Let’s just put it out there- there are a lot of really important things to consider before you get married. I mean, a LOT.
From a person’s faith, to their past, to their s*xual expectations, to their conflict and communication, to their family of origin–and so many things in between.
There is an array of things you need to know about a person, making sure they fit into your life before you invite them in to be a permanent fixture. As a Professional Counselor, I help couples tread a lot of really important ground before they say “I do” through things like my book as well as pre-marriage sessions.
But let’s be honest; there are just some “minor” topics that aren’t really discussed before marriage. If you’re anything like John and I, you tackle all the majors before marriage, and then get to the other side and realize there’s a whole new list to work through!
I put this topic on social media, to ask other married couples what their experiences have been, and out churned this list. There’s a whole series of things that people aren’t really discussing before marriage, yet have the potential of causing conflict. So whether you’re married, or on the way, here are some things you should consider discussing:
- Sleep Habits
Let’s just start with this seemingly minor issue that no one ever talks about: sleep. Who is going to sleep on which side of the bed? What time is bed-time going to be? Will we always go to sleep together, or fall asleep at different times? And what should the temperature be? On the cooler side or warmer side? I can’t say these are things we covered in pre-marital counseling! But I’ve heard from a lot of couples who’ve had to work through these kind of lifestyle issues post-marriage. Because as we all know: Sleep is a really big deal, people!
- Money Issues
We all know that finances can lead to major conflict in marriage. But even with that knowledge, so few people are discussing money before marriage. Spending habits, credit history, bills, etc. This isn’t a minor issue at all, but yet, one that often gets overlooked before marriage: What’s our budget going to look like? How much fun money do we get? Should we save or invest? How often can we afford to eat out? I think we all get that money issues are going to be a part of our relationship, but I don’t think we really understand how important this ongoing conversation will actually be.
- Household Duties
So… who does what? What if we both hate cleaning bathrooms? What if his mom always did his laundry? What if neither of us can cook? What if one of us is a neat freak? Whose job is it to clean that gross clump of hair out of the shower? (Or… maybe I’m the only one who sheds like a dog?) What if he thinks that the majority of household chores are the “woman’s” job? What if my family split all the chores evenly but her family didn’t? What now? If you find yourself disagreeing about simple household duties, it’s time to sit down and make time for these “dirty” conversations.
- Spiritual Temperament
This one totally caught me off guard when we got married. You see, I’m an external processor. I have to say things out loud in order to work through them. I like to share what I’m feeling, thinking, and experiencing–especially when it comes to my life with Jesus. My husband, on the other hand, is wired more internally. His spiritual life and experiences with God are reflected through his actions, rather than his words: his patience, his gentleness, his kindness, his self-control, etc.
For the first two years of marriage, we had to figure this one out. How would we balance his internal wiring with my external wiring? How would we experience God together, but how much would we need to experience Him alone? I think we’ve finally figured out what that looks like in our marriage, but it’s something that has been crucial to the health of our relationship!
- Social Preferences
A friend of mine told a funny story about how she was on her way home with a crew of friends, when her husband called to let her know: No thanks, not in the mood for people today, which made for an awkward post-phone call conversation with her friends. Where you fall on the introversion to extroversion scale is a really important thing to know and discuss in a marriage. When you become “one”, how will you handle your need for socialization or alone time?
- Different Tastes
Taste in food, taste in movies and entertainment, taste in clothing, taste in style, taste in fashion… all of these little things are joined together in the wonderful world of marriage. Thankfully, in so many ways you end up “rubbing off on each other” in marriage (I’m officially a sushi-addict now, thanks to John!). But until then, do you know your unique differences in tastes, and how you will work through these differences when they come up in day to day life?
- Emotional Temperament
My husband says one of the things that surprised him most when we got married, is how emotional I am (gee, thanks)! But seriously, I have to laugh, because it’s true. I don’t think I let the floodgates fully open on that one until we got married. I am an emotional person in every sense of the word. It even comes out in my writing, as I’ve been known to use WAY too many exclamation marks!!!! My ups and downs are completely opposite to my husband’s almost constant mood. It’s something we’ve had to figure out and discuss, so that we can learn how to appreciate, understand, respect, and respond to each other’s differences.
- Lifestyle Differences
How much TV do you watch in a day? Or for that matter–how much football? Do you sit at the dinner table to eat, or on the couch? What’s your parenting style and how does that play out with your spouse’s parenting style? How much time do you invest in career, ministry, or family? Is vacation time for resting, or living it up? There are so many simple lifestyle decisions that come into play when you connect your life with another person. What are some topics that you might need to work through with your spouse?
The holidays can be so joyful, and nostalgic, and… STRESSFUL! It’s sad that that’s actually a true statement. But for many couples, it is! Where do you spend the holidays, and with whose family? Do you go all out, or keep it simple? What family traditions do you pass down to your children (mine, or yours!), and when do you decide to make new traditions? How much time do you spend with extended family? How should you handle each other’s extended family? These are all important factors that you need to be deliberate about figuring out in the making of a healthy family.
- Free Time
She: “So what should we do this weekend?” He: “Uh… I already made plans to hang out with the guys on Saturday” (cue horror film music in the background). But the thing is, these are real life scenarios that come up in marriage. In fact, did you know that a majority of the 1,000 married people I surveyed reported spending most of their free time APART?
What you do with your free time becomes a huge issue, because your time is no longer your own–it’s YOURS, together. How much time do you spend together? Do you prioritize date night? And when can you spend time with your friends? On your hobbies? For yourself? I know many couples who say that free time turned into an opportunity for major strife because these conversations don’t happen and the expectations aren’t discussed. Do your marriage a favor and “free some time” for this one.
As you look through this list remember that these are all a normal and healthy part of becoming one–whether you’ve been married for a week, or 70 years. And the truth is, it’s not the absence of these issues that makes a healthy marriage, it’s how you navigate these issues. A healthy marriage is an ONGOING conversation through life. The moment you stop talking is the moment that you’ve started shifting backwards. So keep talking, keep listening, keep loving.