Couples often decide to get married because they have fallen head over heels in love with each other. They can no longer imagine their life without their best friend, confidant, and lover.
The rose colored glasses through which they view their relationship lead them to believe that their marriage will play out like a fairy tale – you know, ride off into the sunset and live happily ever after.
This euphoric state is filled with romance and excitement, but often void of clarity and reality.
During this time, couples discuss wedding dates, color schemes, venues, guest lists, and honeymoon plans. Unfortunately most couples expend their time and energy planning for their big day, rather than planning for life after that day.
There are three things that help dating partners determine compatibility and marriage readiness that should be discussed in great detail beforehand to prevent enormous discord and irreparable damage to their relationship:
3) Individual goals and aspirations
It is imperative that you know your mate’s financial situation before getting married.
It’s a difficult task to build financial intimacy with your partner if you don’t have a real working knowledge of their finances. It’s a more difficult task to re-build financial trust once the trust has been broken.
Learning about your mate’s bad financial habits when their credit card is declined at your anniversary dinner or when their car gets repossessed is too late.
If your spouse is apprised of your fiscal irresponsibility after one of these incidents, an environment filled with frustration, resentment, fear, despair and distrust will permeate your relationship.
I’ve coached couples who wholeheartedly believe that their mates have no right to know how much money they make. My work has taught me that this mindset leaves a lot of room for financial infidelity to occur.
In my professional opinion, couples should know how their mate makes their money, how much they make, and how often they are paid.
How can you plan for your financial future as a couple if you don’t know this basic information?
How can you budget for daily living expenses, savings, mortgage, car notes, emergency expenses, date nights, or vacations if you don’t know how much money you have to work with?
Having an unwillingness to disclose salary information typically denotes an underlying desire for financial independence. This is often manifested by hiding money or making purchases that are not aligned with the couple’s financial goals, but that are more for personal gratification and or security.
Additionally, couples should openly discuss the debt they are bringing to the marriage table.
It’s important that couples know what they are signing up for, because their mate’s debt will become their debt. If something should happen to their mate, creditors will look to their mate to pay the debt off. More importantly, past debt will impact the couple’s future household.
For instance, if one mate owes $25,000 in student loans, $9,500 in credit card debt, $45,000 on their car loan, and $3,300 in unpaid taxes, it should be factored in that the monthly installments required to pay that debt will affect what the couple can do financially whether presently or in the future.
Couples should also discuss whether they will have separate or joint bank accounts, file joint or separate taxes, and determine if they will have joint or separate credit accounts.
Joint accounts do allow for more financial transparency and create more accountability. If couples decide to maintain separate accounts they should decide what method of auditing they will implement.
It is important for couples to share their credit history. Why? Because it helps when discussing who will be responsible for managing the budget and paying bills.
Knowing their mate’s spending habits is critical also. If the couples have different financial habits and don’t discuss them up front, conflict is sure to ensue.
The spender will anger the saver and make them feel unsafe. The saver will alienate the spender and make them feel controlled.
Couples have to develop a financial language that works for their relationship. In order to do so, everything must be openly discussed.
Couples shouldn’t assume that their mate wants to have a house full of kids or any kids at all, just because they do. Every person does not desire to have children, and they have the right to choose a kid free lifestyle.
Finding out that your spouse never wanted children after you’ve tied the knot can be heart wrenching and will lead to feelings of resentment, anger and betrayal for both spouses.
If having a child is non-negotiable for you, having this discussion prior to marriage is critical. If your mate honestly communicates to you that they don’t want kids, you must decide what’s more important to you, their happiness or yours.
Deciding to marry them anyway with the hopes of changing their mind often results in a very lonely and miserable marriage.
Couples that discover they can’t have children after they are married should have already discussed which options would work best for them:
- Becoming foster parents
- Using a surrogate
- Remaining a family of two
Couples should also discuss how they will rear their children. They need to decide if their kids will be home schooled or attend public or private schools. They need to decide the methods of discipline they want to use, so there won’t be any unpleasant surprises. They will need to decide on who will serve as Godparents. If a couple practices different religions, they must decide which religion to raise their children in. All of these things should be discussed before considering marriage.
Individual Goals and Aspirations
It is important that couples share with each other their professional and personal goals and aspirations prior to marriage. This helps them determine if they will be aligned in the marriage.
Would you be willing to support your mate’s desire to go back to school, start a business, or stop working and become a stay at home parent?
The euphoric feelings that compel couples to discuss marriage also makes them believe that their mate will be supportive of all of their future dreams and goals. That is wonderful to believe, but unfair to assume and expect.
Discussing said goals will allow couples to plan and budget as necessary.
For example, if a woman decides that she wants to ultimately be a stay at home mother, she must communicate that upfront. It would be unfair for her to spring that on her husband once she becomes pregnant, especially if her income is truly critical to the household.
In the same way, it would be unfair for her husband to decide to start a new business and expect for his wife to quit her job to help build the business. She may really love her career and have personal goals for advancing her career.
These types of conversations should be had prior to marriage so that couples can plan, budget, and incorporate their goals into their family’s Mission and Vision statement.
Discussing these things will prevent a lot of disappointment and hurt when the couple finally ties the knot and begin their happily ever after.
What discussions did you or would you want to have prior to jumping the broom?