9 Things to Figure Out before You Get Married

In an ideal world, every "I do" would be a gateway to a lifetime of love and companionship. Yet, the hard truth reflected in divorce statistics suggests that a successful, long-lasting marriage might be more of an exception than the norm. 

Given the fact that 40% to 50% of marriages end in divorce, it's crucial to have candid and comprehensive discussions with your future spouse about various aspects of your life together. This isn't about sowing seeds of doubt. Rather, it’s about nurturing a garden of understanding and mutual agreement. 

1. Your wedding

Your wedding, your first significant shared project, is a litmus test for the decision-making in your years of marriage to come. Discussing your ideal wedding, whether it's a grand church ceremony or an intimate beach setting, can reveal much about your individual and collective preferences. Find a middle ground that honors each partner’s wishes while reflecting the compromises often needed in marriage. 

What are your non-negotiable must-haves in a wedding? Traditions, guests, details. Understanding why these elements matter to each other cultivates empathy and respect. 

Wedding planning encapsulates budgeting, decision-making, and negotiation – all vital skills for a successful marriage. 

2. Home

Do you envision urban living or a suburban lifestyle? Perhaps a countryside retreat appeals to you. Understanding each other's preferences can help you find a location that satisfies both of you and prevents future discord.

Home decor, often overlooked, can influence your daily comfort and happiness. Do you prefer minimalist modern, cozy rustic, or eclectic bohemian? Discussing these preferences can help you co-create a harmonious living environment that reflects both identities.

3. Division of labor

Married couples with a clear day-to-day plan know exactly what to expect from their spouse when it comes to home-related tasks. Who will be responsible for mowing the lawn? Cooking? Cleaning? Administrative tasks like doing the taxes?

This isn't about gender roles; it's about playing to each other's strengths and preferences to create a balanced partnership. Discussing your division of labor before marriage can prevent feelings of resentment and overwhelm later on. Remember that flexibility is important, too. The two of you may decide to reevaluate your division of labor as circumstances change.

Couples therapy can help you deal with the many challenges that come up during a lifetime together. Read about some popular therapeutic methods marriage counselors use here.

4. Children

It's essential to know if both people want children. Having kids is a life-altering decision that should be mutually agreed upon to avoid potential heartache and conflict down the line.

If you decide to have children, discuss your parenting philosophies. Topics could include discipline, education, and the values you want to instill. This helps ensure a unified approach to child-rearing.

5. Family

Understanding each other's expectations about maintaining relationships with extended family can prevent misunderstandings later on. Whether it's weekly dinners or annual reunions, it’s helpful if your views align.

Discussing how you get along with each other’s family members can help navigate potential issues. Respectful and open communication can foster better relations with in-laws and contribute to marital harmony.

The decision of living close to or far from family can influence your daily life significantly. Balancing the need for privacy with the desire for familial closeness is essential.

6. Social media

Understand each other's comfort level with online sharing. Some people prefer to keep their personal life private. Others enjoy sharing daily activities or special moments with their online community. By discussing each person’s feelings about social media at the start of your marriage, you define boundaries and convey respect for each other's preferences.

It's also important to agree on the kind of content that shouldn't be posted. This could include sensitive information, certain types of photos, or details about disagreements or conflicts.

Some spouses spend a great amount of time on the internet. That’s okay as long as it doesn’t harm either person’s safety, security, or mental health. Try to stay on the same page about your computer habits.

7. Money

A healthy relationship isn’t just about love. It’s also about working together and managing your resources – especially money – effectively. A fundamental aspect to discuss before marriage is money. It's a topic that can cause significant stress in a relationship if not handled correctly.

Financial transparency

Understanding each other's financial position is crucial. This includes knowing how much money each person has saved and the amount of debt they carry. It might be uncomfortable to share such personal information, but it's essential for building a foundation of trust and transparency in your financial life together.

Spending habits and debt management

Understanding each other's spending habits can help prevent disagreements down the line and protect your financial well-being. Some people might be more inclined to spend on experiences. Others prefer buying items. 

Similarly, attitudes toward debt can vary. While some view it as a necessary tool for certain goals (like buying a house), others see it as something to avoid at all costs. 

Discussing these perspectives can help you understand each other better and find common ground.

Saving attitudes

Savings play a crucial role in financial security. Knowing how each person feels about saving – whether it's for emergencies, retirement, or specific goals like travel or buying a home – can help you align your financial strategies. It's also important to discuss how much of your income you plan to save every month.

Handling shared finances

Deciding how you will manage your shared finances is key. Will you merge your finances completely? Keep them separate? A mix of both? Joint bank accounts and credit cards can simplify expense management, but they require a high level of trust, communication, and cooperation. On the other hand, keeping separate accounts provides more financial autonomy. 

You could also consider having a joint account for shared expenses while maintaining separate accounts for personal spending.

8. Fidelity

Discussing fidelity before marriage is a critical step in establishing mutual understanding and trust. It sets the groundwork for commitment and respect within the relationship.

Defining cheating

While it may seem obvious, understanding what each person considers to be cheating is crucial. Infidelity isn't only physical; it can also be emotional or digital. For some, a close friendship with someone of the opposite sex might not be an issue. For others, it may cross the line. 

Similarly, some might view flirtatious text messages or online interactions as harmless. Others might see it as a betrayal. 

By defining what constitutes cheating, you can prevent misunderstandings and potential hurt feelings.

9. Deal-breakers

Understanding each other's deal-breakers concerning fidelity is equally important. A deal-breaker is a boundary that, when crossed, signifies a point of no return in the relationship. It could be a one-time physical affair, an ongoing emotional connection with someone else, or even a pattern of dishonesty.

Discussing these issues can be challenging, but it's essential to be honest and direct. It's better to know upfront if your views on fidelity align or if there are significant differences that need to be addressed.

Keep in mind that these discussions aren't about creating a climate of suspicion or mistrust. On the contrary, they're meant to build the trust necessary for a happy marriage by demonstrating your commitment to respect each other's boundaries and expectations. They create a space for open communication, where each person feels safe expressing their feelings and concerns.

Divorce Content Specialist & Lawyer
Divorce Strategy, Divorce Process, Legal Insights

Bryan is a non-practicing lawyer, HR consultant, and legal content writer. With nearly 20 years of experience in the legal field, he has a deep understanding of family and employment laws. His goal is to provide readers with clear and accessible information about the law, and to help people succeed by providing them with the knowledge and tools they need to navigate the legal landscape. Bryan lives in Orlando, Florida.