Congratulations on your engagement! Also, what a great gift you are giving yourself by seeking out premarital help. So often, our society takes a reactive stance on how to solve problems. By discussing topics in the premarital phase of your relationship, you are taking a proactive stance. In doing so, you will have the tools to help you work through any significant issue that may come up in your relationship. Further, you will deepen your connection with one another by having a deeper understanding of one another, compassion for each other, and being vulnerable in front of one another.
There are several topics that you should be discussing during the premarital phase before you take the plunge into marriage. Once you have covered these topics through [uninterrupted] discussions, you should have a solid base for connection, what to expect, and how to work through issues as they come up. This list is not exhaustive. Feel free to add topics that you think are pertinent to your life together (leave them in the comments section, too!). Understand that you are not locked into anything after these conversations. They are simply to guide you as you move forward with one another. These conversations can (and should) be revisited throughout your relationship. What you decide today may not serve you in five years. Keep an ongoing, open dialogue about these topics as you move forward in your relationship.
While having these premarital conversations try to keep an open mind. Try not to get defensive or shut down. If you do, that’s okay. Acknowledge your feelings with your partner, take time to discuss where they are coming from, validate one another, and move on in the conversation. These topics are for you to learn and grow, not for you to become gridlocked. At times throughout these conversations, you may have to compromise. You can begin to figure out what that looks like for the two of you.
Some of these topics are quite heavy in nature. Do not try to get through the whole list in one evening. Instead, set aside a chunk of time (1-2 hours) where you are uninterrupted (turn your phones on silent, go for a walk where you won’t have household chores distracting you, get a babysitter, etc.). Pick one topic to tackle at a time. Continue to put time aside and tackle each topic separately.
Premarital Discussion Topics:
- What is each of your financial goals?
- How does each of you save?
- How does each of you spend?
- How do you discuss what you’re doing with your money?
- What is the threshold that needs to be discussed with your partner before you can spend (e.g. anything over $xx needs to be discussed and agreed upon)
- How much money is enough? Aka we will push ourselves hard at our job until we make xx money/year, or is it more about job title for you, or is it more about how much you have in savings?
- Will you be combining your money?
- How will this look –
- Each of you will give up your personal bank account?
- Each of you will still have your own bank account?
- Why do you want it this way?
- Will we be getting a pre or postnup?
- What are your reasons for wanting one?
- What are your reasons for not wanting one?
- What do you think would be on it?
- Do you want children?
- When do you want to start trying for children?
- How many children do you want?
- What happens if we reach our limit of how many children we want but we do not have both sexes? For example, we wanted two children but my husband really wants a girl and we have two boys. Do we try for a girl and have three children or do we stop?
- Who is responsible for the majority of parenting (don’t settle on sharing 50/50)? It’s almost NEVER 50/50, even for same-sex couples).
- How will we handle discipline?
- How will we handle rewards?
- When our child asks just one of us for something, how will we handle it?
- Is there a level of asking that is okay to answer on my own vs. deciding with you if it’s alright or not? (i.e. if the child can go outside vs. if the child can sleepover at a friend’s house).
- What is important to us as parents in how we raise our children?
- If we find out our child won’t be healthy/fully Abled during the pregnancy, how will we handle this?
- What tests will we opt-in/out of during the pregnancy?
- Finding out the sex of the baby
- Tests that indicate health/Ability of the baby
- How we handle it if our child isn’t completely Abled?
- What if our child has a different sexual orientation than ours?
- What if our child identifies as a different gender than their sex?
- What precautions will we take to not become pregnant when we aren’t ready?
- What happens if we get pregnant and we aren’t ready?
- How will you know you’re ready? Emotionally, Financially, Physically, etc.
- Would you ever consider getting an abortion?
- Read this article and go through the list of core values they provide.
- Think about the story you want to write for yourself, how does your partner fit into that story? How do you fit into your partner’s story?
- How do you work through areas where your values/beliefs may not fully align?
- What happens when your emotions (fears, anxieties, comfort, sadness/depression, etc.) get in the way of your values?
- What role do we want technology to play in our relationship?
- How often do we want to be “unplugged”
- When is it appropriate to be on our phones or using our computers?
- Do we volunteer? How much, how often, to what organizations?
- What value does sex have in our relationship?
- What value does independence/alone time have in our relationship?
- What value does self-care hold for us?
What does Faith/Spirituality/Religion mean to you?
- How do you express these things?
- What traditions do you carry out based on these?
- What are your expectations for me in relation to these?
- What are your limitations in relation to these?
Family values and traditions/Extended Family
- What are the traditions you grew up with that you’d like to continue doing in your newly established family?
- What are the traditions that you don’t like that you’d like to discontinue?
- Are there any new traditions that you want to start as we move forward in our relationship?
- Are there any values/beliefs that your family holds that you do not?
- How does that affect your relationship with them?
- What would you like your partner’s role to be when it comes to this discord?
- What do you want your role to be in relation to your partner’s discord with their family’s values/beliefs?
- How will we spend holidays/birthdays/special occasions?
- How does your family handle conflict? Do you mirror these behaviors?
- How does your family show love? Do you mirror these behaviors?
- Do you think your family is more matriarchal or patriarchal?
- Do you want this set up for our family?
- What are your hobbies?
- Is there a limit to the cost of hobbies?
- How much alone time do you need? What does that look like for you?
- How much together time do you need? What is your ideal for this?
- How do you give love?
- How do you receive love?
- How do you handle change? What supports do you need during a time of change?
- What are your lifelong goals? What supports do you need from me to get there?
- Do you enjoy independence and autonomy more/less than togetherness?
- How do you measure success in your career – money, job title, work/life balance, flexibility, etc.?
- What do your career goals mean for the couple in times when one or both partners is pushing forward in their career?
- What needs to be in place?
- What will be sacrificed?
- What do your career goals mean for the couple in times when one or both partners is staying stagnant?
- What supports are needed?
- Who will be breadwinner, who will be a childcare person? (Usually, one person can’t do both.)
How do you want to live?
- Vacations – how many, where, what activities, how much in savings do we need?
- Will we own animals? Which ones?
- Who has what responsibilities? Chores, finances, breadwinning, childcare, elderly care (for your parents or older loved ones)
- What level of cleanliness do you need to feel comfortable in your own home/car?
- Needing the newest, top of the line of everything, or needing the things that help us get by?
- What style do you enjoy – modern, classic, farmhouse chic, industrial, etc.
- What is your preferred noise level (e.g. having music in the background or the TV on, or do you enjoy a silent home)
What are things you are not willing to compromise on?
What are things that annoy you about me?
- How can I change this?
- What if it’s something I can’t change?
Are there things that you need me to change?
What do you love about me that you never want me to change?
When do you feel most connected to me?
- What is present?
- What is absent?
- Who is the chaser, who is the distancer? Usually, one partner will be the person who pushes for conversation while the other leans away from it.
- Do you need downtime to process or do you need to problem-solve right away?
- Label – contempt; criticism; defensiveness; or stonewalling then reframe and eliminate these unhealthy communication patterns
- Do you tend to be assertive, aggressive, passive, passive-aggressive? Work towards assertiveness.
- How quick are we to apologize?
- How quick are we to forgive?
- Do we tend to avoid hard conversations?
- Is there something now that we should discuss that we have been putting off?
- Do we talk about sex? If not, why not?
- Do we have a set time to discuss our relationship or do we have it throughout the week as things come up organically?
- What role, if any, does raising our voices have in our conversations?
- What nonverbal cues should I be tuned into as you speak?
- What do you need when you become emotional? Space, physical touch, validation, reassurance?
- How will you tell me what you need?
- What emotions do you struggle to express to me?
- What emotions are easy to express to me?
- How can I let you know that I hear and see you?
Expectations of marriage
- What do you expect to change?
- What do you expect to be different?
- What do you expect to stay the exact same?
- Where do you see us in 1-year, 5-years, 10-years, 20-years, 40-years, etc.?
- Are there things that you’ve heard from others that you need to give up and don’t want to?
- Are there things that you’ve heard from others that you need to take on as a committed partner that you’re excited about?
- What do you expect my role as your wife/husband to be?
- What do you expect your role as wife/husband to be?
Past disappointments of relationship
- Have we resolved these issues?
- If we haven’t resolved them, what is our plan for getting through them?
The meaning of marriage/commitment
- What does marriage mean to you?
- What does committed mean to you?
- Have you ever cheated?
- What will happen if one of us cheats?
- Are you open to getting outside help if we run into commitment issues/if divorce is on the table?
How do we handle change?
- Who tends to be the better adjuster?
- Are there certain topics/experiences we adjust better to?
- What is our process for becoming comfortable in the new?
Once you have completed discussing each premarital topic on the list, continue to put uninterrupted time aside to check-in with one another. Successful couples have an open-dialogue where they can be honest with one another if things aren’t going well and certainly try to be transparent as possible when things are going well. You’ve started a pattern of giving yourselves 1-2 hours of uninterrupted time already, continue this tradition as you enter into marriage.
If you think you could benefit from having a third party to guide you through these conversations, we offer Premarital Therapy & Counseling. Give us a call at 267-495-4951 to set up your first appointment.