Working with couples has taught me that no one gets married with the goal of getting divorced. No one says, "In year 3 of our marriage we'll probably stop liking each other and call it quits", or "I'm going to become emotionally unresponsive about 6-months in and make you question whether or not this is the relationship for you", or "Once we have kids, this marriage goes on the back burner."
Since that isn't the case couples fight hard to keep their relationships intact when faced with adversity, but they do it alone. Most couples don't get to therapy until they've reached the point that if therapy doesn't work this marriage is done. That makes couples therapy difficult because the therapist is being asked to assist when one foot might be out the door.
Therefore, I am providing these 8 conversations that I think couples need to have before they get to the altar with some prompting questions to get the discussion started. The goal is to do work upfront to decrease the possibility of problems later.
Do you have a chronic illness?
What's your mental health history?
What's your extended family's mental health history?
Have you ever been hospitalized? Reason?
Anyone ever been diagnosed with Alzheimer's, any severe mental illness, or had a "nervous breakdown"?
Any family members been addicted to alcohol or other illicit drugs?
Any family history of hypertension? Diabetes? Heart Disease? Cancer?
Who's responsible for managing household bills?
Does that person want to be responsible?
Do you both agree they are capable of doing the job well?
Was this choice based on who was best qualified or traditional beliefs?
How do you guys plan to address concerns about finances?
How much input and information does each member have about how money gets used?
Who makes the final decision?
What if you come to an impasse?
What are your views on debt and how to pay off?
Will you have separate accounts?
Will each person know what's in those accounts?
Who has input on how those monies are used?
Do you want kids? If so, how many?
What are the beliefs about punishment/correction?
What are kids' roles?
When will you begin trying to have kids?
Who will be responsible for primary rearing?
Will someone stay home?
Does that person want to stay home?
What's the belief about nannies?
What roles will extended family play?
Will we have pets? What kind? How many?
Roles / Expectations
Are there defined roles for men? Women?
What are these roles?
What chores will each person be responsible for? (e.g., cooking, cleaning, repairs)
Who's in charge of travel plans?
How often will you travel?
Where will you spend the holidays?
Do you celebrate holidays?
What life events are we celebrating? (e.g., birthdays, Valentine's Day, anniversary, etc.)
Do you expect your partner to do all the planning for these celebrations or are you to be consulted?
Is it okay to have friends of the opposite sex?
What are the rules around those relationships?
What happens if one person acquires an illness or is injured causing them to become uncommunicative?
What's the relationship with extended family going to look like?
How are conflicts handled?
Is yelling okay or not?
Are there taboo subjects? Which ones?
How do you express emotions? (e.g., sadness, anger, concern, disappointment, etc.)
What sorts of information should be communicated?
What's the time frame for communicating information?
What information is considered important or vital?
Is it okay to share things with other people before you share it with each other? If so, what?
Will you use timeouts during conflicts? (post on this coming soon...)
Have you learned I-statements and reflective listening techniques?
What's your goal during a disagreement? (i.e., to prove you're right, to prove they're wrong, to understand their point of view, etc.)
Do you listen to respond or to understand? What about your partner?
What did you learn from your family of origin (parents) about communication?
What happens if someone lies?
Do you have any?
What are they?
Can they change?
Are they applied to the relationship only after marriage or will they prevent you from getting married?
What do they say about what's important to you and your partner?
Do you believe in God or a higher power?
Are you the same religion?
Where will you worship? Why?
How involved will you be? How often?
Will you provide financial support? How much?
How much influence will it have in your relationship?
What's your religion's view on... Divorce? Gender Roles? Sex? Family Planning?
What amount is too much?
What amount is not enough?
When's the best time to have sex? Morning? Night?
What's off limits?
What if you aren't being satisfied?
What to do if someone isn't in the mood?
How to discuss issues with sex? (e.g., premature ejaculation, impotence, erectile dysfunction, female sexual arousal disorder)
What's considered cheating?
Is porn okay?
How much porn is too much?
What questions or topics weren't on this list that should be added? Please comment below and subscribe to this blog to receive updates on new posts. For more assistance contact me by clicking here.