During the romantic beginnings of relationships, most couples don't talk about the more sober issues. Often those issues can highlight differences, bring up disagreements and be painful discussions. However, we know that the ability to talk about the (maybe) hard things is part of a sign you are with a good partner.
Many articles discuss obvious conversations before marriage, such as:
How you deal with money
How many kids you each want
How important sex is to you, and so on.
However, a few more esoteric topics need to be discussed and can be even more illuminating when picking your partner.
How Did Your Family Deal With Conflict?
The"movie" we watched at home growing up that showed how conflicts were dealt with significantly impacted how we solve issues. We unconsciously revert to those same behaviors - so if your partner grew up with reactivity, drama, abuse, etc., are they committed to being a conscious communicator? Are they willing to get help together if it's needed?
Can You Each Give Up the Need to Be Right?
Or do you fight to the end to get your point across? Answering this takes some honest self-reflection. It takes a mature partner who can contain, let go, and be willing to admit they are wrong.
In Imago relationship therapy, we have a saying, "you can be right, or you can be in a relationship - you choose." If you can give up holding on to the point of view, all the issues discussed will elicit much better discussions.
Do You Like Each Other's Parents?
As a therapist specializing in couples, I can't tell you how often this issue becomes a very painful one. So discussing how to navigate these relationships in a way that honors each person in the couple, with love and empathy, can prevent heartache.
Some cultural differences show up here; an example would be a couple where the wife comes from a Jewish family that likes a lot of togetherness and may want to help, be involved, etc. The wife experiences this as normal, loving, and helpful. The husband, who grew up in a much more hands-off family, experiences this as smothering. It's essential for the wife to understand that her partner might need a little more space and have his back around that, and yet for the husband not to criticize her family but see it as one way loving families operate.
How Much Togetherness Do You Picture As Normal?
How much autonomy? Holding on to ourselves as individuals who can stand on their own two feet, maintain their own sense of being a good person, and have separate interests is what can lead to a much happier marriage. But sometimes, our partners have a vision of more togetherness than we might want.
For example, some partners feel hurt if the other partner wants to see friends separately, say on a Friday night, and end up feeling jealous or hurt. Discussing these scenarios ahead of time, where we can give our partner reassurance - "you're my number 1, but sometimes I want a weekend night with my girl/guy friends is important to me" can avoid a defensive fight later.
Do You Have a Relationship Vision?
In Imago therapy, we have a fantastic exercise called the Relationship Vision, where each of you writes in the present tense as if it were so, all the things you see for your future together - emotional things, like "we solve conflicts peacefully" to practical things like "we are good at saving money" - any and all things.
Then compare your list with your partner's list, and co-create a single list from there. Be sure to put at the top the same or similar things on both lists and then continuing to work on the list as you go through your many happy years together!
If you struggle to create a happy and lasting marriage or have challenging conversations before marriage, we're here to help. Check out our Imago Relationship Workshops and Imago Relationship Therapy. We have Online Therapy and Online Workshops now too!
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