Planning a wedding is a big job. You have to find a good location, a great caterer, and a qualified minister to make sure the ceremony goes smoothly. You may get so involved in planning the day that thoughts of what your life with your partner will be like afterward get put on the back burner.
Preparing for your marriage is even more important than the wedding itself, though. Even good changes have their challenges, and merging your life with another person is one of the biggest changes you may ever face. Premarital counseling walks you through the main conversations you need to have with your significant other before you both say, "I do."
Family and Children
Discuss your relationships with your extended families. Are they healthy? What influence do these relationships have on how you spend your time or make important decisions? You need to talk about how this dynamic may affect your marriage and make decisions on how you will handle any issues that arise.
Another aspect of family that you should agree on is whether you want to have children. Don't stop there, though. Even if you both want children, you may have very different ideas about how many you want or how to raise them. Tackling these topics before you get started is smart.
Religion and Politics
The two topics that traditional etiquette experts advise you to avoid during polite dinner conversation are things you need to address when you are planning to spend your life with someone. By the time you are engaged, you probably know where your partner stands on major issues. Premarital counseling gives you the opportunity to explore these hot buttons more deeply.
It's not unusual for people's views to change as they learn and grow. Talk about how you may feel if your partner becomes significantly more religious, liberal, or conservative as you grow older. Ask your counselor for guidance on how you can navigate these potential conflicts as they arise.
Money and Career
One of the most common sources of frustration among married people is money management. Discovering whether your partner is more lavish or thrifty before you get married helps you set reasonable expectations. If one of you expects to make more money than the other, you should make a game plan for how you are going to balance that power dynamic. It's even a good idea to come up with a budget together during counseling so that you can practice talking about money before you have to put your ideas into practice.
Environment and Division of Labor
Many couples live together before they're married, which gives them insight into what it will be like once they are officially wed. Even if you think you have a good handle on this issue, you still need to discuss your expectations before you tie the knot. Assuming the other person will notice what needs to be done and automatically take care of it is a recipe for disaster.
Start by making your own lists of all the regular things you need to do to make a household run smoothly:
- Planning and preparing meals
- Taking care of the lawn or other outdoor maintenance
- Cleaning the bathroom and kitchen
- Doing laundry
- Tidying each living area
Compare your lists and divvy up the tasks, allowing your counselor to referee as needed. This may not seem like the most romantic gesture, but preparing for your marriage by having a solid plan to implement may save both of you a lot of frustration in the long run.
Premarital counseling gives you a chance to identify sources of potential conflict and practice how you will handle them when they come along. It provides a safe environment for discovering how you communicate as individuals and reveals ways to show your love toward each other in everyday life. Counseling should be on every couple's wedding prep to-do list.