You have been in a relationship for a while and decided to take a leap into the adventure of marriage. To share this journey with your partner is wonderful, but you do not want to start this journey without a set of tools to help you. One of the advantages of doing premarital counseling is that it clears up partners’ expectations and sets the foundation for a great start.
Here are some topics to explore.
Expectations- How do you both envision your married life? What expectations you have for each other in regard to managing the household? How was the relationship with each other’s parents? (We learn a lot from our parents) What are your goals in life? A great way to get to know your partner even better is by using Gottman’s Love Maps from his book “The seven Principles for making a marriage work”.
Family- Explore the relationship you have with each other’s family and how involved you want them to be in building a family of your own. What does the relationship with your in-laws will look like. Interwoven with family comes also spirituality and the role it plays (or doesn’t play) in your life. How would you like your marital spiritual life to look like? What role did spirituality play in your family and how would you like it to be now?
Communication- This should actually be number one! It is important to
establish healthy patterns of communication from the beginning. Look at the positive elements of your communication at the moment and build upon those. What are the barriers in communication and what can you do about them? No mind reading, I never get tired of saying this. We all seem to want to become professionals at mind reading, but there is no such a thing. Another great tool for clear communication are “I” statements. (If you need help with this read my post about How to win a fight)
Conflict Resolution- We all have our disagreements, so how can we prepare for those times? During times of conflict what are some things that you can do to help your partner feel heard and vice versa? How did your parents handle conflict? (once again, learning from our parents). One key component of healthy conflict resolution is respect and space. When we get overflooded by emotions we cannot think clearly and are much less likely to listen to someone else’s point of view. Have you heard of the Four Horseman of the Apocalypses (aka divorce) by Gottman? You can read about it here.
Children- Do you want to have children? How many? Would you like to adopt? How was your childhood? What kind of parent do you envision yourself, and your partner to be? How do imagine that children will impact your marriage? Is this your second marriage and do you have kids from a previous marriage? Have you discussed co-parenting?
Sex Life- Have you discussed each other’s sexual needs? What does a healthy sex life look like for each of you? What is your partner’s and your view of fidelity? What are your fears and hopes in regards to your married sexual life?
Finances – How would you handle the finances? What kind of expenses do you both have? Would you combine your incomes or keep them separate? How much money would you assign to different expenses? Which are your financial goals? Do you have a financial plan?
Consider couples counseling to help you explore these and other topics. This is a crucial time to get to know your partner. As Nietzsche wrote, “It is not a lack of love, but a lack of friendship that makes unhappy marriages.”