You might be in love, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you should consider marriage. As a marriage coach that works with married couples all the time, I can tell you that it’s all fun and games for the first couple of years in most relationships, but all of that changes with time.
Eventually, the infatuation fades away, reality sets in, and we are left with the consequences of our decisions. Marriage, therefore, is something you must consider carefully and wisely.
This post looks at 10 issues you should discuss before tying the knot.
There’s a saying among my people that marriage isn’t buying a horse.
What it means is marriage isn’t something to be taken lightly and deserves your respect, deep consideration, and reverence.
Taking marriage lightly or just getting married for the sake of it, can be a huge and costly mistake for all those involved.
There is also another saying I use all the time which has so much truth to it that I cannot overemphasise it enough.
No amount of therapy can overcome the wrong choice in spouse.Gideon Hanekom
If you want to get married, it will absolutely pay to put in the effort to get to know your partner well and to make sure this is the person you want to commit yourself to in marriage.
I appreciate that it’s super simple to get married and divorced nowadays but that still doesn’t mean you should treat marriage as something cheap and easily disposable.
For in my mind, it’s not.
Marriage is not the same as dating.
It’s another level of commitment to someone you love dearly and WANT to share a life with exclusively.
Marriage is a bold public and legal declaration of your commitment to one person.
In fact, I believe you can only succeed in marriage if you approach it with that level of intent and commitment.
Anything less will most likely go up in flames pretty quickly.
When you give yourself an easy “out” right from the start, you will most likely find the temptation to cash in pretty quickly when the going starts getting tough.
So, before you tie the knot, spend some time getting very real with yourself and your partner to ensure you’re making the right decisions moving forward.
Ask yourself, “Is his cute smile worth living in Colorado when you dream of living in California?”
Does her sense of humour make her $140,000 of student loan debt worth it?
Does his nice personality make up for the fact that he has no income?
Is her nice lean body enough to make up for the fact that she never wants kids?
Look, I’m not here to judge but there’s a lot more to consider than just how enjoyable it is to be around someone right now.
Your life will change!
Take it from a long-time married man and dad.
And when it does, is this the right person you wanna be with when that happens?
Meaningful talks before marriage can prevent many challenges down the road and help encourage an eventual transformation from infatuation to a deeper love.Gideon Hanekom
Discuss these 10 issues with your partner before marriage:
Where will you live?
City or country?
Condo or house?
In the same town as your parents or in-laws or far, far away.
Where you live has a huge impact on your life, so this is an important decision to make early on.
And yes, you can always move.
The question here, however, is: Are you both on the same page?
The only way to know for certain is to talk about it.
Who will clean what?
What is the division of household labour or chores gonna be?
This is one of the issues that cause many of couples’ problems and you need to get this sorted to ensure a smooth marital journey.
Will the man of the house do the repairs, mow the grass, change the oil in the cars, and pick up the dog poop?
Who does the laundry?
Is everything 50-50?
The important point here is that there’s no right or wrong answer, but rather what you agree to as a couple.
When couples disagree about who does what, they tend to have far more issues than couples who have a weird division of chores but are in agreement.Gideon Hanekom
Forget traditional or typical.
How much debt do you each have?
Of all the problems couples face, financial issues are the most common marriage challenge.
So, naturally, this topic of finances, debt, savings, budgeting and so on will have to form part of your early on discussions before you consider marriage.
I appreciate that when love is in the air, no one wants to think about money and material stuff, but it’s important to get this right from the get-go if you want to avoid issues later on.
This is the one area where you need to measure once and cut twice rather than winging it on the fly.
Save yourself a lot of heartache and arguments later on and get on the same page with finances, especially debt.
How much debt do you each have?
How willing are you to deal with your future spouse’s debt?
How willing are they to deal with yours?
Are you both going to be responsible for your own debt?
What’s the plan?
Again, these might seem like mundane and non-sexy matters when you’re in love, but learn from other couples.
Financial issues are the most common relationship problem many couples face, and it pays to be prepared from the start.
This issue obviously flows on from the issue of debt.
Some people like to save, others love to spend.
Again, not an issue in itself.
However, it can become very difficult for a couple that doesn’t agree on this matter to get along in the long term and make a marriage work.
If you and your partner are different in this regard, you essentially have three options:
- Make a plan that works for both of you.
- Ignore it and suffer the consequences later.
- Recognise it as a potential deal-breaker, and make some hard calls now.
Never underestimate the potential impact opposite habits or beliefs around certain sticky issues can have on your relationship.
Many couples believe their love will be enough to overcome it but experience says otherwise.
Often, what we refer to as “love”, is not enough to overcome decades-old habits or ways of doing things.
This is still on the topic of finances.
How are you gonna approach the matter of bank accounts in your marriage?
Will you have a separate or a joint account?
Or will you opt for a joint account to pay the bills, but also individual accounts for each?
And who is going to pay for what, whether you have separate or joint accounts?
Will it be 50-50?
Or will the bigger earner pay a greater percentage of the bills?
What if one of you are a stay-at-home parent – how will that work in your marriage?
Will one pay the other an allowance?
Will the allowance comes with certain expectations (spoken or unspoken)?
These are issues that you want to think through very carefully and have at least some kind of plan before you get married because I’ve seen how couples get into trouble relationally without a plan.
The issue of having kids (or not) is another potential minefield.
And again, the issue here is not whether having kids is a good thing or a bad thing, but rather whether you and your partner are on the same page with it.
Do you both want children?
If so, how many?
For if your answers aren’t in the same ballpark, you might have huge challenges ahead.
This is another one of those issues you might be tempted to leave till later to work itself out, but that’s a very risky strategy.
Never assume that your partner will change their mind to accommodate you in the future.
Not when it comes to something like having children.
That’s a dangerous game to play and I have personally witnessed how this issue can rip a once-solid relationship apart, leaving nothing but sadness, confusion, disbelief, anger, and uncertainty behind.
Now, is the time to talk about it.
Not after marriage.
Once you get married, one would assume you’d each still have some independence which obviously includes your own friends.
And that’s fine.
It becomes a potential issue, however, when your future spouse doesn’t agree with your choice of friends or the company you keep.
That could become a real problem.
Again, one I have personally witnessed in working married couples.
How will you accommodate friends in your marriage?
Will you be joined at the hip with your spouse, or will you both be free to spend time with your separate friends?
Do you believe you should have the same friends?
What about friends of the opposite sex? How do you feel about that?
Your partner might love having time alone, but what if you don’t?
How will you manage that in your marriage?
Others don’t trust their spouse to be out with the boys/girls without them being there.
But what if your future husband/wife wants that?
How will you accommodate your future spouse?
Religion (like politics) can make or break relationships of any kind.
I’m sure you’ve witnessed this at some point.
Religion, and beliefs in general, have the power to unite or divide people very quickly.
Now, in the context of a marriage, it can become a real challenge if you don’t pay attention.
On the easy side, you might have a partner that isn’t interested in going to church every week.
However, you might be serious about participating in church services.
Still, this is one of the simpler issues.
But, what if your partner has a different religion OR transitions to a new religion later on?
How will that impact you and your marriage?
Of what if you want to attend different churches that perhaps embrace opposing dogmas or views on stuff?
Say one teaches the idea of infant baptism but the other only believes in conversion baptism (usually as an adult)?
Or say one supports creationism but the other evolution?
How will you accommodate these differences?
Also, which one will you teach your children eventually?
The issue of sex is a BIG one for many couples, especially men.
In my coaching work with couples, sex often features as a major complaint which causes various other side issues.
Sex typically becomes a problematic area when two partners have different sex drives, fantasies, beliefs, expectations, desires and so on.
It often comes down to a question of style and frequency.
In most marriages, however, the issue is more likely to be frequency.
I’ve met couples who got together because they shared high sex drives initially, but was caught off guard when that changed after marriage and kids.
Consequently, it led to a fair bit of frustration and dissatisfaction in the relationship.
Naturally, it had a big impact on the dynamics of the marriage which made room for other side issues to creep in, fester and evolve into huge challenges.
I’ve always agreed with Dr Phil’s sentiment on this matter then goes something like:
When sex isn’t a problem it contributes to about 10% of the marriage. But when sex is a problem, it becomes 90% of the problem.Dr Phil
Now, again, I need to emphasise here that the issue isn’t the frequency of sex nor the correlation between good sex and happiness/unhappiness.
The issue is whether you and your future spouse are on the same page sexually.
Because when you’re not, chances are you’re gonna run into issues down the line because someone is going to either feel pressure on the one hand or dissatisfied on the other.
So, a simple but important question to consider here is…
Do you have similar sexual appetites?
The last big issue to discuss before marriage is the topic of neatness.
I’m going to straight up with you and make the statement that it’s very challenging for a very neat person to live with a messy person.
And your love won’t be enough to make up for the difference; not long term anyway.
To ensure you set your marriage up for success rather than frustration, later on, work this issue out before marriage so there are no surprises.
I’m not suggesting one person becomes like the other, but I am encouraging you to have the conversation and figure out a workable solution or compromise that works for you in your situation.
Marriage is a shared life after all so it’s only fair and to be expected that both spouses have equal rights for expressing themselves uniquely.Gideon Hanekom
However, marriage does require some giving and taking to make it work long term.
There’s no way around that in my experience.
Marriage can be a wonderful experience, but it can be a nightmare too if you are unprepared or underprepared.
Too many couples ride the wave of infatuation and believe that nothing will ever change or their relationship is immune from the everyday challenges most other couples face.
As people, we love to believe we are so unique from each other, but the truth is actually much simpler – we’re NOT.
So, be wise.
Do everything you can now, to ensure that you’re capable of making each other happy for many years to come.
Discuss these important issues before deciding to tie the knot.
You’ll be glad you did.