Marriage is a serious commitment. Before leaping into this territory, you need to make sure that you and your partner are ready before getting married.
But how can you be assured that you’re on the right track? What can you do before saying your vows that will help you determine whether marriage is a good idea?
Relationship experts reveal four things couples should do before getting married.
1. Have Serious Conversations
The significance of knowing what you are getting into before tying the knot cannot be overstated. You and your partner need to practice positive communication to make sure you’re moving forward on the same page. Here are some things you should talk about:
No matter how much positive thinking you have as a couple, the fact remains that, scientifically speaking, financial problems are a chief cause of divorce and have been for decades. You and your partner need to talk at length about economic plans and goals, including ones for the future that seems unimportant to you right now, says Love Inc. founder Brittny Drye. Talk about 401Ks, financial responsibilities, bill-splitting, savings, the division of living expenses, retirement… absolutely everything related to money you can think of.
Who’s taking whose name in the marriage, if anyone is? Are you hyphenating? Going for a traditional approach? Not changing any name at all? This topic is an important thing to decide on, according to Emily Sullivan Events’ titular founder Emily Sullivan. Think about your children and the last name they will inherit. What implications may arise for them and your current extended families?
Whether or not you desire to have children – and how many – is a huge point of discussion that needs to be cleared from the beginning. This is a huge step that will significantly affect the direction of your life, says SQN Events owner and event director Beth Bernstein. It involves personal responsibility and financial and emotional commitments. Most couples consider a clash in the desire to have children a deal-breaker.
2. Open Up Completely
It’s fair to not tell a partner everything early in a relationship. When you’re planning to move forward into marriage though, being open about yourself is crucial. After all, there is little that you can hide from a spouse without it being a severe cause for concern or a breach of trust. Here are some ways to open up to a partner before getting married:
· Talk About Your Family And Childhood
For some, childhood and family is a fun thing to talk about. For others, it’s a little bit more of a sensitive topic. Regardless of your past, it’s a good idea to talk about it with your partner and listen to their story, too. Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Becky Whetstone, Ph.D., consider this crucial in understanding your partner for a more substantial relationship.
· Reveal Bad Habits
No one is perfect. When you first begin dating, it’s easy to try and pretend that you are, or at least try and soften the reality of your bad habits. Hopefully, that isn’t something you did. But even if you did try and conceal your worst sides before, the chances are that your partner already knows about them to some extent. Be open about the person you are, talk about your struggles and areas you need to improve on and ask your partner to share their own. You need to love each other exactly as you are, without any desire to change the other!
· Know What The Other’s Values Are
The goal when you marry someone is to spend the rest of your life with them. Though it is possible for people to stay happy and in love when their values differ, it’s still a good idea that you do know if your values are at odds before making these long-term commitments. Get all beliefs, opinions, and potentially controversial thoughts out in the open before tying the knot. This way, you’ll know whether any are deal-breakers, says Drye. If they aren’t deal-breakers, you can then talk about how to handle conflict in those areas and how to respect each other’s values.
· Discuss Goals
You and your partner probably have your own goals in life. By now, if you’re considering marriage, you should both already know about each other’s plans to some degree. Ideally, your continued partnership will allow both of you to continue to follow your dreams. You shouldn’t give up on those dreams for anyone, and neither should your partner! This is an excellent chat to see if your lives are heading in the same direction.
3. Do Stressful Cooperative Tasks
What is marriage but a long-term cooperative task? (Yes, we know it’s more complicated than that, but the concept stands!) If you and your partner can’t handle cooperation under challenging times, you may not yet be ready for marriage. Here are some ideas for testing the waters:
· Learn Together
Sure, it’s not exactly very stressful, but the process of learning together can give you a shared experience that will make you stronger in the long run. You’ll have a bit of fun, learn to support each other as you gather new information, and figure out how you handle success and failure both independently and as a couple. So try attending a class, lecture, workshop, or talk about something you’re both interested in and see where you go from there!
· Do Some Grocery Shopping
Have you ever seen couples hashing out a big tiff in the middle of a grocery store? You do not want to become a party to that behavior one day! A great way to test if you work in a positive way is to try doing some shopping together, especially of the kind that involves shared purchases. Food shopping and buying necessities for your home is an excellent way to gauge your compatibility on this scale. It’s not the most stressful thing in the world, but it can still be a challenge!
· Go On A Trip
Traveling is fun, but no one can deny that things can get stressful and heated. Going on a trip with your partner will give you some fascinating insight into how you both deal with the stress of planning, being on time, and organizing, says So Eventful founder and CEO Marisa, Manna Ferrell. If you are unable to have a good time traveling with someone, you probably wouldn’t want to marry them, either.
· Live Together
The person you truly are is never more apparent than when you’re at home. That’s why cohabitation is a great way to gauge whether or not you are truly compatible with a person, according to Drye. You’ll have to live with this person, their good and bad habits, and their housekeeping preferences, after all. This might be why 59% of adults between the ages of 18 and 44 have lived with a partner before marriage, and an impressive 85% of them have positive beliefs about premarital cohabitation.
Of course, whether you want to do this or not may differ by your belief system and personal values. A similar option would be having regular sleepovers with your partner – whether intimacy is involved or not – to get a similar glimpse into what life with them would be like.
4. Get Through A Tough Time
Tough times are a standard part of any relationship. They will come and go throughout a marriage. What’s important is that you know you and your partner can overcome them. Here are some tough times that, if you iron out before marrying, point to a better chance of long-term relationship success:
· Resolve A Big Fight
Fights are inevitable in a relationship. In fact, frequent arguments, when handled correctly and not done in excess, can actually be a sign of a healthy and positive relationship. This is because you learn to communicate, get through the tough times, and work through problems together, coming out stronger.
The key, then, is in learning to fight well, says marriage and family therapist John Amodeo, also an author. Do you speak to each other with honesty, openness, and respect during fights? Do you know when to step back and take time to breathe? Are you able to find workable solutions and fair compromises? You’ll have many fights in your “career” as a couple, so make sure you know how to work through them!
· Learn To Deal With Fight Aftermaths
When fights are resolved, what’s the next step? Respect, as always. If you were in the wrong, learn to apologize. This proves to your partner that you respect them enough to put aside your pride. Similarly, you should also be able to rely on them to apologize when they are at fault. But what about situations where there’s no blame, but the end result is that you can’t agree? Be comfortable with sticking to your guns and letting your partner stick to theirs. It’s okay to agree to disagree!
· Experience A Rut Of Intimacy
In an allosexual relationship, it’s typical for intimacy and libido to have its ups and downs, says marriage and family therapist Sheri Meyers. But when a “down” period is prolonged, both parties can feel neglected, undesirable, and even rejected. That disappointment and hurt can build up over time into resentment.
Take the opportunity to talk about your expectations for intimacy, discuss how you can overcome your current plateau, and think of ways to spice things up just outside your usual comfort zone. Sure, it’s not necessary for you to go through this rut before getting married, but that doesn’t mean it’s not good practice for the fact that these ruts will crop up now and then in the future!
· Be Apart
Being apart can be challenging for partners who have spent so much time together. The inability to see someone can make resolving arguments harder, and it also makes emotions run higher. You need much more positive thinking to stay strong together when you’re long-distance. We’re definitely not saying to intentionally force a long-distance relationship, but spending a bit of time away from one another is suitable for testing the strength of your relationship and uncovering co-dependency issues.
· Hit A Rough Patch
Love is not always rainbows and butterflies. Hard times are a standard part of relationships. If you and your partner have never hit a rough patch, there’s a fair chance that you’ll struggle to overcome one that you do hit later on in a marriage. Learning to work through wrinkles with positive thinking, love, trust, and communication is very important, says Sheri. Overcoming these hurdles will show you how committed you are and how secure the relationship is as a whole.
Each relationship is unique, but they all share the need for security, trust, respect, and love. By doing the aforementioned four things before getting married, you’ll know that your relationship is strong enough to thrive in the long-run.