? Will you hold a grudge for weeks, months or years? Or will you resolve problems as quickly as possible? And if so, how? Will you be willing to seek professional counseling if necessary?
How often do you drink? The answer to this question, or to questions about smoking cigarettes or using drugs, will reveal whether or not your future spouse has a potential addiction problem. These habits can threaten your marriage and could also put you in legal and financial jeopardy.
Do you think it is important to be faithful to one another? Open marriage, polyfidelity, and swinging is okay for some couples. Most want and prefer a monogamous relationship. Discuss with your partner each of your opinions on these topics and verify your preference is the same. If your future spouse and you have differing opinions on what cheating is or isn’t, don’t get married until this issue has been discussed and resolved.
Where do you see yourself in 25 years? This is a fun question but still vital in making sure you have the same dreams and goals, and agree on how you will achieve them.
Once you have answered these questions with your partner, take time to reflect on your responses. What was the easiest issue for you to answer? What was the toughest issue for you to answer? Overall, what was the one new thing that you learned about eachother in this process?