You wouldn’t take an exam without studying beforehand. You wouldn’t run a marathon without training prior to the race. It is the same with marriage: marriage preparation is key in smoothing the way for a happy, satisfying and successful wedded life.
Here is a list of things you should work on in preparation for your life as a married couple.
Physical exams and bloodwork, to make sure both of you are healthy and fit. Wedding licenses and other event-specific paperwork. Reserve the venue, officiant, reception site, issue invitations, etc.
1. Discuss what you imagine marriage to be
You each may have a different vision of married life, so take time to talk about how you think your combined life should be structured. Talk about chores and who does what. Do you have a preference, say, dishwashing vs. dish drying? Vacuuming vs. ironing? What should be the place for traditional gender roles in how household tasks are shared? Are you both sure that you want to have children, and if so, how many is the “ideal number”? Could you envision one day allowing your wife to stay at home and take care of the children? Does that make sense financially? Does your wife want to be that type of mother?
2. Have the money talk
As uncomfortable as some of us are with discussing finances, you need to be clear on how you view money with each other. Will you open shared bank accounts? What are your financial goals: save for a house, spend it on fancy electronics, take luxury vacations each year, start putting away now for future children’s education, your retirement? Are you a saver or a spender? What are your individual debts at this time, and what are your plans to get out of debt?
3. Examine your communication styles
Do you consider yourselves good communicators? Can you talk reasonably about everything, even the points of conflict that you may have? Or do you need to work with a counselor to enhance your communication skills? Are both of you open to that?
4. Talk about how you would handle large-scale disagreements
It’s good to know how your spouse-to-be would confront sensitive issues in the marriage because these will occur. Come up with different scenarios, such as “What would you do if I became depressed and unable to work?” or “If you suspected me of having an affair, how would we talk about that?” Talking about these issues does not mean they will happen; it just gives you an idea of your partner’s approach to navigating potential important life passages.
5. The role of religion in your marriage
If you are both practicing, what will be the role of religion in your shared lives? If you are church-going, do you expect to go every day, every Sunday, or just during the major holidays? Will you be active in your religious community, taking on roles of leadership or teaching? What if you follow two different religions? How do you blend them? How do you pass this onto your children?
6. The role of sex in your marriage
How much sex is “ideal” for a couple? What would you do if your libidos were not equal? What would you do if one of you became unable to have sex, through impotence and frigidity? What about temptation? How do you define cheating? Is everything cheating, including innocent flirting online or at the workplace? How you do feel about your partner having friendships with members of the opposite sex?
7. In-laws and their involvement
Are you on the same page concerning both sets of parents and how much they will be involved in your family life? What about once the children arrive? Discuss holidays and whose home they will be celebrated in. Many couples do Thanksgiving at one set of in-laws’ house, and Christmas at the others’, alternating each year.
8. Consider pre-marital counseling or a marriage preparation class
Don’t wait until your relationship encounters problems to seek counseling. Do it before you are married. 80% of couples whose marriage preparation includes pre-marital counseling report greater confidence in their ability to ride out the tough times of marriage and stay together. Counseling sessions will teach you vital communication skills and provide you with scenarios to stimulate conversation and exchange. You’ll learn a lot about your future spouse during these sessions. Moreover, the counselor will teach you expert marriage-saving skills that you can use when you sense you are going through a rocky patch. Pre-marital counseling can provide you with growth, self-discovery and development, and a sense of mutual purpose as you begin your shared life together. Think of it as a crucial investment in your future.