All you romantics out there will be happy to know that the U.S. divorce rate recently dropped to its lowest point in 40 years. At the same time, the rate at which people were marrying increased, so it seems like marriage isn’t such an obsolete thing after all. Although millennials aren’t getting married as quickly as the generations before them, it’s still nice to know that divorce isn’t looming over our heads so ominously.
Maybe you and your partner are talking about marriage. There are a lot of factors to consider, and we’re sure you know that getting married isn’t something that should be taken lightly (although weddings are pretty damn fun). To help you prepare, HelloGiggles spoke with Wendy Strgar, relationship expert, founder of Good Clean Love, and author of forthcoming book SEX THAT WORKS: An Intimate Guide to Awakening Your Erotic Life. She tells us that there are some very important chats you should be having with your SO before marriage.
“These conversations become the blue print for the marriage and family to follow,” she continues. So make sure you take some time with yourself before you put all your cards on the table.
Here are five conversations you and your SO should have before you consider marriage.
1What you want your future to look like
This seems like an obvious one, but you’d be surprised at how often this conversation goes untouched by couples who have been together for a while. “The…question anyone who is considering marriage should discuss is how they envision themselves and their lives in the future,” Strgar says. “If there is not some alignment between you now, there will be less as time goes by.”
Strgar also insists that you shouldn’t convince yourself that you can change your partner’s mind over time when it comes to building a life together. If they want X and you want Y, that’s not exactly a great start for a lifelong marriage. Maybe one wants kids and the other doesn’t. Or one wants to live in a city and the other wants the suburb life. The most important thing here is to be honest about what you want, because sugarcoating things will only become a problem later on.
2What your values are
The word values refers to a wide range of things. “This includes everything from how each person values education, what kinds of careers they envision, what family means to them, what part of the world they are drawn to, etc.,” Strgar tells HG. Making sure you align on these issues will make it so much easier for you to have a successful marriage.
Besides, these topics will become the bedrock of your relationship, and if you have trouble agreeing on them now, you will run into some pretty serious conflict later on, particularly if you choose to have kids.
3How you relate to your families
The old saying is true. “You don’t just marry a person, you marry their whole family,” Strgar reminds us. You don’t necessarily have to love their family, but the two of you have to meet at the same place. Do you want your parents to be involved in your lives? Do you want to live far away from family and have some privacy? Would you like your partner to have a close relationship with your siblings?
These questions are going to be very important factors in your marriage, so make sure you have them answered together before you decide to tie the knot. The last thing you want is to be fighting over the very people that are meant to support and encourage you.
4Where you stand financially
This is perhaps the most difficult conversation of all, but it’s definitely top priority. Getting married means you’ll be sharing your life together, and although that may not mean you literally share your finances, you should have a pretty good sense of where each other is financially.
If there is a lot of baggage when it comes to the topic of money, consider seeing a professional so you can talk about finances in a safe, open space. “I am a big believer in growing intimate relationships with the help of qualified professionals when necessary,” Strgar tells HG. Don’t be embarrassed if you feel like you and your SO need a little guidance when you’re preparing for marriage.
5What you hope to gain from marriage
This sounds like a funny thing to talk about, and you may have never even asked yourself this question. Here’s how Strgar puts it:
“The truth about marriage is that everyone involved, over time, will need to give up a lot of the independence, freedom of choice, and many creature comforts that we get attached to as a single person. So the question becomes what are the 2 or 3 qualities that you want to bring into your life in exchange for all that you will give up.”
Do some thinking on your own before you jump in with your partner and ask yourself what you hope to gain from your marriage. It’s all about a healthy balance of sacrifices and rewards, so the closer you can hone in on what each of you desires, the more successful your relationship will be.
What’s the best way to go about these conversations?
“Learning how to communicate with your partner about sensitive topics like family of origin or even questions about how they see themselves a few years from now takes practice,” Strgar says. That’s why you shouldn’t feel bad if it takes you a little time to figure out how to best talk about this tough topics.
Strgar recommends Imago therapy, which is the practice of repeating back what your partner has just said to you, which ensures nothing gets lost in translation and you fully understand each other. It’s also important that you’re both open and honest from the very beginning. Because that’s the only way you can truly move forward in a healthy, sustainable way.