- 15 Things Every Couple Should Talk About Before Getting Married
- 25 Things to Know Before Getting Engaged
- How to Propose 101: 14 Things to Do for the Perfect Marriage Proposal
- 8 Things to Consider Before Saying Yes to a Marriage Proposal
- 1. Do you share similar values?
- 2. Your partner must be honest
- 8 Things to Discuss Before You Propose
- 5 Things to Discuss Before Getting Engaged
- 1. The Money Talk
- 2. Children
- 3. How to Fight
- 4. Career
- 5. Sex and Intimacy
15 Things Every Couple Should Talk About Before Getting Married
I've been writing an advice column in some shape or form for close to 10 years now, and I can say with confidence that at least 75 percent of the letters I receive from married people are about issues that could have been avoided if the couples had better communicated their expectations about married life before tying the knot. Letters one I answered recently in which the husband and wife had drastically different ideas on where they'd to raise a family are, sadly, not uncommon. But they'd be much more of a rarity if couples would discuss these 15 issues before getting married:
1. Outstanding debt.
Who has some and what is the plan for paying it off?
Do you want them? If so, how many? If not, are you sure enough about that decision to take permanent steps to ensure you don't have them ( a vasectomy)? If you do want them, when do you want to have your first? Are you open to adoption or fertility treatments if you're unable to conceive naturally? How long do you want to try to conceive naturally before trying different options?
3. Location, location, location.
Where do you want to put roots down? And if you don't want to put roots down and would prefer to stay on the move indefinitely — my parents, for example, raised me and my sister in three different countries (none of which was the U.
S., where they were raised) — make sure your partner is on board with that idea.
How would you rank location in terms of importance for your well-being? If you love where you live, what would persuade you to move — a job offer, desire to be closer to family, better schools for your kids?
If you practice a religion or have a particular faith, how important is it that your partner share the faith and practice it with you? How does your religion or faith affect your lifestyle? If you plan to have kids, what religion, if any, do you want to raise them in?
Marriages are broken in the aisles of IKEA every day. Do not underestimate the power of the Swedish smorgasbord of cheap, disposable home goods. If you and your partner plan to spend even a minute of your marriage in IKEA, decide whether a $40 book shelf is worth the two or three years from your life it may cost you.
6. Dream home.
Do you want a McMansion in the 'burbs? A cozy condo in the sky? A beach bungalow? A cabin in the woods? A macked-out tree house? A ranch in Utah? You may never live in your dream home, but knowing whether you and your significant other share common long-term goals will help solidify your roles as partners in each other's lives and confirm that you're working toward the same thing.
7. Bank accounts and bill-sharing.
Will you share a bank account? Keep individual accounts? Both? And what bills will be paid by what accounts? Will you each put a certain percentage of your income toward shared bills? Do you have an emergency fund? What if one person is work or decides to stay home to raise the kids? What's your plan for affording that?
8. Division of household labor.
Dishes, laundry, yada, yada, yada. Barter, negotiate and plead if you have to so that you aren't stuck doing the thing you least all the time.
If you hate, hate, hate washing dishes, but don't mind cooking, suggest to your partner that you head meal preparation if he or she agrees to take on the dishes. This works best if the thing you hate with a passion isn't also the same thing your partner hates with a passion.
If it is, find a way to compromise, using your best negotiation tactics “Okay, I'll empty the litter box and do the laundry if you please wash the dishes…”
Do you want to sleep with just one person for the rest of your life? Can you and still be happy and satisfied? If not, you need to discuss either the possibility of an open marriage, strategies for keeping the spark alive, or waiting on marriage until the idea of monogamy isn't a death sentence for you.
10. Hard or soft.
Your mattress! You will (hopefully) be sleeping in the same bed as this person for a very, very long time, and a comfortable mattress is imperative for a good night's rest.
Rack up too many sleepless nights and your relationship will suffer. So, if you and your partner have different ideas of what makes a comfortable mattress, how will you compromise?
11. Family obligations.
How much time do you spend with your family now, how much do you expect to spend with them once you're married and potentially have children, and how much time do you expect your spouse to spend with them (and vice versa)? How do you plan to spend your holidays and what's your plan for giving both sets of families equal time with you/your children during the major holidays? Are you the type of person who s to vacation with your family, and if so, how often?
In addition to extended family vacations, you and your partner need to discuss what other types of vacations you do or don't enjoy.
If you're a Disneyland fan and your significant other hates Mickey Mouse with a passion, that may cause some friction. If one of you only s camping and the other prefers staying in chic boutique hotels, there's an issue.
wise, if the workaholic in your relationship can't bear to be too far away from the office while the other would to get as far away from home as possible, you need to talk through how you're going to compromise.
You can't expect to plan all your vacations for the rest of your life together, but discussing some solutions that you're both OK with will help you address friction in the future.
13. The name game.
What's your family name going to be? Will one spouse take the other spouse's last name? And if not, what surname will you give any kids you have?
How committed is each of you to your careers? Do you live to work or work to live? How will your respective careers affect family life? Where are you in terms of living a “dream career”? Do you have more schooling and apprenticing to finish? If so, what's the time frame for completing these steps toward obtaining the kind of job you hope for? What kind of personal sacrifices will you have to make to climb the career ladder of your choice?
15. TV in the bedroom: Yay! Or nay?
Think of the TV in the bedroom as a metaphor for your whole marriage. Do you want a method of escape or to protect the intimacy? Neither answer is right or wrong, but answering yourselves the question before you get married could provide a valuable insight into how you picture your married life together.
25 Things to Know Before Getting Engaged
When you know, you know, right? Well, maybe. While gut instincts are all well and good (and often scarily accurate), here are 25 other things to make sure you cover before either of you gets down on one knee. Because who wants to take chances with the rest of her life?
1. The difference between , lust, and love. Only one is worthy of an engagement.
2. Each other’s career goals. What do you each want to accomplish in life — and how will it affect your relationship with each other? Knowing what you each want to achieve and supporting those dreams is a critical foundation for any couple.
3. How you each feel about faith. Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, Mormon, Scientologist, Wiccan, agnostic, atheist — it’s not the belief system that matters but what it means to your life as a couple (and your future life as a family).
4. Each other’s spending habits. And debt situations. And savings plans. Get it all out on the table early.
“Money secrets have no place in a marriage,” Kelley Long, a CPA and financial planner, writes in the Wall Street Journal.
And even if you have different spending and saving styles, it doesn’t mean your relationship is doomed. “It is simply an acknowledgement of a fundamental difference in money attitudes,” Long says.
5. Whether you want children — and when. It is important to be on the same page regarding your general timeline for starting a family, if you want to start a family at all.
But you don’t need to agree on how many kids just yet.
“Once a couple has their first kid, they will have a better idea of how many children they really want,” Jaclyn Bronstein, a mental health counselor in New York, told The Knot.
6. … And if you do both want kids, how you plan on parenting them. At least, in theory.
7. Each other’sparents/siblings/immediate family. These might be your in-laws. Know what you are getting into.
8. Your significant other’s relationships with said family. Love, hate, love-hate — it’s important to understand the dynamics at play.
9. The past. it or not, it helped shape who you both are at this very moment. You don’t need to provide every exhaustive detail, but you should have a general roadmap for how you each got to the present.
10. Any previous spouses and/or children. This should come up in No. 9, but I’m not taking any chances. Nobody s a surprise ex.
11. How you each respond to stress. One of my main theories (among others) for why the majority of Bachelor/Bachelorette engagements fail is because they do not face real-world, anxiety-inducing, pressure cooker situations.
Stress can be the ultimate saboteur in a relationship, and studies show that even happy marriages can end up in divorce thanks to “stressful life events, low commitment and negative communication.” But if you know how you each handle life’s obstacles, big and small, you can tackle them successfully together.
“If you perceive your partner is there for you and supportive of you, it buffers and reduces the impact of chronic stress,” psychologist Gian Gonzaga told USA Today.
12. How they take their coffee in the morning. Which section of the paper they read first. Whether they prefer crunchy or smooth peanut butter. It may seem minutiae, but love sometimes comes in the tiniest details.
13. Each other’s worst qualities. Love involves elevating the best traits, and accepting the worst ones.
14. Their friends! I’m a believer that meeting the friends can be even more important than meeting the family, because friends are the people that your better half chooses to spend time around. If you haven't met your S.O.'s inner circle, then the relationship isn't that serious — and certainly not serious enough for an engagement.
15. Their stance on major political issues. How does your partner feel about gay marriage? Abortion? Voters’ rights? Gun control? You don’t necessarily have to agree, but their opinions (and the arguments they use to justify them) can be very telling.
16. How to fight and make up. You are going to disagree. It happens. And to an extent, it is healthy. “Conflict is inevitable,” relationship expert Ashley Davis Bush told YourTango. “But conflict has its benefits if you use it productively. Use respectful language with each other and be willing to listen to your partner.”
17. Each other's living habits. You don't have to live together yet, but it is a good idea to at least have an idea of what it will be when you do.
“It is not whether you live with your partner as much as how you live with your partner,” author Megan Jay told the Atlantic.
“I am not against living together, but I am for young adults being more aware that it is an arrangement that has upsides and downsides.”
18. Your sexual chemistry. Yes, this is totally making me blush because I am a 12-year-old at heart, but knowing how you connect on that level is pretty critical to relationship — and marriage — success.
19. How to talk to each other. No phones. No emails. No texts. Just straight-up, face-to-face, brutally honest communication. This is vital, especially considering “communication problems” were cited as the most common factor (65 percent) that leads to divorce in a recent YourTango survey.
20. Their hobbies. Whether it's golf, running, reading, collecting, or live-action-role-playing, you want to know the things that your love loves to do. Jennifer Aniston says in The Break Up, “It's not about you loving the ballet, it's about the person that you love loving the ballet.”
21. How you each feel about travel. Striking a balance between a homebody and someone with a case of wanderlust is one tricky seesaw act. Determine whether travel is a priority in your relationship before committing to marriage.
22. Your views on household duties.
Does your significant other expect a partner who will take care of all the chores? Or will it be a shared responsibility (ahem)? “People are going to disagree about how to run the house, chores, who cleans the bathroom,” marriage and family therapist Rebecca Hendrix told The Knot. “But those are the kinds of things that people can, if they work on their communication style, work through.”
23. The difference between a wedding and a marriage. A wedding is one day. A marriage is (or at least, should be) a lifetime. If you want to throw a party, there are plenty of other things you can celebrate if you aren't ready for matrimony.
24. That being said, you should talk about yourvision for a wedding. Because eloping at City Hall and 500 people at the Plaza in June are two very different scenarios. Plus, planning a wedding can be extremely stressful — you and your fiancé need to be on the same team.
25. What you want the future. No one has a crystal ball, and life loves to throw curveballs. But since one of the top reasons for divorce, according to family law firm Slater & Gordon, is that the couple “wanted different things,” you should share your thoughts, hopes and dreams for what the future might look — together.
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How to Propose 101: 14 Things to Do for the Perfect Marriage Proposal
Photo by Chuy Photography
Whether you’re high school sweethearts, met through a mutual friend, or both swiped right, somehow you found love—and it’s time to make it stick. But as we're sure you already know, figuring out how to propose is a major undertaking (hello, ring shopping and memorizing that speech).
To make your long-awaited moment run as smoothly as possible, we tapped the expertise of Alexandra Uritis, event design and proposal planner. The Yes Girls. Ahead, Uritis weighs in on 10 things you can’t forget to do before you get down on one knee, as well as four tidbits to keep in mind once you're actually putting your romantic plan into action.
Plus, for any women planning to pop the question to their partners (power to ya), we broke down the table-turning protocol.
Meet the Expert
Alexandra Uritis is an event design and proposal planner for the OG professional proposal planning company, The Yes Girls.
This might seem obvious, but before you start plotting, it’s important to make sure you both have marriage on the brain. Talk to your partner about the future. Let them know that one day you’d to be married, and ask if they see marriage in their future, too.
Nervous about making this conversation feel too much a proposal? Keep it broad by discussing your best friend’s recent engagement, and lead into it that way. Is it a hard conversation? Yes.
But hopefully, you’ll come away from it with an idea of what your partner will say when you open that ring box.
Old school? Yes. Important? Also yes (depending on the family). If your partner has hinted in any way that you need to ask his or her parents for their hand in marriage, do it.
That doesn’t mean your partner is anyone’s property, though. Try something this: “I am deeply in love with your son/daughter, and we want to spend our lives together.
I am planning to propose, and want you to be involved in this exciting moment.”
The engagement ring is a piece of jewelry your partner will be wearing every day for the rest of their life, so get a sense of what they’ll really love. Snap photos of the jewelry they wear every day, take a peek at their secret Pinterest board, or ask a close friend or family member to help you narrow it down.
As for jewelers, get some recommendations (or see if there’s a friend or family member in the biz who you should talk to) to make sure you’re purchasing from a trusted store with great reviews and service. Last but certainly not least, investigate their ring size. If it’s not a secret, just ask.
If you’re going the surprise route, check your partner’s jewelry. Find a ring that he or she wears regularly (and make a note of which finger it goes on), then either bring it with you to a jeweler or mark how far it fits on your own finger.
Many jewelers can also make a good guess at a ring size your partner’s height and weight. And there’s always resizing.
Now that you have a ring, it’s time to plan the proposal. Think about the type of proposal your partner will love, whether it’s a grand gesture, an intimate moment, or a surprise surrounded by family and friends.
No matter your budget, Uritis says to first hone in on a beautiful, sentimental spot, which you can easily glamorize to set the mood.
“Find a cool space that means something to them—it can just be your cozy living room, but you deck it out with tons of candles and it completely changes the feel of the space, and you can make it special to them,” she advises. Earn major points with personalization, too, and steer clear of one-size-fits-all ideas.
You know your love best, but sometimes it's worth it to outsource for a bit of extra proposal help. Companies The Yes Girls take care of everything from logistics to sourcing vendors—just know that such a luxury will cost you.
With thousands of proposals under their belts, these planners know a thing or two about making your bent-knee milestone all the more memorable, and most importantly, worry-free. “You can stay calm and collected and enjoy this time because it’s a huge moment for you, too,” Uritis says.
“We can do all the backend things so you can take all the credit and look fabulous.”
You don’t need to have your speech totally written out, but spend a little time jotting down what you’d to say. Getting your thoughts on paper will give you some direction when it’s time to pop the question, even if you end up winging half of it anyway.
As for what to say when you actually propose, Uritis's clients typically hit on their partner's best qualities, or even recap the moment they knew their S.O. was the one.
“It’s just really being genuine and making [them] feel so loved and excited in that moment,” she adds. “And it can be short—it can be a couple of sentences.
But talking about what they love about them and how excited they are for their future together would be the two best things to bring up.” Of course, don't forget to tack on the “Will you marry me?” bit.
You don’t need to plan a full-on engagement party, but make sure you’ve got an idea of how the two of you will celebrate the big moment. Book a table at your favorite restaurant, tuck some champagne in the fridge, or have a few friends waiting in the wings.
Really read into your partner's personality to determine whether a private one-on-one celebration or a full-fledged family affair would make them feel the most comfortable.
Life happens, so be prepared to go with the flow. Don’t rush the proposal just because the sun is about to set or dinner is nearly over—wait until the moment really feels right. And if you’ve planned something a little more low-key, that very well might mean waiting a few days if your sweetheart is stressed from work or the weather isn’t cooperating.
To avoid blowing the surprise, come up with a foolproof ruse that leads your S.O. off track a bit. They may know something's up, especially if you're taking a trip or have out-of-the-ordinary plans, but a fake game plan “keeps the proposer calm if he or she feels they're really insecure in this 'lie,'” Uritis says.
From the second you have the ring in your hands, keep it safe. Invest in insurance right away, then find a safe place to hide the ring until it’s time. When you’re ready to propose, safety is still key. Make sure the ring is secure in a zipped pocket or safely in the box—somewhere you’ll be able to reach easily without dropping it.
Nothing ruins the spontaneity faster than your partner seeing the bulge of a ring box from your pocket. To save the day, The Yes Girls actually invented the ultimate proposal hack: the Box Sock. This wearable accessory comes with a small pocket and tiny ring box, ready for immediate retrieval as soon as you stoop down to one knee.
Whether you hire a professional or trust your future sister-in-law and her iPhone, your soon-to-be fiancé(e) will love you all the more for finding someone to document the occasion.
If they have no idea the proposal's coming, you can expect absolutely epic reaction snapshots.
In fact, Uritis highly recommends that her clients book a photographer, “especially in this day and age when you do it for the ‘gram and they have these gorgeous pictures to announce that they're engaged.” Bonus: You can even double down for an impromptu engagement shoot.
Take a deep breath, get down on one knee, and pitch the sentimental speech you've probably rehearsed a million times. According to Uritis, it really doesn't matter which knee you go down on, but if you've stashed the ring in your sock, then kneel on the opposite side.
After you've asked for your partner's hand in marriage, let them have a moment. Ample time must be given to process/cry/hug it out. Then, once they've collected themselves, read the situation to figure out when to officially put on the ring. Or your partner may beat you to the punch and hold out their hand for you to do the honors.
Okay, ladies, now let's get down on one knee—more and more women are stepping up and taking engagements into their own hands. In this instance, Uritis considers traditional proposal etiquette fair game, ring and all.
“I think all the same rules apply: Do something super special, something that he or she would really love,” she says. “Try to keep it a surprise, definitely get a ring, include friends and family if that’s what they would love.
But if not, just keep it really personal. Come on, ladies!”
8 Things to Consider Before Saying Yes to a Marriage Proposal
Eager and waiting for the proposal to pop? I can imagine your excitement. While you wait for it, these are things you must consider before saying yes to a marriage proposal.
I am not married, but I have relationships with married people enough to understand how important the decision to get married is.
I have observed with curiosity as some of them are happy together, while others battle unhappiness and depression every single day of their lives.
You may be waiting for your fiancé to finally go down on one knee and ask you to spend the rest of your life with him, but that is a big decision to make. Even if you do not have a fiancé yet, but hope to get married someday, this is for you.
Before you say yes to a marriage proposal, consider these eight things.
1. Do you share similar values?
Things such as culture, religion and family values, if not talked about, can cause complications in a relationship. For example, if you are not religious and you get married to someone who adores his religion, there may be some conflicts. If you drink alcohol, but your partner forbids alcohol, you may have a hard time.
When you have similar values, you are ly to understand each other and have a good time together. It reduces conflict and unnecessary disagreements.
Before you say yes to a marriage proposal, make sure your values are aligned with your partner’s.
2. Your partner must be honest
Honest people are truthful and trustworthy. If he is honest, it opens a window for trust; and trust is the key to a healthy relationship. Honest people are less ly to cheat, lie or stab you in the back. I said, they are less ly to; I did not say they are incapable of doing so.
8 Things to Discuss Before You Propose
It's no surprise that sometimes people rush into marriage without knowing enough about the person they are vowing to spend the rest of their lives with. When you're in love and can't wait for the “rest of your life” to start, it's easy not to see the other person's flaws or potential complications down the road.
So in addition to talking over these points in-depth with your partner, get yourself to some pre-marriage counseling–it'll do a world of good, and most places will give you a discount on your marriage license if you do enough hours.
Another important thing to remember is that people are complicated, and they change, so even if you discuss these things, your future spouse's preferences may change. So when discussing things now, and especially later, be kind, understanding, and patient. These things are difficult, and people are more sensitive than they would to admit.
Sadly, and despite what you think about President Trump, his election has resulted in the end of many marriages and partnerships. This is because, while it is possible to have a happy marriage to someone whom you agree very little with politically, it is very hard to do.
This is because your politics says a lot about you–how you treat other people, how you view human nature, what you think of money, etc. Despite everyone's desire to do so, it really is difficult to separate what someone believes politically with who they are as a person.
Yes, we should be open, understanding, and tolerant of each other–but when it comes to the person who you will spend every day of the rest of your life with, and who will help you raise, guide, and teach your children, you want to have more in common than different when it comes to politics.
Here are some questions to discuss with each other concerning politics:
- Are you ever open to changing your mind when it comes to what you believe?
- How important is voting and civic responsibility?
- What is the individual's responsibility towards the poor, and what is the best way to fulfill that responsibility?
- Will you have guns in the house?
- Taxes–necessary evil, or just evil?
- Pro-life or Pro-choice?
I'm sure there are many more, but these are some of the big ones that could really damage a marriage if you don't share a common foundation in these beliefs.
How many kids each person wants can very greatly, especially if one partner doesn't even want kids. This discussion can be made even more difficult by the expectation that this could change some day. The best thing you can do, in addition to discussing it, is be open to seeing children as gift you may unexpectedly receive.
Maybe one person wants 3-5 and the other wants 1-3. There is at least some commonality there to work with.
Is adoption ok?
What about medical procedures In Vitro?
Is there anything in either person's past that may keep them from having kids?
How would you handle it if that was the case?
If you have a wide disparity between your two desires, this may be an issue which causes you to re-examine if you should marry each other.
For many people, their job or career is one of the most important things to their identity–what they do becomes who they are. For others, a job is a necessary evil one needs in order to provide food and shelter. Most people are probably in between, but we all have dreams.
Disagreement about things such as the role of work in the family, who should be the breadwinner, and if one person should stay home can be severe enough to break up a marriage, especially if one or both spouses are caught off guard.
- Is your career your life, what defines you gives you purpose?
- Or do you hate work and only do it because you have to?
- Do you want to make a lot of money?
- Or are you fine living on a little as long as you get a lot of family time?
- What is your dream job?
Children are the most important thing to their parents, and as such how they want to parent is extremely important. Not only does parenting style say a lot about a person, but it effects their children's well being for the rest of their lives.
That people are so sensitive about their parenting shows how important this issue is.
Of course parenting disagreements will happen, some of them major–but talking about and working through fundamental differences should help avoid any surprises that can break up a marriage.
Some things to consider:
- Is spanking ever ok?
- Can one parent over ride another?
- Does one parent assume more of the responsibility than the other?
- Do you want to be hands off or hovering?
- Is it ok to yell at your kids?
- Will you co-sleep or sleep-train?
My wife and I have been married almost four years now, and one of the things we still fight about every single year is how to celebrate the holidays. I'm kind of a hermit, so celebrating six Christmases every year gets a little draining, and can make the holidays un-enjoyable for me.
We've learned to compromise, and we always approach the topic with a lot of love and understanding for each others needs, but I its something I wish we would have talked more about before we were married.
- Do you want to alternate years you spend holidays with each other's family?
- Does one family value certain Holiday's over others?
- What family holiday traditions do you want to start with your family?
- How much should you spend on gifts every year?
Also important is talking about other family traditions and habits.
- Do you talk to your mother every week (or day)?
- How often do you travel to see your family and how long do you stay with them?
- How open or private should your spouse be with your family?
- Is there any really annoying habits your family raised you with that your partner should know before you tie the knot?
Again, there will always be surprises, and you will spend your entire life learning about your husband or wife. The idea is to foster a habit of communication and understanding while identifying any deal breakers before your put in a bad situation.
This is perhaps the biggest area of struggle for couples. I've found that in a relationship there tends to be one person who s to spend money and one person who s to save it (this is a generalization of course). Given the necessity of money, it's obvious how this can cause problems.
Another common problem is a disagreement between how much money should inform the decisions of the household. Often one person will not money, be scared of it, or think its a “necessary evil”. If both parties feel this way, it can lead to poor management and thus stress, or if the other person really feels money is important, they may feel unsupported by their spouse.
Above all, do NOT, hide money or spending from your spouse (even if they're bad with money). The best thing for a happy marriage is to learn how to manage money together, in a way that is a compromise. Do not have his money vs. her money, but only our money.
This can be a radical idea for some, but there is plenty of evidence showing it's a benefit to the relationship. If you can't trust someone with your money, can you trust them with your life, heart, and kids?
There's an almost ubiquitous joke that sex ends once two people get married. Regardless of your views on premarital sex, the point is that sex is part of a healthy marriage, and problems in the bedroom can end a marriage.
- How enjoyable does either partner find sex in general (or how interested are they in it if they are virgins)?
- Is there anything in your past that could prevent you from having a healthy sex life?
- How often does each partner expect to have sex?
- How should you talk about sexual problems?
- Perhaps most importantly, do either of you have any STD's?
How do you communicate about communication? This one is hard for most couples because it permeates every other topic–how you talk about the problem is just as important as the problem itself. Bad communication can prevent you from resolving any conflicts and can push your partner farther away.
Set some ground rules for arguments–popular ones are:
- No bringing up past mistakes/arguments/wrongs.
- No generalizing (You always/never do this).
- Never invalidate the other's feelings.
- No name calling.
5 Things to Discuss Before Getting Engaged
For many of us, being engaged means putting most (if not all) of our attention on wedding planning. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in the fairytale aspect of wedding planning, making it easy to forget that besides planning a party, you are merging your life with your partner.
As a San Francisco based psychotherapist, I specialize in supporting individuals and couples in manifesting the life they envision.
Clients often wonder what the magic formula is for a successful relationship and more times then not my answer is communication and your relationship with yourself.
Whether single or coupled, consider these important conversations to create a solid foundation with your significant other.
1. The Money Talk
Many of us find it hard to discuss finances. It can bring up feelings of shame, embarrassment, and comparative judgment. When talking about finances with your significant other, it is important to be gentle and move slowly.
I have worked with numerous couples in therapy that describe frequent arguing, violated expectations, and profound disappointment in one another and in the relationship, often in part because of financial issues.
I believe the most important thing that can be done for one another is to stay away from blame.
It is okay to have a different “money personality” from your partner, and if there is something specific that you worry about in regards to finances, better to bring it up sooner then later. Curious about your partner’s credit score? Interested in joint accounts? Prenup? Do discuss. In depth. Harboring your feelings will only lead to resentment.
It’s important to first get clear on your own feelings and priorities about money before sharing what you expect from your partner. I encourage couples to set time aside each month to have a money meeting. This may seem overkill to some, but consider this; issues with money contribute to divorce more than any other topic—sex, children, and division of labor.
We have all heard the obvious questions. Do you want children someday? If so, how many? But what about all of the other stuff that comes along with having children? Baby names and nursery decor are fun, but there’s so much more territory to traverse besides picking the perfect appellation.
We all have our own narrative about what kind of life we want to provide for our future babies and sometimes it is hard to remember that there is another adult who has an equal say in how this whole parenting thing will play out.
Raising a child with another person is perhaps one of the most fun and challenging adventures a couple will have together. Where couples can get into trouble is when they don’t discuss the fundamental aspects of co-parenting.
Here are some important factors to consider.
- How will you afford the new addition to your family?
- How will you handle it if one of you is not able to conceive?
- Are you open to adoption? IVF? Surrogacy?
- What are the expectations about who will be the primary care giver for your children?
- Will they be raised under one religion?
- What do you imagine your discipline style will be?
- Public or private school?
- Never forget that before baby, your partner was your one and only. How will the two of you maintain a loving connection?
3. How to Fight
Disagreements happen and are a normal process of being in relationship. It is how the arguments are handled that can determine the long-term success or failure of your relationship. But let’s be realistic. Communicating effectively can feel impossible in the heat of the moment. It is hard to stay logical and rational when emotion sweeps in making you feel defensive and indignant.
Effective arguing takes practice and skill building to learn how to react non-defensively. It’s about learning to slow down, be less reactive, and engage in non-violent communication.
I am not referring to physical violence (which is always unacceptable) but to emotional violence. This includes criticism, contempt, using all or nothing language, and any other “below the belt” fighting.
The point of an argument is conflict resolution, so reconsider the next time you feel the desire to go after your partners Achilles heel.
So, what exactly is non-violent communication? Developed by American Psychologist and author, Marshall Rosenberg, it is a form of communicating that resolves conflicts and differences peacefully. This is no easy task, but absolutely doable with practice and intention. In simpler words, you don’t need to go ‘Million Dollar Baby’ on your partner to try to get your needs met.
NVC in action: It’s date night. You decide to rock your new LBD and are looking extra sparkly for your love. You enter…smile, and then wait to hear how great you look.
But instead you hear “Ok, ready to go?” As deflating as this can be, instead of making a passive aggressive statement , “Thanks for noticing me!” or acting it out in your body language via the silent treatment or a pouty face, you can make a statement , “I got really dressed up for you and I don’t feel noticed.
It would make me feel really good if you made more of an effort to acknowledge when I get dressed up.” Responding this way increases your chances of your partner recognizing your feelings non-defensively.
Confucius said, “Choose a job that you love and never work a day in your life.
Well, that’s dandy, but what about when the job you love requires you to travel, stay at work late, and generally eats up a lot of your time? Or rather, what if your partner’s job requires this? OR, what if this doesn’t apply to you at all and you are in a job you dis or even despise? It is important for you and your partner to share your feelings about your respected jobs/careers and how you envision moving forward. Again, you can only know so much in advance, but it is a good idea to have a basic understanding of what you and your partner expect from one another. Consider the following questions.
- Would you relocate to a new city/state for a job? Or for your partner’s job?
- What are your feelings if you are the sole breadwinner in the relationship?
- How will you support one another if one of you gets laid off, or wants to change careers? Or go back to graduate school?
- How do you feel right now about the time commitments given to your careers? How will this look if you decide to have children?
- How will the division of labor in the home be divided if both of your work? Or only one of you? Who is expected to do what? (This question is a biggie, ladies.)
5. Sex and Intimacy
Sex is omnipresent in our culture. We are bombarded with messages from so many mediums that prompt us to think about, talk about, and seek out sex. You’d think we’d all be relaxed, open, and comfortable talking about it, but in my experience the opposite is actually true.
Have you ever noticed it feels easier to talk about sex with your friends rather than your partner? We know how to have this conversation outside of our relationship but when it comes to exploring this topic with our lover we feel anxious, vulnerable, and unclear. I know it may feel scary.
But feel the fear and talk about your sex life anyway! As sexual communication skills improve, so will the quality of your relationship.
I want to emphasize how beneficial it is to understand your own body and how to use it. In other words, master your territory so you have a basic idea of what you and don’t . Next, I encourage couples to establish safety with each other around this topic before diving in. This often starts with a conversation about fear.
Talking about what you are afraid of and why helps you and your partner cultivate trust and empathy. Chances are you are both afraid of the same thing…rejection. Truth be told, most people want to be able to explore their sexuality with their partners and sometimes just don’t know how.
Here are some helpful tips to get party started.
- Start this conversation outside of the bedroom and work your way in. Things are less tense, fragile, and vulnerable outside of the bedroom so don’t bring this conversation up for the first time when you’re getting busy.
- Tell your partner what you need to feel safe and vice versa.
- Respect differences in sexual preferences. You do not need to agree to do any particular activity, and it is so so so important to be open and not pass judgment on your partner’s preferences. This will lead to feeling angry and ashamed and will ly shut your partner and this entire conversation down. Shame is the worst.
- Listen without interrupting.
- Watch an erotic film together (only if both of you feel comfortable enough to do so).
- Practice makes perfect. During and after practice, offer positive feedback (super important!), compliments, and love.
- Keep talking about how to keep your sex life fresh and fun. When things feel stale, get creative! For one couple this may mean sex toys and role-playing while for another it may mean having an open marriage. This is your life and you and your partner get to design it to keep you happy and fulfilled!
If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area and are interested in individual or couples therapy I invite you to contact me via email at: [email protected]
This post was originally published on September 28, 2017.