Will you marry me? This is a question posed all over the world by couples of all races, cultures, sexual orientations, religious backgrounds, etc. While society has romanticized most facets of marriage and businesses have profited off of most facets of weddings, it’s easy to forget that at the heart of these unions are two people, committing to spend their lives together. As couple’s therapists, we know the importance of knowing one another deeply before embarking on this journey together.
We’re in love, what else is there to Know?
In a recent NY Times Article, journalist Eleanor Stanford writes about the “13 Questions to Ask Before Getting Married.” Some couples talk about most topics freely and the lines of communication are open and free flowing. For others, talking about some of the more taboo subjects, like say, sex, are a little more difficult. What so often happens with couples that fall into the latter category is that these issues bubbling under the surface do not go away, but rather will need to be addressed later when some of the loving feelings of pre-marriage may have dissipated. We highly recommend checking out the whole article, the questions posed are open-ended and can be a great way to get a conversation rolling. While they’re all useful, the following 2 seem to come up most in our work with couples, related to conflict resolution and finance.
Question 1: How do we both view and want to tackle debt?
This one is so important. So often, couples have very different ideas about the way individual debt should be handled. This is a key thing to discuss with your partner before marriage. How do we both view debt? Does debt that comes before we were together as a couple become shared debt once we’re married? Or will that be one individual’s responsibility?
How can you address the issue of finances?
It’s important to talk honestly and openly about what debts and savings you are bringing into the union. Discuss the meaning of money you both share and how you want to handle personal vs. shared bank accounts. It’s also helpful to talk about the way your parents handled finances. That gives you a better understanding of where your partner is coming from and can build empathy. Some partners believe all money should be shared once married. Other believe it should remain separate. No matter which side you fall on these views are starkly different and should be discussed before becoming a huge divide.
Question 2: How did you learn to argue and resolve conflict? Is it similar to or different from one another?
Communication. This one is huge. One of the most common goals of couples in therapy is to gain better “tools” to help solve what Gottman calls, “perpetual problems.” Most of us know these. These are the problems that tend to be about the same things over and over again, with no resolve and no way to break the argument cycle. How do we first learn to argue? Our parents. Ask. Your. Partner. This. Question! We can’t stress enough the importance of knowing your partner’s conflict style by learning about what they saw in their home growing up. This is a big one.
How can you address the issue of conflict resolution?
The best advice for couples venturing into marriage? Premarital counseling. According to HealthResearchingFunding.org, couples who participate in premarital counseling have 30% higher marital success rates than those who do not. Premarital counselors are trained to help you and your partner navigate these more difficult conversations while attempting to avoid those perpetual problem cycles mentioned above. At North Brooklyn Marriage and Family Therapy, we are certified Prepare-Enrich counselors. This program offers a comprehensive assessment that both you and your partner complete. The therapist then reviews the results, they are shared with the couple and then key issues are addressed. These topics include finances, conflict resolution, sex, communication, parenting, spiritual beliefs, etc.
It’s OK if these premarital topics have not yet been discussed!
These topics are difficult to talk about for reasons; they’re touchy, they’re uncomfortable and in talking about them we run the risk of getting hurt or hurting our partners. It’s normal if these things feel tough to discuss. That’s where premarital counseling comes in. Contact us if any of these things sound like they might be helpful to you and your partner.