Wanna know the most common cause of arguments in a marriage and relationships in general? It’s not money and it’s not sex. The most common cause of arguments is unmet expectations. It’s because someone’s EXPECTATIONS of the finances are not being met. Someone’s EXPECTATIONS of their sex life is not being met. Someone EXPECTED for a person to be down for them through the good times and the bad and they weren’t. At the root of almost every argument or difficulty is an unmet expectation. Expectations are not a bad thing. We should have expectations for our relationships (just not unrealistic ones). As such, it is important to discuss those expectations BEFORE you say I do and ideally before he puts a ring on it. Because who wants to go through the hoopla of planning your entire wedding, telling all your friends and family and strategically announcing your engagement on Instagram only to find out that this isn’t going to work after all? (insert gif) You want to make sure that the both of you are on the same page and if you are not, you can talk through it and work through the kinks until you are. If you do this on the front end, it will save you a ton of headache and heartache on the back end.
John and I talked about almost everything before we got engaged. So much so that when we got to premarital counseling it was pretty much easy sailing. There is only one thing that we did not discuss in depth and guess what? That is the one thing that became an argument when we got married. Coincidence? I think not. If you’re working towards a serious relationship with someone, if you plan on being in a relationship in the future, and even if you’re already engaged, take a look at some of the things on this list to make sure you have all your bases covered.
**Disclaimer: Most of the things on this list are not meant to be shared with just any old body. These are things you discuss with someone you are in a committed relationship with and you know the two of you are headed towards marriage.
1. Who will be responsible for the cooking/chores? Everyone’s household is different and so the needs of your household may not look like the needs of someone else’s. For this reason, it is important to discuss different aspects of how your home will operate. So be sure to discuss how the cooking and cleaning will be split between the two of you. Will it be 50/50? Will one person do the cleaning and the other the cooking? Will one person do the majority of all the cooking and cleaning? Will you hire a cleaning service? Will you do take out most of the time? This may not seem like a big deal now, but trust me, the small things are the big things in marriage.
2. Kids- Things such as how many you all want to have, (if any), When you will start trying, and how far apart would you like each one to be are all important questions to ask one another. Another thing discussed along these lines during premarital counseling is whether or not I would have the option to stay at home once we started having kids. I think it is important for the woman to have that choice as long as the household is comfortable financially. Discussing it up front gives you all time to prepare as well as figure out of it is even an option for your family. I'm also learning that some guys actually prefer if their woman stays home and takes care of the family full time. You definitely want to see where your man’s head is with this one as it could affect your entire career and family dynamic.
3. Family background- Let’s just say I have an INTERESTING family. So I knew that this is one of the things I wanted to discuss sooner rather than later with the person I knew I was potentially going to marry. When you all get married, his family will become yours and yours will become his so it is important to discuss any interesting family members, your family background and dynamic, and special relationships such as that with an adult child from a previous relationship, siblings you may be responsible for, etc.
4. How do you deal with anger? I was surprised when John asked me this question when we were courting, but I can see how it is actually a very valid question. We all have times of anger as well as a host of other emotions, and so it is important to give the person who you are considering spending the rest of your life with a glimpse of what to expect. There are many reasons for this. One is so that they will not be caught off guard. Another is so that they will know how to help you and how to react when it does happen. For example, someone who deals with anger or other strong emotions by working through it internally may want to be left alone. So it’s important to communicate that to your partner so that they don’t agitate you by trying to be all up in your space. The more you share, the more they know and vice versa.
5. Pet peeves- Like I said earlier, sometimes the small things are actually the big things in marriage. What I mean by that is that some of the small and seemingly petty things often have the biggest impacts on our marriage, especially if we let those small things pile up over time. For this reason, pet peeves is definitely one that you want to discuss with your partner ahead of time. Sometimes you will learn these as the relationship progresses, but it’s still a good idea to ask specifically because some you may not see them manifest until later on. For example, if you are waiting to get married before you live with someone (as you should) then there are a lot of things you will not know because you learn a lot when you are actually in the same space living with someone day in and day out. Things like leaving the top off of the toothpaste, leaving clothes on the floor, taking too long to get ready, leaving dishes in the sink and many other things can be real agitators if not discussed and addressed ahead of time.
6. Foundational doctrinal things such as tithing, communion, etc.- Making sure that you are equally yoked with a man of God who loves Jesus should be a given. The reality however is that the two of you may come from very different church backgrounds and denominations and may have been taught conflicting messages regarding some important doctrinal things or you may just believe and interpret some scriptures differently yourselves. While not a dealbreaker, these things need to be thoroughly talked through and discussed because it can have a profound impact on your family and relationship. For example, if one person does not believe that tithing is a requirement under the new testament that could be huge because now we’re talking about where the household money goes as well as living under the blessing and covenant of being a tither. What about when it comes to speaking in tongues? If one person doesn’t understand and thinks it’s of the devil while the other is passionate about being filled with the Holy Spirit imagine how that will affect the relationship. All these things need to be discussed along with where the two of you will be attending church once you are married. This is an area where you may want to bring in some spiritual leadership to help the two of you walk through some of the conflicts.
7. Sex- This can be a sticky subject for a couple who is (and should) be waiting to have sex until married. But just like every other area, it is a subject that needs to be discussed beforehand. Setting expectations such as how often, how much, boundaries, etc. will be very beneficial to the future marriage.
8. Previous relationships- Different relationships will have a different range on how much of this needs to be discussed depending on the individual situations. Sometimes discussing a previous relationship is not necessary if it's not going to really affect the current relationship. However, sometimes past relationships need to be discussed such as crazy ex’s, previous marriages/divorce, relationships that involve the mother or father of your children etc. Be wise with this one.
9. Finances- This is twofold. First, the financial status of each individual in the relationship needs to be thoroughly discussed. In premarital counseling we even had to show our credit reports to each other. I think that is very wise. Not so that we can look down on someone or leave them if their finances aren’t where we think it should be, but so that we can have an accurate picture of how the family’s financial landscape will look. Our pastor also had us bring in our current individual budgets and then create a combined budget for when we would get married. This was so helpful and I still use that same spreadsheet to this day! Secondly, things such as who will handle all the finances such as budgeting, paying bills, making the financial decision etc. need to be discussed as well as whether or not you all will have separate or combined accounts.
10. Medical/mental issues- It’s important to be transparent and forthcoming about any and all medical and mental issues. Remember your issues will now become the other person’s issues and vice versa. This is a great time to learn how to work through these things and believe God together!
11. Relationships of the opposite sex- How will the two of you operate when it comes to having friends and interacting with people of the opposite sex? What boundaries will you set? It is important to protect the integrity and sacredness of your marriage and this is one of the ways you do so.
12. Love Language- I am such a proponent of learning your partner’s love language and being aware of your own. This is because we tend to love people the way we want to be loved. However, real love loves someone the way they need to be loved. You may be doing all the right things in your eyes when you tell your significant other how great they are and how how much you think about them because your love language is words of affirmation, but they may be feeling completely unloved because you don’t ever buy them any gifts because ther love language is receiving gifts. It’s not that you don’t love them, but they just don’t know if you do or not because they’re not receiving the type of love that they need. Think about if you spoke English but your partner only spoke and understood Spanish. You could say I love you all day long and your partner would never know it because they just don’t understand. They’re still waiting to hear “Te Amo”. So the both of you should take the 5 Love Languages Quiz and share and discuss the results with one another and then make a real effort to love them in their own language.
13. Heavy issues- previous arrests, current warrants, any history of abuse, abusive relationships, pertinent info about their ex (ie. if they’re crazy), you know all the stuff that you need to sit down and pour your heart out about to see if that person really wants to take on everything that you come with.
14. social media, email account passwords etc. - Whether we like it or not, social media and technology is a huge part of our lives now. It’s important to have a discussion and be open with each other regarding the use of social media as well as email accounts and the like. Will you all share your password with each other to establish trust? What is the interaction with people of the opposite sex expected to be like online? Is it ok if he likes other female provocative pictures? This is another area of protecting and guarding your marriage and something that needs to be discussed in depth.
15. Individual purposes and vision for the marriage- I can’t stress enough how important it is to know your purpose for so many reasons. One reason is in order to discuss the vision, of your marriage and to see whether or not your purpose aligns with your mate everyone has to of course know what their purpose is. Making the vision for your relationship and ultimately marriage is vital because nothing is more frustrating than expecting to build your life with a person a specific kind of way only to realize it’s going in a completely different direction. God has a plan for every marriage. So it’s important that you and your partner work through what the both of you want your lives to look like 5, 10, 20 years from now and beyond.
The truth is, no matter how many questions you ask, how many things you discuss and how many hours you spend in premarital counseling, you probably will not cover every single thing there is to cover. However, you can come pretty darn close and the more you discuss and communicate on the front end, the better your marriage will be. Also remember that plans change, people grow and God interrupts plans. So be flexible. The purpose of having these discussions is so that both parties have a good idea of what to expect, but it doesn’t mean that people are bound by what is spoken. If nothing else, having these sometimes hard conversations and uncomfortable talks will enhance your communication and that is always a win in any relationship.
One final thing. You want to make sure that you have watched your potential partner in different seasons to see how they handle various situations. You want to be able to see them in the hard times, through disappointments, in the good seasons and everything in between so that you can get a good handle on who they truly are and what comes out of them when they are put under varying circumstances That will definitely come in handy with all of the different seasons that you go through in a marriage.
Remember this isn’t an all inclusive list so I would love to hear some of the things you like/would like to discuss before getting engaged. Let me know in the comments.
Still Hidden in Him,